Over the last few years, I’ve taken part in quite a few rides that have stretched my cycling endurance. Some made it onto this blog (like my first attempt at the Ride London-Surrey 100); others didn’t – because I never got around to writing about them – including rides like:
- Tour de Fujitsu (Wakefield-Manchester), 2014
- London-Paris (via Newhaven, Dieppe and Avenue Vert), 2014.
- Tour of Cambridgeshire Gran Fondo, 2015.
- Ride London-Surrey 100 (the full distance this time!), 2016.
- Ride Staffs 68, 2016.
- Tour ride Northamptonshire, 2017.
- Velo Birmingham (another 100-miler), 2017.
- Delux London Revolution (2 days, 186 miles), 2018.
One ride that I’ve wanted to do for a while is to traverse England, coast to coast, and 2019 was the year that I finally got to do it, with my friend and neighbour, Karl.
It turns out that there are several recognised coast-to-coast routes but Karl and I elected to take the “Way of the Roses” for the 170 miles from Morecambe to Bridlington. Karl had ridden this previously but the difference this time would be that we were self-supported – carrying everything we would need for the three days on our bikes (except cooking and sleeping equipment as we stayed in B&Bs).
In terms of carrying my gear, I’d looked at several options but, with a frame that was lacking many mounts and with through axles further limiting my mounting options, I elected for frame-hung luggage from Topeak:
- MidLoader 4.5l – spare parts, tools, chargers, etc.
- BackLoader – clothes.
- TopLoader – gels, snacks, etc.
I did also purchase a FrontLoader but that’s on it’s way back now (unused) as I was able to fit all my kit in the luggage above (except my trainers – which went in Karl’s panniers…)
Day 0: getting to Morecambe
Lancashire is a long way from where I live, so in order to get a good start on Saturday, Karl and I travelled up on Friday evening and stayed overnight at a B&B (The Berkeley Guest House). My room there was small (but inexpensive), the landlady was friendly, there was secure bike storage for the night, and free parking right outside (where I left my car for the next few days). As for eating – I can highly recommend Atkinson’s Fish and Chips on Albert Road.
Day 1: Morecambe to Pateley Bridge
98.77km with 2001m ascent
From the start point close to The Midland Hotel, the Way of the Roses has a gentle first few miles along old railway lines to Lancaster and tracking the River Lune until it takes a sharp left and climbs up above the valley over Halton Hill. After dropping down to Hornby it’s an undulating ride across the Forest of Bowland before reaching Settle. After topping up on food at the local Co-op, we started the climb out of the town, which is advertised as 20% on road signs but my Garmin gave various numbers including 13.8% and a less believable 49%. Regardless, it’s steep, and part way up I stopped. This is where the trouble began. Try as I might, I couldn’t get going again and clip in before the next pedal stroke. In the end, I walked the rest of the hill, which is not to great in road cycling cleats…
The next 20 kilometres were mostly downhill but around Appletreewick we started to climb again and, I’m afraid to say that the climb over Whithill was another one that featured some walking. I got back on again and ground it out as we picked up the road over Greenhow Hill and down a steep (and fast – thank goodness for disc brakes) drop into Pateley Bridge.
Talbot House was our booked accommodation for the night and it was a comfortable, friendly B&B with secure bike storage. After a little rest (and a meal in a nearby pub – The Royal Oak), I settled down for a well-earned sleep, knowing that a good distance and the majority of the climbing was behind me.
Day 2: Pateley Bridge to Pocklington
110.63km with 580m ascent
After Saturday’s sunshine, Sunday started soggy. Still, I knew that I only had about 10km to ride up out of Pateley Bridge before a relatively easy downhill/flat ride into and across the Vale of York. That 10km got a bit longer when I missed a turn after Glasshouses and had to double back but that will teach me to get all excited about downhills!
The bigger problem I had was my cleats. They were completely worn out and I was constantly slipping out of my pedals. I needed to find a bike shop but, on a Sunday, they are all closed and out riding…
After 30km, including a scenic ride past Fountains Abbey and through Studley Royal, we reached Ripon, where the town was decorated for the upcoming UCI Cycling World Championships. We were making good progress so we took a break at Oliver’s Pantry – a lovely cafe stop before we set off again for Boroughbridge and York. Here, I finally found some cleats in a Giant/Liv store. They were expensive (I never pay RRP!) but they would have to do. After grabbing food in a Greggs on the outskirts of the city centre, Karl and I continued our quest and set out on the final leg towards the East Yorkshire town of Pocklington, passing through the old station at Stamford Bridge on the way and spotting our first roadsigns for our final destination.
Our accommodation for the night was the Yorkway Motel, where we got a decent meal and another good night’s sleep, with cycling gear washed in the shower and hanging on the towel rail!
Day 3: Pocklington-Bridlington
72.17km with 532m ascent
Our last day was not only the shortest, but the flattest. Even so, the Yorkshire Wolds proved to be quite lumpy in comparison to the previous day’s riding, climbing over 170m in the first 13.6km. Driffield gave us a chance to grab food (in another Greggs, no less). The weather had started grey but as we approached “Brid”, the sun broke through and we enjoyed an ice cream overlooking the sea!
170 miles down, we had crossed the country in 3 days, coast to coast. Now we just needed to find our way home…
The return trip
The biggest problem with this route is getting back to the start – England’s railways radiate from London and it’s pretty slow getting across the country. Indeed, to take the train from Bridlington back to Morecambe would have involved several trains, from two operators: Trans-Pennine Express, who will only carry bikes if pre-booked; and Northern, who offer no guarantees about the ability to get on a train with a bike. In the end, Karl’s wife met us and dropped me in York before returning home with the bikes, whilst I took the train to Morecambe (via Leeds) to get my car; however, I’ve since learned that, if you take the wheels off your bike it’s no longer counted as a bike but as “luggage”, so maybe that’s the way to do it!
The Way of the Roses is a well-signed route, suitable for road bikes, and mostly using quiet roads and cycle paths. There is one short gravel section (to avoid a main road) and another section near Stamford Bridge that was more suited to an off-road bike but my Specialized Roubaix made it without issue. The one change I would make to my bike would have been to use mountain bike pedals (SPDs) instead of road cleats (SPD-SLs), which would a) have been better for walking in and b) avoided Karl transporting my trainers in his panniers for evening wear!