IF this ride began in the Alps and not the upper reaches of the Calder valley, the start point would be a cable car station rather than a railway platform.
Steel yourself: the first two miles of this epic route features a lung-busting, leg-melting climb that will fill your mouth with the taste of iron…
1: From Todmorden train station, turn left onto Ridge Road and continue at a white cottage to begin the gruelling ascent of Doghouse Lane, a thread of tarmac that hangs from the moor above like a punishing pendant of pain. The average gradient over the next mile and a half is over nine per cent, but there are 30 per cent sections waiting to test your mettle. When the road forks by some cottages, continue straight on across a cattle grid and follow Flower Scar Road until it joins the A646 Burnley Road at Cornholme. Here, turn right until you reach the Wagon and Horses, where the route goes left under a railway bridge on Pudsey Road to begin the second sumptuous climb of the day. Keep heading upwards along Shore New Road, Pudding Lane, Bluebell Lane and Gall Lane to arrive at the junction with Kerbs Road.
2: Turn right for just over a mile and head right down Eastwood Road before swinging back up the hill on Staups Lane into Blackshaw Head. Turn right at the T-junction and when the road forks go left to pass through Colden and along the gloriously named Slack Bottom. Turn sharply left on Widdop Road (signposted Widdop and Colne) to pass the car park at Hardcastle Crags before a third searching climb up past Widdop Reservoir. After dropping down off Widdop Moor, take the left turn over a cattle grid onto Ridehalgh Lane to reach the junction with Halifax Road, where the route heads left into Haggate. Turn left by the Hare and Hounds and follow Todmorden Road and Extwistle Road through Worsthorne to arrive at a junction with Red Lees Road.
3: Turn left (signposted Holme Chapel) and in one mile head right down Mount Lane to meet the A646. Bear right for half a mile and turn left on a small lane, ignoring the dead-end sign as the route soon switches right to join the A671 Bacup Road. Grind out a steady climb for the next two-and-a-half miles and turn right off the main road onto the roughly-paved Bacup Old Road, which will do its best to dislodge any loose fillings on its pot-holed way down to rejoin the A646. Turn right to reach the Lancashire town of Bacup and in the town centre, go left at the mini-roundabout onto Yorkshire Street.
4: The two-mile Sharneyford climb out of Bacup feels tougher than the gentle gradient suggests and gained height is lost all too quickly with an exhilarating descent to Clough Foot. Apply the brakes as the first houses are reached and turn left on Sourhall Road for the final climb of the day up to a cluster of cottages by the cattle grid at the end of Flower Scar Road. Turn right on Parkin Lane and marvel at the vertiginous nature of Doghouse Lane as gravity takes you all the way back to the start.