#ColdDarkRides are here to inspire your winter planning and give you an insight into the roads that our friends in the Cold Dark North love to call their favourites.
The brief for some of our favourite local riders, brands and photographers remains the same: give us 5 photos and descriptions of the places you love to ride and a bit of blurb on yourself. Over the coming months we'll be sharing their secret climbs, epic rides and favourite spots here in the Road Gauge and on Instagram.
Melissa is born and raised in Skipton, a North Yorkshire town famously known as the ‘Gateway to the Dales’. Not only does she have quick access to the Yorkshire Dales, she also has Calderdale, Wharfedale and the southern reaches of Lancashire close by.
Coming from a cycling family, she's have been riding bikes for as long as she can remember and currently rides for our friends the Crimson Performance Race Team. Her location is ideal for cycling and hills are unavoidable. There are long ones, short ones, steep ones, cobbled ones and picking a top five was no easy task for her!
Fleet Moss || 6.1km, 5.5% avg
I will kick things off with a classic. I feel a climb is much more lovable when it has a beautiful setting and Fleet Moss definitely has that. Starting in the idyllic town of Hawes, you’ll pass the famous Wensleydale Cheese Creamery as you approach the climb. The first kick comes as you pass through the small village of Gayle and from here you leave the hustle and bustle of the popular tourist spot behind and head into the vast green valley.
After the first kick the road flattens off and you are treated to a fast rolling section of road between dry stone walls. Eventually the main part of the climb will reveal itself, a long steep line of tarmac between a sea of green.
The beauty of this climb is that the gradient gradually builds you up with the hardest section at the end, where the last push maxes out at nearly 20% to see you over the crest. The crest also being the highest road in Yorkshire. As a reward for your efforts you’ll be treated to a super-fast descent into Buckden and stunning views as far as you can see.
Kidstones Bank Climb || 3.7km, 6.3% avg
I’m staying in the Yorkshire Dales National Park for my next choice, Kidstones Bank Climb. This is the other side of Kidstones Pass, or Cote de Cray as it was named when the Tour de France came to Yorkshire in 2014. Kidstones pass is a great climb, but there is something brutal about Kidstones Bank which makes it stand out in my memory. I have never experienced a tailwind on this climb, in fact there has always been what feels like a strong block headwind.
The climb is exposed and pretty much follows a straight line, so you have nowhere to hide as you slog up gradients of up to 18% with the wind firmly in your face. Even as the gradient eases off you’ll be fighting into the wind until you reach the short but fast descent into Buckden.
Hainworth Lane Cobbles || 0.4km, 15.9%
We head further south for my next choice into West Yorkshire, home to the quirky towns of Haworth and Hebden Bridge. Although Belgium is probably the first place that springs to mind when you think about cobbles, West Yorkshire has plenty of savage cobbled climbs to offer if you want a taste of Belgium here in the North of England. Though there are many to choose from in this area, I’m going for Hainworth Lane Cobbles. Although only short, when you factor in an average gradient of 15.9%, this would be tough if it were covered in perfectly smooth tarmac. But it is isn’t.
You take a sharp left just before the Worth Valley Inn pub in Ingrow and climb up past a few houses before you reach the cobbles. The first part of the cobbled climb is sheltered by trees, and as you emerge from the safety of the trees you are met with a steep, off camber bend where the cobbles are loose in places, and in others, missing altogether. Mind the gaps! The climb is so difficult that it has a handrail running all the way up for walkers. The challenge of this climb is as much staying upright as it is moving forward. Despite its brutality, there is something very beautiful about this cobbled climb for me, and it’s one of my favorites.
Oxenhope Moor || 3km, 6% avg
My favorite type of climbs to ride are longer climbs with a nice constant gradient of around 5-7% (the type you find in places like Mallorca and Calpe - never heard of them, Ed) where you can tap out a nice rhythm. Unfortunately for me I’m surrounded by short, steep bergs.
However, although Oxenhope Moor isn’t that long it does have a pretty constant gradient of around 6% and never goes over 11%. This climb even has a little switchback to make you really feel like you are on the continent. You’ll know you’re at the top when you reach the famous elephant painting and you can enjoy the descent into Hebden Bridge.
Forest Becks Brow Climb || 0.4km, 19.8%
So, this one was going to be my ‘token Lancashire’ climb. However, it is technically still in Yorkshire, but just up the road is the border with Lancashire in Tosside (I tried).
Unlike my other choices, this one makes the top 5 purely for its scenery. The defining feature of this climb is in the name. Although I am surrounded by beautiful countryside and vast fields of green as far as the eye can see, forests are a rarity. As you approach this climb you pass through a stunning little ‘mini-forest’ with the light peeking through the trees; it’s probably my favorite stretch of road. Also, you pick up so much free speed as you drop down from Wigglesworth so you’re almost at the top of this little hill before you really need to push on the pedals.
You can often find Melissa on Instagram and hopefully ripping up some road races and crits in the North of England soon enough in 2021!