Hammering through 35 miles of Yorkshire sleet and rain to make it to Harrogate by 9 am, the question of what on earth possessed me to attempt a 70 mile, hilly, partly off-road mini-tour on a school night was at the foremost of my mind. It had all seemed like a great idea on paper. How could a fast and light adventure be squeezed in mid-week whilst still fitting in a day’s work either side? How easy would it be to travel fast and light on the new breed of do-it-all bikes? Could you have as much fun on and off road without compromising performance at either end? Finding out seemed like a good idea.
The conditions as I set off at 4.30 on a Tuesday afternoon were what my mother would describe as ‘good drying weather’. The sun was shining and there was a strong breeze, that soon became strong westerlys pushing against me as I headed up the constant incline of Duck Street towards the village of Greenhow above Pateley Bridge. This was not my destination though – the plan was to turn left towards Grassington and ultimately to Malham where to spend the night.
My choice of ride for the trip was a Kinesis ATR that our friends at Prologue Performance Cycling has kindly sourced as a demo rig. ATR stands for Adventure, Tour, Race. The latter category isn’t really my bag but the opportunity to take an adventure and tour has always been the big appeal of cycling to me. It’s a bike that is a lot more flexible than most. Its titanium frame and curved seatstays provide a comfortable and relaxed ride whilst massive amount s of clearance leave ample room for tyre sizes from 23 to 40 mm.
To put this in layman’s terms, it’s a bike you can customise to do pretty much any sort of riding you like so long as it doesn’t involve getting airborne. It’ll take skinny racing tyres as happily as a large set of nobblies. It can be configured for an audax or social club or a muddy, off-road expedition. Or you can go somewhere in between; exactly where I was heading.
North Yorkshire is blessed with some fine riding, so much so that reducing each hill to a Strava segment borders on the blasphemous and the opportunity to simply ride rather than feel the pressure to tank up hills full blast was a blessed relief. Savouring the views and freedom, the visceral delight of watching the landscape unfold in front of you – these are the delights of cycling that can be in danger of getting lost if we don’t sometimes sit up and take in the world around us. That’s what the ATR does best. It might not get you there the fastest but it’ll sure as hell deliver you happy.
Luggage choice was also important. Whilst it is possible to do a tour like this on nothing but a credit card and the business end of a toothbrush, I didn’t fancy spending all of my time in lycra. But in order to get more adventurous on the bike I didn’t want to weigh it down with a rack and panniers either. Coming to the rescue, the Apidura mid size saddle pack was the ideal choice to stash a lightweight outfit to change in to on arrival. Sitting firmly beneath the saddle, it created minimal inconvenience whilst providing extra wheel ballast on some of the sharper ascents and backside protection for when the going got wet. My faithful old tri-bag sat dutifully on the cross bar keeping the phone out of sweat’s way and a couple of energy bars to hand.
To get the most out of both bike and trip, the route was to go on and off road. Greenhow lead to Grassington before swinging off and following the bank of the Wharfe to Kilnsey to take the off road trail along Mastiles Lane to the edge of Malham Tarn before dropping down to my stop for the night.
On the road, the bike had performed smoothly. The somewhat bulbous tyres were never going to enable a land speed record, but neither did it feel particularly restricted. If hanging on to a like for like club rider with a point to prove was the purpose then yes, I’d have suffered. But it wasn’t – it was a ride for taking in the views and ploughing through potholes like they didn’t exist. My mind was wandering to the big questions in life and having a hundred and one great ideas, none of which were remembered. It was picture postcard Yorkshire cycling (albeit in to a screeching head wind).
Off road it became even more fun. Mastiles Lane is an old Roman road of limestone clints and cobbles, fording the the occasional stream and rolling through sheep fields. The 4 mile stretch beloved of hikers and mount bikers alike was an ideal testing ground for the Tripster. The plush frame and large tyres made easy work of the terrain and the disk brakes gave confidence to hitting slightly more technical sections in full control. I hit the banks of Malham Tarn before I knew it with my stop for the night just a short descent below in the village.
Considering accommodation, it had occurred to me to grab a bed in the local youth hostel. Having stayed there in the past I knew that it provides a great place to stay at a sensible price. But I was travelling light so bringing towels and toiletries would add unnecessary weight . And I could have ended up in a dorm with several snoring septuagenarians on an old boys reunion walking trip.
Thankfully I was offered a bed at the delightful Riverhouse B and B. A double en-suite room with towels, toiletries and coffee making facilities was just what was needed. The heated towel rail was perfect for my mud-splashed shoes to dry out beneath and a couple of conveniently placed pegs in the bathroom just the ticket to hang my kit for the night.
The owners provided a terrific welcome, offering to keep my bike in the hall for the night (although they do provide locked outside accommodation for people whose return leg doesn’t start at 6 the next morning). There was a cafetiere, fresh coffee and flapjack laid out ready and a flask of fresh milk – these guys really had thought of everything. A quick shower, a trip to the pub for dinner and a couple of pints and that was me done for the evening. On returning to my room, the owners had left a continental breakfast with cereal and croissant - some comfort for missing the full English that would have been there for me had I not been heading off with the lark. My head hit the pillow at 10 and then it was 5.30 and time for the return leg.
Now one of the few downsides of trying to pull off a mid-week mini adventure is that when it’s time to move, you move regardless of what the weather is doing. It started with drizzle before escalating to lashing, freezing rain. But hey, it could have been worse. I was out cycling in the Yorkshire Dales. Adolescent lambs looking thoroughly bemused watched on as the Tripster munched through the pot holes and metalled sections of the Way of the Roses that signposted the return leg. I splashed through the postcard villages of Cracoe and Appletreewick before the ascents of Skyreholme and Greenhow deposited me on the last leg of the journey – home along Duck Street and a short hop from there to Harrogate. Since they’d been kind enough to arrange the loan of the Tripster for me it only felt right to drop in to Prologue Performance Cycling for a coffee. By 9.30 that morning I was back at my desk and back to the day job – mission accomplished.
Special thanks to;
http://prologuecycling.co.uk/ - for the bike and general friendliness.
http://www.riverhousemalham.co.uk/ - for the bed, breakfast and oasis at the end of day one.
https://www.apidura.com/ - for the superb lightweight luggage.