County Contrast

I live in Hertfordshire, the southern county just north of London. Coming to Yorkshire isn’t a new experience for me, I’ve been to Halifax and Hebden Bridge many a time when working at Orange Bikes with my dad. What is new is the riding, something that I’ve been (quite successfully until now) avoiding. It’s not that it doesn’t interest me, I can think of many a good trail up in the hilltops, it’s just the getting there that made me hold back. When I’m down in the valley, safe, at home, warm and dry, and I look up at the hills, my legs start aching just from the sight of them. But as is generally the case, you can’t go and work in a mountain biking magazine without, at some point, going for a bike ride.

We set out from Singletrack towers at 2:15 pm on Thursday 22nd March for what I wasn’t expecting to be too tough a ride. It was a very tough ride. Living in Hertfordshire, it’s hard to find any really tough hills around. The hardest one we’ve got near us is a gravely path up a very steep hill, but even then that only lasts a minute at most. In Yorkshire, there’s very steep hills that go on for miles. It was quite a shock for me when we reached the top of the hill and I saw on my speedometer that I had been riding uphill for four miles.

Now a lot of you reading this will scoff at that, “Four miles,” you’ll say, “hardly anything”. But for a young lad like me, whose hardest hill is one twentieth that distance, it was bloody hard. So it’s hardly surprising that after climbing no more than a mile I have to stop a for a breather. The typical post-hard-workout light-headedness comes over me and it’s another five minutes before we can even get going again. Good start! From there we proceeded to climb. And climb. And climb. Eventually (three miles later) the largest hill on the ride was over, and we’d arrived at the highest point on our side of the valley.

Gasping for breath in the harsh wind, we set off again, this time into a boulder field with sharp, twisty turns and low, sunken ruts. Now, I can tell you that that was very difficult as the wind at the top of the hill was that intense that steering to the left meant going straight. We don’t get any real wind down in Hertfordshire, there are no big hills, we’re not far above sea level and the biggest rock around us is pebbly size compared to Yorkshire. The sharp, twisty turns were doing me no favours and combined with the wind, I was bumping into rocks and taking completely the wrong lines, so it was hardly surprising, that after only pedalling 50 metres that my foot had come off the pedal about ten times.

After a lot of foot-shuffling and feeling the effects of post-winter unfitness creeping we came across some neat little downhill sections and a very deep mud puddle. After steering through the rather large assortment of rocks we took a more cross-country route, sparing us the bother of another 20 minutes with our feet hanging off the pedals in a desperate attempt to stay upright, but also adding on the pain of trekking across boggy marshland. After a while of this we come to a sweet little downhill which takes us down off the high moorland.

The ride ends surprisingly quickly after that leaving me with the sweet satisfaction of having climbed to the highest point (and having got down again in one piece) and the pain of the first real ride since Christmas. Despite feeling pretty knackered by the end of the day, I had a really good time and realised that now is the time to get back riding properly. I’d definitely come riding in this area again but next time, I’ll bring fitter legs. It’s clear that Yorkshire is very different to Hertfordshire but definitely a great place to ride, if you’re fit enough.