perhaps it’s the contrast with yesterday’s relentless spirit level of a day, but today seemed to be one of the hilliest excursions i’ve had, which is saying something. i planned a shortish route around the north yorkshire moors, starting and finishing in kirkbymoorside on the edge of the national park, looping up to castleton and then back via Rosedale Abbey – more on this later. My intention was to treat it as a training ride, work hard, then taper for the rest of the week in advance of the weekend’s double horror. This noble plan came a cropper pretty rapidly, on being confronted with a succession of climbs, none of which came in at anything under 20%, and the climb of Blakey Bank sticks in the memory as being an especially savage beast; it’s around a mile and a half and the average gradient is 11%. i stress, that’s the average, and it ramps up horribly at other points.
it was a beautiful day, incredibly clear spring sunshine, with no wind. these are the days you dream of when dusting off the summer bike. the descents are the bonus feature; long and fast, plummeting like an anchor at around 45mph towards an unsuspecting yorkshire village. it’s an incredibly beautiful place, utterly serene and captivating. at one point, riding up out of danby towards rosedale along a single track tarmac road, i paused to check the map, and was suddenly and forcibly struck with the absence of any sound. there was no wind, or birds, not even the distant dull moan of traffic, just a brooding and encompassing silence. i cannot begin to think of the last time i experienced such total stillness; it’s a profound and intensely moving form of emptiness, rendered all the more potent by its scarcity in this over-crowded island.
the final few climbs included the one i had come to bag – the rosedale chimney. it’s a mythical UK climb because it is said to be the steepest uphill road in the UK, and the steepest road in England. For the record, it’s 33%, which is a full 7% steeper than Porlock. It was the venue for the 1987 National Hillclimb, won by Paul Curran with Chris Boardman in second place, both raced up it in a a 42:24, i managed it today (not at race pace, i hasten to add) in the 39:25, and it was a struggle. The height gain is remarkable, from the bottom of the valley to the top of the moor in a vertiginous ascent. it’s very very steep in the middle section, but thankfully, it doesn’t last too long. it’s certainly too steep to sit down without pulling a wheelie. i was hunched over the bars, trying to balance and get some sense of power transfer. near the top i spotted a silvery thing in the road, i went back to have a look and it was an expensive leatherman multitool; i presume cast off as a votive offering by a visiting rambler in an attempt too appease the ogre. i pocketed it. (if by some strange quirk of fate you are reading this having walked up the rosedale bank and are now sans leatherman, get in touch)
the rest of the ride took in some strangely named but lovely towns, Hutton-Le-Hole being the pick of the bunch, although i liked Wetwang, which i saw in the car on the way back. i’d like to know what a Wetwang is, but that’ll have to wait for a rainy day.
a typical road sign (the first sign I saw read “20%”, i saw several more, the smallest gradient i came across was a 14%) :
another typical sign (not the chimney bank, this is near danby), it struck fear into the core of my being:
here be dragons: