Climbing the Trough……

When I was a post-graduate student at Lancaster University, I was heavily into racket sports, especially squash. I would fling myself around the court, always intent on retrieving everything and always going for the winner. Inexperience and unsubtle play frequently led to pulled muscles in my back, so I sought advice from a doctor.

When I was advised to give up racket sports, I asked the doctor what a hyperactive guy in his mid-20s should do to ‘calm the nerves’. The direct answer was: “Either swimming or cycling. They will be the kindest to your back”. 20140713_123746_AndroidWell, that remark sowed a seed in my brain and, one day, I jumped on my £10 commuter, geared only by a 3 speed Sturmey Archer, and headed up towards Bowland Forest. Of course, the hills around the Trough of Bowland are murderous, even on a wide-geared bike, but through a combination of riding and walking, I managed to do a circuit and get back to the university campus. To put it mildly…..I was completely knackered.

But……..there was something about the whole experience that caught my attention……which eventually led to me buying a more suitable bike and, ultimately, joining a local club. And the rest? Well, of course, it’s history…… That was 37 years ago, and now my life-time mileage is approaching 200,000 miles.

So, when up in Lancashire last week, I simply had to re-visit this life-changing haunt… the full circuit of Bowland Forest, including the mighty Trough of Bowland.

Climbing the Trough of Bowland

Climbing the Trough of Bowland

Could I do it….albeit on a modern bike with a wider range of gears…..and now 37 years older? There was a lot of personal pride at stake…..none of us likes to admit that age might be robbing us of the wherewithal to do the things we used to do when younger.

Well, I won’t beat about the bush on this……..I did have to walk the last 100 metres of the climb, which should have made me feel gutted (because on my last attempt at Winnats Pass in Derbyshire, a steeper climb than this, I got to the top)….. but then on this attempt I did have a head-on 20mph wind….could I use that as a reasonable excuse?

Elevation profile of the ride

Elevation profile of the ride

Well, in the cold light of day, I thought about this carefully. There was no reason for not being able to climb it, other than the head wind and trying to do it on a double (front changer). One day, when I replace my current road bike, I will eat a bit of humble pie and have a triple put on the next one……then I can act my age and use the ‘granny ring’!20140713_164927_Android

About Frank Burns

My journeys around the world are less about riding a bicycle, and more about what happens when I get off the bicycle. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on July 20, 2014, in Cycling UK and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Nice post. I have rides that I try to revisit going back 40 years as well. I got into road cycling at the family cottage in rural Ontario almost 40 years ago. I still have the cottage and get back there every few years and always take a bike with me.


  2. We guys, who’ve been pedalling for a few years, have some stories to tell. Maybe that’s why we blog…….?


  3. Chin up Frank, there is always “something” that humbles us as cyclists. Whether it is age, power, weight, or the steed we can afford. I am being humbled at the moment looking at the pros racing around France and seeing how much power I can output on a WattBike… very humbling.

    There can only be one Nibali or Panzerwagen, all the rest of us simply enjoy the ride, humbly.


  4. Chris, the TDF doesn’t need to be your yardstick………just look out for the ‘fit young greyhounds’ overtaking you on the road…..they show no respect for experience…..:)


  5. LOL – them buggers too


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