Sunny Saturday ride with Carol

Training has strarted for Gerry’s Autumn Brevet and today we set our goal as an ascent of Clay Bank on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors.  Clay Bank is about 1.75km (1 mile) long and rises 130m from the junction with Howe Hill at a gradient of between 5% and 15%.  It is also the main road from Great Broughton to Helmsley through Bilsdale.  The route we’d chosen went out through Stokesley…

We set off at 8am with clear blue skies and no noticeable breeze.  This autumn has been so much nicer than the whole of the summer and we rode together at a sociable pace out past the Fox Covert and along the main road to Hilton.

One or two motorists appeared to be in a hurry, overtaking us on corners, albeit giving us plenty of room.  One of the things we’ve noticed about the north of England is that there are a number of drivers who just don’t expect anything to be coming round the corner in the opposite direction.  Compare this with our experience in the Cambridgeshire and Essex countryside, where drivers would always wait until they could see ahead before overtaking.  We think that in the south of England drivers are more used to heavy traffic and actually expect another car to be coming round the corner.  What concerns us most is that a motor-biker might be out enjoying the sunny dry roads and find themselves facing a car with nowhere to escape to.  Despite this we didn’t feel threatened and appreciate the wide passing distances.

Although the sky was clear and sunny, it wasn’t warm so we both had arm-warmers on and Carol had opted for a buff to keep her neck warm too.  In Seamer we stopped to adjust the height of Carol’s saddle, lifting it by about 5mm.  This helped her feel a lot more comfortable and pedal more easily with less pressure on her knees.

Although I couldn’t ride next to Carol (and talk to her) on these main roads I followed behind trying to keep a reasonable gap so she was comfortable.  After Seamer we entered Stokesley and then the turn to Kirkby-in-Cleveland.  We had been riding along at about 22kph average (13 mph) all the way to the Bay Horse where we stopped to remove the arm warmers and switch on a rear light on for safety; due to the dappled light caused by the overhanging trees.

The next section was the “training target” for the ride.  The climb itself is not particularly steep, but it requires a good level of fitness to keep breathing and pedaling efficiently uphill as it takes 10 to 15 minutes without let up.

I watched Carol from about 25m back, choosing a large gear and “stepping” my way up the hill out of the saddle.  She remained seated and was spinning a low gear (29inches or “30/27”), I knew that she had never climbed the whole of Clay Bank in one go before so I was expecting her to stop and catch her breath halfway.

There were not too many cars, it was just before 9am.  One or two motorcycles came past.  Carol kept going.  There is a small layby halfway up and I could see her drawing close… but she cycled straight past it and kept going, and going, all the way to the top.  She pulled into the car park and cycled over to the edge where there is a good view.  We stopped and the grin on her face was worth seeing.  It was brilliant to see her really use the fitness she has, to get to the top in one go.  Her analysis was that the climb didn’t require much strength, but that her heart rate had been very high and she had concentrated on her breathing so as not to blow up.

Well done Carol. 🙂

From there we dropped down the steep side and weaved our conversational cycling route back to Great Ayton.  In Ingleby Greenhow we took the short steep road and once again Carol just selected a good low gear, stood up and powered her way to the top.

From a wildlife perspective we saw flocks of geese flying east over the top of Seamer hill and we saw, just outside Great Ayton, a large herd of deer.  There must have been over one hundred deer in the field grazing together – it was an amazing sight.

We didn’t stop again until we got to Hilton and we wouldn’t have stopped there except for the wasp attack and needing to wash a sting out.

We rolled home having done 45km together on a beautiful day and having achieved a really good climb.  Our preparation for Gerry’s Autumn Brevet is well underway.


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