I had a fantastic few days cycling in the Lake District last week in the glorious weather. Didn't manage to do the whole FW route in the end, turning around at the top of Winlatters , back to Keswick then straight down to Ambleside. Brilliant ride though.
What was interesting to me was how my training wasn't specific enough for the terrain. It wasn't my legs that were the problem. I got up all the hills I did (up to 25%), they didn't particularly tire, or scream at me more than I would have expected , which makes sense as I cycle a lot and regularly put in big miles. But my upper body !! That was a different story lol. The handlebar wrestling going up the very steep stuff took it's toll after a few passes. I also forgot to put my gloves on before leaving , resulting in very sore palms from rubbing on the hoods over the day. Then my right tricep started to cramp up from the crazy steep descents. For the first time , I was regretting having a super slammed stem. It felt like I was going to go over the handlebars every time I headed down anything over 18%. Descending hills that steep is definitely a skill I have yet to acquire and was by far the hardest part of my rides. It felt like doing a constant press up with lots of extra weight on your back.
How anyone descends Hardnott in the wet on a road bike is completely beyond my comprehension
But now I am back in the flat lands of the South I am yearning to go back and go again and try and improve. Very jealous of anyone who lives up there and has roads like that on their doorstep.
I live local to the lakes and avoid going over some of the passes as the descents are, as you described, pretty nasty.
Some are notably worse than others but in my view Honister and Hardknott have terrible surfaces which make the effort to climb them disproportionate to the enjoyment gained coming back down.
Whinlatter is a joy either way, Kirkstone is nice south to north, the struggle is super annoying at the very top as you are looking for traffic at a very steep junction. Newlands is hard from Buttermere but the eastern side is long and varied. Wynose sits just below Honister in terms of reward and pain.
Plenty of great rides including just one pass makes for pleasant riding when it's quiet though.
I agree, I didn't find the descents much fun at all. I went up the struggle which was fantastic, but made the mistake of coming down Kirkstone Pass towards Windermere. The tarmac quality was beyond awful for a main road. I thought my fillings were going to shake out and my bike fall to bits from underneath me lol!! Basically felt like I was close to losing control, which is not a very pleasant feeling for a pure roadie like me
Although the lakes passes are very good, I would also recommend the hills and passes nearby, climb's like Hartside, Nenthead, Chapel Fell and obviously Great Dun Fell which overlooks Penrith.
The FW is a bit like the Bob Graham round in which I know lots of really good long distance road runners (100+ miles) really struggle with the round due to the lifting of legs and descending steep terrain.
Having said that about the descents though, getting into the 70's km/h descending the A591 towards Grasmere was a proper buzz!
Great Dun Fell is on my wish list. I drove nearby on the A66 on my way in and out of the Lakes. Next time I will make a small diversion and try and get a close up look at that golf ball.
I took my gravel bike up recently because of it gearing and disc brakes, I came down the struggle from the Kirkstone into Ambleside ... which was interesting! Agree that the descents were the issue for me as a Cambridgeshire flatlander. BUt why do they always fling in a short steeper section at the top of passes when you're already buggered I did a couple of off road things where I wished I had my mountain bike and a dropper. I came down the old coach road into Threlkeld, I had to get off my bike and walk. How they got a coach up there is beyond my comprehension Also big fat men on electric bikes piss me off when they cruise effortlessly past you with inane grins on their faces
Absolutely. In my opinion that bit of Pennines gives more enjoyable (road) cycling than the lakes. Far less traffic too.
> BUt why do they always fling in a short steeper section at the top of passes when you're already buggered
I'm the opposite, so prefer the gradual steepening of Honister from the Buttermere side, but find the sudden change at the bottom on the Borrowdale side difficult to manage effectively.
> Far less traffic too.
One of the few benefits of lockdown/foot and mouth.
I agree with you, that area of the Pennines has great hill climbs, it's quieter, generally good road surfaces and plenty of steep bits like Dowgang Hush...all good training for the FW.
Don't make the same mistake I did in the FW. I laboured my way to the top of Hardknott, just making it without walking. Wheelspin almost got me. Crested the top and thought, "I've done it!" That celebratory thought was long enough to distract me from getting on to the drops for the descent. Once you have started descending in the wet there is no way you are changing hand positions, not a chance I was coming off the brakes!
Dropping down Hardknott on the hoods in the wet is the second most scary road descent I have ever done.
A lovely loop is Blea Tarn, Wrynose east, Hardknott, Past Devoke water then Kilnbank Cross. Awesome loop.