Over the hills and far away

Good Friday was an excellent day in many respects. Firstly, no work, secondly, sunshine and thirdly it was time for my long awaited Pinky outing (yes, I name my bikes. In fact I name pretty much everything. It’s a thing). J had been promising for ages to take me out into the Pennines and with our first free day in about three years the time had come. I was a bit scared if I’m honest, there are some pretty big hills out there and there was also the added pressure that we had to be back in time for J’s optician appointment at 3pm, so it was no surprise that I woke up rather early and we were breakfasted and on the road by 8am. Fortunately the sun was out in force but there was a bit of a nip in the air and still some frost on the ground so I was pleased I had been sensible enough to layer up with thermals, gloves and several buffs.

The route had been described to me as an ok first third, then a big long but not so steep climb and a final downhill third. The roads were reasonably quiet, no surprise as it was a bank holiday, and after the first few miles we were able to ride next to each other without too much trouble, which was nice. I don’t think I would describe the first third (out to Hamsterly) as “ok”, you climb pretty much steadily the whole way but there aren’t (m)any huge hills to speak of, so it was a case of just pressing on. About 2hrs in I was feeling a little weary so was very pleased when J suggested stopping and we found a lovely bench to sit on and chow banana bread.

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After that the hard work begins and the landscape turns from green rolling hills into the lunar landscape with no trees for miles. The scenery is utterly spectacular and it was hard to keep my eyes on the road when there was so much to look around at. Fairly soon we were heading out of the Tees Valley in the direction of the Wear valley and into the climb though. It was long – a good few miles – but not as steep as I had feared and despite missing my lowest gear it was possible to keep my legs turning over at a reasonable speed (I count anything over 5mph as reasonable in this regard!) and we wended our way happily to the top. The plan had been to stop at the top for banana bread round 2, but the wind was a bit whistly and it was cold, so we stopped, had a look about and took some photos and then went to head off.

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Unfortunately J’s clippy pedals got the better of him just as we were about to set off and he had a rather nasty fall while looking round to see where I was. For a moment I thought he was in real trouble and I’d have to head off in search of an ambulance to rescue him from a broken knee-cap but fortunately it was superficial and after a bit of hopping around swearing loudly he proclaimed himself to be fine and off we went. The downhill bit was FUN, but the wind was whistling and my face nearly froze off which was a bit less fun, but buoyed by the fact that I had been led to believe that it was downhill all the way home I was feeling rather good (bad plan!).

We stopped at the bottom of the hill where it was a bit warmer for some more grub and a second look at the lime kilns we had walked around a few weeks before. They are amazing structures and well worth a visit if you are around that way, we might take the kids back later in the year when it is a bit warmer for a picnic and a play in the river.

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Where we stopped is somewhere near a place called Hill End, badly named since it didn’t seem to me like the hill ended. In fact it is at this point that I start to dispute the “last bit is all downhill” that I had been told, as it really wasn’t. We climbed back up from where we had stopped, that hill went on for quite a while longer than I had wanted it to, but the downhill afterwards was quite nice again. After this bit you are back on busy roads which is a bit of a shame, but Frosterley and Wolsingham are beautiful villages and it was fun to have a nosy. On our way out of Wolsingham we came across some friends of ours out on their bikes and stopped for a brief chat, or rather yelled at each other across a busy road. They mentioned having a near miss on the big downhill they had just been down and at this point I was like hmmmmm I thought it was all downhill. Apparently J had forgotten to mention that it was all downhill “except a couple of uphills” and after waving goodbye to our friends we proceeded to the first of these uphills, which after 40 miles of cycling seemed a bit like Everest.

The nasty hill up to Crook has three stages, separated by a roundabout and a bit of flat but it just goes up and up and up and up. I thought about getting off and pushing but my pride won over and I managed to keep going despite the fact that I am missing my lowest gear (did I mention that already?!). After the mammoth hill it still wasn’t what I would class as downhill all the way, but was at least familiar territory and nothing too major apart from some very potholey roads, which on a rather painful posterior was not nice.

Finally home arrived though and a welcome sight it was. We’d been out for just under 5hrs – I had forgotten to stop and start both my Garmin and bike computer at various points, and hence the actual time taken is a bit unclear, but I’d say around 4hr 45. I was quite impressed by this until J looked at his history and had done the same route in 3hr 30 last summer, but I’m still a novice and actually just pleased to get round in one piece, and still enjoy it!

Vital stats as follows:

Time: 5:21:57
Moving Time: 4:54:17
Elapsed Time: 5:38:23
Avg Speed: 9.9 mph
Avg Moving Speed: 10.8 mph
Max Speed: 41.7 mph

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I’ll take an 11mph or so average quite happily, and also say that the max speed is not a mistake, that was down one of the big hills and I needed to change my underwear after that, I’m not such a big fan of speeds like that!

Probably the best thing was that I felt fine afterwards, we pootled happily into town with no leg issues and then spent the rest of the afternoon on sunbeds on the patio before heading out to a rather nice dinner at our local italian place where I took full advantage of the fact that I had burned nearly 2000 calories. God love refuelling! And God love my bike as well, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it nearly so much without him. Pinky is off at the bikeshop at the moment to get his gears looked at and hopefully fixed so I can get to the lowest one, and I hope he is back soon as I miss him 😦 (note I am not one of those objectophile people, I don’t want to marry my bike, just use it to take me nice places and have fun).

Mostly I like Easter though, and it was still only Friday. Wheeeee!

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