Having a family can limit the time you have to go off and try new adventures. Gone are the days of heading off for a few days. For many of us a long weekend ride is our only window of opportunity. As such it means that the fun is trying to cram a new challenge into the little time you have got.
Earlier this year I was looking at the 100 climbs list and the climbs in the Peak District area. After consulting Strava for route choices and a bit of planning I decided to have a go and climb the seven ascents that are in the original book.
The first and one of the nearest climbs was Curbar. This hill has the steepest bit at the bottom and then eases off slightly. It was a route I had done lots of times before as it is a handy shortcut on the way home. The only decision I had was at the top to either reverse my route and cut across to Grindleford and Hathersage or head off in the wrong direction and put some additional climbing in. I decided to take the pragmatic approach and turned round and dropped down the same road I had just climbed which left a couple of ramblers scratching their heads wondering what I was playing at.
After following the Derwent river for a few miles and on through Hope and Castleton next stop was Winnats. I’ve always found this a hard climb. I used to be able to climb it on a 42 x 23 but was glad I was on my winter bike with a compact chainset and 28 teeth on the back end. Due to the way the land lies there always seems to be a perpetual headwind blowing down the pass too. I recalled that the road was hardest up by a council grit bin and if you could crack that you had the climb in the bag. Unbeknown to me, since the last time I had done the climb the council had installed a second grit bin 100 metres lower down. My heart sank when I reached this and looked up the road to see a higher bin. Life was not made any easier by the black ice down the edge of the road which meant I had to either soft pedal standing up or sit down to maintain traction.
From the top of the climb it was a fast traverse of the Rushup plateau. Over to the left I could see the houses at Sparrowpit – the top of my next climb Peaslows. This was a new one on me. I had driven up it a few years ago and remembered that it went on a bit, but driving numbs the sensation of the subtle rises in the road. All was going well and I felt strong at the bottom of the climb then ‘snap’ and I was heading nowhere. My chain had snapped. It was a case of cold hands and shortening the chain to do a hasty field repair. Not only so I could carry on, but I was miles from nowhere and did not fancy making the phone call of shame.
Next stop was Monsal. Another regular climb and home of the iconic hill climb. This one is not as brutal as the likes of some of the other ones I was riding and a road I knew well. I took my time and stayed sat down as I wanted to pace myself as I still had three climbs to go.
After the obligatory photo at the top it was off through Chatsworth and onto Rowsley. This is a real thug of a climb and I actually prefer it’s near neighbour Beeley which is longer and gentler. The worse bit is after you have ridden the steep hairpins and think the suffering is all over you have a long slog to reach any flat ground that seems to go on for ages.
Matlock has the only urban climb on the route – Bank Road. Host hill for the 2016 National hillclimb champs. It also featured in the 2016 Women’s Tour and previous editions of the Tour of Britain. The climb starts steep and then has a nasty kick towards the top where it gets steeper still before taking a sharp right turn and flattening off. My main worries were traffic – the road is popular and getting doored by inattentive motorists leaving their cars. I was in luck, for a Saturday afternoon after I had passed the cluster of shops at the bottom the road was quiet. By this time my legs were starting to suffer, but I had one last climb to go – Riber
The descent back to Matlock green was short and sharp and not really enough time to give me chance to recover. I’ve always found the approach to the bottom of Riber through Starkholmes a slog and that my legs were singing before I started the climb proper. Even more this time.
Riber is a short sharp brute of an ascent. 22% it says on the sign at the bottom and you know it’s going to hurt when there are steps on the pavement by the side of the road. There are a couple of sharp switchbacks which seem to get steeper and steeper and then all of a sudden you are at the top.
That was it. I had done the seven climbs in a day. No trips to far off lands, no days away from the family, but an adventure on my own doorstep.