Hills and Heather: MTBing the Moors

This past Saturday my boyfriend Simon and I went for a ride on the North York Moors (in North Yorkshire, England). We went equipped with lots of data -- an MTB lister (Mark Nesbitt) had described a trail just south of Guisborough, and we had one of those Ordnance Survey cycle routes books for the North York Moors. We couldn't decide where to go, so we decided to make up our own route, starting from our B&B just outside of the little village of Church Houses (which is just about in the center of the Moors). We had a map (North York Moors yellow map, 2.5" to the mile) and a compass, so we figured we'd do fine. It was cool and raining lightly when we started.

First we did a short stretch on the road, then got onto a bridleway. This went up a steep slope though a sheep field, and at the top was a dismantled railway, now in use as a trail. The field was quite pretty, with lots of purple-flowered heather all over. The track was in fact mostly rideable. Or, at least I felt it could have been if I were in better shape and had a bit more skill. Simon walked up almost all of it. I started trying to ride up, but I soon got very tired. I would go ahead, then stop and wait for Simon to catch up, but I'd still be panting wildly when he caught up. So I started to push it up as well, figuring that we'd be doing alot of climbing and I should save it for later.

Finally, we got to the top. The rain was intermittent all through our ride. And of course, on top of the Moors it was misty as well. I'm sure the views would have been spectacular, if we could have seen any distance...

We rode along the dismantled railway for awhile (about 3 miles). This was, as you can guess, dead easy. We then got onto the Cleveland Way (a long hiking route across the Moors, at that point it was a bridleway as well) and followed that for ways (~6 miles). This was also pretty easy, so I took a detour off it to do something more challenging -- a couple of bridleways that went off the Cleveland Way then rejoined it later. Simon, who just wanted a simple ride, stayed on the Cleveland Way. I did enjoy the side trip, but I got confused, missed a turn, and ended up going the wrong way. I had a nice gentle downhill before I realized my mistake, and then I had to go back up it. When I finally rejoined Simon on the Cleveland Way he was beginning to wonder what had happened to me. I decided I should stay with him for the rest of the ride, so that if we got lost, we'd do it together.

The Cleveland Way joined a road and went down from the Moors to a town called Kildale. The little restaurant in the town welcomed muddy bikers and hikers, and we had a nice relaxed lunch. From there we went up to see Captain Cook's monument. Most of the climb followed a road, and Simon walked up it once it got too steep for his tastes. I rode up it, refusing to walk. Captain Cook's monument wasn't all that exciting, especially as it started raining again, and the view was just as nonexistant as it had been all through our ride so far.

So we decided that we'd go back by a simple route, along roads. This proved to be a mistake, as the road we followed went up and down several times, and went along one of the highest areas in the Moors (Blakey Ridge). It would have been much less work to go back basically the way we came, which would have only involved one climb, as the Cleveland Way and dismantled railway avoided changes in elevation.

Simon walked up several of the hills. At first I rode up behind him, but then I figured -- what's the point of riding my bike at 2.5 mph? Besides, my behind was getting numb. So I got off and pushed too. We went up three major climbs on the way back. The last one was the worst. It went from 150 meters at a creek to 420 meters at the top of Blakey Ridge over about 3 miles. It wasn't a steady climb -- very steep in some places, almost flat in others. But from the top of the ridge, we basically coasted past the Lion Inn and down a very steep hills back to Church Houses.

Total distance: 30 miles
Total climb (computed via counting contour lines): 900 meters
State of clyclists at the end: knackered

I really wish I had been in better shape, to have ridden more of the hills. This is what comes of doing most of my riding in flat Cambridgeshire.

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