This trip was looking to have a good turn out until mere days before the trip. With ten or so due to attend there were some unfortunate injuries and family commitments that meant plenty of last minute unfortunate drop outs. The total number to head North by Wednesday evening prior to the trip had dropped to four. Four it was.
Three of us headed up to the Dales on the Friday morning, aiming to arrive by midday. The drive North was uneventful and the roadwork's and traffic on the M1 kind to us. After various multiple shot latte's, a ham and cheese toastie or two and plenty of sweets on the drive up three of us met up at our HQ for the weekend, the Dales Bike Centre, around midday to assess the day for an afternoon ride.
The Dales Bike Centre is advertised as the "Centre of Trails" which is certainly is for the Dales National Park and surround areas. The Dales Bike Centre is far more than just a trail centre. The Dales Bike Centre utilizes a pair of beautifully restored and converted traditional Yorkshire village farm buildings into a solid hub offering everything you need for a weekend of riding in the Dales. The two buildings include high quality bed and breakfast 4-star accommodation, kitchenette facilities, fantastic showers, drying room, secure bike storage, bike wash, a fully equipped and approved bike shop, superb cafe (with 24 hour cake access to those staying over) along with a huge fountain of knowledge on the local area for pointing you in the right direction for some epic riding during your stay. The guys behind the Centre also offer MTB skills courses, guiding and corporate events, and all this in a beautifully picturesque area with a lovely friendly atmosphere.
Dinner on evening one was at the local pub, The Bridge Inn, in Grinton is a mere two minute walk up the road from the Dales Bike Centre, and along with offering accommodation also offers superb pub and fine dining, pub games room, comfy chesterfield sofas and probably the best local Ale's on tap that you'll find in all of Yorkshire.
The Bridge Inn is a lovely and inviting warm country pub and we were certainly welcomed in for some grub, beer and a few rounds of darts.
After dinner and small celebratory tipple it was back to the Dales Centre to get some kip for Saturdays long ride.
After arriving at the Dales Centre I gave Steve the tour of our HQ base as he hadnt been before. After the full on briefing we sat down for a brew and a bite of cake to try and forget the woes of the M1 Northbound.
We kitted up around about half one in the afternoon and headed straight out onto the Trails to make the most of the glorious yet bitterly cold weather and take in part of the Ape'n'Pinseat local route.
The Ape'n'Pintseat route a great route to get introduced to the area. The trails, trail conditions, climbs and scenery are so so different than say our local base in the Chiltern Hills. The full published route is a figure of eight taking in around 45k, but we decided for day one, upon a recommendation, to just stick to the Southern part of the route taking in around 20k for a nice warm up.....have you seen the size of the climbs!?
This route takes in a great mix of long winding climbs, short ascents, super singletrack, fast grass sections, tricky descents and some gnarly rocky descents as well, not to mention some sheep-avoiding slalom courses too!!
None of us had kitted up layers wise nearly enough for the Dales. The mild-ish weather down in the valley disappeared the further up the ridgeline we got.
After an hour or so on we were all suffering and were bitterly cold so we cut our route slightly shorter (taking in some superb heather singletrack mind) to head back to the Dales to get cleaned up for dinner.
Just before we left for the pub rider number four appeared, earlier than expected! Great work, four of us expected, four now here.... result? To the pub!
Shock Horror....! We did not expect to awake to this - SNOW!? We awoke to a solid inch layer of snow surrounding the entire area of Richmond....
Brrrrr. It was hard work getting out of bed this very cold and snow covered Saturday morning in October. As much as we all felt five years old again and couldn't wait to hit the trails in the snow, the enthusiasm was wilting for yet another hard (and very cold) day in the saddle.
Nether the less, were a hardcore breed when we need to be. Kitted up, a belly full of warm coffee, we dragged ourselves up on the bikes and pedalled out towards the trails.
Stu from the Dales Centre planned us a very clever route to keep us in the valleys as much as possible to keep us out of the wind . This route did the job. It also meant every bit of ascent was maximized to the full with a superb singletrack descent, wonderful! Although this route was alot shorter than the originally planned 50km route, it made so much more sense to stay out of the cold and wind as much as possible and enjoy some epic riding and great views. This route also took in a pile of new trails previously unexplored by BucksMTB on a Dales Club Trip (win win).
The first half of the route had its up and downs, beautiful views, tough climbs in the snow and some fun snow drifiting singletrack action. half way round we pulled in to one of the cute local tea shops, the Penny Farthing Tea Shop. Here we met a very friendly local cat that, well erm, "helped" us plan the rest of the days route. Lets just say there wasn't enough milk to go around....
after the tea we kitted back up again and headed off west into another huge valley to pick up a huge ascent towards the top of the ride (but still out of the wind) to wind out way along the ridge top singletrack towards the remains of Blakethwaith Smelth Mill. This mill was a ruin, alongside a ruin of a peat storing hut, but its picturesque idyllic setting nestled in the spur of two joining valleys and alongside a brook make it the perfect lunch stop. I literally took hundreds of photos of this area, a real sense of achievement of how this building was built and worked literally in the middle of nowhere. Every stone here could tell a story.
The singletrack from Blackthwaite back towards Reeth was amazing, a superb singletrack section alongside the brook that gradually wound its way up and down the side of the ridge taking in drops, berms, natural jumps, all whilst looking down a very large drop to our right hand side.... We found some stunning back drops, great technical trails, various remains of old mining and managed to take some great snaps along our way.
This route was probably around 25km, shortened a little towards the end due to the cold temperatures and the early nights drawing in too, but I would have to say its probably the best route I have done in my three visits to the Dales so far. For quite a spur of the moment route decided upon to help us with the strong winds and cold weather it worked a treat and took in probably the best selection of climbs, descents, singletrack, views and interesting landmarks on the way that we could possibly have asked for within one day of riding.
At the end of day two saw us limp in just before it got dark. After hot showers (and hot tea) we tidied ourselves up and went in Reeth to try out the Buck Inn Hotel for dinner, this came as a recommendation from Stu the owner of the Dales Bike Centre. Some hearty made in house from local produce dishes later (and a couple of beers) we made our way back to the local Bridge Inn for another medicinal tipple and round two of inter-club darts before hitting the hay.
We all awoke feeling sore on Sunday morning. The weather was iffy, so far not the best day we'd had t'up North. After breakfast one of the gang headed home as planned whilst the other three of us decided if we were going to hit the trails. Aches and pains, the cold, and time went against us and we all decided after two very hard (and cold) days on the bike we were all shattered and decided to enjoy the views and a cup of tea before packing up the cars to head back down South. We are all disappointed not to ride on Sunday, although I am sure we could have done, I'm not sure we would have managed much of a route and I think we'd all have felt worse for wear come work on Monday too!
Until the next trip to the Dales in the Spring of 2013 please do check out the photo galleries below from our three Yorkshire Dales Club Trips so far, there are some amazing photos in there that might tempt you to join us at BucksMTB and come along with us to our next Dales Trip....
Scott, BucksMTB Club Chairman