Yorkshire Miles Count Double

yorkshire dales

The weather has been pretty ‘grim up north’ -  Not too cold to go out, and, unbelievably, despite this being the wettest year on record, there have still been a few relatively ‘dry’ days. Though when I saw ‘dry’ days, I mean the absence of heavy rain. There is still water everywhere. Mist in the atmosphere, water on the roads – flooding down from the hills. A dry day in a Yorkshire winter still means coming back pretty wet.

The hardest thing is the strong westerly winds, which make the going pretty slow. With 25mph winds, I prefer to cycle into the wind on the way out, a tailwind on the way back is at least something to look forward to. The problem is you spend the first hour or two getting a little demoralised, two hours at 13mph is not a great start to any bike ride.

You would think that with such a strong tailwind, you would fly back, but somehow you don’t go quite as fast as hoped. I’ve come back from rides up here in Yorkshire, with record low average speeds. I haven’t been this slow on a bicycle shaped object since this pedallino (below) in the Italian city of Pisa.

bicycle pisa

Christmas day was a huge three hour effort, for a fairly paltry 40 miles. Boxing day was another ride up into the misty clouds – this time 60 miles, but it still took a good four and half hours to ride. In a few months, I will be hoping to do 2.5 times the current average speed, with current conditions, you’re never sure how it’s going to happen. Though, there really is a huge world of difference between riding a smooth dual carriageway in July on a TT bike, and riding Yorkshire hills, on your winter hack in December.
It was nice going out on Christmas day, more fun, even, than watching the Queens speech, and it was also a chance to enjoy relatively car free roads. Again, there was that sense of isolation up on some Yorkshire moor. I kept thinking of Wuthering Heights, by the Brontes. The Yorkshire Dales is not quite Bronte country, but think windswept moors, and you get the idea.


On Boxing day, I was a bit more adventurous. I put my head down, and made slow progress west to Gargrave. Gargrave is a bit of a mecca for Yorkshire cyclists because it has a cycling cafe of some local renown. I didn’t stop because, if I got too comfortable, I feared that after a toasted tea cake and pot of tea, I would take the shortest route home. From Gargrave, I made my way north (avoiding  a road closed due to flooding) and went up to Malham.

yorkshire flood

From Malham there is a sharp climb up to the tops, overlooking the great cove below. It was hard work on the 20% hairpins. When the Tour comes to Yorkshire, they will have no difficulties in finding suitably difficult climbs. Though, I think they should do the Yorkshire Tour de France stage on clapped out winter training bikes with mudguards, just to make it a proper hard ‘northern stage’.  Up on the top of Malham cove, the persistent mist turned to a more voluble rain. It was so hard, I had to stop and get my Altura rain jacket out.

Malham Cove

Malham Cover taken in summer, with sun. Not by me. I did think about stopping to take a misty photo, but thought the better of it. Photo, rofonator, flickr cc

From the top of Malhamdale, I went over the misty moors towards Arncliffe. In the middle of nowhere, there was a particularly vicious 25% rise. Fortunately, I was blown up the hill with a gale force wind, directly at my back. That was fun. The one point I felt fast on the whole ride.

The only drawback of being on the top of Malham – Arncliffe moors, is that it is permanently wet and raining – even on one of these dry days. I was glad to descend back into the valley, where it was slightly less wet than up on top. Because the back roads were flooded, I went to Ilkley via over the top to Langbar. It ended up being quite a hilly ride, with 1600 metres plus of climbing. At least that was another thing to justify the record low average speed of 14mph.

All that effort for a paltry 60 miles. Good job I’m not counting the miles…



5 Responses to Yorkshire Miles Count Double

  1. jonty pritchard February 3, 2013 at 7:26 am #

    the last time i rode RATHER RACED in wakefield yorkshire , i crashed , smashed my wheels rendered them unrideable suffered concussion took the train home the club sponsoring the event put my bike on the train when i got home mam was not impressed ( WHAT HAPPENED SON !!!!! jonty

  2. missgeorgieo December 28, 2012 at 11:07 pm #

    Lovely pics. I cant say I’ve done much riding on our hills these last two weeks. Bleugh, looking forward to a change in weather – so many touring plans for the new year, but touring in the wet aint much fun.

    • tejvan December 29, 2012 at 8:41 am #

      Cheers, well it will have to get a little drier in coming weeks.

  3. John Potter December 28, 2012 at 6:10 pm #

    A great description of riding in the Yorkshire hills, so right about the wind and the hills it can often be two hours out and one hour back , although like you say the wind never seems to be right on ones back.
    It is a constant fight to keep the winter hack clean and rust free with all the wet conditions,rest days off the bike often mean fettling days where wheels and gear mechs need cleaning and lubricating.
    Roll on the warmer months , when like you rightly say , our speed will increase and the world of northern cycling will come alive with revenge.

    • tejvan December 28, 2012 at 6:39 pm #

      Thanks, John. I love comments where I have to consult my Yorkshire-English dictionary.

      There’s a grand Yorkshire word in there – ‘fettling’ (keeping clean, in good shape) .

      I hope you keep “in fine fettle,” through the winter months…

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