Amanda and Hannah think they know what makes a bad gate – and a good one. Here is their appraisal of local gateways.
If you have ever ridden the Mary Towneley Loop solo, you will perhaps understand the importance of gates to riders. This trail is punctuated by gates of many kinds. Some seem to be deliberately positioned so at to be out of sight of one another, luring you into getting back onto your bike only for you to dismount again after barely a pedal stroke. Not only that, but it seems like it’s a showcase for gate closures: every mechanism is slightly different to the last. For the tired rider dreaming of pies and cool ale, it’s mental torture.
As regular users of gates, we have become connoisseurs. We have favourites gates, and hated gates. Gates which make us happy, and gates which make us sad. There is a gate so terrible near Hannah’s house that she will plan walks just to avoid it. It is everything a gate shouldn’t be: horrible to the touch galvanised metal, stiff to open and close, and makes the most awful ear wrenching noise in the process. Terrible.
There are other gates which are beautiful tactile experiences, ones with great views, satisfying clunks, and reliable mechanisms. Ones with character, history, or pleasing signs.
Having recently invited our subscribers to the area in our Issue 131 Classic Ride, we feel it is our duty to brief you on the gate situation. Come with us for some serious gate geekery, as we rate our gates, focusing on these key aspects:
- Ease of use
- Likelihood of inducing injury
- Would visit again
Withens Clough A
This is a bad gate. The only good thing I have to say about this gate is that it doesn’t have a horrible squeak, and it provides a rest spot part way up a long hill. It has a handle on the top that should open the gate, but it’s rather stiff. The bolt has to be aligned into a hole in order to close it – so closing it requires coordination of the bolt and hole, plus pressure on the latch handle. Pretty much impossible to achieve when you’ve got your bike in one hand, so you’ll have to go and lean your bike against the nearby wall – though watch out for the dog poo that lurks there. This gate makes me cross, it is a faff to open and close, and I would forgo the rest it enforces in order to have a happier gate experience.
- Position: A well placed rest spot.
- Ease of use: Fair to poor.
- Likelihood of inducing injury: Low, as long as you don’t have a weak rotator cuff
- Would visit again: I do, often, but only as a means to other places.
Withens Clough B
This gate is another bad gate, though with very different characteristics to its unsatisfactory sibling at the other end of the reservoir. While this one has a handle to operate the bolt, the bolt is caught in a sneck rather than a hole. This would be an improvement, except that this gate is an exercise in false hope. The gate handle does not work when the gate is closed – it is too heavy on its hinges. Instead you must lift both the sneck and the gate slightly to open it. Then, you have to give it a shove and a lift to get it closed again. If you’re there on a wet day, you’ll do all this while standing in a puddle, or if it’s after a real downpour you’ll do it while balancing on a tussock which has washed off the hillside into the mouth of this gate. Note also the nettles, waiting to catch the calves of the cyclist who gets too close while using a hip to shove the gate shut.
- Position: It is in a nice spot for admiring the reservoir and big skies.
- Ease of use: Not terrible, but poor.
- Likelihood of inducing injury: Is wet feet an injury?
- Would visit again: I do, often, though it’s not really a visitor attraction.
This is a good gate. It’s got a head start because it’s placed in between my favourite fields (that’s another feature. They’re pleasantly long and thing with nice walls, OK?), and if you look back towards Stoodley Pike there’s a nice view. It swings well and easily, with plenty of ground clearance, and the catch to keep it closed is a simple chain and hook setup. It’s that hook that gives this gate the extra edge. It looks like it’s home made, fashioned from some other piece of ironmongery. The twisted knurl of the hooked end seems entirely without function, but is pleasingly textured and polished along the ridges. Pause and run your eye and fingers over it next time you pass.
- Position: It does disrupt a long slither of singletrack, but then it frames a nice view.
- Ease of use: Very good.
- Likelihood of inducing injury: Practically nil.
- Would visit again: You should make a point of doing so.
This is the best gate in Calderdale. At least, it is in my opinion, though I’ll admit it does have some shortcomings. It is a bit of a nuisance to close – it opens freely, but there is no sprung return to it and the hook and chain are quite long, so you have to go fishing for them before hooking them into place. But what a hook, and what a loop. So pleasingly smooth, polished through use, and worn into the wood. That gentle curve into the wood is smooth and soft to touch, inviting a thumb to stroke it as you might the small of a loved one’s back. Maybe it’s the lack of oxygen going to my brain by the time I get here – all directions are down from this point – but I think this is one sexy gate.
- Position: Perfect. Everywhere is down from here.
- Ease of use: Good.
- Likelihood of inducing injury: None except hyperthermia from taking in the view.
- Would visit again: This is a destination gate. Entire rides should be structured around it.
This gate is an example of a terrible gate in a great spot. This gate is best approached early on a frosty winter’s morning, where, from its north side it is a continuous climb from the valley floor to this gate. As you approach the gate, you’ll emerge from the shadow of the hill into crisp winter sunlight and an open view over the moors. Hopefully things are really crisp, because there is something of a perma puddle below this gate. If you are lucky, you might get frozen mud, otherwise you’ll have to tip toe your way around or through the gate while navigating its many fastening options. A chain with a couple of potential attachment points – through really only one reaches, since it has dropped on its hinges. Or, maybe it’s dropped and swollen so that the only closure option is a sad piece of orange twine? Maybe it looks easier to open the big gate and take the dry side? But no! for the small gate shuts onto the big gate, and now you have to open and close both of them. And now you’ve stepped in that puddle. Console yourself with that view – which is always worth the climb to get to it, all year round.
- Position: Very good. Frames the view and is on the top of the climb.
- Ease of use: Frustrating as hell.
- Likelihood of inducing injury: Wet feet definitely counts as injury.
- Would visit again: Yes, though be sure to visit it as the peak of a climb for ultimate appreciation.
Shlog to Summit
What I have failed to photograph here is the deep sludgey mud on the ground. It has always been impossible to get enough traction to deal with the broken latch, but this revolutionary latch design, available in blue or orange, has made it much less stressful. The hoop isn’t big enough to carelessly sling over the post – you have to actually place it over with some care. The view is great (I spy Stoodley Pike) and you’re unlikely to be exhausted at this gate because the trail is a really gentle roll in either direction.
- Position: A sandy, heathery path with big scenes on one side and a really great pipe.
- Ease of use: Meh.
- Likelihood of inducing injury: High when the ground is wet. Low otherwise.
- Would visit again: I frequently do on my hardtail. I catch my pedals on the ruts too much on my full sus…
Reddyshore Scout Gate
Originally featured in Fresh Goods Friday, this is the gate that got us started on Rate My Gate. For as long as locals can remember, the only parts of the gate that were attached were the four corners. All those bars and structural pieces were a saggy mess, weighing down the frame that had bent the hinge under its own weight. The uneven road that is a mosaic of grass, packhorse, tarmac and sometimes mud is convex, so initially you think you have lifted the gate enough to drag it open, but then you meet the ground. I have never seen anyone open this gate beyond the width of their pedals – you just stand your bike up, roll it through, have a swig of your hipflask and then begin the procedure of closing the gate. The good news is that the view is incredible from here, so the riders that drew the longer straws get to soak in the landscape whilst the operation takes places by their unfortunate mate(s).
That’s all in the past now. Dave came and did some (albeit shoddy) welding and the gate is both in one piece AND hung on its hinges. Thanks Dave! Not only that, someone has replaced the Shut the gate you idle get message with Shut the gate, lovely, ta.
- Position: Always at an exhausting point of a huge loop. Amazing view of the valley.
- Ease of use: I’m not sure how active our swear filter is? It’s NOT GOOD.
- Likelihood of inducing injury: High chance to anyone close by, when you completely lose your mind in frustration.
- Would visit again: *Sigh*. Yes.
Bottom of the Walsden ZigZags
If you were to do our Issue 131 Classic Ride, you will come to this gate at the end of the exposed, steep, zig zag descent. You will be hyped up from a fun run, a bit rattled from the loose rocky switchbacks, and will have arm pump from having not been able to stop for the length of the descent. The last thing you need at that point is the ground on the other side of the gate resisting you opening it. There’s no smooth or graceful way to open it – You have to do a sort of ‘lift n’ shuffle’ whilst it judders awkwardly through the mud. This is an irritating gate, but an insider tip is to not be the first person down the trail, so you don’t have to open it. (Vicky, Aaron, Beate, if you’re reading this I’m sorry.)
- Position: At the end of a great trail.
- Ease of use: It’s a tough one, often easier to throw your bike over.
- Likelihood of inducing injury: I have injured myself here.
- Would visit again: Yes. I tend to forget about this gate until I get to it.
Top of Birks Lane, or ‘Cheese Hole’
This is one of my favourite gates in the valley. It’s less than 10 minutes from my house, it can be the only gate I use on an entire ride, it swings open and closed with ease, but without being flimsy and flinging itself wide open.
Placement could be improved, as it is situated in a dip on the Bridleway, meaning if it were higher up you could use the momentum from rolling down one side to get up the other, but that would be my only niggle with this gate. It even has some nice metal kisses on the back side of it.
- Position: Entrance and exit to my local loop.
- Ease of use: Easy! A pleasant experience.
- Likelihood of inducing injury: Unlikely.
- Would visit again: I do, daily.
Pennine Bridleway, near Ratcliffe Hill
I think the photo demonstrates the issue with this gate. It’s one of those extra wide ones that no amount of braces and no quality of hinge could stop from dragging. That’s fine, I will accept a draggy gate. A better option would be a regular sized gate with a smaller walkers’ gate next to it, but I’m going to assume it’s made so wide for access to the windmill lanes (which currently have a huge crane on them, which would have fit through here). BUT. The height it needs to be lifted to clear the inconveniently placed packhorse is just enough to be a right pig to lift. It’s a heavy gate!
- Position: Somewhere inside a big Walsden loop, around the time you get hungry.
- Ease of use: Terrible.
- Likelihood of inducing injury: You could pull a muscle.
- Would visit again: Yes, but will grumble each and every time.
Here ends our tour of gates. We hope you appreciate our gate appreciation, share in our frustration of bad gateways, shudder at the feel of soggy twine loops, and wince at the sound of a squeaky latch. May your rides flow freely, and your gates shut neatly behind you.
If you like the look of the trails in this feature then you should check out our Komoot Classic Ride from issue 131 for a fine route in the area.
We leave you with a gate teaser. This piece of art features in Issue 132 of Singletrack Magazine. I wonder how we would have rated this one if it were local?
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