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Can you top this Mega Commute?

Can you top this Mega Commute?

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Mega Commutes

Posted: 2nd February 2010

A while ago I challenged you to top my mega commute - a leg busting 38 mile epic before a long day in the office. If you've got a serious, hardcore, beyond the pale commute to share let us know by emailing editor@britishcycling.org.uk entitling your email "Mega Commutes".

Here's a lungbusting Pennine commute kindly submitted by Jon Corker. Can you beat it?


My Mega Commute: Huddersfield to Middleton, on the Rochdale / Manchester border

Having young children I now only get the opportunity to do this once a week but it certainly makes up for missing out on club rides. Normally I'm up at between 5 and 5.30. I bolt down a large bowl of cereal and roll one of the bikes out of the garage. Hopefully I had the time / presence of mind to prepare the night before but I leave a few minutes for tyre pressures and adjusting lights.

The first question is always clothing; particularly at this time of year. When cycling a long distance you don't want to get cold or wet, but then you don't want to sweat too much either. Given that the route is both very exposed and involves a lot of climbing and descending what to wear can be a difficult choice. As a result I find I become fixated by weather forecasts.

Pedalling off in to the gloom, the first mile is a steep downhill to join the A629 Penistone road. There is no chance to pedal to warm up and the stream at the bottom seems to generate cold air so this is always a shock to the system. There follows a four mile stretch along the A629 into Huddersfield. The first half is relatively flat so I try to set a good pace at over 20mph in order to create a rhythm and to warm up. Then comes a short climb to the Tolson Museum before dropping in to Huddersfield. It's still pretty early so the traffic is not too bad: which is fortunate since on the uphill stretch of the ring road it is not easy to mix with the cars. It's all about eyes in the back of the head and taking an assertive stance on the road here.

I take the A640 up to Outlane. It's mostly a wide suburban road and the traffic is bearable. There is a steady climb for about four miles, with a couple of slight dips to break the rhythm. It's time to switch off and maintain a steady pace. By this stage I'm usually worrying as to whether I'm running a bit late and trying to gauge the wind direction and force; I check the flag flying above one of the mill buildings I pass. At the top I cross the M62 at Junction 23: I allow a little schadenfreude if I see a traffic jam below me (any other day of the week and I'd be stuck in it). A slight drop and then I climb again through Outlane and back in to the green fields.

By now I'm above 300m high and still climbing. This is where the wind normally hits me and lets me know how tough the next few miles will be. Very little traffic now; if I'm late there will be occasional clusters of children beside remote farm houses waiting for the minibus that takes them to school; I usually get a wave from them (presumably they are thinking "there goes that fool on a bike again!"). Drop down a half mile or so of descent to Nont Sarah's pub, but if the wind is against me I'll still be pedalling hard. In winter I have to watch out for a couple of spots up here where the road ices up. If in doubt I get off and walk.

It's now a long steady climb up to the top at Buckstones. The gradient is regular so gives you the opportunity to get a rhythm. At the top, a height of almost 1500ft I usually pause; adjust clothing, glance at the view; sip on the water bottle and then push off. There's a short descent which, if windy, needs a determined grip on the handle bars; the road then levels off for a mile or so before a beautiful curving descent crossing Dowry reservoir dam and in to Denshaw. Here I swing left on to Oldham road and another climb; this time for about a mile and a half to Grains bar. Somehow, this climb never really seems to register. From here the urban commute really begins. A couple miles of steady descent down the A672 in to Oldham. Pass the queuing traffic on the right hand side, dodging some seriously deep potholes. Roads here are narrow and full of parked cars so it's necessary to be alert. At the junction with the A62 jump in to the bus lane and mix back in with the traffic to negotiate the large roundabout at Mumps. I rarely see other cyclists here.

From Oldham it's a straight five miles to Middleton mostly with a gentle downhill gradient. If a car passes me here, I know that there is a fair chance I'll still beat them to Middleton. With the exception of a couple of junctions traffic flows reasonably well and I can keep a good pace. I know I'm nearly there when I smell the vinegar factory at Middleton Junction. A last sprint through Middleton and I wheel the bike in to reception with a number of competing feelings; elation from the endorphins, a degree of frostbite (depending on season) and elation or disappointment at my time. Usually the 28 miles takes 1.40, but depending on conditions has varied between 1.27 and 2.05. There is approximately 700m of climbing on the way there with 800m on the way back.

And in the evening, I go back normally by the same route (in the event of bad weather I have an alternative route which is not quite as exposed). I actually prefer the evening ride; particularly the moorland stretch as, being quiet, ploughing along in your own bubble of light in almost perfect silence is heavenly after a tough day at the office. The only disadvantage being the extra 100m metres of climbing which is all in the final mile.