Saturday 3rd June 2017
There are times when I open my eyes on a Saturday morning and ask myself whether I really want to spend several hours wrapped up in multiple layers of merino wool, polyester and fleece. Days when the light is flat and grey. Days when the café stop comes as a blessed relief.
And then there are days like today. Fluffy clouds offer respite from glorious sunshine. Scenery jumps out from every side. Traffic seems remarkably absent.
We met at The Sidings car park in Low Bentham. Indeed, there were so many of us that we filled the car park. At 10.01 nine B2s departed on a ride which had been advertised as having "more downhill miles than up". So within moments we were climbing an 8% gradient which helped to wake up any of our number who had enjoyed a nap on the journey to the assembly point.
Mr Durrigan briefly attempted a mutiny as we entered Burton in Lonsdale, causing some minor chaos by encouraging riders to turn right onto Low Street while the ride coordinator was instructing better behaved riders to continue to High Street.
The B1s chose this moment to hurtle through our group, making the counting of heads somewhat irrelevant and then, just to liven things up a little more, we discovered that we had acquired an extra.
Soon we crossed the A65 onto a fine scenic lane past Ireby and Leck. The sun shone.
A short but quiet stretch of the A65 intervened before we began the first notable climb of the day through Barbondale— the best part of 9 kilometres (45 furlongs) of gentle ascent through stunning scenery at a pleasantly brisk rate.
The subsequent descent to Gawthrop was enlivened for the ride's coordinator by a short section of dry stone wall that leapt in front of him, causing a notable heart rate spike to be recorded on his Garmin. Fortuitously, a couple of locals had stopped their 4x4s alongside each other at the bottom, not only causing the first traffic jam in Gawthrop's history but also allowing me to pretend that nothing had ever happened.
We continued to Dent. As we entered the beating cobbled heart of the village, we uttered our thanks for dry conditions. I'm sure on a damp weekend the locals can gain much amusement by observing the antics of passing pelotons.
We left Dent to begin the day's major climb to Newby Head, the Coal Road was jocularly mentioned as we passed. With regret, I chose to leave this for another day— it headed in the wrong direction and I didn't want the group to have too much fun.
Besides, our route had a lovely abundance of Ordnance Survey arrows as we climbed under the viaduct towards Newby Head. Sportingly, I opted to act as back marker on the ascent.
A couple of hundred metres (10 chains) of descent into an impressive headwind saw us down at Ribblehead where a variety of runners, walkers and bikers were demonstrating various levels of fatigue and bemusement.
And that was almost all of the uphill miles complete. We swept down to Horton-in-Ribblesdale where heated debate over Billy Bragg lyrics accompanied pots of fine coffee and tea, plates of hearty sandwiches and the suggestion from one walker (whose hiking partner stated that heatstroke may be an issue) that Martin was actually a certain cancer-surviving Texan.
And we hurtled on. By now, even the smaller climbs felt like descents. The traffic remained notable by its absence. Barely an hour later we were back in Low Bentham.
75.2 kilometres (47 miles) in a shade over 3 ½ hours at a surprisingly brisk average speed of 21 km / hour (13.2 mph).