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So good we rode it twice

I don't get over to the South Pennines too often. I don't know why, as it's these hills that drew me back north in the first instance. I remember the road trip many years ago, taking time in a variety of places and hitting the hills. However, living as I do on the edge of the eastern Dales, and being an avid rider, more often than not I simply want to dive out of the door and get onto the bike as quickly as possible. I apologise now to the Pennine Hills for this neglect. They are truly spectacular, and lie at the heart of what our countryside should mean to us - escapism. 

With this in mind, it was a no-brainer to get along to Todmorden for the Easter weekend, supporting the ad-hoc riding event organised by Chipps (Singletrack) and to take Phil along too. After after all, he loves escapism - as the picture below shows!

The best way to ride an unfamiliar area in my book is to explore. Yes, take a peek at the map, but in essence just ride and see where the wheel takes you, so this was the plan. Phil discovered it was the plan when he asked me if I'd brought the map! Heck, I'd spent so much time looking over and mapping in the past week that the tracks were emblazoned on my mind - what more did we need, other than a sense for adventure. Bacon butties and a brew were quaffed at Phil's then off we set in the van, parked up, got changed and turned the cranks, climbing from the centre of Todmorden towards the hamlet of Walsden and Inchcliffe Lane. 

Inchcliffe Lane is a proper hill, a real belter of a hill to take you up onto the moors, rising to 17% in places, before easing down to a more comfortable 8/9% as you hit the trail and head onto the moor. Twisting itself up, the views are spectacular, with Stoodley Pike looking proud over the skyline of the valley. The mixed track (seen above) is a cracker, with that bit of interest that you want when climbing. Rising then towards the hills, tracks beame a bit more of a navigation exercise, so we looked out towards Todmorden, spied a few reference points and set off across! Reaching the trig point it was time for jelly babies and five minute photo opportunity, and the chance to plan out the next leg. Seeing a great looking track in the distance, heading downhill to the Bacup road, our route was set, with a short technical section across the grassed moor to lead us down to the track. 

Crossing the tarmac, it was time to set off onto the hills to the north and west of Todmorden. The tracks here need some more riding to bring them more into play. The potential is superb, and every now and then Phil would stop and re-plant a fallen signpost, making it easier for wayward riders to locate the trail. Along the way Phil spied some woodland that he'd ridden some time ago, and, as we headed on new tracks continued to fall before us, with some sketchy loose doubletrack descending at speed to test out the tyres and our handling skills. 

All to soon Todmorden was back in sight, drenched in spring sunshine warming the fells. Many jelly babies had been quaffed and we were ready for a brew and food. Speeding along Flower Scar Road, we picked up Stones Lane and came across a hidden a gem of a track. Nestled on a bend was a walled bridleway, narrow and winding that simply improved in technicality and interest the further along it you rode. Opening out to the edge of the escarpment above Todmorden, the track became steeper as we dropped, with 18/ 19% sections in places, together with a steep and long drop down to town to the left if you tipped - time to focus then! A couple of tight turns to get you body-swerving and shape-shifting and we were at the bottom - awesome. It had to be one of the best little descents that either of us had come across in years. Time then for tea and medals. 

Locating the Cycle factory, we settled in and chewed the cud, looking over this excellent emporium of bike porn before heading off for lunch - but not before we cycled back up Stones Lanes and took in another descent of the sublime technical singletrack descent. If we'd have found it earlier in the day, we'd have probably just rode up and down it, with knowhere else visited! Todmorden and the South Pennines hadn't disappointed and we'd be back soon - very soon.