When I tell people what I do for a living they think I spend my life out in the countryside on a bike having fun. The reality is that it’s a lot of admin and sitting on the sofa doing e-mails. Today, however, was one of those days to make people green with envy as I managed a scorching day in the saddle tackling two of the toughest road climbs in the country.
We’re in the Lake District, Coniston to be precise, for this weekend’s Ride It. Now the Lakes is where I lived for 3 years and cut my Mountain Biking tooth, so I have a soft spot for the area, but you don’t have to have a connection with the area to appreciate the stunning views and countryside. The road over Birker Fell is simply jaw dropping, on good tarmac and finishes on a whipping descent (42mph today).
The first 30miles or so are fairly flat in Lakeland terms, starting with a blast along the shores of Lake Coniston with one major climb out of Hawkshead before the final descent. You then return to the event centre before going off to complete the Medium and Long loops. This starts with a section to Torver before the first challenge of the day and a climb to Broughton Moor. Starts with a double Chevron but after that continues steadily to the top. The reward is a view to the sea and a long, steady descent into Broughton Mills. Another climb and descent brings you to the drink station and the Long ride split. If you’ve been struggling up to this point, I’d suggest carrying along the Medium route which still has a major climb, so don’t think you’re taking the easy route! I’d like to mention my gears were slipping at this point (just preparing you for the coming excuses). Shortly after the Long split you come to the turn for Birker Fell. This is another 2 chevron start on hairpins, but stick with it and it soon levels out to a steady climb, giving you time to appreciate where you are. Then comes the descent, and boy what a blast, you can’t hear much with the wind scouring your ears and the world seems a bit quiet afterwards.
As it was such a hot day we had a quick OJ and lemonade in the pub at the bottom before the next section of the ride, Hardknott Pass. Now I’ve done this before, on a MTB and a road bike, so I knew what to expect and that I could do it. Keith had also done it before but we have seen the “100 best climbs in Britain” book which gives you times for climbs and Harknott is rated 10/10 for hardness in 15 minutes, so off he flew. I trundled after his ever diminishing back wheel and onto the first set of chevrons, where I had my first and only dab as my chain slipped, grrrrrrr. A quick correction and 10 seconds later off I went, a bit more cautiously! Keith put in a 14:40 climb time and I crossed the top in a 20minutes, which I was chuffed with.
Then came Wrynose which you can see snaking into the distance from Hardknott and all the way along the approach. As we have linked these together we actually do Wrynose from the “easy” side but this is still a slog on the final 100mtrs or so. Sit at the top admire the view, catch your breath and plunge down.
A few short sharp climbs and a long, gradual descent into Coniston and it’s all over.
A few tips if you’re joining us this weekend -
- Keep hydrated
- Take it steady on the climbs
- Moderate your speed on the descents (it’s really hard to stop when a car pops up around a hairpin!!)
- Some of the descents have uneven surfaces, so keep that speed under control.
Saturdays MTB Ride
As I have very limited signal up here I’ll be doing just the one post, so we haven’t ridden the MTB route as yet. I can tell you there is a ridge section overlooking Lake Coniston and the Old Man, a fast descent into Hawkshead and another stunning view/descent along Arnside. I hope not to Jinx the weather for the third event in a row, but it’s sunny and dry up here, so those trails should be bone dry
See you there.