Button up on Christmas Eve

…”I’m just popping out for a quick ride!”
This used to be so easy back in Teesside… 2 hours could see me enjoy rolling terrain in the valley, including a stop at Suggitts for a walnut whip and mug of coffee.  Not any longer, oh no.  County Durham’s geography doesn’t allow ‘popping out’ to happen lightly.  Below are a couple of ride profiles for a ~45km loop from “home”, one in Teesside and the other from Durham.  For reference, just short of 10.0km on the Teesside profile is the dip of Rudby Bank.
Don’t misunderstand; I really enjoy the hills.  It is fun to come home with a big grin on my face from the effort required to snipe a strava-segment from a friend, the only problem is that there is no alternative.  It is hills or nothing in County Durham.  Yesterday I rode for two hours in the pouring rain determined to make the most of this Christmas vacation, but when today dawned with clear blue skies and bright sunshine I had to head out again.

I had targets for today’s ride:

  • A friend of mine has a 30 second advantage on the 2.4km/141m ascent of Norburn Lane from Witton Gilbert… it was time to put that right.
  • Another friend went out yesterday and rode “Button’s Bank” just south of Waterhouse; I’ve never seen that climb before and wanted to explore the area.
I usually follow the road to Sacriston as it is close to home and avoids the A-road bashing required to plough along the A691 towards Lanchester.  There is a bit of a climb up to Sacriston, and today was the immediate drop back down to Witton Gilbert to find the bottom of Norburn Lane.  This isn’t a difficult climb and would make an interesting hill-climb time trial, it is 2.4km long and is quiet shallow.  I pedalled hard to keep going knowing that I wanted to knock 30 seconds off my best time and over-take a friend on mine on strava.  I was wheezing heavily as I reached the top, but there were horse riders coming the other way, so I made out I was taking photographs to disguise how knackered I was.
The wind along the ridge top was blowing directly into my face, and behind me were a string of people in cars trying to get to the farm shop ahead.  The wind carried the ‘silence of the turkeys’ towards me this Christmas eve.  Once past the farm shop all was peaceful again and I rolled down Peth Bank to Lanchester.  No rest though, climbing once again up to Quebec and over the hill to Waterhouse.
There was a 15% descent along Ivesley Lane to Waterhouse which might be nice to do in the other direction, but with Button’s Bank up ahead I expect it is the poorer relation which rarely gets ridden.
I hit the climb and for the first time today my gears would not change down.  I could only reach the 38/26 combination and knew that this was going to make the climb really hard work.  Button’s Bank is 1 km long and rises 100m, and within the first two bends I was knackered!  I gave in and shifted to the inner ring of the triple, 28/26… and twiddled my way to the top.  It was a brilliant hill, but I really need to come back with the shifting working better if I want to climb it quickly.
The reward for all this climbing was a long single-lane descent to Brancepath with beautiful sunlit scenery to soak in.  The final push of the day was back along the A690 through Meadowfield and Langley Moor – and finally the wind direction was in my favour allowing me to keep up with the Christmas shopping traffic at 45-55kph.
My thighs hurt this evening.  Hills are fun, but I think that as tomorrow is Christmas Day I’ll have a rest.
God bless you – and Merry Christmas.

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