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 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.
The StatsStarts at mile 120.72 Length 0.68 m Feet of height gain 392 Average gradient 10.9%
Why does Whalley Nab even exist? The Prof’s theory is that a rough trail was started when the monks from nearby Whalley Abbey used to slink up into the trees with a few tabs and a keg of their homebrew for a little shindig away from the abbot’s prying eyes. And hey, if some local nuns turned up then it was all good . The great fornicators!! Whoever said being religious was a bar to enjoying the finer things of life? All you need is a shady wood on top of a steep hill and a few dirty habits…..
Now….where were we? How hard is this little ripper of a hill? It’s only about 0.7 of a mile with 392 feet of height gain after all….and with an average gradient of just under 11% you could get up that blindfolded on your niece’s tricycle in its big ring, couldn’t you? Well, the key is in the word average. This hill is S-T-E-E-P. It flattens slightly halfway, and you’ll need it to because by the time you get there your lungs will be flopping out over your handlebars and your adductors will be screaming. The first part is a vertiginous spiral right from when you cross Whalley Bridge and jink left up round the corner and into the trees. Past the scary Satan tree and over a blind brow the flatter bit begins. Blessed relief! But then it kicks up again and suddenly you find yourself having to dig really deep until the radio mast passes on your left and you reach the right turn by barking dog house. If you haven’t got enough electrolytes into you over the previous 10 miles you’re on a one-way ride to Cramp City. Do not stop spinning. Do not unclip. There’s no point getting off and pushing unless you’re wearing hiking boots. If you’re a local you might have jousted on this hill with your mates on a 30-mile scorcher. You might even have gone up slow and steady at the tail end of an 80-mile club ride. It’s an old friend with a familiar face, isn’t it? Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! After 121 miles of Badassing the Nab represents severe and deadly stranger danger. If you’ve never stared into the inky, black depths of Death’s sullen eye sockets before, this is where you’ll do it.
Stravasaddoinfopoint: This climb is a little favourite of the Garstang Boys (http://app.strava.com/segments/2533140). We do it straight after a slap up feed at the Abbey on a club ride, and boy do those lunch legs frickin’ hurt! This means that anyone who is properly warmed up and not too far into their ride could monster this climb and grab the crown. Oh, we forgot, you might be a bit too tired at this point to give it a go……….
The StatsStarts at mile 112.41 Length 0.24 m Feet of height gain 83 Average gradient 6.5%
There is another little hill out of the hamlet of Sabden Fold on the way to Sabden proper. We didn’t include it last year in our information posts because it seemed so inconsequential. So why talk about it now? It’s only 83 feet of height gain after all. Ever heard of the phrase “final nail in the coffin”?
The truth is that after 112 miles in a hillbilly dip in the middle of nowhere this little scorcher will slit your throat with a rusty razor, reach down your gullet, kick open the creaking door to your heart and jangle your coronary arteries with a sheepshit-covered fist. Here is where you stop to call your Mummy on your mobile phone and cry like a babe (if you can get reception that is). Take a hanky.
Stravasaddoinfopoint: The relevant segment is called Haddings In to croft top ln climb (http://app.strava.com/segments/2223850). It’s a bit of a weird name we know. The Prof says he’s never seen any inns in Sabden Fold, and, bearing in mind the tiny, isolated population of the hamlet, you’re best advised not to stop for a drink; especially if you happen to be wearing a merino wool top. Baaah! We don’t have a photo of Sabden Fold as we’ve always been too scared to stop there (eerie banjo music sounds in background……). However, the Prof has kindly supplied a picture of a deceased sheep to act as a wooly metaphor for the state of your body and soul as you pedal nervously through………
The StatsStarts at mile 110.22 Length 0.49 m Feet of height gain 265 Average gradient 10.2%
The picturesque village of Barley nestles in a hollow high up in the Pendle Forest Area. There’s a lovely looking pub with a pint swilling crowd milling about in the sun-drenched beer garden. But you can only drink it all in as you whizz by. If you stop here, you’ll never make it out. Keep going and you’ll spend about 30 seconds chuffing through the village before you hit Barley Hill (well that’s what we call it anyway) and get your first taste of what the next 20 minutes or so will bring as you forge through the heat of the Pendle Forest Hell Zone. The climb up over to Newchurch is steep and brutal, with enough of an incline to blow your thighs apart like a couple of pulpy fragmentation flesh grenades. The public toilets in Newchurch are a great place to stop, either to pee or puke, or perhaps both……….
Stravasaddoinfopoint: The hill out of Barley is called Spenbrook Rd Climb (http://app.strava.com/segments/774000). Feel free to die on it like others have before you.