Tuesday, 14 January 2014

A Saturday 100 - North York Moors Biking

The North Yorkshire Moors with the possible exception of Northumberland is the forgotten national park of Northern England. Compared to the big three of the Lakes, the Dales, and the Peak, the Moors are often overlooked barely registering on peoples radar when fresh air calls.

After a holiday period which would have had Noah nervously looking for his oars, last weekend offered a brief interluded of blue skies and cold dry conditions when cycling might be a pleasure before the next cyclone of misery piled its way onto our shores.  

It was also for my friend John that special occasion when one gets to break in a brand new bike and really stretch its legs. Not wanting to be outdone in our devotion to the worlds most promiscuous element (carbon for those without a chemistry degree) it felt only fair that I prize my Fuji away from its winter quarters attached to the turbo trainer and let it run free for a few km's.

mmmmm carbon

The ride begins with a long slog up out of Helmsley a pretty village of orange white limestone building which glow even in the weak winter sum. The road surface is good and we gain hight slowly with very few cars to disrupt the peace. After eight km a short exhilarating decent morphs into a fast level section through where the legs tick over whilst the tarmac flashes beneath the wheels.

From Chop Gate the road begins to climb to the edge of the moor and Clay Bank (@25km) and a stunning view out over the low lands of North Yorkshire and Teeside as the edge of the Moors stretches out east. The unmistakable profile of Roseberry Topping one of those hills whose stature belies its impact completes the view. 

 Roseberry Topping, from the top of Clay Bank

Flying down Clay Bank is fun although the road surface is damp and I'm still a little nervous about really attacking the corners after having come off my commuting bike over Christmas even when running intermediate tyres. All too soon the hight is gone and we take a left in Great Broughton and begin to ride parallel with the high escarpment of the moor edge.

The roads, quite and pretty well surfaced climb gradually until about 40km when a series of sharp hills see gradients head the wrong side of 20%. The pain is short-lived however and the ramps offer the opportunity for a bit of out the seat action. There follows another fast decent down into Castleton (@50km) a village situated in a lovely aspect running up the base of a ridge dropping off the moor. 

Looking back at one of the steep valleys on the way to Castleton

From Castleton we take the road to Hutton-le-hole and Kirbymorside which runs right over the top of the moor and is by far the longest climb of the day at 7km, although the hight gain is only about 280m. The thin line of tarmac runs up the ridge at the base of which Castleton sits giving spectacular vies down into the valley, and as you gain hight green fields give way to coarse grass and brown heather stretching away to the horizon.

As we reach the summit of the more the welcome sight of The Lion Inn  (@60km) comes into view perched beside the road right on top of the moor like a stone ship in a sea of heather. The lure of a warm fire, a hot baked potato, and tea prove too much and we settle down to let our calves relax and our feet warm.

I think he likes his new bike

Fully content and full of food a viciously clod crosswind has risen whilst we have been inside and this buffets us on the long decent down to Hutton-le-Hole which is spent in our drops as the speed rarely drops below 50km'h for well over 10k.

To the right lies the beautiful vally of Rosedale with its sark but beautiful mining ruins and old railway that now makes an excellent mountain bike ride. Somewhere down there too is a road so ferociously vertical it's rumoured to be Britain's steepest with a chain snapping gradient of 33%. The challenge of riding Rosedale Chimney without ending up in a broken heap must wait for another day.

The old mines of Rosedale

At Kirbymoreside (@75km) we cross the A170 and work our way back to Helmsley on the quite back roads. that litter the plains south of the moors, the roads here are flat with only the merest hint of a hill now and then. Arriving in Helmsley just with the failing of the light the trip computer reads 98km, being so close to the ton it is only fair that we put in a lap of the village to make sure we gat the magic three figures.

GPX to come when I work it out!

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