The Hills! The Hills!

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fatbikephil
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The Hills! The Hills!

Post by fatbikephil »

300k is a long way to ride a bike in a weekend but that's not the problem with the YD300 route. The problem is 7500m of climbing. Its only when you are well into this route that the unrelenting brutality of this becomes apparent. You seem to be continuously going up, then down, then back up. Occasionally there is a brief respite in the form of a section of road or easy trail along a valley bottom or across a moor but even these tend to feature short sharp climbs that all add to the toll on your body. The vertical profile looks like the cardiogram of someone with some serious health problems - this route is bloody hard. Still no-one was making me do it so I can't complain.

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The start line, typically relaxed. As usual I was self conscious about being the only person on a single speed and the only person on a stupid weird bike. Stuart awarded me best bike on the spot as he is a fellow Jones owner. Sorry Ton, being objective this award should probably have gone to your bike...

I've never started an ITT in the rain and I nearly did this morning as a shower came through just before kick off. More were in the forecast but I was fairly relaxed about this given the mild temps. So it began - uphill, downhill, uphill, downhill, repeat. I was making a concerted effort to keep the pace down so no singlespeed screaming past others. I was swapping places with Steve Large and a chap on an in-vogue Stooge klunker. Both seemed to be pacing off each other (and me) but I stuck to my own unique pace in a bid to avoid an repeat of my Highland Trail day 1 woes.

Trail wise the fun begins on the Starbotton cam road. A nice narrow section of rocks and a rough track descent into the village. Don't do this route on a gravel bike as such descents would be a pain and poor compensation for the effort needed to get to the stop. Up the road (easy bit!) to Buckden and my first stop for drink and some food. The cafe that had caused so much upset in 2016 was shut and the guy behind the shop counter different from the chap who had the meltdown when faced with four hungry bikepackers. He had a horrific toupe arrangement and looked like he was no stranger to the bottom of a bottle but was very friendly. I sat out for a while eating and drinking before the next monster hill.

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Top of the Stake Road.

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Looking up to Cam fell, I'd be there in a few hours.

Amazingly the sun was shining. We'd had a few sprinkles of rain and there were some large clouds around but this, and the dry trails, made for some pleasant going.

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Above Wensleydale the route follows a blessedly easy trail on smooth grass with a tailwind. A bloke on an ebike whizzed past and chatted for a bit before whining of ahead. I was content to cruise, knowing this respite would be brief. After another push up from Castle Bolton and a fly down to Apedale I was in need of water. I was struggling a bit here and de-hydration seemed to be the issue. Thankfully I'd stashed my filter as although there are plenty of water sources en-route I'm suspicious of drinking from streams given the number of sheep hereabouts. Stooge man appeared looking a bit wrecked. It is one of those routes where you are inevitably going to have ups and downs (like the terrain). Its just a case of keep on eating, keep on drinking and try not to go to hard....

Swaledale looked sunny but dark clouds loomed to the north. I was happy as I finished the long descent down the side of the dale and rolled into the Dales Bike Centre cafe. It was in full flow and Steve had just placed his order. I hope this alfresco dining continues beyond pandemic world as its far nicer sat on picnic tables under a marquee than crammed into a small cafe, especially if you have 115k's of effort wafting from your body. I chomped my way through much food thankful that I had plenty of appetite and hopefully energy for what I thought would be the hardest bit on route. A fair few folk arrived as I ate, all saying the same thing - "The hills, the hills!" Speaking of which, time to go up (again)

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Top of Fremington Edge looking south to where we'd come from over Wensleydale.

There is nothing like a 250m climb on a full stomach but this further highlights why we should all be riding single speed. As soon as it got steep I walked which doesn't lead to any belly upset, unlike if you were trying to grind a granny gear. The moor up top was gloomy and rain was a-coming. The descent into Langthwaite is a fave of mine and more was to come. Up over a low moor, down to surrender bridge and up a steady gravel road to Level House. All key parts of the Swaledale Marathon which I'd done several times in my youth. Merry field, an early example of industrial destruction of the countryside looked particularly grim in the cloud. This area is the centre of a vast lead mining industry which ran in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and evidence of it is everywhere from the old buildings that housed smelters and pumps, to the levels and hushes used to extract the precious lead.

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The crux descent. This is a hush - all man made. They would build a dam at the top of a slope, direct burns into it to collect a large volume of water, then breach it so the water ran down the hill scouring out all in its path, exposing the galena - the lead ore. This was repeated until you got these large man-made gorges. It's pretty tricky to ride through. I got down clean a few years ago on the fat bike, but whether it was more eroded now or I was being more careful, I walked a couple of bits and was mighty careful on the rest. Then a fun ride down Gunnerside Gill and a long section of road riding.

I'd passed Steve taking photos on the way up to Level House so was a mite concerned when he didn't appear by the time I'd finished up an evening snack and was preparing to grind up the buttertubs road. This is the halfway point and I felt fairly pleased with myself to be still going strong and about an hour up on my 2016 ride. The climb is hard but the downhill is a hoot (45mph) and the cloud was clearing all around as I got a view of upper Wensleydale. What a fine place, in which I'd spent many happy times throughout my life. Hawes was bypassed alas but it nice to finally get some easy pedaling in on the back road to Bainbridge. I'd missed the Farmers Arms at Muker this year but on passing the Rose and Crown at Bainbridge figured a drink was in order.

"How far have you gone?!" says the landlord. "105 miles" I said a bit sheepishly. "And I've got 80 to do" Gasps of amazement followed. No I wasn't doing it for charity, no it wasn't a race and no I'm not mad. Why was I doing it? Err... It's what I do.....

Two pints of coke and two packets of crisps hit the spot for the long, long climb from Bainbridge to Cam fell on the old Roman Road. I've been up and down this countless times, never without gears.... Behind I saw a light - (Steve??) and I flashed mine once to let him know I was just ahead. But it had gone by the time I summited. This is the longest climb on the route and the descent is also fab on a lovely grassy trail then an easy stony path to the road. Sadly the little concrete hut me and three others had dossed in in 2016 is partially ruined and full of nettles.

I've done the trail from Dentdale over the flanks of Whernside to Ribblehead twice before but both times in the daylight. This night it was a killer, the late hour a factor as well as the dark but it seemed way rougher than my (vague) memories. And on it dragged, disappearing up an infinite hillside in the beam of my light. After an eternity it gave and I could ride a bit, only for it to ramp up again. Repeated stabbings of my GPS screen gave no indication of how far this was going so I resigned my self to a slow but steady plod. At least there is no lengthy moor to cross up top, you pretty much start the descent over the top of the climb. But the first section was a mess of rocks, gulleys and tussocks. The hour was telling as I failed to stop my bike going in every direction but the one I wanted. Eventually I dragged my dormant brain back into the here and now and got the required neurons firing to keep the plot on the straight and narrow. Finally I reached Ribblehead Viaduct. I'd thought of using one of the arches as a bivvy spot but it all was a bit cool and breezy. Someone seemed to be setting up under one but I didn't go and investigate who.

Now what? I could do with stopping as I'd passed 200k and it was now 1am, way past my bed time. I'd thought of just keeping on going but I was aware of various aches and pains starting to intrude and I did not want this to be a suffer fest followed by a lengthy recuperation. I had a lightweight bivvy bag, mat and an extra layer, but no sleeping bag so after all the roasting nights of late, it was ironic I was now in cool temps and a stiff breeze. Local knowledge is invaluable. I knew of a couple of sheltered spots further down the route so off we go. Ling gill was considered but I nosed along a bit after some shelter. A small cluster of mature sycamores surrounded by grass appeared beside the track, with a convenient gate to access them - I'd found my spot. It was 2am, and I'd done 210k.

Of course after fumbling the bag out, inflating mat and crawling in, then pulling on all my clothes I was wide awake. Plus I was a bit uncomfortable curled up on a 2/3rds mat with no pillow. I did nod off eventually as suddenly I was aware of being woken up by the noise of the wind in the trees. Next to wake me was an owl, seemingly right above my head, with a heart stopping whoo hooo! I lay awake, aware that rain was falling but the dense leaf cover above was keeping it all off me. I looked at my watch - 4.25am. Time to move.

Despite the briefness of my rest, I felt surprisingly chipper. I didn't have much appetite so nibbled what I could and kept nibbling over the next miles. I'd timed my stop to perfection as there was now a good long bit of the route that was really pleasant and easy going after the battles of the previous day. I knew I'd cracked it, it was just a case of keeping it going, and keep the food and water intake going. Best of all the early morning mist and rain had lifted and a nice day looked in the offing.

Then back into it - a gut busting climb out of Stainforth followed by a nice bit on a smooth gravel path across Gorbeck moor. You then turn almost back on yourself on a really fun trail down the Stockdale road - another favourite.

Unfortunately I was too early for the cafe in Malham. I dithered a bit then realised I still had plenty of food on board so sat next to the loos and ate, whilst going over the remainder of the route in my minds eye. I was feeling rather wabbit and had struggled to do anything but plod all morning. I'd eaten plenty but my body seemed to be on a go-slow. Probably down to only having had an hours sleep....

Still, I got up the climb past the cove in reasonable order and with a minimum of pushing. At this hour the place was quiet which was nice as I couldn't be doing with hoards of tourists commenting on my climbing style, as per my last visit here.

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The cove

Then a steady climb up Mastiles lane, in the sun leading to much overheating thanks to a very conservative clothing choice - all part of my strategy to keep the pace down in the opening 100k. I was nearly done - fast descent to Kilnsey, down a wee road to Grassington, up to the Spar shop at Threshfield and finally I could get my hands on fizzy drinks, caffeine and proper food. I lazed in the sun and idly wondered where everyone else was. I'd been following many tyre tracks suggesting that a few folk had passed me in the night. Oh well, I didn't care where I finished, as long as I got in under 30 hours.

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A couple of easy trails then the sting in the tail - a monster final climb up to Barden moor. No messing, I rode to the start of it and pushed to the top. Then a nice last bit of singletrack, a fast descent and then a final rough track to the road back to Embsay and Skipton.

I rolled into Ryders cycle centre at 12.45 making my time 28 hrs and 45 minutes, an hour and 25 minutes faster than my time in 2016 so I was well happy with that. The other tyre tracks had been from people who had cut the route short. Only Rich Rothwell was back before me (by five and a half hours!) as the guy who was in front of him had bailed due to a GPS failure. I chilled in the bike shop chatting to Stuart and drinking coffee. Steve rolled in an hour later. As I'd feared he'd ran into problems on the gunnerside descent - a puncture then another one requiring superglue and patches. Not long after the other two guys we'd bumped into on route turned up. Success! The weather had ended up being pretty good, the trails dry and the temps warm. I'd say that this is as fast as I'd ever do such a thing as pushing through the night is a no-no for me, I'm just too old!
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sean_iow
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Re: The Hills! The Hills!

Post by sean_iow »

Cracking result there :-bd What ratio did you use? On my failed ITT in 2017 I had 32/20 I think.

It does seem that there are endless hills, careful route planning on Stuart's part :grin: On paper it shouldn't be as hard, it seemed much hillier than say the B150 but that has 6500m in only 235k :???: And when I rode across the Dales on the Dales Divide it didn't seem nearly as bad despite sharing sections of the route.
Adventure without risk is Disneyland - Bikemonger
ssnowman
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Re: The Hills! The Hills!

Post by ssnowman »

sean_iow wrote: Wed Aug 04, 2021 8:49 am Cracking result there :-bd What ratio did you use? On my failed ITT in 2017 I had 32/20 I think.

It does seem that there are endless hills, careful route planning on Stuart's part :grin: On paper it shouldn't be as hard, it seemed much hillier than say the B150 but that has 6500m in only 235k :???: And when I rode across the Dales on the Dales Divide it didn't seem nearly as bad despite sharing sections of the route.
Great write-up, thanks for sharing. Also interested in gear ratio.
May satan walk with you
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fatbikephil
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Re: The Hills! The Hills!

Post by fatbikephil »

Cheers folks, I was running my usual 32/21 which is probably similar, Sean, to your 32/20 on normal 29er tyres. I did debate going lower but I don't think it would have helped....
benp1
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Re: The Hills! The Hills!

Post by benp1 »

Cracking write up, stonking effort
Teaman
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Re: The Hills! The Hills!

Post by Teaman »

Enjoyable read and well done 👍💪
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TheBrownDog
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Re: The Hills! The Hills!

Post by TheBrownDog »

Loved this ... been staring at the pics for a bit. I do think this is my spiritual home and I plan to "retire" there in about four years. Kids will be gone. House nearly owned. Want to buy or create a small campsite and grow old disgracefully. You will all be welcome.
I'm just stepping outside ...
ton
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Re: The Hills! The Hills!

Post by ton »

brilliant that mate. good effort too on that old steel gate........... :lol:
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fatbikephil
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Re: The Hills! The Hills!

Post by fatbikephil »

ton wrote: Thu Aug 05, 2021 5:19 pm brilliant that mate. good effort too on that old steel gate........... :lol:
:lol: :lol: Quite appropriate given how many of the bloody things we had to open!
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In Reverse
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Re: The Hills! The Hills!

Post by In Reverse »

Cracking ride and write-up. :-bd

We were at the Dales Cycle Centre at the same time - I arrived on a Surly Ogre doing the road route.
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Bearlegged
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Re: The Hills! The Hills!

Post by Bearlegged »

A good read that. Ta.
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