Inspired by the Tour de France kickoff in England Timothy and I embarked on a hastily planned weekend cycling of the Grand Depart in Yorkshire July 12/13. We both agree this turned out to be one of the most appealing cycling trips we have done.
We managed to hop on the 8:03 train from Kings Cross to Leeds/Skipton despite early start drama on Nasser's part with his new Norco Valence bike, Mavic wheels & wrong pump attachments. Full of enthusiasm, we started cycling from Skipton around 12:30 pm on Saturday. We opted to do so instead of Leeds per recommendation from Cyclists Magazine with the idea of making a full loop back to Skipton completing 185km and over 2,900 metres ascent.
We were awestruck by the Tour vibe in the area - yellow bikes, buildings with polka dot facades, yellow flowers rearranged in Jersey shapes..etc. It was evidently clear the residents had ample fun with the event a week ago.
The Yorkshire Dales proved to be a fantastic cycling destination - unending undulating hills, stunning scenery, serious hills whose views compensate for the efforts one has to expend, the grazing sheep and nonchalant cows who cause the occasional traffic jam. Our loop took us through Grassington, climb of Kidstones, Hawes, the seriously tough Buttertub (as Cyclist magazine said don't let the cute name fool you!) where the last 100 metres are over 20% slope where we fell of our bikes cycling uphill! , then to Reeth where we treated ourselves to a traditional Yorkshire tea & cakes. We lived to regret changing our mind about spending the night in Reeth and cycling the hellish Grinton Climb with hardly any energy left despite the cake. However the descent from Grinton was so exhilarating and rewarding where I (Nasser) achieved my fastest speed at 69km/h.
We could not have been any happier to finding our B&B and host Trish near Leyburn (Bellerby). She was quite the friendly host who listened to our groaning and moaning and pointed us to the only pub in town where we treated ourselves to a nice local dinner. Heavy rain arrived overnight but we were fortunate as it cleared by 10:00 am next morning, on time for us to continue our mission.
On Sunday we rode the rest of the route through Middleham, Masham (where we could not resist the temptation of a late morning freshly baked scone and coffee break) and Ripon on a lovely stretch of the road that allowed us to both enjoy the pace and more the stunning scenery. We continued on to the end of the Grand Depart route to Harrogate where Nasser had the second drama of the trip with a puncture which could not be replaced due to wrong tube that did not fit the Mavic wheels! Obviously not well prepared!!. Fortunately no more than 300 metre pushing the bike we managed to find a bike shop that was delighted to deal with the problem at the right price. The Tour signs and arrows, as well as the writings on the streets were still visible throughout the loop.
We had a nice break and late lunch in Harrogate where we managed to talk ourselves out of a train ride back to Skipton, push our luck with timing and cycle back there instead. This was our third drama and not a pleasant one. The ride was over 35km of practically uphill all the way, strong headwind and heavy traffic. Overshadowed by our late start and tight timing we had to push extra hard. Expletives, four letter words were all you could hear from us - charm disappeared quickly. Missing the train would have been a heavy price to pay and in many ways. We made our train with TWO minutes to spare...not enough for Timothy to pick up his heavy lock which he left behind at the station at the beginning of the ride to reduce the weight he was carrying. What a relief....it took us more than 20 minutes before we exploded in laughter and thought it was funny.
This was one fantastic trip which will stay in our memories for a long time. Both of us are fortunate enough to have had cycled all over the world - this is probably the best of them all. We should thank our lucky stars we managed through the dramas and had great weather. We should also take pride in what this country has to offer and the diligence of the people who made the Grand Depart in Yorkshire a reality which will be imbedded in everyone's memory for a long time.