Treacherous Times In Border Country

Today has been a little like an episode of Line Of Duty; it starts all mundane and then quickly descends into all kinds of shenanigans. The day started with cats in Yorkshire and ended with a fall down a 30-metre ravine in South America. That should keep you reading. Let me explain…

My brother and his wife have, for the past ten days, been in Australia visiting their daughter who is pregnant. Yours truly was duly charged with the onerous responsibility of feeding their two small black cats; Sid & Eddie. Today was day ten and I feel that we have bonded over bowls of Whiskers cat food but this morning we said our fond farewells as I visited for the tenth consecutive morning. It has required me to travel the couple of miles from my house to theirs (not sure if the house belongs to my brother or the cats – they probably think so…) and, as it coincided with the Easter holidays (and there was no supply teaching work), I made the most of the opportunity to get back on the bike and cycle over there as much as I could. Today was cycle number seven (I walked once and drove twice). Most of these cycles have ended with me continuing to cycle to work in Halifax (for my non-teaching job). And I have genuinely enjoyed the cycling. It’s a while since I’ve been a regular cycling commuter but the past two weeks have been great.

Today, however, is Sunday. The cats still needed feeding so off I cycled at 9.30am to crack open the Whiskers. Upon leaving my brother’s house I was unsure as to which direction I should head. Along the canal to Brighouse and beyond? Nah… That would probably mean a journey to the centre of Bradford and I wasn’t in the mood for that. Along the canal to Hebden Bridge seemed the better option so that’s where I headed. A comical low-speed SPD-high-curb falling over near the canal (but not, fortunately, into it) didn’t prevent me from arriving in one piece or, indeed, partaking in tea and a breakfast sandwich in the cafรฉ in the park. So far, so very good.

At this point I normally consider two options; Cragg Vale or Ogden Moor. Today was different. I decided to continue along the Calder Valley in the directions of Todmorden and towards (brace yourself) Lancashire. Initially all was good, if not great as I was discovering the joys of a stretch of the Rochdale Canal along which I had never cycled before…

…but thereafter, in unfamiliar territory, and wanting to head back over the Pennines via the charred Marsden Moor – more of that in a few moments – I subcontracted the route finding to the Google Maps ‘bike’ option:

Google clearly need to spend a little less time on self-driving cars and a little more on route mapping for bicycles. But, despite the rough terrain, no disasters. Yet.

‘Disaster’ is too strong a word – that will come in South America (keep reading!) – but as I descended into Denshaw (a town that boasts of its location in the ‘historic county of West Yorkshire‘ despite the fact that it is now in Lancashire), a snapping sound was heard and I suddenly realised that I wasn’t slowing down half as quickly as I would have like to slow down. I placed one foot on the tarmac and, after about 50 metres, I ground to a halt. Upon inspection, Dale’s front hub brake had gone Pete Tong. It was all very reminiscent of the Gotthard Pass in 2010 (read the book!) How would I ever make it back to civilisation in Yorkshire without a functioning front brake and some seriously steep hills with which to contend?

OK. Let’s not make a drama out of a crisis… (I did that in the book). I was still looking forward to climbing the western side of the Pennines, a task for which brakes are rarely needed so off I plodded along the road in the direction of Pole Moor beside the charred remains of Marsden Moor. Slight digression here to show what one idiot with a barbecue can do. The two photographs were taken in the same place but obviously one is post barbecue. It doesn’t take a degree in fire fighting to guess which one was taken today:

I limped home on Dale, hoping for the best but fearing for the worst. Whatever fiddling I had done with his front hub brake did appear to have had some effect but upon descending a hill towards home there was another snap / crackle / pop (take your pick) and I once again began to see my life flash before my eyes in anticipation of me succumbing to the charms of a dry stone wall at high speed. I stopped in time and didn’t. Dale, however, needs attention.

But what of South America in all this nonsense?‘ I hear you cry. Well, The Cycling Europe Podcast lives again and will soon be hitting a podcast provider near you. The subject will be the purchase of my new Koga Signature bicycle and this afternoon at 4pm, I had a SKYPE appointment to speak to non other than Alee Denham of Koga Denham handlebar fame. (If you need to catch up, read this.) He’s in South America and, to put into stark perspective my tribulations of this afternoon, he recounted the following tale:

There’s more to come in the upcoming episode of The Cycling Europe Podcast. Happy cycling!

Here’s the full story of Alee’s accident and the aftermath in a video from his website

Categories: Adventure, Cycling, Photography, Travel

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