We first met the team behind the Dales Bike Centre at the 2010 CycleShow in London and we had always been superbly impressed with their stand and their offerings of a great place to ride, rest and stay. This was settled then, three days in the Dales using the Dales Centre as our base for the weekend.
The Dales Centre has two buildings, one of which is an old restored cottage, the other a modern building which is replicated in the same traditional style. The centre offers fantastic bed and breakfast accommodation, plenty of showers, drying room, secure bike storage, onsite bike shop, onsite café and most importantly twenty four hour cake access!!! This really did make the Dales Centre a great hub for our team of thirteen club members to hide away for a long weekend.
A couple of cars, a Hilux and the legendary BucksMTB/National Grid van whisked us all Ooop North in record time, and after meeting on the M1 for a caffeine hit (or two) we all arrived around lunchtime on the Friday to get settled in.
After a quick tour of the facilities we sorted out our route maps and GPS to head out to do the first of three recommended routes laid out for us by Stu at the Dales Centre. This first route was the “Pinseat’n’Apedale” which was a large figure of eight loop around twenty eight miles in length with over three thousand feet of ascending! Stu recommended just doing the southern half of the loop due to the long and grueling drive we had endured that morning which roughly cut the route length and ascending to half.
Ride Day One (Friday)
First impressions of the local area were “oooooh there’s some big hills…” – the Dales Centre lies in the bottom of a large valley within the Yorkshire Dales National Park, and therefore is surrounded by very high ridges….certainly some climbing to be done then…
The Pinseat’n’Apedale route gave us a nice warm up to start with taking in some superb natural singletrack alongside the River Swale, this was a great mix of natural singletrack, grass track, cobbled trails with a good mix of jumps and drops in the mix too. After this the climbing began, and what an understatement that was, up and up and up we went climbing up onto the ridge south of the River Swale. Once ascending up the ridgeline the views were superbly rewarding and just about balanced out the hard work fighting the climbs into a stonking headwind, hard work for sure. The ascents weren’t undoable they just wound up the hill for what seemed eternity. Everyone on this trip has a really good fitness for a thirty plus mile Chilterns route, however this local area made the Chilterns look like a couple of small pot holes, the Dales are certainly tough stuff.
Once the climbing had finally petered out and we made the top the views were tremendous and the descending even more so! The descents were fast, loose and dangerous in places with a few people getting caught out with some sideways motocross action!!!
The rest of the route had its fair share of hard climbing again, ascending and snaking further and further up and over the ridgelines but where there’s an up there’s a down, and the Dales certainly has some superb fast and technical descents!
Once back at the Dales Centre some tired and weary bodies hosed both themselves and the bikes off before sitting down for a cup of tea (and some rum and ginger!) before heading to the Bridge Inn Pub for a group dinner.
The Bridge Inn was a fantastic welcoming old school style pub, dark, full of trinkets, comfy sofas and superb food and ales – a great place for the whole group to collapse and socialise before having a brilliant feast of homemade cooked dishes all made from locally sourced ingredients.
After stumbling back from the Bridge Inn to the Dales Centre (luckily only a five hundred yard walk) everyone took advantage of the twenty four hour cake access before heading to their respective beds for some chill out time and shut eye to prepare for another long day in the saddle the following day.
Ride Day Two (Saturday)
It was wet and windy! We all sat huddled in the Dales Centre café with breakfast – coffee and bacon sarnies all round looking at the miserable weather outside wondering if it would lift and clear. After showers and kitting up the weather had indeed lifted, for now.
The route for today was the “Edge’n’Gill” route taking in some steep and technical climbs and some fast rocky and technical descents back down the Gill ridge. The full route was again around twenty eight miles with over four thousand feet of ascending.
The route started once again from the Dales Centre taking in some vicious ascending on technical loose rock trails right up onto the top of the ridge lying North of the Dales Centre, this was some serious tough climbing but at least the weather was clearing up and the sun trying to break through. We were spoilt with some great views along with some super-fast and fun flowing fire road and singletrack sections than ran into another subtle climb before hitting one of the best descents of the weekend. This descent started off as a super technical rocky and very twist trail dropping down the edge of the ride – with multiple lines, drops and boulders it gave everyone a load of choice on line choices depending on how confident they were feeling. This descent then turned into a wildly wet and twisty grass slalom run down to a small river – this was great fun with natural berm corners and odd rock to keep everyone awake but it also did catch two victims meaning the first two crashes for the weekend, luckily neither were hurt however Lester did twist his ankle. The river crossing was fun, a fast left hand bend running through a shallow but rocky river bed – the alternative was some north shore action fighting across a super narrow footbridge, only a couple tried it, and even fewer made it without butting a foot down or hand out for support. The first puncture of the trip took place flying through the rocky riverbed.
After some more climbing, singletrack, some short descents and a handful or road crossings, oh and one more river crossing we found ourselves climbing once more…up and up we go… Unfortunately the weather really started to turn foul now, the mist dropping in, rain getting heavier and the wind picking up – if the climbing wasn’t hard enough work already!
On top of this ridge we were looking for the Edge’n’Gill run which was a almost a slalom track down the side of the ridge, very similar to a natural Alpine style track, it was proving a job to find and we had now been stuck in some seriously bad weather for at least an hour by now. Executive decision made we headed down a different track, which turned out to be unrideable about half way down (unless we had been armed with full on downhill bikes) but once at the bottom amongst the old ruined remains of some mining cottages we did find the trail that we had been searching for and picked it up again towards Gunnerside to complete the route.
A decision was made to head along the footpath instead of the proposed bridleway to try and get back to Gunnerside as quickly as possible, unfortunately this was a less than ideal decision as the footpath was unrideable for the most, slippery as hell, and we lost count how many walls, stiles and gates we had to fight our way through and carry the bikes over. One of these trail sections also took me down, my front wheel slamming and getting stuck into a two foot deep bog, sending me right over the bars and injuring my knee – great!
From Gunnerside we had the option to head back to the Dales following the River Swale on the adjacent road, around six miles or so. Alternatively the planned route took us the opposite way round part of the loop we had ridden on Friday – Stu had already said to probably avoid this due to the lengthy time taken to ascend the opposite ridge, and due to injuries, bad weather and a few flying tempers we headed back along the road back to the Dales.
The kind offer was there to get the van and come back for me, but being a stubborn ******* I refused and grinned and bared what turned out to be a horrendously painful ride back to the Dales, luckily the majority of the route was flat, but the hills that we did come across we hard work when trying to pedal up them with one functioning leg.
Back at camp, clean, fed, caffeined up we enjoyed one of the Dales Centres set meal options; we all tucked into a delicious meal of nachos to start, chilli for main and profiteroles or banoffee pie to finish. Yum. After dinner we found our way back to the Bridge Inn pub for “medicinal” ale, pub games and darts. Well done to Mike who appeared to be the top dog of darts of the night.
Ride Day Three (Sunday)
The plan for day three had been to do another Stu recommended ride “The Schoolmaster and the Edge”, a 20 mile route with over two thousand feet of ascending. With a few injuries plaguing some of the team, and other guys and girls feeling tired and without the energy for a full Dales gruelling climb and descent session the group ended up splitting into three groups; one group stayed at base with cake, another group went off to do a slightly altered twenty mile route which was a take on the routes from Friday and Saturday, and the last group took off for a smaller ten mile blast to take in as much descending as possible for the least amount of climbing!
The other half of the group went back to tackle the Edge’n’Gill route from Saturday on the Sunday morning. Unlike Saturday’s ride, we started in glorious sunshine and head up on the road out of the village towards the halfway point round Edge ‘n’ Gill. The shortcut still took us up a very long climb past an old smelting mill. A puncture on my bike ended up giving us a surprise rest before we were on our way. The trails were so much more fun compared to the day before as we were able to enjoy the view and relax without having to concentrate on trying to keep dry… Before we knew it we were at the top of the last climb from the previous day about to descend into Winterings’ Edge. We (kinda) easily found the descent we were all looking forward to all weekend! It started by following the top of a ridge then dropped into a really rocky gully on our right weaving up and down the valley sides through the rock gardens. A really tight corner atop of a small cliff lead us along a narrow ridge then back along the valley wall through more rocks. The risk of a serious injury was high so everybody took it really carefully, walking some sections that were too steep or loose. A boulder field came next with everybody carrying their bikes down this before the next section which was a steep and narrow rock garden featuring a tough line choioce – hit a sharp section of rocks and turn it into a drop off – or ride around them coming up against a massive boulder and having to turn onto loose shale… most opted to walk line 2 whilst I tried the small sharp drop off – it worked well but meant I had to slam on the anchors before I hit anybody…… Shale isn’t the best surface for sharp braking….
The next section was a lovely piece of singletrack following the contours of the hillside through a small rock garden and through a stream and up, and up, and up and up. And up. After a pretty short but brutally steep grass climb we hit another rock garden – I think only Dave rode this on the first attempt – nice work!
After that leg burning climb we head downhill through a brilliant meadow full of rollers and natural jumps, followed by another descent through tight trees and into Gunnerside and onto Gibbon Hill.
The descent from the top of here took in a route we climbed up on Friday – it was open and fast with a few loose corners to keep things interesting. The group had a bit of a race down here with Henryk’s riding standing out in my mind as the most impressive (on a £250.00 Halfords hardtail!) the trail wound through farmland and into Reeth eventually and back to the Dales Bike Centre.
The route was really fun on the whole and it was good to see the Dales in the sunshine – it really was spectacular.
A quick bike wash and packing the cars lead us nicely into a long drive home with the obligatory stop at a motorway service station (fortress of despair) and a burger (?).
A great time was had by all and we’re looking forward to visiting the Dales again! Thanks to Stu and your team for all of your hospitality!
The BucksMTB Team