What is the Bowland Badass?
The Bowland Badass is a torturous 167-mile cloverleaf-shaped route that begins and ends in Garstang, dipping and diving up and down an almost seemingly endless succession of hills, all within the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (including Pendle Forest). With over 18,500 feet (over 5500 metres) of ascent, this fiendish route criss-crosses some of the most scenic countryside that Lancashire has to offer in a relentless series of punishing climbs, the rare flat sections few and far between. Pushed up against yourself and your ability to endure, you suffer and smile, pedalling onwards into darkness. Can you do it? Of course you can, or you can certainly bust your guts trying……….
Originally envisaged as a club ride by some members of a local cycling club, the Badass was first completed in the summer of 2011 by nine foolhardy riders. The inaugral running of the Bowland Badass 2012 came and went in a blur of bhajis, burnished sun beams, and harrowing exhaustion……Success!! It was such a blast that we have decided to throw it open again to a limited number of all comers on the 6th July 2013. For the cheap and cheerful cost of £10, you’ll get to become a Bowland Badass.
So what do I get for my tenner?
First of all, it is not just a sportive. It is a largely self-supporting challenge ride. Your money will go on insurance (for us) and some food (for you). Yes, a kind, local benefactor has laid on two vans that will be parked at strategic points along the route with food and water. You will sign in at the start point, and sign out at the finish point and be given a completion time. You might even have to sign in at the two van stations if we can be bothered. We will ensure you have completed the ride with the time-honoured method of checking your bike computer to see you’ve got more or less the required mileage, and believing you when you say you have done it. In summary therefore, you get:
- NEW for this year…a number for your bike!
- A link to an electronic map and/or we send you a GPX file for your Garmin.
- A set of instructions that you can follow
- Arrow signs/painted arrows at strategic points/changes of direction
- A beautiful ride along largely car free roads and lots of empty sky above you (though we don’t guarantee the colour or moisture levels)
- Insurance cover (in addition to your own, which we presume you have as a matter of course).
- A couple of vans with some food and water (do not rely on these solely for your sustenance however because once we’ve spent your tenner that’s it, and if you follow a strict nutrition/hydration/beauty regime then bring your powders, potions and lotions with you)
- A few cafes/shops along the way where you’ll be able to forage for all those extra calories you will most certainly need (you’ll require money for this)
- A few riders out there who’ve done it before, know the roads, and whom you can follow at a gasping distance/ride along with/blast into the weeds like the vermin that they are (depending on preference)
- Signing in/out
- Start/finish point with a time given
- A story to tell the grandkids
You do NOT get:
- Mechanical help (though there might be a track pump and a few grubby tools in each of the vans)
- Motorcycle outriders (the only motorcyclists you’ll see are local clubs out for a burn up)
- Police cover (though it is said that there are some policemen in the Lancashire area from time to time).
- Medical assistance (St. Johnis not our patron saint, it is St. Billy No Mates)
- Sag wagon (if you have either a mechanical problem or a cardiac arrest you’ll be making your own way home, and public transport/mobile phone coverage is a tad sketchy in Bowland)
- Electronic timing/numbers (this might be nice, but it costs money and needs organisation, neither of which we possess in the required amounts)
- T-shirt/participants pack (if you want a t-shirt, a crumpled packet of gel and a bunch of useless leaflets to chuck on the fire we suggest you stump up £30 and go and do a “proper sportive” and wait in a queue for 3 hours at the end along with 50,000 other people)
It sounds tough……why should I do it?
If you want to do it precisely because it sounds tough, then this is the ride for you. It’s an old-fashioned event in the audax/reliability ride style. If you’re thinking “Ride 167 miles AND have to carry a pie!” then don’t bother entering. If you can get up tomorrow morning early and pop out a 100-mile ride with no prep and no fuss (and then do it again the next day) then download the entry form now (or get in contact with us through our contact page).
What do I need to bring to the party?
The usual things: A bike, a lid, a brain, common sense, a bike computer that works, and a good set of legs. We’ll cover our arses with a fulsome set of rules and regulations as dictated by our insurer.
How long does it take?
Best time so far is 10 hours 59 minutes, set by the King of the Bowland Badass 2012, Sven Wardle. The start time is 07:00 and we expect times of between 10 and 15 hours (after 15 hours the guy who takes your name at the end will either have gone home or be too pissed to understand your incoherent, exhausted ramblings). If you do better than 10 hours we might buy you a pint or give you a trophy (in accordance with your preference).
Can I recce it?
If you want to do sections of the course beforehand, then why not? You can ride the whole damn thing on your own if you like……….
Can I race it?
By all means be our guest if that floats your boat, but if you do it on the day you will be listed merely as a finisher along with everyone else (though we might append times to the list of Badass finishers and if you’re really anal you can export the whole lot into an Excel spreadsheet and work out just how many other people you squashed like bugs and then re-post it on Facebook or whatever….)
A nice route, a drop of insurance and a bit of food…..Is it worth a tenner?
Ride 167 miles up and down a big load of hills with no food and no-one else mad enough to do it with you and then ask yourself the question again.
The StatsStarts at mile 151.20 Length 1.3 m Feet of height gain 270 Average gradient 3.9%
You climb gradually from the disembowelled dip of Brock Bottom, up, up, up and up. Where does the climb begin you ask? You’ll have been ascending quite a while before you get to the left turn into Delph Lane itself proper, but it’ll only look like a real climb after you make the turn. Anyway, you won’t care at this point about the technical niceties. Just make sure you select your softlad gear early and spin up it nice and easy. Eventually you’ll hit 760 feet and the top of the hill, the highest point left before the finish. It must be all downhill from here surely? Now your heart can start leaping with joy. Why? Because you will be closing out the toughest ride of your life, and will be anticipating exactly what you are going to say in your triumphant address to the nation later on in the pub. Erhm no, it ain’t all downhill from here buddy. You still got a few hard miles to put in, and some of it might get you writing your obituary. Skank that last claggy energy bar from your back pocket. You’ll need it.
Stravasaddoinfopoint: Delph Lane Riser (http://app.strava.com/segments/2960179) starts in Brock Bottom and climbs all the way to the top of Delph Lane where you can enjoy an uninterrupted vista of the Wyre Plain (unless it’s dark or stormy and then of course you’ll see bugger all except perhaps the idea of life’s ultimate futility made real in the rheumy ring of tears washing across your gritty eyeballs).
The StatsStarts at mile 145.71 Length 1.01 m Feet of height gain 268 Average gradient 5%
Ah Beacon Fell! What a lovely, little hill. Seen from miles around, hunkered down amongst the skirts of its older sister Parlick (no road up Parlick, otherwise you’d be going up it……..), this little lump is the favourite of those who venture out “into the country” with their dog and trainer boots for a 10 minute slog from the car park to the café on its lower slopes for a sausage barm dripping in fat. Yes, Bacon, sorry Beacon Fell is where urban man communes briefly with nature before returning stinkily back to his crack den with his cliché dangerous doggie (a tubby little staffie with half its teeth missing and a predilection for crapping behind the telly) and a trail of congealed fat on his unshaven chin. However, these randommers, who often emerge clueless and dithering on the road in front of Beacon Fell’s brave Strava segmenteers as they cane it down the hill’s southern side on another totally futile crown mission, make up only a tiny percentage of the denizens of places such as Preston and Blackpool. For the most part this little topographical anomaly merely represents to them something to be pointed at in bemusement over the shoulder of their latest victim. So, what interest does it hold for you Leadlegs? Well, Beacon Fell is where the infamous “last bit” of the Badass begins. Rounding the hillside you are only 5 miles from the safety and comfort of Garstang (and you begin to encounter a series of signs that handily point this out to you as the route takes you past them), yet you still have 22 miles to go of wiggling and jiggling in the righteous fire like a burning bug on a stick. You have passed beyond the realms of physical torture, and now to be truly considered a Badass you must plunge into the hope skewering realm of pure spiritual torment. It might be dark by the time you get here, but nothing can be darker than the pain cave inside your head.
Stravasaddoinfopoint: The climb segment up to Beacon Fell is called Rigg Lane (http://app.strava.com/segments/876064), and it is one of the favourite entry points to Beacon Fell because you pop out at the top and then can gun down the hill like a complete loon, scattering walkers, pheasants, lost children, and nocturnal doggers like fluttering, inconsequential confetti tossed blindly uncaring on the marriage day of space and time.
The StatsStarts at mile 143.71 Length 0.74 m Feet of height gain 171 Average gradient 6.7%
Chipping 2 follows on relentlessly from Chipping 1 after a brief dip. Up and round the corner and it’s over……oh no it isn’t. Keep plugging away past the skanky farm and up that horrid, little steep bit. With the Bowland hills soaring up on your right and the verdant valley floor to your left, you’ll have plenty to distract you. Or maybe you’ll just focus on your bike computer and chunter away to yourself in a low voice heavy with burning regret. Quack! Quack! Was that the plangent call of a passing duck, or did you just receive a worried text from your wife/husband? Who knows? Who cares? Not us smiler. Roll on…..
Stravasaddoinfopoint: Chipping 1 and 2 are combined in one segment because you won’t ride one without riding the other. Make the most of that little dip between them (http://app.strava.com/segments/2679373).
The StatsStarts at mile 142.9 Length 0.48 m Feet of height gain 183 Average gradient 4.7%
Chipping is a charming, little village. The climb out of it isn’t. Turn right at the church, take the next right past the now defunct chair factory and soon you’ll be toiling past the duck pond, onto Chipping 1, and cursing us yet again. The draggy hill is more than most men can bear at mile 142, but it must be endured by brave Badasses, dreaming of closing out this hideous ride.
Why not stop and admire the ducks as they paddle across the water quicker than you can ride by it. What if you just waded in, grabbed one of those little quackers, tore open its slender neck with your gnarly gnashers and drank its blood? You’ve got a toilet duck in your bog…why not an energy duck? Hey Badass! You are hallucinating. Those ducks are not for eating, and they’re not huddled together talking about you, and plotting your imminent incarceration. That job is for your friends and family when you get back. Come on now, only another 24 miles to go. How hard can it be?
Stravasaddoinfopoint: Chipping 1 and 2 are combined in one segment because you won’t ride one without riding the other. Make the most of that little dip between them (http://app.strava.com/segments/2679373).
The StatsStarts at mile 138.25 Length 0.82 m Feet of height gain 265 Average gradient 6.1%
Remember we told you that Birdy Brow culminates in a series of tiresome rollers that trend upwards along the southern side of Longridge Fell? Eventually you’ll hit a T-junction by the New Drop Inn and turn right. This is where the last little bit of ascent over the top of Longridge Fell begins. At over 900 feet in height at the top you’ll be able to check out the lie of the land, and see the terrain left to cover. On second thoughts, don’t bother. You’ll have had enough pain for the day. We stuck a van on top of the Fell last year for those who were running low on water and glucose. With 30 miles left to pedal and the heavens opening in a thunderous downpour, it was a welcome sight to all those sorry-legged Badasses who crawled up over the hill’s cold shoulder. One local entrant was even reduced to sheltering in the back of the van, mewling piteously like a kicked kitten, and then skanking off with JD’s rain jacket because he had “forgotten” his own one. The steep descent off the Fell and down Jeffrey Hill on the other side has a sharp, dogleg turn where it would be exceedingly easy to kill yourself if, for example, you were descending at speed having cycled for far, far too long a distance and were running perilously low blood sugar levels. Take it easy. You’ve come this far…why end it here?
Stravasaddoinfopoint: An innocuous segment really, just up the hill past the wood and round the corner (http://app.strava.com/segments/773876). It’s nothing to write home about. Why then does it hurt so much? Why do those dark, cloistered clumps of fir trees on your left hand side look as though they’re about to rupture and send forth a stinking spew of orcs to feast on your broiling innards? Hey, don’t ask us fool! £10 only buys an entry to the Badass, not the answers to life’s sorry questions……
We like to send out a local hard man to sacrifice himself on the altar of Badassosity each year at around this time. We do it just to see what the roads are like, and to demonstrate that the ride can actually be done, regardless of what all those naysaying health and safety numpties purport. As the Prof did it himself last year and swore it was the final time, this year he cast around for a likely candidate/mug, and lo, who should step in to the frame but his old mate and Strava foe, Dr. Toasted Teacake!. We set him forth last weekend on a rainy and windy day, on the proviso that if he failed to complete he would be the laughing stock of the entire universe, the entire parallel universe, and another entire universe obliquely parallel to that one (the second one, not the first one).
Approximately 12.5 hours after we’d packed him off early in the morning an unearthly series of anguished yowls was heard from the Long Lane area on the hills above Garstang. The atmospheric pertubations from this cacophony are said to have been responsible for the malfunctioning of nearby Dewlay’s enormous wind turbine, and early on Monday a farmer found 20 stiff, dead cows in a field bordering the Long Lane climb with their udders blown clean off and looks of bovine horror imprinted forever on their cold snouts. Apparently the Prof’s name was taken in vain on at least 20,000 separate occasions on this day.
Dr. Toasted Teacake reports that despite the strong westerly and heavy rain, he made reasonable progress due to the north/south nature of the route. A few more eating/retail establishments have ignored the economic downturn and hardily decided to open their doors along the way. Apparently, and most pleasingly, the road that zips down from the top of Marl Hill, across the crossroads, and along the Easington Corrugations in the heart of the Bowland area, has now degenerated to the point where it can now be classified as gnarly. Good luck with that you forthcoming Badasses!
The StatsStarts at mile 134.39 Length 0.74m Feet of height gain 445 Average gradient 11.4%
What a pretty name for a hill! But isn’t there something Hitchcockian about it? Can you imagine the frantic beating of wings inside your ribs, the rising panic of feathered breathlessness culminating in a long, drawn out and agonized rictus sob as you grind to a halt with your calf muscles contorted into molten knots? It was with a finely honed and grisly sense of the macabre that the Prof insisted that this Frankenstein of a climb was included at 134 miles, and he is confident that you’ll thank him for it…..one day. The average gradient is 11.4%, but this little darling has pitches at 1 in 5 and seems like it goes on forever and ever and ever and bloody ever. Once you get to the top you’ve still got to contend with a series of rollers over Longridge Fell before you get to the other side. Birdy Brow still haunts the dreams of those poor unfortunates who have submitted to the agonizing torment of the Badass previously. It won’t be the steepest or hardest hill you’ll ever do in your life, but that won’t be a consolation when you’re dragging your cracked and sorry carcass up its unforgiving inclines (and it may well be the last hill you’ll do in your life….).
Stravasaddoinfopoint: Birdy Brow (http://app.strava.com/segments/773857) is currently owned by a physiological marvel from Lytham, and an implacable Strava enemy of the Prof. We won’t mention his name as it causes our academic friend both spiritual and physical distress every time he hears it.
The StatsStarts at mile 127.30 Length1.55 m Feet of height gain 289 Average gradient 3.5%
You’ve survived Whalley Nab and dropped like a stone to the lustrous floor of the Ribble Valley. Tooling along its gentle undulations, you convince yourself that the Badass is almost over. You’ve done just over 127 miles, and there’s only another 40 miles to go. Tally ho Ginger, chocks away!! Hold on, hold on, hold on, you’re not thinking straight are you Badass? You’ve just turned right onto Gallow’s Lane and are facing due north with that grumpy monolith Longridge Fell sat square in front of you. Do you really have to go over that thing to get home? Oh yes!
Little Town Hill is just a way to get up onto the southern flanks of Longridge Fell. It’s not the dish of the day, but it’s there….and we thought we might mention it as the starter for the next one. You’ll turn right at the top and then curl your way round through Hurst Green to the eastern end of Longridge Fell, where the indigestible horrors of Birdy Brow await. Now let’s crunch some numbers. Little Town Hill starts at 79 feet and Longridge Fell tops out at 928 feet, with Birdy Brow in between. However, over the space of 12 miles you’ll end up climbing 999 feet. How does that work? Yes, the ride from the top of Little Town Hill to the base of Birdy Brow trends downwards. This is your chance to marshal the troops and press on if you’re in a group, or slobber on your bars and let your feet dangle if you’re flying solo. It’s also great to know that you’ll be scrubbing off height that will subsequently have to be clawed back shortly through a frothy mist of blood and lung tissue. This is the way of the Badass………
Stravasaddoinfopoint: This segment is called Gallows Lane, somewhat appropriately (http://app.strava.com/segments/1374536). Did you know that in medieval times convicts were fastened to a hurdle, or wooden panel, and drawn by horse to the place of execution? There they were hanged (almost to the point of death), emasculated, disembowelled, beheaded and quartered (chopped into four pieces). Their remains were often displayed in prominent places for all to see. For convict substitute the word Badass, for hurdle substitute the word bicycle, and for prominent places think of Garstang High Street…… Do ya see where we’re going with this one?
The StatsStarts at mile 115 Length 0.91 m Feet of height gain 480 Average gradient 10.0%
The downhill into Sabden is a riot. You can play dodgems with the cars coming up the other way on the narrow road. But there’s a fly in the ointment, a rather large fly. You’ll see it up ahead before you drop down into the village. After the steeps of the previous 10 miles this winsome grinder is all you need at 115 miles to push your body into shut down mode. Just under a mile long and with 500 feet of climbing it’s a great place for your head to drop, if you let it. If it all starts going black, just focus on your front wheel because you sure as hell don’t want to be looking up the road at the climb ahead. With an average gradient of 10% it’s got a nice little kicker that rears up at the beginning. It’s just enough for you to go into the red on. It’s also lined with houses so all the residents will be able to see you sobbing. There’s even a nice little parking area on bend near the top where you may see a local hoodie or two in their souped-up Vauxhall Corsa sparking up a big, fat joint. You really must take the time to study the local flora and fauna. It could just distract you from what’s happening to your legs as you groan over the top at 969 feet. You’re not about to die? You’re not trying hard enough!
Stravasaddoinfopoint: This is a well known hill, the site of an official hill climb, and the great and the good have been out to contest it (http://app.strava.com/segments/2612899). Ever seen a guy sitting on rollers next to his car at the bottom of a climb? Yes, it’s one of those.