Day 19: The ‘big one’ – Macclesfield to Bradford: 90km and 1800m of climbing

The first thing to say about today is that the title of this blog post is not an error. In all previous cycling days, we have maxed out at 1600m of climbing but today was a new peak, namely 1800m. That is over a mile straight up! No wonder we felt tired at the end of the day. But it was also a magnificent day’s cycling and one we will remember for a long, long time (as will our thighs and calves of course).

We got an early get away from Chris and Marilyn’s and plodded uphill and then down to Bollington and the wonderfully named Pott Shrigley. From there we began one of the classic climbs of the Peak District, namely the ‘Old Brickworks’ climb up and over to Whaley Bridge. It is ranked as one of the best 500 climbs in the UK according to one cycling website – which does not seem much! But at 8am it was lovely in the cool, sunny morning.

We then descended to Whaley and had a look at the house our son, Ant, is buying (from the outside) and were fed coffee and croissants by Chris and Kate Jeffrey as we met their delightful son, Aaran (hope I got the spelling right).

With a heavy heart we left them at about 10 and traversed the outer reaches of the Manchester conurbation, and climbed some really steep hills to Higher Chisworth which gave us amazing views. By the time we got to 1pm, we had reached Greenfield and had done over 1000m of climbing – our usual marker for a tough day. The Greenfield Cafe had everything a cyclist needs – good coffee and an all day breakfast.

That set us up for the next 340m climb up to Saddleworth Moor (of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley infamous recollection). We knew this route so well as it was where Ant climbed most of the height of Everest when doing a charity cycle ride last year. We climbed it once but he did this about 20 times! It was steep at the bottom but then we plodded up at about 4% to 6%, with the spectacular scenery developing with each turn of the pedals.

Not a place to linger on the top, a few photos and then a steep descent into Meltham. We were now into South Yorkshire and passed through a few towns before we spent 20 minutes in the sunshine having tea and cake in Huddersfield. People watching is a fascinating pastime the world over, and Huddersfield is no exception. We sipped tea, felt weary limbs and watched the area’s colourful cast of characters taking a gander at us as the passed by, some arguing with each other and some making up publicly from arguments. In our cycle shorts, bikes with panniers and looking older than we had a right to in lycra, I suspect we were equally part of other people’s people watching afternoons.

Back on the bikes and the last 30km to Bradford was mostly on main roads, with intermittent cycleways. Finally we coasted down the hill towards Bradford city, only to find Jane (Bernie’s sister) lives up a series of steep hills on the other side. It was 2 pretty dishevelled looking individuals who turned up on her doorstep seeking hospitality, but she was welcoming and it was great to see her. A hot shower, a beer and 3 burritos life things were looking up – but we cannot have been the greatest company at dinner!

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