When it comes to cycling the lanes of north Lancashire, I like to think my local knowledge is up there with the best of ‘em.
So imagine my surprise recently when, whilst out on one of my regular routes, I spotted a mysterious left turn down a country lane. When I say mysterious, it was signposted Cleveleymere Lakeside Lodges and Fly-fishery, so perhaps ‘mysterious’ is over-egging it a bit. Add my knowledge of the general lay of the land into the mix, and I also had a pretty good idea where the lane would emerge at the other end.
So, in summary, it was the turning to a luxury fly-fishing facility which would undoubtedly head west for a mile or two before joining up with another very familiar road; not so much mysterious as mundane, but this doesn’t change the fact that I’d never ridden it.
I suppose the only mystery is that my curiosity had never led me to ride this way, so I screeched to a halt, swung left, and pedalled into the unknown.
The lane was single-track and shaded by trees which created a pattern of dappled sunlight on the tarmac – ‘this is the sort of well tended beauty that membership to a luxury fly-fishing facility buys you’, I thought, pedalling onward into the manicured abyss.
I passed the fly-fishing lodges and a couple of expensive looking houses, swung around a tight right hand bend, to be confronted by a steep little climb which took me completely by surprise. We’re talking around 200 yards of 20% gradient, no less (peaking at a whopping 27%, as my GPS confirmed on returning home), which left me with little choice.
Having been ambushed by this stretch of aggressive tarmac I had no choice but to attack it!
I stayed in the big ring and stamped on the pedals, gambling that it could surely only be short, if not exactly sweet. I’m not sure I’ve ever ridden a 20%+ climb that I didn’t know was coming, and the corkscrew turns in the road which kept the summit out of view only ramped up the tension.
I puffed and grunted for those couple of hundred yards and, sure enough, the road levelled off. Phew! That was a stroke of luck; having to fumble desperately for lower gears mid-struggle would not have been a pretty sight.
This little adventure has me wondering just how many steep little stretches of aggressive tarmac are lying in wait out there, just waiting for me to take a turn down an unexplored side road.
I’ll be on my guard.