50 Classic Cycle Climbs: Yorkshire & Peak District (review)
I bought 50 Classic Cycle Climbs: Yorkshire & Peak District from a bike shop in Pickering on a holiday last year during which I rode five climbs that had featured in one or other of Simon Warren's 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs. Perhaps for that reason I find it difficult to review this book without comparing it to Simon Warren's work.
The attraction of this particular paperback for the Yorkshire (& Peak District) cyclist is the sheer number of climbs grouped closely together. Simon Warren seemed to ration out the climbs in his first book to offer something to all of the regions. In 50 Classic Climbs there isn't that limitation. (However, in the last month Warren has released the first of what I understand to be eight regional guides: Cycling Climbs of South-East England.)
The layout for the most part follows the same format as 100 Climbs in taking a two-page spread for each hill climb. There is the occasional filler on subjects such as the history of selected hill climbs – and climbers – when the words and pictures for some of the 50 climbs spill over to three pages. As well as a difficulty rating there is Distance, Average Gradient, Max Gradient, Height Gain, Start Point (including GR and OS map references). Also included in 50 Classic Cycle Climbs is information on local cafés and bike shops that may be of use.
Unsurprisingly, the Yorkshire Wolds don't get much of a mention, despite having a fair few testing ascents around the northwest escarpment. Simon Warren sneaks in one climb from that area – Hanging Grimston – and James Allen also includes just one. It's a pity then that Acklam Brow (38) is omitted from the map that follows the contents page, especially when the photograph above Acklam is used opposite the Introduction. (While in nit-picking mood it should be noted that the map of Street Hill (49) is actually the map used – correctly – for Glaisdale Head (43) aka Caper Hill.) But these are minor quibbles which, along with any others, should be easy to put right for the reprint that is certainly deserved. James Allen writes with authority and enthusiasm and I thoroughly recommend this book.
Aside from the occasional variation between the gradings given to each climb, what are the main differences between 50 Classic.. and the 100 Greatest... volumes? Well, although both contain stock images of riders hefting their bikes upwards during hill climb races, James Allen's book contains more photographs of regular cyclists actually riding the climbs he details. In Simon Warren's books that is not the case. Does it matter? Not really, but along with an early reviewer of 100 Climbs I have to agree that I prefer to see such pictures, if only to give scale or perspective to the climb.
A North York Moors cycle ride
50 Classic Climbs and 100 Climbs offer a slightly different take on some of the notable hill climbs on the North York Moors, and consequently there are minor disagreements in the grading scales out of their maximum of 10; for what it's worth I agree with James Allen's analysis that Glaisdale Head (Caper Hill) – and Snake Yate Bank (Boltby Bank) are tougher climbs than Rosedale Chimney.
Both books deal with each hill in isolation so, unlike the Moors ride in Dave Barter's Great British Bike Rides, the rider is left to find their own way to link them together if they don't just want to drive to the start to tick them off individually. And the terrain is a little lumpy if you want to take on a loop to fit these in. Finding myself in a holiday cottage in Grosmont my interest focused on the North York Moors area – with some thoughts on a suggested route to take on five significant climbs in this area.
I actually bought this book after riding the route below. You will note that the loop is not closed; I got so far up Glaisdale Head/Caper Hill and simply ground to a halt [excuse alert] I had a bike with me on this date-clash-holiday partly because I had been too unfit to take part in the 153km Big G Grimpeurs de Wolds I had entered having previously ridden the 100km route in 2013. [/excuse alert]
So I switched off my Garmin and freewheeled back down the hill. Had I the strength to get to the top I would have probably turned left at the T junction following the climb then picked up the road downhill towards Egton Bridge. Instead I dropped back to Glaisdale and followed a different route on to our holiday cottage in Grosmont. Something to consider if doing this route, or a similar one, is that the traffic can be a little heavy along the road from Glaisdale to Egton and Grosmont. If like me you were to do this clockwise route just be aware that stretches of road to the east of Glaisdale are narrow and twisting with high hedges and uphill stretches. (One short dink – Limber Hill – even has its own sign. By comparison with the others it's not much of a climb, but it's on what is effectively a main road and for that reason more than any other I don't care for it.) Anyway, here are the climbs I attempted on my route...
Black Brow (Sleights Moor)*
My starting point was Grosmont, specifically the railway crossing. Straight away the road out east goes uphill. Allen and Warren both reckon the hill is never as steep as the 1-in-3 suggested by the warning signs dotted about. I reckon it's 1-in-4 at its steepest and during our week's holiday in Grosmont the cyclists I saw climbing towards the A169 included a number who chose to zig-zag their way as they passed the last houses before the road eventually becomes easier to ride.
Unlike when stage one of the inaugural Tour de Yorkshire passed through Grosmont, after leaving behind the railway crossing, I took the right turn on the left-hand bend and continued on the short, stiff climb to a left hand bend that straightens out to pass a row of holiday cottages and the final twist – this time to the right. It's not as stiff as the earlier section, and beyond the houses stacked up against the slope the climb gradually eases off as that main road gets nearer.
A right turn at the top and a quick quarter mile along the A169 before another right turn, this time towards Goathland. Luckily I avoided any coaches as I passed through this Heartbeat-inspired theme park of a Moors village. I referred to my little map to make my way to the second climb.
Egton Moor (Egton High Moor)
The toughest part of this climb comes with the distraction of a cluster of houses (as I recall it) on a tight bend that ramps up and gradually flattens out as the top of the moor is approached. Memories of this part of the route – the approach to Heygate Bank and the descent in to Rosedale – are still shaded by the image of a rabbit dying in the jaws of a trap. It raised its head forlornly as I passed. (Should I have dismounted and dashed its brains in to put the wretched creature out of its misery?) The freefall into Rosedale was only slightly less unsettlingly.
The first (and last) time I tried (and failed) to climb Rosedale Chimney my gearing was low enough but I popped a wheelie after 70 lumpy miles that day and had to unclip. (I think that time I was defeated as I passed the pub on the lower slopes before I even got to the cattle grid.)
This time, with slightly higher gearing, I paced myself and slowly wound my way up to the top. No records were going to be broken today, and I spent far far too long in the café at Hutton-le-Hole before taking on the next climb...
To get to Blakey Bank I approached through Church Houses. It was an undulating route to get there from Hutton-le-Hole so I stopped for the obligatory bike-leant-against-a-gate-with-a-bit-of-a-hill-in-the-background shot.
In my unfit state I was tiring, I know, on this climb, but I do think it is harder than Rosedale. 'The Chimney' can be muscled over (well, sort of), but I found Blakey Bank to be harder, at least on that day.
Glaisdale Head (Caper Hill)
No more photographs. I had to double-check with some locals that I was on the right road to this climb. I shan't pretend that the one car a day that drives down Glaisdale Head and forced me in to the side of the road a little bit put me off my stride, but further on there were no reserves left to call on and I unclipped. Days later, when I checked the end of my trail against the online map in Garmin Connect I noticed that I had got further up the hill than I had imagined. Maybe next time, eh?
* The Cleveland Wheelers ride around Middlesbrough and the surrounding areas of Cleveland & North Yorkshire, and have excellent resources on their web site, especially regarding the hill climbs (a good way in to their web site). Below is an interesting extract on the subject of names:
[Simon Warren] calls them Sleights Moor and Egton High Moor, whereas we call them Black Brow and Delves, but we’re local so we can call them what we want!