South Pennine Cycling

The Hills – Hebden Bridge Cycling

You can’t cycle far out of Hebden Bridge without encountering a gradient. When you live in the valley, everywhere is up. Then down, and up again, and up a bit more. The narrow roads twist; the grade increases suddenly when you least expect it. You round a corner, thinking, ‘This must be it. I can see the sky,’ to be met with a kick like a mule. You grip the bars and pull up out of the saddle, leaning forward as your front wheel tries to hop off the tarmac. Your back tyre skitters on a patch of gravel; you find traction again, and push down hard on the pedals. Another corner, a single lane between drystone walls; sheep cling to the fields that rise crazily on each side. You’re just about keeping the rhythm, carefully avoiding looking at the heart rate reading on your cycle computer because you’re sure you must be dying. You round what must be the final corner – surely – to see yet more up, and the tarmac dissolving into cobbles, as the final insult.

You develop strategies. How hard to hit the initial yards; how soon to change down. Where to take the corner on the inside and get it over with; where to zigzag across, to tame the gradient. Where to stand up; where to sit down. You hold your ground against buses coming the other way; after all, if you stop, you’ll never get clipped back in.

Even if you’re reduced to walking, the summit eventually arrives. Put your windproof on, because the descents are crazy. You hit thirty down Blackstone Edge before you’ve finished singing the first verse of ‘Hanging On The Telephone’. Coming down from Shackleton, your weight’s way back off the saddle; your brakes scream until you let them off, briefly, to bunnyhop each water bar.

But if you’re brave enough to look up, astonishing beauty is your reward. Stealth-black skies set off the dayglo green of sunlit fields. Drystone walls trace the ebb and flow of the landscape. Broken barns, isolated farmhouses, the ragged grey-green beaches of low-water reservoirs. And every now and then, a mudspattered, like-minded soul appears, and you grin at each other like you’ve got the best secret in the world.

innercycliste, calderdalecycling, cycling hebden bridge

For cycle routes to try in our part of the beautiful South Pennines visit the excellent Cycle Calderdale site.

Words by Alison Crutchley

Images by Joolze Dymond

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Posted in Cycling in Calderdale, Hill Climbs, Riding, South Pennine Cycling
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