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Cycling in God’s own country – we ride out with Yorkshire Velo Tours


If you’re suffering delusions of grandeur about your climbing abilities from nailing Box Hill in the big ring, it might be time to take a reality check on a cycling weekend with Yorkshire Velo Tours.

Let me be frank.

We’d had a gruelling working week in the day job, finished late at the office on Friday night and had to leave for a conference in Geneva after the weekend. A five-hour drive up the M1 for a hilly Yorkshire ride was, in all honesty, not sounding appealing at 10pm on the motorway somewhere outside Mansfield.

But boy oh boy, the long drive, late night and early start was worth the pain. Our weekend outing with Ilkley-based Yorkshire Velo Tours was memorable for all the right reasons.

Yorkshire Velo Tours – CS2, Lancashire & Wharfedale

We awoke on Saturday morning to bright blue sky and glorious sunshine. Our spirits lifted, we loaded the bikes into the car, filled our pockets with snacks and inner tubes, and set off to The Wheatley Arms in Ilkley where we met the ride leader (and founder of Yorkshire Velo Tours) Charles for a pre-ride coffee while mechanic Chris gave our bikes the once over.

Happy that our brakes were sound and tyres pressure good, we coasted out through Ilkley. And within minutes, hit the first steep climb. Ten minutes in and I was already gasping. Had I made a horrible mistake, agreeing to this ride?

But then it was over, and we were crossing Cringles, and spinning out along the hillside to the villages of Kildwick and Farnhill.

Yorkshire Velo Tours

We descended to cross the valley, pedalling through the pretty village of Cononley and along a winding, undulating lane to Carleton in the dappled sunlight. Cycling doesn’t get much more picturesque than this. But as I sighed with happiness, feeling relaxed and in control, I heard:

“There’s a bit of a climb ahead…”

A local girl, it dawned on me which hill we were about to climb. Cocking Lane in Carleton.

I girded my loins and dropped down a couple of gears to begin the ascent across to Lothersdale. I dropped down a couple more gears. Into the small cog. Dammit! No gears left. Ok. These legs are just going to have to work…

Finally, we were at the top, and the mechanic’s van pulled ahead of us. We crowded around as Chris opened the back doors to reveal a hoard of flapjacks and bananas. Fully supported rides are awesome.

Yorkshire Velo Tours

Energy levels restored, we set off again and the uphill slog was rewarded with a swooping descent I’ve always wanted to make on two wheels. Utterly exhilarating.

We crossed the border into Lancashire and, after a brief dose of urban reality in the town of Colne, we were heading back into the hills via Blacko on our way to the glorious Ribble Valley – birthplace of my dear dad. My heart soared when we rolled into the village of Chatburn which I used to visit as a child, where the ice cream shop Hudson’s – which I thought would have long since closed – still stands on the corner.

Yorkshire Velo Tours
It made me so happy to cycle through the village of Chatburn which I used to visit as a child. The old ice cream shop, Hudson’s, still stands on the corner.

Relief: lunch time

38 miles in (and a hell of a lot of elevation), we heaved a sigh of relief when we arrived at Holden Clough Garden Centre for lunch. The Garden Kitchen serves excellent food and to sit outside in the sunshine while we devoured hearty sandwiches and cold drinks revived us for what lay ahead.

Yorkshire Velo Tours
The route took in some of the best climbs and scenery in the Ribble Valley and the Yorkshire Dales

Another long climb after lunch was hard work, weighed down by sandwiches. But, as any cyclist knows, a tough climb is always rewarded with an exhilarating descent. And despite a brief shower which saw us all don our waterproof jackets, in no time the sun was out again as we coasted toward Tosside and Hellifield.

Dammit! No gears left. Ok. These legs are just going to have to work…

But I’ll admit it. By this point, my energy levels were waning and I knew there were plenty more climbs ahead. At 60 miles, I waved the white flag and accepted a lift for the final leg in mechanic Chris’s van. As we trundled up the next steep hill behind the rest of the group, it dawned on me how wonderful it was to be on a fully supported ride… Several more hills, including the Cat 4 Burnsall climb, and we were homeward bound. The heavens opened, but with less than 10 miles to go, it didn’t matter. (Certainly not to me, in the comfort of the van!)

Yorkshire Velo Tours

Finally, we were back in Ilkley. I’d ridden 60 miles, with 6,000ft of elevation; the rest of the group had managed the full 77 miles with almost 7,000ft of climbing. Gruelling? Yes. Enjoyable? Absolutely! There was just time for a celebratory pint in The Wheatley Arms before we headed off for a warm bath and hearty supper. Lord knows that having burned 3,000 calories apiece we’d earned it…

About Yorkshire Velo Tours

Yorkshire Velo Tours was launched by Charles Oxtoby, who has been organising cycle tours and trips in the UK and Europe for a decade. Charles was a founding committee member of the Ilkley Cycling Club which was re-established in 2011. A highly experienced cyclist and guide, Charles and has been riding the roads of the Yorkshire dales for decades – there are few people better qualified to escort you around the county on two wheels.

Yorkshire Velo Tours

Designed for keen cyclists of all abilities who want to challenge themselves on some of the best roads and climbs in Europe, Yorkshire Velo Tours showcase the beautiful scenery of Yorkshire – the training ground of Lizzie Armitstead and Scott Thwaites. If you want to become a world-class cyclist, you could do worse than train in the county.

Yorkshire Velo Tours rides are fully supported with a back-up vehicle and qualified cycle mechanic, and every route includes a carefully selected cafe stop – we at Vamper.cc never underestimate the importance of a good lunch on a ride! With support and experienced ride leaders, all you have to worry about is getting up those hills.

Yorkshire Velo Tours

The tours typically split into 2 or more ride groups of around 8 riders per group, all covering a similar route. Group 1 will be the faster ride and typically average over 15mph. (We know, right? That doesn’t sound very fast! But just you wait until you see the elevation…) Meanwhile the slower groups will average 11-14mph.

And for those labouring under the misapprehension that the weather is always shit in Yorkshire – we enjoyed bright sunshine and 25 degree heat for ¾ of the ride before it finally clouded over and began to rain.

If you haven’t yet cycled in God’s own country, don’t you think it’s time you did?