Saturday, 5 January 2013

Arriving at an 18th...

They say that you should try to arrive in style. Some make a notably late entrance, others tell loud and outrageous stories. Cyclists simply show their face in public without a bike but still in their brightly coloured lycra.

Having just arrived home for Christmas, we were invited out as a family to celebrate an 18th birthday party open house. It's been some time since I've been to an 18th, and this was the first event I’d ever attended directly after climbing two of the 100 Climbs. As we pulled up to Skipton early on a windy Sunday morning, my parents watched bemusedly as I struggled into my cycling gear and shivered in the freezing temperatures and settling drizzle. They had rather sensibly taken the indoor option while the worst of the weather passed – no such luck for muggins here. Still, the devil makes work for idle hands, so I jumped on my bike and desperately pedalled into somewhere more remote than the centre of Skipton (the cold was having a severe effect on my bladder).

With the rain coming down ever harder, water was spraying up from my knobbly cyclocross tyres giving me a proper soaking (that'll teach me to winter ride without mudguards). And that was the level of wetness before I came across the floods. Water deep enough to cover your bottom bracket is never going to leave you with dry feet - thank goodness, then, for waterproof socks:
It's a brave rider who tempts fate not only with whiteovershoes
but also using a cameraphone riding through a flood!
It wasn't long before I hit the first climb on the route: the 7/10 Malham Cove. A tough climb, it was made slightly more stressful by a tractor tailgating me most of the way, and eventually squeezing me off the road on one of the steeper sections. I'm sure he had some important fields to watch flood, or something.
The Cove road in the distance

This way for hills <---
Having crested the peak, I was stopped in my tracks by a ferocious headwind that put paid to any intentions to speed up to make it back on time for the party. Still, there was the promise of a tailwind on the way home as this was an out-and-back ride. It always surprises me quite how bleak the top of the moorlands is, and with so little to shelter you from the elements you really do feel the full force of Mother Nature when she's in the mood.

Finally dropping down into the relative civilisation of Langcliffe, I got a good taste for the climb back up after being fully on the brakes to stay on the road coming through the hairpins. And with that, it was a case of whipping the bike round and riding back the way I had just come - hardly imaginative route planning, but these things are necessary sometimes.

As it turns out, the descent presented more of a technical challenge than the climb did for the legs, and after the first few steep turns the road steadied off allowing climbing at a reasonable rate - I even managed a few horrific self-portraits with the cameraphone (one thing this year really hasn't improved is my camera face or ability to take nice photos)

The ride back was much more fun, as promised by the weather, and in fact was quick enough that Mum and Dad were still in the midst of their walk by the time I got back to the car. Predictably, I didn't have a spare key, so after loitering in lycra for a bit, I got cold/bored and ended up doing laps down the hill into town and back again - good training I suppose. By the time we had all congregated, the 18th was in full swing, and the sight of parents and son traipsing through a packed-out house (including a large number of 18 year old girls) in muddy wet outdoor gear definitely brought out a titter or two. They'd probably have laughed harder if they knew the weather on the tops...

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