Riding long distances while on tour is relatively easy. You’re motivated by the day’s objective – another tick-in-the-box on the intinerary – and you benefit from the unknown. Climbs don’t dog your thoughts (unless you’ve loaded your panniers with guide books) and each corner brings a new view, a new cafe stop, a new delectable piece of road.
Riding loops out of home, conversely, is dogged by the familiar. Stinging climbs are burned in the memory, alongside miserable sections of main road between cherished quiet lanes. Depending on my frame of mind, I either embrace these difficulties or lamely pedal around them. On Saturday, I took them head on.
The Peak District has climbs and busy roads in abundance, but here are some sublime routes for the rider prepared to load up with food and drink and head out for the day. The route detailed here is a reasonably lengthy circuit (80 miles, perhaps) which takes in some of the fine moonscape in the Dark Peak and quite dales in the White. The yin and yang of the district rolling under your wheels.
The day started in Greenfield and the climbing commenced straight away – a long pull over the pass to Holmfirth. This climb tends to be a bit quieter than the busy routes south and it affords spectacular views over Dove Stones. My effort was immediately rewarded with a long and rapid descent into Last of the Summer wine country.
It was too early for chips at Compo’s Cafe so I picked up the Penistone Road heading to Langsett via Hade Edge, another long climb. The views opening up to the left were ample reward, though.
A rather sketchy section on the A628 led to the excellent Bank View Cafe and a turn to the Derwent Valley. The roads through Langsett are a delight. Mercifully free of traffic, the route was made even more pleasant today with the heather bursting with late summer colour.
The fun then ended or began, depending on your sado-masochistic bent. Bisecting river valleys, the road rears up to 25% in places. Although not long climbs, they can hurt. Descents on these grades can by tricky, too, so have your wits about you. Today, I was accompanied by a swarm of Lambretta scooters which left a plume of noxious exhaust fumes as they screamed uphill.
With Langsett conquered, the route continued to Bamford. I stopped at the garage and stocked up on fluids, the day becoming very warm. Following the road to Castleton, I turned off along the B6049 through Bradwell and onto the pretty village of Tideswell. Folk sat outside pubs enjoying the sunshine. I would join them later.
The road after Tideswell then dropped into lovely Miller’s Dale and today the river looked superb condition, weed choked shallows glistening in the afternoon sunshine. I found a quiet spot for a wee bit of contemplation before climbing out of the Dale, a long and difficult pull before risking life and limb on the A6. This jarr on the senses lasted a few minutes though, as the route took a left along the A5270 or, if you prefer, Old Coalpit Lane.
Here, I picked up the A 515 to Buxton. The town was buzzing – good to see – but I passed through heading for another rewarding climb up Long Hill Lane before tumbling down the Goyt Valley to Whalley Bridge… An exhilarating descent.
More miles on the A6 followed before turning into New Mills and, after consulting the map, I found a quiet lane out of the town and a very testing climb to Mellor. This road offered splendid views to the right though and it as well worth the toil.
Now following NCN route 68 and 62, friends to riders in these parts, I headed through Chisworth , Charlesworth and Broadbottom past excited shouts of village cricket matches to Mottram and a steady climb into Stalybridge. With the end in sight, I stopped for a beer or two.
(PS: Apols for these dreadful pics. No charge in the camera battery so only had the phone.)