Greatest Cycling Climbs #173 - Chew Road
I had been warned (by ‘the book’) that climbing this hill would be unlike any other. Not because it was going to be especially steep (although it was rated as an 8/10 climb), but because of the ‘challenges’ that required conquering before reaching the summit. Indeed, any account written by Mr. Warren that ends “Simply epic”[i] should be respected. This, friends, was going to get jazzy.
Having spent the week travelling ‘up North’, it was relatively easy to wind up in a village just outside of Oldham called ‘Greenfield’, perched on the edge of Saddleworth Moor. Having parked in a residential street opposite the public library and subsequently conducted a ‘Westmoorland’, I was ‘ready’ to climb Chew Road.
Upon reading Mr. Warren’s account a few times, I had a rough idea of what to expect. It would be mainly steep, partly un-made and have storm channels that needed crossing every 10 yards or so. There was also a gate to clamber over half-way up. Other than that, it was just a regulation hill climb.
It was a brief ride from the car and out of town towards Holmfirth. Dove Reservoir was on my left, Chew Road snaked off from the far end on the right. It was unusually warm for the end of October but I figured it might be chilly once I reached the top. I rode through the car park and beyond, crossed the first gate and continued on beside the reservoir. Judging by the gradient, I was obliged to turn right. The road swung steeply right and up, then banked left. A few people were walking down and casually stepped aside as some lunatic on a road bike started climbing. I was out of the saddle almost immediately but the hill soon eased up. As yet, no sign of the unmade road or the second gate……
I rode on and whilst the surface wasn’t great it was still a lot better than the road I had found myself on the day before. Note to file: Hirst Lane at Jackson Bridge really is
(a) an unmade road that
(b) gets worse the further along you ride it and
(c) is not designed for road bikes.
As I climbed I could see the tarmac abruptly end, to be replaced by a stretch of loose hard-core. This was the first stretch of many. With the incline reasonably gentle this didn’t present too many problems, apart from the uncomfortable ride. I climbed some more and the second gate came into view. It was extremely windy. The wind was whipping round the hill and down the valley. I reached the gate, rattling over the gravel. I wondered how long that would last.
Having scaled the second gate I could claim to have well and truly warmed up. The road snaked ahead of me, disappearing round the next bend. The storm channels were clearly visible. I managed to get going from a standing start, cleating in, on hard core and in the wind – a reasonable accomplishment given the circumstances. Progress, however, during part two was much slower and much more complex. The road surface (I say road, I mean track) lacked grip and the storm channels made for tricky obstacles especially at low speed. I wobbled around all over the place, plodding my way up. There was no one about. I kept my fingers crossed I would avoid getting a puncture. The hill was also having a say on things. Breathing hard, I was mostly out of the saddle and trying not to wheel spin. I rounded one corner and then another and then I spotted tarmac again! With more sky than boulders above me, I knew I was close to the summit. Rounding the final bend I could see the reservoir ahead of me, up a short ramp. Passing a lone walker I rode up the last slope and rested whilst overlooking the reservoir at the top. The climb had been hard, but more of a technical challenge than anything else. 8/10 was fair score, given the context.
Aided by a short rest I had the ‘fun’ part to look forward to – the descent. It was only then I appreciated the gradient I’d just climbed. It’s often hard to judge when you’re riding up these hills. I took it very ‘Miss Daisy’ on the gravel as I had no wish to come off miles from civilisation. Every storm drain jarred the bike as I traversed them. It reminded me of the road in Cycle Oregon this year that had split apart leaving 2-6 inch gaps between each section (!) Despite that, I reached the bottom a whole that quicker than the upwards journey, free-wheeling back to Dove Reservoir. Another hill successfully completed.
‘100 Greatest Cycling Climbs’ and ‘Another 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs’ are both written by Simon Warren and published by Frances Lincoln Limited.
Words, Thumbnail and Slider – bikebritain ltd
[i] Quoted from page 129, “Chew Road”, from “Another 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs” by Simon Warren, Frances Lincoln Limited, 2012