Lashings of winter sun, fresh air, and stunning views. It’s not hard to see why cyclists love this route so much.
With demanding climbs and exhilarating descents, Snake Pass is one of the most rewarding rides you can do, and yet very few people cycle along it. Unless the road’s closed – like it will be for the next month or so.
The tight bends and undulating road that make it such an enjoyable ride also make it incredibly dangerous for cyclists when cars are about. However, traffic has been banned from the iconic road in Derbyshire for at least a month after heavy rainfall during Storm Franklin saw multiple landslips across the Peak District National Park – affecting the integrity of the road.
One section of tarmac has two metres, pretty much an entire lane, hanging completely unsupported after the ground beneath it crumbled away during the storm.
Officials are expecting the repairs to last for several weeks.
It’s unlikely the major road, used by people traveling between Manchester and Sheffield, will be open again before April. But as drivers came to terms with finding alternative routes, many cyclists realized now was the perfect opportunity to give the popular ride a shot.
The Manchester Evening News visited the Snake Pass to speak to cyclists who have taken over the major route.
“It’s completely epic,” said 40-year-old David Jones, a nurse who was just starting the return leg of his journey back to Sheffield.
“It’s such a beautiful day, I saw everyone out over the weekend and was worried it was going to rain today on my day off and ruin the experience. They can take as long as they like, I know it’s a really important road between the two cities but the ride is just incredible.”
David, like many cyclists who spoke to the Manchester Evening News earlier this week, had never ridden the route before, citing the high speed, sharp bends, and dangerous nature of the road as reasons they’d stayed away when it was open to traffic.
He added: “I have my heart in my mouth when I drive it, but cycling it was like a dreamland. It’s one of the best days I’ve ever had on the bike.
“I’ve been able to zone out a little bit and it feels a bit like a different country. It’s been absolutely terrific, I’ve been grinding all the way and I’ve got my eye on a beer when I’m done .”
Do you think the Snake Pass is safe to cycle? Let us know your thoughts in the comments
Around 55 cyclists rode past whilst the Manchester Evening News was on Snake Pass, with a mix of people puffing their way up the steep inclines, and freewheeling down the slopes with massive grins on their faces.
Andy Shaw, 56, is one of the few cyclists I speak to who has ridden the route before.
“I’ve done it a few times,” he said. “It’s quite dangerous when it’s open, you’ve got impatient traffic, it’s a quick and narrow road, you’ve got to be careful. It’s absolutely fantastic when it’s closed, and it’s the perfect day for it today, although I didn’ t realize how windy it was so that took me by surprise.”
Maths teacher Angela Hunter, 50, is another person who has cycled the route when it was open to traffic. Living in Glossop means the former team GB cyclist has ridden several routes in the area, after quitting her job in a school to dedicate her days to cycling, becoming a self-employed tutor over the evenings.
As you might expect from a former competitor, she’s come down Snake Pass before, not minding the ride when there’s traffic on the road. She said: “During the week it’s not as bad, it’s massively worse during weekends.
“Last time it was closed they weren’t letting anyone use the road, they were even stopping cyclists.
“They said it was dangerous because there was work vehicles moving but as far as I’m concerned, traffic being redirected makes the routes around Chindley and Woodhouse far more dangerous. It’s fantastic being able to ride on a road with very little traffic, I was actually knocked off my bike about six weeks ago – I have a few injuries still but I’m ok. “
Although the road is closed, there are still vehicles traveling along it to access farms or houses, and work wagons making their way to and from the site of the landslip.
There were less than ten vehicles on the road in the hour-and-a-half the Manchester Evening News spent on Snake Pass, but just before leaving the site a car raced round the tight bends, scaring the life out of our reporter, two dog walkers on the pavement, and a pair of cyclists using the road.
After making us all jump, the car slammed on its brakes so it could approach Glossop, and the 30-miles-per-hour speed limit, at a much more reasonable pace, but it had already served as a vivid reminder to be careful along the road.
Thomas, a 19-year-old cycling fanatic from Sheffield, put driving like that as one of the reasons he’d never biked the route before.
“I don’t want to die,” he said, when asked why he’d waited till now to cycle Snake Pass. As soon as I heard it was open to cyclists I wanted to come down, I bike about 300-400km a week.
“I’ve made it here in about an hour and 25 so I’ll probably turn off part way down to make it five hours on the bike in total, it’s been absolutely stunning so far.”
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.