My goodness it was windy today; I was blasted out of Ingleby Barwick, over the A19 and bowled along at a wonderful and effort free pace all the way to Great Ayton. As I passed the wind turbines on Seamer hill I noticed they were spinning fast and the main noise they were making was a deep whumping sound as the blades swung through the bottom of the turn. As I concentrated on them, I noticed a shimmy in the blade tip at the top of the arc with an accompanying high pitched whine - it didn't seem like there was a problem, but I felt that the speed they were moving was fast enough to make these effects audible.
From Great Ayton I took the familiar road out to Kildale, passing the new Swan Lake in Easby. Someone is spending a lot of money renovating the house and gardens and it looks stunning. I'm wondering if it will become a hotel. Someone had pulled to the side of the road and was using an air rifle, although I have no idea what he was trying to shoot. I saw the barrel of the gun pointing over the top of his 4x4 as I cycled up so I shouted "Hello" in the hope he'd refrain from putting a pellet in my backside.
When the wind is directly behind me it feels like the air is still, it is easy to forget that the howling gale is going to be in my face on the way home.
As I climbed out of Kildale the road surface was covered in a carpet of beige pine needles with two car-tyre tracks that had swept the tarmac clean in parallel lines, I chose to follow these tracks to avoid getting sharp little pins ruining my ride with punctures. After my humbling experience of booting the Gatorskins during the Tadcaster loop I had paid good money for a couple of inexpensive Marathon tyres; 700x28 and with a metal bead. These tyres feel tough and heavy, they feel like I'm stuck to the road and working harder to keep moving but I don't mind if it is only for Autumn / Winter.
I dropped down to cross the bridge at the bottom of Crag Bank which was looking particularly brown and autumnal... this colour theme was going to continue for the rest of the ride today. Climbing back up I noticed the wind was now across me, occasionally knocking me sideways on the road. The roads were deserted and I saw no other cyclists or drivers around, I had the climb from Crag Bank, the climb from Hob Hole and the climb into Westerdale all to myself.
I like the way the moors are scattered with rocks sticking out of the peat. I stopped to take off my gilet, having worked up a good sweat in the climb, and took a photo.
The ford at Hob Hole was 6" deep, not enough to scare a robust cyclist, but enough to make me think twice. The water was flowing fast and I was alone, I would have felt like a numpty if I'd slipped on the greasy cobbles and fallen in the icy water, so I used the footbridge. I don't have a problem starting on a steep hill and was off again in no time, to the next ford just outside Westerdale. This one had clearly been in flood during the night, the road surface was littered with leaves and detritus from the flooding water flowing down the road. I stopped to capture the bridge photograph, I've been meaning to make a record of this bridge a few times now and the perfect opportunity had presented itself.
When I look back at pictures I often wonder why the hills don't look at steep as they feel when I ride them. This particular climb was a challenge because of the almost total covering of mulchy wet leaves in the road. I kept seated during the climb to keep my weight over the back wheel and hold my balance. Once over the top the wind really picked up and was blasting at me from the side, the gusty nature of this making it hard to lean into the wind and I was swerving from side to side. Fortunately I was still enjoying a car free day and hadn't seen any other traffic at all. I reached the main road at Ralphs Cross and stopped to admire the views out to the coast and the wide horizons this high point gives.
I turned for Fryupdale and was once again enjoying a huge tailwind. I passed the other cross before turning left and beginning the long singletrack descent to Fryup. I can see my breath in front of me as I breathe out, and I notice the shadow of myself as a cyclist on the road and verge. The wind was keeping the sky clear and the views stretched for miles in every direction, with clear blue above, dark brown heather next and then at the dalesides lush green fields.
It was a cautious descent with the strong side wind, which then became a full in the face headwind as I turned for Castleton. Psychologically I find it helps if I remember that I'm not a parachute or inside-out umbrella. I like to think of myself as tapered, like a tin teardrop. The wind just blows around me and even draws me forward - or that is how it works in my head. I reality it is a slog into this brick wall of air. I pass the ruins of a castle which have a marquee set up inside, there is a wedding taking place this weekend and the ruins look like a fairytale location to celebrate the occasion.
The climb to Castleton was sheltered from the wind by the houses either side and I climbed all the way to the turning for Commondale. I didn't want to retrace too many steps and took the Commondale route to get a different view. I saw my first cyclist in Commondale, he was just leaving on the climb up Sandhill Bank and I was turning left to climb the shorter Potter's Side Lane. After the climb and descent to the chicane over the brook there is a 20% climb back to Crag Bank Wood which I decided to keep in a larger gear to see if I could. It feels nice to tell myself I can do something... and then prove myself right.
I passed a chap on a Mountain bike coming back down to Kildale and going the other way were 20 or 30 TVRs of different colours and models, one long stream of enthusiasts on a "traffic jam outing". I think I must have been lucky to be enjoying the moors devoid of cars until now and I was happy to be heading home as day-trippers headed to tearooms and to clog up the roads with smelly exhaust fumes.
In Great Ayton I spotted a bunch of Stockton Wheelers on their club run, and a little later I passed some Tees Valley Cyclists in a very large organised ride. They had ride marshals at the front and back of the group and it looked like a very safe and secure way to start exploring the Tees Valley. I like the fact that people take time out from their weekend to organise rides for other people, it makes cycling so much more accessible. It isn't going to be long before rides like this will be treacherous with potentially icy and slippery surfaces. I was pleased to be able to enjoy today.