Ride in Yorkshire Dales

Cyclist in Yorkshire Dales

Where is it?

This month we’re heading to the Yorkshire Dales National Park, an upland area comprising swathes of green pastureland and heather-covered moors spread across hills and river valleys, stretching northwest from Harrogate as far as Kendal.

For our ride, we’re starting in the historic market town of Richmond, on the edge of the National Park, and following a loop that takes us into the heart of the northern region of the Dales.

It’s what you’d call a rolling route, taking in a total of 1,200m (over 4,000ft) of ascent over its 80km (50 miles), putting it in the realms of challenging but perhaps not seriously tough. That said, if you’ve got a 28-tooth cog or larger on your cassette, you’ll be glad of it…

What are the highlights?

The focal point of our ride, which comes at around the halfway point, is Buttertubs Pass, also known as the Cote de Buttertubs since the Tour de France’s visit to Yorkshire in 2014, when crowds 10-deep lined its slopes, cheering on the pros as they slogged their way to the summit.

At just 5km long, it may not be anywhere near as long as the epic Alpine cols they’re used to tackling (it was awarded a mere Category 3 status by the Tour organizers) but it makes up for that with leg-busting gradients that hit 25% or more at the steepest sections.

Unlike the twisting, brutal climbs of the Lake District, Buttertubs is mostly straight, so it’s just a case of finding your rhythm and grinding your way to the top – and being prepared to get out of the saddle occasionally for the steepest bits.

The reward for reaching the summit is a spectacular view across the Dales, followed by one of the most thrilling descents we’ve ridden anywhere in the UK – one of our test riders came close to hitting 100kmh, though we’d advise taking it somewhat more cautiously in case of stray sheep or pheasants.

Do watch out for the bends on the descent, which can catch out the unwary, and take extra care if the road is damp as the surface can be slippery.

Anything else to look out for?

Aside from Buttertubs, there are a few other short, sharp climbs along the way that will have you reaching for the lower end of your gearing range. In fact, the first serious challenge comes inside the opening 10km, with the ascent of Barden Fell, and gradients close to 10%.

There’s not an awful lot of flat road on this route. Depending on the time of year, conditions can be testing up on the exposed higher ground, with prevailing winds coming in from the west potentially making it heavy going on the outward leg – although this does mean you’re more likely to enjoy a tailwind on the way home!

The last 16km of the route, from Reeth back to Richmond, is the same road used by Richmond CC for its club 10-mile time trial – you’ll need to go well under 20 minutes on this segment to challenge the club record!

Where’s the cafe stop?

Askrigg comes just 30km into the ride but has several good tea rooms that are worth a stop if you need a warming coffee or bowl of hearty soup – and a quick break before tackling Ruttertubs! If you’d rather wait until you’re over the other side, there are cafes and pubs in Thwaite, and again plenty of places to refuel back in Richmond at the finish.

How do I get there?

Unfortunately, Richmond itself doesn’t have a mainline station but if you want to extend your ride, it’s only around 12 miles southwest of Darlington. If you’re travelling by car, the town is just a few miles off the A1, close to the Scotch Corner junction with the A66.

The route

  • From the center of Richmond, head south out of town on the cobbled descent of Bargate. Keeping the castle on your left, cross the River Swale and follow the ridge line for 8km.
  • At the junction with the A6108, turn right towards Leyburn. Continue on this road through Redmire and into the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
  • Follow the road for another 18km through Askrigg until you see the brown side for the right turn to Buttertubs. Afterthe climb and fast descent, turn right at the T-junction towards Gunnerside.
  • Follow this road through Muker, Gunnerside and Reeth all the way back to Richmond.
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