A ride from Calderdale to Morecambe and back, starting at midnight, was for many years a staple of the local cycling programme. Lack of an organiser – for many years Mel Gibson of Huddersfield did the honours – led to its demise, but organiser and general superstar Dave Dodwell revived it in 2014.
The ride takes place around midsummer to maximise the amount of daylight. The time allowance – it is called a “Standard ride”- is fairly generous at 17 hours for 130 miles, so you have to get back to Halifax for 5 pm on Sunday afternoon.
The popularity of the ride was shown as this year there were 30 riders, a mixture of Halifax Imperial Wheelers aiming to get back around midday, and loiterers from Calderdale CTC for whom a mid-afternoon return was a more realistic objective.
After assembling at the Oddfellows Rooms for pre ride sustenance kindly provided by supporters from Calderdale CTC (thanks to Jennifer, Linda, Chris and John), Andrew Mann of the Imps led the ride out through the bright lights of Halifax Town Centre into the darkness of Ogden and beyond. The aim was that the ride stayed together as a group until Skipton, which it did, arriving at the railway station where Eithne Dodwell ministered snacks and fruit.
At that point the ride fragmented into faster and slower (Backmarker being right at the back) groups as it made its way along the A65 to Clapham. One might think that riding on the A65 at 3 am in the pitch darkness was as close as it gets to assisted suicide, but the traffic was surprisingly light and respectful of the bright red lights. Again Eithne provided sustenance in the car park at Clapham in the form of hot soup and rolls, much appreciated by the riders who were now over 40 miles into the ride.
Dawn duly arrived, along with the midges, while we dined at Clapham
Navigation, as in not getting lost, is an important consideration when riding in the dark, so there is method in the madness of following a main road route until dawn arrives. Dawn duly arrived, along with the midges, while we dined at Clapham, so when we departed we did need to start thinking about what we did when we came to junctions and intersections, now that we could actually see them. But the next 10 miles or so was simply following the B6480 through the slumbering settlements of Bentham and Wennington, before turning left along the A683 towards Morecambe and Lancaster.
Whilst riding along the A683 Backmarker foolishly mentioned to organiser Dave that there was an alternative Sustrans route to Halton, a suggestion that organiser Dave equally foolishly adopted. As it happened it was a lovely tarmac track alongside the Lune – we actually passed some of the main group – with clear signage for Halton where we crossed the river and rejoined the published route for the last 5 miles or so into Morecambe. Cue photographs at the “Welcome to Morecambe” signs and much frolicking around the recently restored statue of Morecambe’s favourite son, now featuring the temporary acquisition of an Imps cap.
One of the highlights of the ride, indeed for some the entire point of the ride, is that at Morecambe the Welcome Cafe opens up early for us at 6.30 am to serve breakfast. As most people had ordered a full English there was little delay in service, some people actually got extra toast, and Backmarker made a successful claim for the one bowl of porridge on offer.
Up to this point of the ride there had been some occasional rain, but by 7.30 am it was raining quite strongly when we left the cafe singing the praises of the wonderful staff who had given up their Sunday morning lie in so we could be looked after. From that point the drill is that riders can make their own way back to Halifax, but in keeping with the spirit of the event everybody rode in one or other of the two groups on the road and also followed the recommended route back over the Trough of Bowland. In 2014 a clutch of riders took the train back to Halifax, but this year almost everyone made the journey back under their own steam.
Out of Morecambe following the early miles of the Way of the Roses cycleway, over the millennium bridge through Lancaster and over Quernmore (“Kwormer”) where the long drag over the Trough begins. At this point I pondered why I did not follow an alternative flatter route through Garstang and Chipping – the Red Rose Ride – but this was a fleeting thought as I did not want to be portrayed as an antisocial git. But the climb of the Trough from the west is an awful lot harder than from the east, and it seemed to take an age to get to the top – exactly 1000’ – we had started at sea level – where we paid our respects at the memorial to double Tour of Britain winner Bill Bradley.
Taking ages over the climb had an unintended (or perhaps not) consequence for the loiterers in that the celebrated Sunday cake provision at Dunsop Village Hall was available once we had completed the tricky but exhilarating descent . We asked them nicely and they opened up early – where else can you get a big slice of Victoria sponge for £1 ? And as we left the sun came out. For good this time.
Only another 30 or so miles to go along the familiar return journey Whalley / Padiham / Todmorden. No time constraints, everyone was back at Wetherspoons before 2.30 pm.
Thanks to all the riders who came along and made the event such a success; to the helpers at the beginning and end (you know who you are); to the staff at the Welcome Cafe; but especially to Dave and Eithne for their efforts in designing and facilitating a hugely enjoyable ride that must surely now be restored as one of the highlights of the Calderdale Cycling Calendar.