Fair t'middlin': Yorkshire in the wind
By JRtB, August 2021
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JRtB went to ride the Yorkshire Dales. We looked at a sort-of version of the Tour de France 2014 stage 1 - albeit without Harrrogate or Leeds involved. It was great, except for the relentless gale. And, even then, it was beautiful.
One of the things that sticks with me is admiring the splendour Swaledale, when another cyclist waved back at me, at the same time I waved at them. We were both so surprised that we all but jumped off the bike and hugged each other. And there you have it in a nutshell, great ride, fantastic scenery, roads were quiet, but the response from the many other cyclists was beyond disappointing. I have never ridden anywhere with less responsive cyclists.
I guess it’s naive, but I’m going to maintain my belief that everyone that rides a bike is my brother/sister of the road/trail. As such I always wave, nod, say ‘morning’ or just recognise another human being in some way. And here is the rub. Ignoring someone that has acknowledged you in some way actually takes more effort. You need to override your social instincts – hardwired into humanity – to respond positively to another human. And this, I think, says very poor things about the cyclists that don’t respond. Because it has to be an active non-engagement, rather than a human-response, instinctive engagement.
Right, now that’s over, lets talk about the fantastic scenery and roads. The route was a sort-of homage version of the Tour de France 2014 stage 1, but not including either Harrogate or Leeds. It did include Grinton Moor and Buttertubs. I started in Grassington (where we were staying), and rode north to Kettlewell, at which point the route proper starts. There is only one obvious route out of Kettlewell, and this is, in Yorkshire at least, a B road. This means it is wide enough in some parts, but not in others, and sees plenty of functional traffic like garbage trucks and fire engines, along with caravans and camper vans. Having said that, after snaking through small villages of Starbotton and Buckden, at Cray the road starts climbing up to Kidstones, and by here the traffic was non-existent. The views back down the valley were splendid. Whereas looking up, the hills are covered by heather and moorland, which is certainly my preference. Most of the time, the Dales look rather warm, inviting and homely, with their sheep pens, drystone walls and perfect grass. So the bleak moorland comes as a welcome changes of landscape. I made a mistake with the routing (not for the last time) and veered off into Thoralby, to get to Asygarth falls. The mistake was brought home sharply by the unexpected 20% sign in front of me. Never one for turning around I kept riding, very slowly, and thanking various cycling gods that I had put the bigger tyres on the tougher wheelset. A little jink along the A684, and I turned left to Aysgarth falls, with was down a 20% drop, straight to the river, then up the other side, before what I imagined would be a transition section along a minor road to the bottom of the Buttertubs climb at Simonstone, about 11 km or so down the road.
Of the many clues presented to me, it was the field of brown cows all standing up against the lee of a big drystone wall that was the main give away. I was expending a foolish amount of energy, and making almost no progress. It felt a bit blowy, but nothing to speak, yet the impact this was having was immense. It was a relief to finally get to the right hand turn and start climbing, as this was slightly off the head wind, and I made good progress up to Buttertubs (it’s not as bad as everyone says), until just passed the cattlegrid, at which point the wind was howling across the top of the moor, causing me to lean the bike in to the wind at a ridiculous angle to stop myself being blown over. Buttertubs was also exciting for the memories of watching the Tour from the side of the road, with Jens Voight off the front of the peloton. Exciting today was the exhilarating drop off the other side, out of the wind, and then take the descent into the village of Muker.
About 20km away along this lumpy terrain was the Dales Bike Centre. A spot to refuel, and catch up briefly with the family, who varied between impressed and deeply non-plussed about this ride. They did, however, follow me up over Grinton Moor, which resulted in the commentary ‘Were you OK? you were stationary at one point’. Pointing out that this was really quite unfair, and did they notice how windy it was from inside the car, was a waste of breath. Evidence of it being windy on a ride can be hard to come by, in this case, as I was trying to turn onto the Grinton Moor road a car came up alongside me the driver leant across and said that he’d tried this morning, and it was too windy to ride over the Moor. He had a strong Yorkshire accent, to which I will not be able to do justice, either in person or in writing, so I’ll leave it to your imagination. Anyway, this was pretty handy timing, as it was the kind of motivation I needed to not flag the family car back down and jump in the passenger seat (the bike racks were living on the roof – it would have been so easy to do). So I carried on as I’d intended.
Coming down from Grinton Moor into Redmire, I missed a left turn on the Garmin, which for once, I climbed back up to take. A good decision. It was a very strange combination of tarmacked road, but with grass in the middle, and two farm gates to open and close. No cars at all, and with some lovely views along the 1.5km, as it hung on the side of the valley. Vaguely disconcerting, not being able to see where it was actually heading, but a great experience nevertheless. From here back to Kettlewell involved two more climbs, the last up Coverdale and onto the moorland. This is pretty demoralising as for 11km it is mostly going up, with respite given in the shape of a small descent to cross the river, and then the climbing simply continues on the other side of the valley. I confess to having had about enough of the views at this point. Luckily (well, sort of luckily) I had ridden up the infamous Park Rash a few days before, and this route was coming down Park Rash, so eventually I knew where I was. I rolled down the hill, back into Kettlewell, and then the ever-so-slightly tedious and soul-sapping final 10km into Grassington.
The 5,600 calories burnt had been replenished by the world’s greasiest sausage roll at the Dales bike Centre. And they also helped to account for the 2,200m of climbing, which is more than I think I’ve ever done in one ride. The Dales are a delight to ride, and you are rarely, if ever, out of sight of a good view. My only caveat being that the Dales are so popular with cyclists that the novelty may have worn a bit thin. However, apropos of my opening point, on the last kilometre into Grassington two female cyclists bid me a cheery hello – maybe there are still friendly cyclists here, you just have to look hard to find them – which was a most welcome end to a challenging day in the saddle.
All credits: JRtB, 2021