This weekend we headed up to North Yorkshire to visit my wife’s family. It was initially a relaxing weekend of walking and cycling in the countryside among Spring daffodils and lambs. Ms BikeVCar rode her Aunt’s bike which was a much better fit than mine and has resulted in her moving yet another step closer to bike ownership. There was also some impressive cake baking … and cake eating over the weekend.
The niceties of cakes, lambs and daffodils were quickly forgotten on Sunday morning when Tim and I set off to complete the 60 mile ‘Atrial Fibrillation Charity Sportive’. Atrial fibrillation is a cardiac condition which can result in an irregular heartbeat, and with the ride taking on an unrelenting 1100ft single climb to the top of the North Yorkshire Moors followed by Rosedale Chimney Bank, AKA “the steepest road in England”, it is likely that every rider suffered from similar symptoms … if only for a few hours today.
If you looked up ‘Sportive’ in the dictionary it would probably say “a non-competitive event, competitively participated by competitive people competing directly with any other competitive person in sight”. The fact that today’s organiser kept referring to the event as a ‘race’ only added to this feeling. We set off in groups and spent the first hour on undulating roads approaching the looming hills of the moors. Everybody seemed to be in high spirits, laughing and talking until we hit the first hill proper and it was like a grenade had gone off in our peloton. Halfway up the hill I looked around and there were sweating and struggling cyclists scattered everywhere. Somebody in a thick Yorkshire accent shouted “Nobody’s laughin’ now, are they!” which made me smile but I was definitely pushing too hard to laugh myself.
The ascent up the moors was overall an 8 mile climb. The weather had been fine at lower levels, but up on the moors we were met by a strong headwind and a cold showers. From the top of the moors we had an exhilarating descent where I hit a top speed of 49 mph – a few mph beyond ‘fun’ and definitely on the limits of my comfort zone. But the scariest moment came at the foot of the descent when my handlebars started to rotate down taking the break levers out of my reach. The bumpy road combined with my full weight leaning over the bars plus a couple of bolts evidently not fully tightened had me sweating – especially when I could see myself fast approaching the entrance to a church graveyard where the road turned. Despite riding alongside an experienced stone mason I didn’t want to give him the job of engraving my headstone just yet so I yanked the brake levers up towards me and fortunately managed to stop in time before tightening things up.
The climb up the moors was soon followed by the dreaded Rosedale Chimney Bank. The day before we had been out in the car and decided to check out this particular hill. Just driving down the hill had been fairly scary so my objective on the day was simply to get up without having to stop. At its steepest point I had to traverse the road a few times in order to keep going – my heart was pounding and my front wheel was lifting but I managed to make it over in one go, to much relief and satisfaction.
We rode as a ‘chain gang’ of four riders for the final few miles of the ride. This was a great experience and allowed us to maintain a high average speed and take it in turns to fight against the wind. I ended up completing the 60 mile route in just over 3 & 1/2 hours at an average speed of 16.5mph. A great day of hill climbing to cap off a great weekend in Yorkshire.