Ride of the Week - Keighley
I was back on familiar roads this week to tackle a loop which started and finished in Keighley and took me right to the edge of the county before venturing into the Dales and then back through the Wharfe and Aire Valleys. It was a tough old route with two late sting in the tails coming after an equally challenging start to the day.
1) I parked up in Victoria Park and headed through the centre of Keighley before turning right off Oakworth Road and onto West Lane. This marked the start of the first climb and it was a good job I was fresh as this ascent always proves a troublesome test. It actually starts out OK but I’d advise conserving your energy early on as it gets progressively harder as you work your way to the summit. There was one latter section easily in excess of 15% which came just as the housing made way for moorside, but mercifully the gradient eased slightly as I got close to my limit. The climbing didn’t finish there though, and the road continued to rise steadily for another few miles after turning left at Redcar Tarn.
2) There was a nice, fast upland section as I crossed from West to North Yorkshire on Pole Road, and I was treated to great views over the Aire Valley before I dropped like a stone past Lund’s Tower and into Cowling. Then it was on to Cross Hills and my next climb was awaiting me there after turning left at a mini roundabout and onto Lothersdale Road. This is much more my type of ascent, 1.5 miles long at a steady gradient of 4% - one of those climbs where you can get into a rhythm, manage your effort and pace yourself to the summit. The descent into Lothersdale was also fun, but the short, sharp climb back out of it on Calf Wood Lane did prove a challenge.
3) I reached the highest point of the ride just before I commenced a breakneck descent into Elslack on a narrow, twisting road, and my neck muscles were tight from the constant breaking as I passed The Tempest Arms and on to the A59. I returned to the backroads at West Marton and the stretch from there to Gargrave was a real treat, just as the subsequent one was to Hetton. Both were gently undulating and allowed me to soak in some stunning Dales countryside as I rode.
4) After turning right onto Grassington Road, I followed that in the direction of Skipton for 3.5 miles before taking a left onto Brackenley Lane. I didn’t see a soul before I reached Embsay but really enjoyed the solitude, and once I’d headed into that village I followed the signs to Bolton Abbey. This took me on another quaint backroad, but I nearly got caught out by a closed gate on one brisk descent and would definitely urge caution if you take this ride on. From there I rode on to Addingham and passed St Peter’s Church before continuing on to Ilkley Road. After 600m I took a small turning on my right and crossed the A65 before commencing my next big climb.
5) The steepest ramps came early on Lumb Gill Lane but the gradient only relented slightly as I turned right onto Cocking Lane. The next 2.5 miles were a tough old slog and the inconsistent ramps hurt my tiring legs. The last thing I needed as I approached the summit was a snarling sheepdog in the middle of the road, but that’s what I got, and the adrenalin rush I experienced when it gave chase provided a (un)welcome boost of speed as I battled successfully to outpace it. I was running on empty once I’d made it to the top but thankfully could recharge my batteries on the brisk descent into Silsden which followed.
6) I turned onto Howden Road, and no sooner had I left the town when the Côte de Silsden was upon me. With almost 50 miles in the legs, this was the hardest time I’d ever experienced it and I was chewing my handlebars as I crawled my way up it. I was seconds away from dismounting altogether after its toughest right-hand bend, but the climb had never beaten me before so I dug deep to ensure that record continued. I was seeing stars as the climb topped out but just about managed to regain focus on the technical descent into Riddlesden that came soon after. Only when I’d crossed the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and turned back towards Keighley could I soft pedal and gradually warm down before making it back to my car. I was tired at the end of it but knew I’d had a thorough workout in on some of the most interesting terrain in the county.
Difficulty Rating: 4 stars
Time: 3 Hours (at 16mph average speed)
Distance: 52.5 miles (84.5km)
Parking: Victoria Park in Keighley. Grid Ref: SE 06668 41975
Toilets: Located in Keighley Leisure Centre and Victoria Hall