Back on Tour
It’s been a while since I’ve sat down to start one of my posts about a multi day cycle ride. My last such trip was in 2018 when I cycled around some of the many battlefields of Belgium and France. In 2019 I went for a walk instead of a cycle, along Hadrians Wall. Covid curtailed any tentative touring plans early in 2020, and 2021 saw me move from the South Coast at Hastings to Teesdale in the North Pennines.
I hadn’t made any firm plans to get out and about again in 2022 before I managed to lose control of my bike downhill and around a corner onto some loose gravel on a short ride after work on my birthday. That left me spending five days in Darlington Memorial Hospital with a broken collarbone, ten broken ribs, and a small fracture on my left hip. All in all not the best birthday ride.
I started riding again in the new year, on the indoor trainer at first but eventually back outdoors. I added a mountain bike to the garage which has been a real boon for getting out and about in bad weather. Its an awful lot slower that being on the carbon fibre road bike, but much safer on the fatter tyres. I also enjoyed the recuperation period by increasing my bike maintenance skills. My touring bike was in major need of an overall so I spent the downtime replacing the chain, front and rear casettes and derauillerurs, the cranks and bottom bracket, brake arms and pads, the shifters and all associated cables. With the touring bike all refreshed, it only seemed right to think of venturing out on an, albeit slightly shorter than previous trips, multi day tour.
A few possible routes came to mind but I settled on the coast to coast “Way of the Roses” route between Morecambe and Bridlington. I already had the guidebook and the travel should be fairly easy from my new base in the north. I planned a route starting with the longer train journey to Morecambe on day one with a shorter ride to Settle in the afternoon that day. And that’s the day that this post is all about.
Having packed the night before (using the same basics as my previous multi day trips, but taking things a bit lighter having learned lessons from over packing in the past) I was up early on the Tuesday morning. I took the dog for a walk and then put everything into/onto the car and drove across to Darlington station.
Fortunately everything train related ran smoothly. First up was a train to Leeds. The Cross Country train didn’t have the best bike storage but there was a space. I sat on the luggage racks rather than my booked seat to ensure that the bike didn’t come loose from its less than ideal strapping, but all was ok. I only had ten minutes in Leeds to make my connection (though there was a backup later train if I missed it) but we arrvied into Leeds on time and I was easily able to make it up and over onto the next platform where the Northern rail direct service to Morecambe was already waiting. This time I was able to strap the bike in a bit better and settle into a seat where I could relax whilst keeping an eye on the bike. It was then a steady and uneventful journey across the country arriving on time into Morecambe.
Before I got going properly I rode out to the seafront, found the Eric Morecambe statue where I took my turn to pose in the traditional style (another group of people doing the same kindly took the lovely picture you see here of Eric and I), and then along the front to the Stone Jetty and pulled into the Stone Jetty cafe for a bit of lunch before starting off.
Ready to go, I double checked everything on the bike and rode to the far end of the pier. There was nowhere to easily dip the wheel into the water so I just started off from the end of the Jetty, pointed my front wheel eastwards, and set off.
The first few miles were the flattest of the whole route, following an old railway line towards Lancaster. Having made into that city, and across the Lune on the Millenium Bridge, I took a short detour off the route. I had spent some time in the second half of the 1990s occassionally working for the then Lancaster University Archaeological Unit. I took a short detour up towards the castle (which was still an operational prison back then) to find the old office building and a few other landmarks (mostly pubs) in that part of town. I did remember where things were, but the distraction quickly wore off and I headed back down to the river and picked the route back up where I had left it.
The route continued following the South bank of the Lune as it headed inland and upstream although the river remained largely hidden by the trees lining both sides of the former Lancaster to Wennington railway line. The railway path was quite popular with walkers and cyclists so I continued to take it nice and steady until, having passed the former station at Halton, we came to the Crook O’Lune. After crossing the river once, but before the second bridge cutting across the Crook, the Way of the Roses route leaves the railway line and transfers onto quiet roads for the next few miles.
After 8 miles of largely flat riding it was time to start climbing for the first time on the ride. A quiet lane through Halton Park has a 350 foot climb over three miles; nothing too strenous but certainly noticable after the previously flat riverside riding.
Once on top of the hill, with the Lune valley opening up down to the right of me, the rain started. It was fairly light at this point but threatened getting heavier. A few easy miles got easier as the road headed back down towards the river; crossing the Lune again on a lovely old stone bridge just before entering Hornby.
With the rain increasing, and an interesting looking church to step into, I pulled over in Hornby for a quick break. The church was nice, though writing this a month or two after the event I don’t recall anythign particularly exciting inside it. So I had an energy gel, put my coat on, and headed back on my way.
For the next 18 miles the road continued to slowly climb back up along some pretty, open roads.
Not too much further on and a big roadside stone marked the boundary of the parishes of Bentham and Tatham, and with it the boundary between Lancashire and Yorkshire. At only 21 miles into a 170 miles tour I was leaving the Red Rose behind and it would all be White Rose from this point on.
As we moved into Yorkshire and continued to climb, the roads seemed to get gradually narrower but also more open as thick hedgerows gave way to dry stone walls and open moorland. Between Clapham and Austwick a sign welcomed me to the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
Into the Dales and past Austwick the climb got a lot steeper on single track roads for another couple of miles, eventually reaching the high point of the day (c900 feet) after almost 34 miles riding.
The final three and a bit miles gave a nice chance to relax on the way down into Settle. I rode into the town centre and parked up at The Golden Lion pub; my base for the night. I was shown to the secure bike store and then up to my room. I showered and put on my off bike clothes and went to explore Settle; wandering around the town and down to the famous railway station, and up to to Castleberg Rock to get a look at the town from on high.
With the legs properly cooled down I headed back to the pub for a few pints of Settle Bitter and a glorious plate of Fish and Chips before heading to a very comfortable bed.
- Distance: 37.36 Miles
- Ride Time: 2 Hours 56 minutes and 00 seconds
- Average Speed: 12.7 mph
- Ascent: 2,503 feet
- Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/9562862053