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DAVE BARTER

GREAT BRITISH BIKE RIDES


DAVE BARTER

GREAT BRITISH BIKE RIDES 40 CLASSIC ROUTES FOR ROAD CYCLISTS Vertebrate Publishing , Sheffield. www.v-publishing.co.uk


DAVE BARTER

GREAT BRITISH BIKE RIDES 40 CLASSIC ROUTES FOR ROAD CYCLISTS

First published in 2013 by Vertebrate Publishing. Reprinted 2014. Vertebrate Publishing Crescent House, 228 Psalter Lane, Sheffield  S11 8UT. www.v-publishing.co.uk Copyright © Dave Barter 2013. Dave Barter has asserted his rights under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as author of this work. A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. ISBN: 978-1-906148-55-3 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 All rights reserved. No part of this work covered by the copyright hereon may be reproduced or used in any form or by any means – graphic, electronic, or mechanised, including photocopying, recording, taping or information storage and retrieval systems – without the written permission of the publisher. All maps within this publication were produced and rendered using the Nautoguide custom map rendering service www.nautoguide.com. Mapping contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2011. Mapping contains OpenStreetmap data © OpenStreetMap contributors available under the Open Database License from www.openstreetmap.org Photography by Dave, Helen, Jake and Holly Barter unless otherwise credited. Cover photograph by Seb Rogers: www.sebrogers.com Designed and produced by Nathan Ryder with additional production by Jane Beagley, Vertebrate Graphics Ltd – www.v-graphics.co.uk Based on an original design by Dave Barter.

The author, publisher and others involved in the design and publication of this guidebook are not responsible for any loss or damage users may suffer as a result of using this book and do not warrant the safety of any route, road, street or designated cycling route described herein. Users of this guidebook are responsible for their own safety and ride these routes at their own risk. Users should consider not only route conditions but also their level of experience, comfort level riding in traffic, traffic conditions and traffic volume, weather, time of day, and any obstacles, such as construction or potholes, when cycling these routes. Some roads in this guidebook experience high traffic volume; cyclists share these roads with many other road users and should exercise the same level of caution whether riding on a route in this book or any non-designated route. We recommend that you always wear a helmet when cycling.


CONTENTS

SOUTHERN ENGLAND

Preface ��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 6 Introduction ����������������������������������������������������������������������� 8 Acknowledgements ������������������������������������� 12 Riding a Great British bike ride ����������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 13 Making your own Great British bike ride ������������������������������������������������������� 16 How to use this guide ������������������������������� 18 The Dashboard ��������������������������������������������������������� 18 Key ��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 21

Cornwall ���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 27 Dartmoor ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 33 Exmoor �������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 39 Cheddar & the Flatlands ���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 45 Wiltshire’s White Horses ���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 51 Dorset ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 57 New Forest ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 63 Isle of Wight �������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 69 Surrey Hills & Richmond Park �������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 75 Ashdown Forest ���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 81 Chilterns ���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 89 The Captain’s Cotswolds Lanes ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 95

NORTHERN ENGLAND

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Telford, the Wrekin & Long Mynd ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 105 Rutland & the Lake ��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 111 Norfolk & the Fens ����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 117 Lincolnshire Wolds �������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 123 Cheshire Highlights ���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 129 Tour of the Peak District ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 135 West Yorkshire ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 141 Lancashire – Bowland Beast �������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 147 North York Moors ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 153 Lake District Passes ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 159 The North Pennines ���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 165

WALES

DOWNLOAD GPX FILES FOR EACH ROUTE AT: www.greatbritishbikerides.co.uk

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170

Homage to the Dragon Ride �������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 175 The Gower Peninsula ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 181 Pembrokeshire ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 187 Brecon Beacons & the Black Mountains �������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 193 Elan Valley – Rhayader ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 199 Llangollen & Denbigh ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 205 Snowdonia �������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 211

SCOTLAND

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216

Scottish Borders ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 221 Glentrool & Ayrshire ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 227 Glen Finart & Loch Fyne ����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 233 Isle of Mull ��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 239 Circuit of Loch Rannoch ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 245 Aviemore & Cairn Gorm �������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 251 Loch Ness ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 257 Isle of Skye ��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 263 Applecross & Torridon ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 269 Lochinver & Assynt �������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 275 Great British Bike Rides – Vital Statistics �������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 280


PREFACE Over twenty years ago I joined Post Office Research as an Executive Engineer (class B). It was in the Post Office Research Centre that I first met Chris Covell and through him my interest in outdoor adventure was resurrected. Many years previously I’d been a keen cyclist and had also spent long weekends deep underground in the caves of Wales. My wiry frame the perfect shape for the aspirant caver. Chris introduced me to rock climbing – the hard way. I was unceremoniously bundled into a car, driven to the Peak District and dragged up as many gritstone classics as Chris could lead in a day. As his loyal ‘second’ I was given no quarter. Every climb had to be completed in order that his gear was retrieved. My hands have never really recovered from one particularly brutal day spent hand jamming my way up Stanage Edge with Chris enquiring as to why I was taking so long. As part of my blooding into the climbing fraternity I was handed a copy of Ken Wilson’s Classic Rock. This book opened my eyes to the full potential of climbing within the UK. It listed a series of aspirational climbs for a beginner such as me; classic climbs that every climber should do. The photography and text willed the climber on to ‘have a go’, and I found myself poring over it wondering whether I could really make it up Napes Needle or Eagle Ridge. This book more than anything else made me want to be a climber and also made me realise that the country I live in is stuffed full of things to climb. Sadly, career and other distractions intervened; my vertical career foundered with only a few meagre ticks from the book. But I never forgot that list and often wondered whether it would be feasible for me to tick it off. Ten years later cycling replaced my climbing aspirations and I became more and more obsessed with the sport. I found myself ferreting through bookshops in search of cycling guides to widen my horizons. All the time looking for the cycling equivalent of Classic Rock. I unearthed plenty of interesting books and even rode Land’s End to John o’Groats inspired by one of them. But where was my ticklist? Where was the guide that when completed would mean I’d truly served my apprenticeship as a British road cyclist? In 2010 I found myself in a work meeting looking out of the window. Across the street a swimming pool was being demolished, soon to be replaced by a car park. I’m sure there may have been good reasons for this, but the act of replacing something meant for exercise with something to facilitate cars began to play on my mind. I started to worry that my career would follow a similar path, with my cycling slowly demolished by the time required to ‘do business’, exercise making way for commerce. A few months later I took a drastic decision. I was clearly not going to find the cycling book I sought. I needed to ensure that cycling remained integral to me as an individual. What better way to combine the two than write the book myself? With the support of my family, I resigned immediately and began to plan the book. My vision was a road cycling route guide that would cover all of Great Britain. A set of aspirational routes that were tough enough to gain bragging rights yet within the reach of any committed cyclist. These routes would showcase the greatest climbs and best roads the country has to offer while providing rides that could be completed within a day. After many months of planning I spent a whole year travelling the country and scouting out these great loops. It was a year filled with incident. The glorious highs of conquering some of the toughest road cycling the country has to offer will stay with me forever. I’ll never forget the grovel onto the moor having finally ticked Rosedale Chimney, a climb I’d 6

GREAT BRITISH BIKE RIDES

“I was clearly not going to find the cycling book I sought. I needed to ensure that cycling remained integral to me as an individual. What better way to combine the two than write the book myself? With the support of my family, I resigned immediately and began to plan the book.”


lived in awe of for years. Neither will I forget the circuit of Mull, pedalling round Loch Na Keal in perfect solitude with only the seabirds for company. In fact, every single ride had a highlight, a reason to go back and do it again. This is what makes them great rides and this is what I hope to achieve by this book. A set of routes that nag to be ridden because they provide much more than exercise, they’re stuffed with experience as well. Great British Bike Rides is my cycling tribute to Classic Rock. Forty classic British routes that every road cyclist should ride. A showcase of the very best road cycling that the country has to offer including many roads and climbs that can only be fully appreciated from the bike. I don’t lay claim to any of the routes within; each has been inspired by the cyclists that have gone before me, or cycling events that put these rides on the map. Some of the rides pay direct or indirect homage to existing sportives, such as the Fred Whitton, Dragon Ride, Bowland Beast and Tour of the Peak. Others tinker with known scenic loops, such as the Scottish Borders route and the circumnaviga-

“It’s not meant to be the definitive guide to road cycling in Great Britain. I wrote it to point the way firmly in the direction of where the good riding can be found. There’s no way that forty loops can encompass all of the good stuff. That’s for you to explore and discover for yourself.”

tion of the Isle of Wight. There are a few I’ve cooked up myself by linking climbs worth doing or areas worth riding in. One thing I do know is that us cyclists like nothing better than a good ‘which route is best’ debate. I’ve ridden with a committed time triallist with a predilection for dual carriageways. His idea of a good day out is fifty miles of flat road completed in under two hours. He’d shake his head in horror if I ever dared suggest taking the scenic route. I’m sure these loops will stir similar reaction in others. Some may suggest that there are better ways to ride across Exmoor. Others may not agree that the Lake District route should go straight up the Struggle. Well, the only way to know is to ride them. And that’s what I urge you to do with these routes. This book is not meant to be the definitive guide to road cycling in Great Britain. I wrote it to point the way firmly in the direction of where the good riding can be found. There’s no way that forty loops can encompass all of the good stuff. That’s for you to explore and discover for yourself. But hopefully with a few pointers from me you can know where to start, and by presenting this list the debate as to where the greatest riding is can properly begin. The hardest thing about writing this book was finishing it. I love cycling in Great Britain more than anywhere else in the world and it pains me to draw a line under this quest. I could have continued for years, following new lines on the map and wondering just what would await me as I crested each unridden hill. I hope that with this book you can be inspired to do the same. Cut loose from your normal life for a day and get out onto the road instead. You’ll be amazed by what is out there and equally amazed by how much experience you can stuff into a single loop. Use the guide to explore the cycling within this eclectic land. Go forth and evangelise about the ‘Great British Bike Ride’, a phrase that has been hijacked by Lands End to John o’Groats. It’s not the only great ride, there’s a myriad of them out there hidden within the hills and lanes. And when you’ve found something that I’ve not mentioned within these page, please drop me a line, I need to know!

Dave Barter dave@phased.co.uk @citizenfishy PREFACE

7


INTRODUCTION A GREAT TIME TO GET OUT AND RIDE British Cycling is undoubtedly in the ascendancy. Our track riders such as Sir Chris Hoy consistently win World Championship and Olympic Golds; we have our first Tour de France winner in Bradley Wiggins; and, as one of the greatest sprinters in history, Mark Cavendish has cemented Britain’s domination of the road. And it’s not just the boys doing well. Nicole Cook has won Olympic medals, World Championships and has dominated the national scene for years, and now a new generation of female talent, such as Laura Trott and Lizzie Armitstead, is stepping up to take her place. At last our country’s cycling heritage is properly on the map and we are globally recognised as a nation that can ‘do the business’ on a bike. This success has spurred on countless lapsed or new riders to pick up their bikes and discover the pleasure available upon two wheels. This in turn has seen the genesis of a diverse range of cycling events and sportives ready to sate the appetite of those looking for their next cycling challenge. Consequently riders are spending increasing amounts of money on serious equipment whilst following proper training programmes to ensure that they can meet the distance and fitness requirements of these events. The tide is beginning to turn as road cycling moves from a niche sport to a mainstream activity. A legion of old hands look on with pleasure as the sport they’ve known and loved for generations finally achieves the recognition it fully deserves. The club riders, touring cyclists, Audax riders, road racers and time triallists quietly go about their business of eating the miles as they have done for years. These riders know all about the trials and tribulations of completing a long distance cycle route. They’re out there in all weathers pushing away at the pedals in defiance of the variable weather conditions that so often plague the British roads. These riders will tell you of their affection for the British road network. Between them they will have ridden every single mile that they’re allowed, a few have even strayed onto closed motorways. Some will warn you away from horrifically steep climbs, others will eulogise over quiet coastal roads that dip their toes into the sea. You’ll hear about ‘must do’ rides, iconic views, amazing cafes and endless debates about which area of the country has the best places to ride. In fact, we should wonder why anyone ever takes their bike abroad. There’s a wealth of great cycling to be had right on the British doorstep. Our road network is massive, complex, diverse and able to take you almost anywhere that you want to go. A mish mash of geology and glacier carved landscape awaits those looking for a nice bit of scenery. It’s impossible to describe the Great British countryside in a few words as the island is constantly varying from barren high moors to complex valley systems shrouded in forest. To make it even more interesting, all of this is crammed into a relatively compact area. Look at Great Britain upon any map of the world – the country looks like a European afterthought. But for cyclists this proves to be a real bonus as just about everywhere is relatively accessible whatever the chosen means of transport to get there. This in turn provides potential for cycling adventure without the need to travel huge distances or expend vast amounts of money. It really is all there waiting upon our doorstep.

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GREAT BRITISH BIKE RIDES

“Our road network is massive, complex, diverse and able to take you almost anywhere that you want to go. A mish mash of geology and glacier carved landscape awaits those looking for a nice bit of scenery, and it’s constantly varied.”


Great Britain is steeped in cycling heritage. It’s arguable that cycling began here when the Scottish blacksmith, Kirkpatrick Macmillan reputedly invented the rear wheel drive bicycle. A chain of innovators rapidly turned his device into a machine that unlocked the countryside for the majority who could not afford the luxury of a motorcar nor deal with the hassle and maintenance of a horse. The British cycling industry waxed and waned over many decades as household brands such as Raleigh were beaten into submission by cheaper foreign imports. Yet a pride in British cycling engineering remains and new brands are emerging to meet rising demand, while older players such as Pashley see their sales go from strength to strength. In short, recent years have seen a resurgence in British cycling. Our elite riders are winning again, the industry is growing and many bike shops are booming as they fit out a new generation of cyclists with carbon frames and designer cycling wear. Cycling is becoming recognised as a highly inclusive sport with avenues open to all ages, sexes and abilities. Cycling infrastructure is gradually improving as urban areas

“Cycling is becoming recognised as a highly inclusive sport with avenues open to all ages, sexes and abilities. Cycling infrastructure is gradually improving as urban areas attempt to keep bicycles away from cars via dedicated lanes unheard of twenty years ago.”

attempt to keep bicycles away from cars via dedicated lanes unheard of twenty years ago. Sustrans and other bodies have created huge networks of mapped and signed cycle routes that spider across the entire country. All one needs is a map, some free time and a sense of adventure, Sustrans will take care of the rest. The sportive is now entrenched within the British cycling calendar and forms the bedrock of many a rider’s annual training plans. These rides attract thousands who pay to be guided around challenging routes along with the support of signage, food stops and the occasional goody bag at the end. Some have been running for years, while others have popped up to feed the insatiable desire of sporting riders to push themselves that little bit more. Add this all up – a resurgence in British cycling, a new generation of riders looking for challenge, a network of roads and lanes waiting for their wheels and a calendar full of challenging rides waiting to be ridden– it cries out for a documented list of Great British bike rides. But hang on, just what is a Great British bike ride?

WHAT IS A GREAT BRITISH BIKE RIDE? First, the ride has to showcase the countryside through which it threads its path. The rider needs to feel properly immersed within their surroundings and end the loop feeling it’s somewhere where they’d like to return. It also needs some decent roads. Roads with character that merit a discussion in the pub at the end. These roads may wind gently over hills, traverse huge glaciated valleys or hack through farming country encased within hedgerows. Roads are not the sole preserve of the motorist, they’re part of our cycling history. Every great ride needs to ensure that our amazing network is celebrated rather than relegating cyclists to sanitised tarmac trails. These rides must throw in a lot of challenge. A good ride is achievable but a great ride is necessarily hard. At the end the rider must dismount with the mixed emotions of relief and elation at having overcome the challenge.

INTRODUCTION

9


Great rides should avoid the traffic and celebrate the cycling experience leaving the rider alone to relish the outdoors without a breath of carbon monoxide or the terror of a car passing too close. The cyclist must feel that they’re embarking upon an adventure as they begin the ride. A journey into the unknown or the revisiting of a route that’s bound to come littered with incident. All great rides should lead to exaggerated tales, a climb that nearly finished the rider for good, a descent that came close to a fall or a set of weather conditions that were bravely overcome with a plastic bag and some newspaper. Finally, Great British bike rides need to be quintessentially British. We don’t have the Alps here so let’s not try and recreate them. But we do have miles and miles of challenging terrain. This is what you’ve stumbled upon within this book. A collection of forty Great British bike rides that span the country and celebrate our wonderful road network. A set of rides that will challenge every cyclist, a set of rides to aspire to and tick off over the years. A set of rides that can be ridden at your leisure, your pace, with no entry fee and no set date of departure. Each can be ridden when the weather is right, rather than when the organiser demands, allowing you to maximise the riding experience in the most clement weather available. These rides have been designed to balance challenge with scenery. Each route dives away from the main road network as soon as it can in a quest for the back country lanes. This is where we find that spirit of adventure as you find yourself wondering just what it is you’re going to find around the next corner. These rides are littered with climbs. The British geography is responsible for this as they’re mostly hard to avoid. Even Norfolk comes with gradients and it must be argued that you can’t have a true British riding experience without puffing up the odd hill. Some areas are stuffed full of them and the amount of climbing underpins the major challenge of the ride. However, as cyclists we need to ride them. Many of these climbs are iconic cycling challenges that put the Alps to shame. For sure Ventoux is a challenging ride, but all the Lake District passes in a single loop? You’re probably going to die. In summary, all of these routes are hard. They’re all longer than 50 miles and often traverse challenging terrain. Some of them climb over 12,000 feet in total and one contains a demanding 2,000-foot ascent from the sea to mountaintop. There’s a huge diversity of roads from smooth flat tarmac to one section that’ll have you reaching for the mountain bike. There’s the odd gate, plenty of cattlegrids, occasional rickety bridges, a smattering of fords and even a ferry. The rides are distributed relatively evenly across Great Britain. Forty routes is enough to showcase the wonderful cycling to be had, but nowhere near enough to cover every single area. Think of the book as a cycling appetiser designed to whet the appetite for further exploration of the riding that Great Britain has to offer. Don’t be angry if you feel there’s an area that’s been missed, think of it as a blank canvas ready for your route planning work of art. Additionally, the routes stick to the roads by design. Cycle paths are mostly ignored as this book is a celebration of riding upon the road. 10

GREAT BRITISH BIKE RIDES

“For sure Ventoux is a challenging ride, but all the Lake District passes in a single loop? You’re probably going to die.”


These rides are not for the unprepared. They’re primarily designed for the cyclist who has served their apprenticeship and is ready to challenge themselves in terms of distance and difficulty. Completed as single day rides they’ll need a degree of fitness and stamina, but there’s no reason why the loops couldn’t form the basis of a multi-day cycle tour. However, the reason they’re designed as loops is to offer up the challenge of a hard day out on the bike. If you ride regularly with a club on their Sunday run, have completed a 100km sportive or survived a British cycle tour then you’re ready to attempt these rides. Make no mistake that many of the routes are aspirational in their nature. One hundred miles around the Peak District demands a huge level of respect and associated fitness. The Bealach Na Ba is hard enough without a forty mile ride through a glen to get to its base, and the Lake District challenge has seen many a rider limp home with their tail between their legs, challenge uncompleted. But the determined cyclist will accomplish them all. Prepare well, ensure the fitness is there,

“Many of the routes are already firmly entrenched upon the cycling map, such as the Tour of the Peak that grew from the route of a classic road race now sadly consigned to history. Others are based upon sportive loops that have become increasingly popular over the years.”

regulate effort and manage nutrition properly and you’ll be fine. Many of the routes are already firmly entrenched upon the cycling map, such as the Tour of the Peak that grew from the route of a classic road race now sadly consigned to history. Others are based upon sportive loops that have become increasingly popular over the years. The Dragon Ride route pays homage to a sportive that is now an international event recently awarded gold status by the UCI. Then there are loops that just sprang from the map, areas that looked interesting and were in need of exploration, or climbs that needed linking up to form a classic route. Within this book you will find 3,157 miles of memorable road riding coupled with 282,842 feet of ascent (5,080 kilometres and 86,174 metres if you want to go metric). That’s plenty to keep even the most committed road cyclist busy, so get out your map and start planning your assault upon the Great British bike rides.

Dave Barter Swindon, February 2013

INTRODUCTION

11


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS This guide would never have come to fruition were it not for the valuable input and help of others. I owe a great debt to Kath Allen, Clare Toop-Rose, Adrian Mitri, Pete Edwards, Jenny Barter, Colin Barter, Joy Compton, Kath Allan, Barry Compton and Chris Covell for the words of encouragement along the way. This has not been an easy journey. Also, Malcolm Toop-Rose for accompanying me on several photography marathons and getting me lost near Loch Ness. I must also thank Dan Joyce, Jon Wyatt, Mike Davis, Ian Warnes, Jerry Clark, Andy Lulham, Chris Bailey and Dave Nice for their feedback, advice and comments which have helped shape this book. Malcolm Bates, Allan Nelson, Glenn Rhodes, Jon Cannings and Adrian Cannings need mention for their help in providing me with information to compile the routes. Seb Rogers deserves a medal for his patience in helping me with my photography and his fantastic cover shot. The original design concept of this guide owes a lot to my sister Sally Cornwell who helped me with the initial ideas. My children Jake Barter and Holly Barter were integral to this work. Helping me with photography, graphics editing and not laughing when their Dad returned from another long ride soaking wet and swearing. Vertebrate Publishing have been an absolute pleasure to work with. From first meeting with John Coefield to the finished result. Tom Fenton patiently worked his way through my mess of text and directions offering great advice on the way. Nathan Ryder has done a brilliant job on the unenviable task of sharpening up the concepts and producing this guide. Thanks also to Jane Beagley for working her way through many of the graphs and tidying them up. Finally, the two people to whom I owe the most. Firstly, Andy Shelley who helped me make the difficult decision to leave my job and focus upon this guide. But more so, for the help and support throughout the entire project, from development of mapping to photography modelling and sound advice. This would not have happened without your help Andy. Then there’s my wife Helen Barter, whose encouragement and support has been there throughout. Helen worked many long hours creating the overview maps and constructing written instructions. She’s driven all over the country, taken photographs, put up with a filthy cyclist and absent husband without a single complaint. Many men are not very good at saying ‘I love you’. I’ll write it here just to make sure.

12

GREAT BRITISH BIKE RIDES


RIDING A GREAT BRITISH BIKE RIDE As mentioned in the Introduction, these rides are hard and you will need to be

It’s your body; you need to know how

properly prepared in order to complete them. In fact, preparation can often enhance

much food and water you require before,

the riding experience with delays shortened by the right equipment and the ride

during and after each ride. As a cyclist

made more pleasurable due to correct nutrition and hydration. You’ll be hard pushed

you’ll work this out over time and the

to find a cyclist who doesn’t have countless tales to tell of previous disasters: rides

most important piece of advice is to

that were curtailed by forgotten puncture repair kits, lonely walks home after

stick to it.

‘the bonk’, or navigational mistakes that have led to motorway junctions instead of country lanes. The mantra of preparation and self-sufficiency should be constantly uttered by the

I ensure that I eat well before each ride and that I get on the bike hydrated. I always carry enough food to eat every

Great British bike rider, even when riding in a group. If all riders are prepared for anything

hour and then add an extra couple of

then the group can cope with most instances. It all tends to go terribly wrong when

hour’s food for when things go wrong.

riders assume that others have brought a pump or will have spare tubes to offer.

I live by the maxim that a cyclist should

I’ve ridden every single route within this book and each has been stuffed with

drink before they are thirsty and eat

incident. I’ve ridden most of them on my own with no support and despite numerous

before hunger sets in. Both of these

mechanicals, closed roads, closed shops, rain showers and punctures I haven’t had

symptoms probably indicate that you’ve

to abandon a single ride. Nothing is worse than making a long trip to complete a

got it wrong. Hydration becomes

route only to have it curtailed by a forgotten item or easily fixed mechanical issue.

increasingly important as the weather

The simplest way to ensure that you are prepared is to follow a ‘pre-flight’ checklist.

conditions improve. If you allow yourself

The following list represents my personal checklist which has stood me in good

to dehydrate in the heat, you’ll suffer

stead over the years.

badly and potentially put yourself at

FITNESS

risk of collapse. Therefore it is important to sit down

It seems so obvious yet many people forget that the single best upgrade for any

and plan your fuelling strategy before

bicycle ride is personal fitness. Fatigue drags the eyes away from surroundings

you set out. By all means consider a shop

and toward the floor as the tired cyclist grovels their way on through a hard ride.

or cafe stop, but equally plan for it being

So it is important that you’re fit enough to tackle these rides, remembering that

closed as has often happened to me.

fitness relates to your ability to complete it rather than the speed at which it is ridden. Most of these rides are within the reach of any cyclist who has recently completed a distance of sixty miles or more. Before you set out to complete any of the rides, have a quick look at yourself and recent performance. Are you happy with the distance and amount of climbing involved? Is everything working as it should? The smallest niggle can turn into screaming pain after forty hard miles. Let common sense be your guide, if you’re not entirely sure about your ability to complete the route then maybe elect to take a shorter option instead.

NUTRITION & HYDRATION Eating and drinking, often the Achilles heel of so many well prepared cyclists. Even the fittest of riders will struggle to complete a long loop without regular food and water. There’s a wealth of advice available for cyclists and an even larger market full of eclectic energy bars, gels and powders claiming to make you go faster for longer. However, cycling nutrition is not something that you can abdicate responsibility for.

THE RIDES

13


CLOTHING Nobody knows more about climatic variability than the cyclist partaking of the

Finally, there are a few items worth

British countryside. The British weather system abides to its own rules and cyclists

having for when things really do go

who venture out must be prepared for a whole range of weather conditions.

wrong. I always carry a tiny set of

A number of these rides climb above 1,000 feet where the chill factor and temperature

emergency LED lights just in case

can be profoundly different from those at lower levels. The best approach is to always

I am delayed and end up benighted.

dress in layers, always carry a waterproof and always ensure that you’ll be able to

I carry a card with my name, address

keep yourself warm if forced to stop by the roadside for an extended period.

and phone number of next of kin in

There’s often a high probability of getting wet. Look for clothing that is designed

case of an accident. I also carry some

to shed water quickly; it’s probably best to avoid the woolly jumper which will

money and a credit card for those rare

become a huge weighty burden once waterlogged.

occasions when the bike or rider cannot

I never leave home for an extended ride without a base layer, arm warmers, a waterproof and a gilet. Even on the hottest day it is possible to get cold fixing a

go any further and the services of a taxi is required.

puncture in the shade in a breeze. I never ride without gloves; having been the victim

This all sounds like a lot of gear,

of a number of falls I know the damage that the road can do to an outstretched hand.

but I manage to squeeze most of it into

Equally, I’d always recommend riding with a helmet.

a single pouch that fits nicely into a rear

TOOLS & SPARES Preparing this checklist item is simple. Stare at your bike and imagine what you would do if each individual component failed. Balance this against probability of failure and you’ll be able to mentally construct a decent packing list. In my experience, most failures tend to occur around the wheel area, particularly punctures, therefore I always carry:

•  at least one spare inner tube, usually two •  two sets of self adhesive puncture repair patches • a puncture repair kit including chalk, a tyre marker, rubber adhesive and 10–20 patches of assorted sizes

•  a ‘tyre boot’ to repair splits in the tyre •  a thick sewing needle to dig glass and flint out of tyres •  a set of tyre levers including a spare (I’ve broken one in use before) •  a spoke key for straightening wheels In winter when there is a lot of water on the road I also strap a folding tyre to the rear of my saddle. This has proven to be a life saver when debris washed onto the road has slashed through one of my tyres rendering it useless. It’s not only wheels that go wrong; gears, brakes, pedals and anything else not welded to the bike can go out of adjustment and require some tinkering. Therefore I always make sure that I am in possession of:

• a cycling specific multi-tool including a chain tool, allen/hex keys and screwdriver

•  cable ties, cycling glue that can be used as a temporary repair for many failures • a long length of electrical tape wound around the seatpost, useful for handlebar tape repairs or other fixes where cable ties will not help

•  a small pocket knife •  a set of latex gloves (to keep hands clean when fixing things) •  a set of hand wipes, for cleaning gunge off the bike •  a small length of chain and some powerlinks or chain pins

14

GREAT BRITISH BIKE RIDES

cycling jersey pocket. The inner tube is separately wrapped to ensure that the tools do it no harm in transit.


MAPS & NAVIGATION We are living in the age of digital maps and there are a plethora of mapping websites,

BEFORE YOU HEAD OFF

online route planners and software mapping packages all of which make route

I’ve lost count of the number of times

planning very easy. Every ride within this book is available as a GPS trace download

my rides have been ‘altered’ by road

from www.greatbritishbikerides.co.uk making the task of route planning a lot easier.

repairs. There’s nothing worse than

Modern GPS devices such as smartphones or bike specific GPS navigators make

committing yourself to a remote

route navigation a breeze. Simply download the GPS trace to the device and follow

location only to find a road closed along

the trail on screen. What can go wrong? Well, quite a lot as it happens. Roads are

the way and a huge diversion required.

closed, turns missed, batteries run out or devices detach themselves from the bar

It’s rare that diversions take cyclists into

and smash upon the road. All of these have happened to me which is why I always

account and often you’ll find yourself

carry a map.

miles out of your way on a highly

A good digital mapping solution such as Tracklogs (www.tracklogs.co.uk ) will

unsuitable main road. A search of the

allow you to print customised maps fitted to your planned route. These can then

relevant local authority’s website, or a

be laminated, rolled up and stuffed into a back pocket for use when required.

visit to the www.gov.uk for a national

This eases the problem of carrying large Ordnance Survey maps while giving you

search, is probably a good idea before

the flexibility to change things on the fly if required.

heading out.

Many Audax riders carry route cards with navigational prompts to aid them along

Check for events in the area as well

the way. These can be a useful solution if you do not possess a GPS or smartphone

– you may not want to cycle through the

and wish to navigate ‘au naturel’.

middle of the annual carnival, or maybe

I strongly believe in ‘pre-flying’ the route before riding it. Trace the line around

it would be an added bonus! Finally,

the map and familiarise yourself with the notable features, points of navigation

it’s always worth checking the weather

and potential shortcuts should anything go wrong.

forecast one more time and using this to plan the timing and direction of your

CONTACT & EMERGENCIES

ride. The wind direction can be used

It’s good discipline to let someone know where you are going every time you head

to plan the best start/finish point on

out on a demanding ride. Many of these routes visit remote locations devoid of

the loop. It’s always good advice to

mobile phone signals, so leaving behind a copy of the map and an expected arrival

finish with the wind on your back to

time means that a concerned friend or relative can raise the alarm should you not

aid tired legs home.

return within a reasonable time. If possible carry a mobile phone. Most modern phone boxes don’t accept cash anymore and are often hard to find. It also means you can summon help or moral support in case of any problem on the road. Finally, it allows you to raise the alarm should you come across an incident upon the road. If you or someone in your party does get into serious trouble and you have intermittent mobile reception or low battery, you might be able to use the Emergency SMS service. It’s important you register your phone first: simply text ‘register’ to 999 and then follow the instructions in the reply. Do it now, it could save your or someone else’s life: www.emergencysms.org.uk

RIDING A GREAT BRITISH BIKE RIDE – CLOTHING

15


MAKING YOUR OWN GREAT BRITISH BIKE RIDE While I can thoroughly recommend every single ride in this book I must confess

can add to a fulfilling ride; the oil

that it is by no means the exhaustive set of Great British bike rides. In fact, I think

refinery at Pembroke being case in

this would be impossible to document as there are so many of them given the

point. It’s both ugly and awe inspiring at

varied nature of our terrain and our hugely diverse road network. So, if you can’t

the same time, especially in early

find a route in the area that you’re planning to ride, or you’re looking for something

evening light when discharging flames

different to do, why not cook up your own Great British bike ride? The formula is

from its myriad chimneys.

relatively straightforward. Obviously you’re going to need a map, preferably with contour lines and height

However, the easiest route to a great bike ride is asking around. Walk into the

markings. This allows you to visualise the terrain and plan a ride that lifts you above

local bike shop and quiz the owner.

the land thus liberating the views. Great bike rides usually come with great scenery

They’ll know where all the good riding

and the more scenery you can see in a single view the more profound it becomes.

is and they’ll be happy to point you the

Therefore, when planning rides I look for several high points along the way to give

way. Or contact a local cycling club who

me these views along with an excuse to stop and eat a snack or two.

will be flattered that you’ve taken the

Valleys and hill traverses are equally enthralling. These can be spotted by

time to ask and be more than happy

looking for roads that track contour lines or dive down between matching sets.

for you to tag along on one of their rides

Basically, look for roads that play with the contours, crossing them, rising above them

for a proper guided tour. There’s a

or winding around them. Water features can offer additional clues and always add

wealth of mapping buried away in

something special to a ride. Seek them out when planning your routes; many special

cyclists’ heads itching to make its way

roads tack round lakes or follow a river system deep into a valley.

out. What better way to construct a

Then there are the roads. I seek to minimise time upon the main and truck roads. While many of these may be well surfaced and direct, they’re inevitably stuffed full of cars avoiding the overladen motorways. You have to go a long way off the beaten track for main road riding to become pleasurable. Ordnance Survey maps make this easy for you by colouring the roads according to their relative pleasure. Green and red main roads are worth avoiding wherever possible. Brown B roads can be worthwhile, but check the route as these can often be hijacked as high speed ‘rat runs’ where motorists have no alternative A road. All the fun is to be had on the small yellow lanes. Sometimes this fun spills over into adventure as you find a tiny little road that only the farmers ever use. I’ve ridden down many of these that have fallen into disrepair and while the surfaces may be challenging the ride has been augmented by the feeling of “I wonder what’s coming next?”. Many of the National Cycle Network routes are marked on Ordnance Survey maps. These are indicated by coloured dots and a number in a red box. They’re worth seeking out as the routes are designed to be quiet, traffic free and scenic. The NCN can never be accused of taking the direct route and should always be sought out by the cyclist wanting that little bit extra tagged onto their ride. A great ride is full of diversity, so stare hard at the map, look for interesting features and seek out contrast. Take the Exmoor route (page 39) as an example, this mashes up coastal riding, with forest climbs and high level, exposed moorland cycling. The landscape around you is constantly varying thus serving to add interest and deflect the mind away from any fatigue. I like to inject a bit of the unknown into my riding, seeking out features on the map that seem unfamiliar and using them as little pieces of motivation to speed me towards them. Even man-made landscapes

16

GREAT BRITISH BIKE RIDES

Great British bike ride then by asking a British rider to show you the way?


HOW TO USE THIS GUIDE Firstly, never, ever rely solely upon a guidebook for your route planning and

1

Here we have the overall statistics.

preparation. Authors can and do make mistakes, roads can be closed or re-routed

The ride’s length is shown along with a

and maps can occasionally prove misleading. Make sure you are fully prepared for

set of estimated ride completion times.

every navigational eventuality and, even more importantly, ensure that you’re

It is very important that you understand

confident you are up to the route.

that these show riding time only, they do not account for stops, lunch breaks,

This guide is not meant solely as a ticklist, although it would be a remarkably good way to experience the very best road riding that Great Britain has to offer.

mechanicals or any other factor. They

The routes are split into four distinct regions so home in on where you think

only measure the estimated time you

you might want to ride and have a browse. Each ride begins with some introductory

will spend riding.

text where I’ve attempted to give you a flavour of the route. This is followed by a little more description of the ride itself. Hopefully having read these you’ll be hooked and decide that this is a route you’d like to take on. I’ve ridden every single one of them in a day, and while they are not intended as touring routes, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t plan them as extended trips if you so wish. These are all long rides and I appreciate the need for shorter loops for those challenged by time or massive ‘to do’ lists. Therefore I’ve created a ‘shorter option’ for each loop. This typically cuts at least a third of the distance from a route but hopefully maintains some of its majesty. An overview map shows you the outline of the ride so that you can properly understand where it’s located. There’s a more detailed ride map which properly describes the route to aid your planning; this is marked up with the highlighted climbs of the ride along with the starting point. The climbs are detailed further within the ride statistics. Most cyclists love a good statistic, and this book is oozing with them. For each route you’ll find a detailed statistics page which includes a set of diagrams designed to help you decide whether this ride is for you.

THE DASHBOARD The dashboard gives you an overview of the ride’s length, severity and why you should ride it. Let’s take each panel in turn:

18

GREAT BRITISH BIKE RIDES

1

3 2 4


The timings have been calculated on the following basis, it’s up to you to work out

own personal benchmark. The most

which category you will fall into:

important factor of all is making sure

AVG. SPEED ON FLAT

AVG. SPEED 1 IN 10 ASCENT

AVG. SPEED 1 IN 10 DESCENT

that you allow enough time to finish

FAST

18.6mph

11.8mph

20.9mph

within daylight, unless you plan to ride

MEDIUM

14mph

9mph

20mph

with lights. Finally we show the total

AVERAGE

12mph

6mph

18mph

ascent. This is calculated from mapping data and may occasionally vary from

Remember that this does not take into account stopping at junctions, traffic lights

your own readings when using a GPS.

or poor weather conditions. So the timings must be extrapolated to arrive at your

This can often be due to inaccuracies in barometric height measurement or other factors. 2

This next panel gives a view as to

the motivations for completing this ride.

5

I’ve broken it down into four factors

6

and scored each on a scale of 1 to 3: Scenic – how much lovely countryside you will see on the way; Wild – how isolated you will feel while riding the route; Classic – a measure of how iconic this route is within the cycling annals;

7

Challenging – how physically hard is the ride. 3

Then there are a set of gradings for

the ride along with some gear and tyre advice. You’ll become more comfortable with these as you ride more of the routes yourself but hopefully they will give you some further pointers for preparation.

Ride Grade This scores the overall difficulty of the route using the following gradings: Moderate – the ride presents reasonable physical challenge but

8

9

should be well within the capabilities of any cyclist who has ridden a ride of 50 miles or more. Difficult – the ride presents increased physical challenge and will need a good degree of fitness and roadcraft to complete.

HOW TO USE THIS GUIDE

19


Serious – the ride is very physically challenging and may include some extremely

5

Route Profile

strenuous and sustained climbing. Only the committed, well prepared and fit cyclist

The route profile shows you how the

should attempt this route.

ride undulates along its length and

Extreme – sustained periods of extremely difficult climbing along with an extended

points out the location of the featured

overall distance, sometimes in excess of one hundred miles. These routes will need

climbs. Use this to work out where and

careful planning and high degrees of fitness if they are to be completed within a

when you’ll be climbing and how this

single day.

fits with the way you prefer to ride. Some cyclists like to get it all done early

Routing Grade

on the ride, others like a challenge right

A short few words to describe how hard the route is to follow while riding the bike.

at the end. This diagram will give you a

Every ride in the book is available as a GPX download and I would urge you to use

feel as to what is to come as the ride

one as a navigational aid. However, you may choose to stick with the tried and

unrolls and means you cannot blame me

tested map. These words will guide you as to how difficult the ride is to navigate.

for the ‘stinker’ of a climb that appears unexpectedly near the end. Sadly, every

Climbing Grade

ride has usually one.

The climbing grade reflects the amount and difficulty of the ascent you will encounter while on the ride.

6

Hill Analysis

Moderate – some climbing but nothing too strenuous.

This graph shows you the make up of

Difficult – a little more lumpy, the occasional out of the saddle moment,

the climbs within the ride. The horizontal

some long hilly sections.

scale shows the number of climbs and

Serious – sections of sustained climbing with gradients that can exceed 18%.

the vertical scale the distance you will

Extreme – climbing features constantly throughout the ride and gradients

climb for each category. The graph is

on certain climbs can be as high as 30%.

calculated from the categorised climbs and hence may not add up to the total

Gearing

ride ascent. Each coloured box shows

The gearing grading gives some pointer as to the recommended bike set up for

the extent to the climbs for that

the ride. Clearly gearing is a personal preference, but I’ve based this on the

category. The colours follow climbing

climbing grade and pointed out where a compact chainset may come in handy.

gradient and climb categorisations: Moderate

Wheels/Tyres

Difficult

These rides take in the whole of Great Britain and as all cyclists are aware, road surfaces

Serious

can vary. I’ve taken the whole route into account and offered some advice as to the

Extreme

types of road surface that may be encountered. Make your own decision as to what wheels and tyres to bring, however, I’d make a point of leaving the carbon rims and

I’ve graded the climbs using a complex

lightweight tyres at home when rough surfaces feature at any point within a ride.

formula that works on an analysis of the GPX trail after I’ve ridden each route.

4

Road Classification

I won’t explain it in detail here, but

The road classification meter shows you at a glance the types of road that the route

simplistically the gradings are worked

covers. As you can see, the example shown has a reasonably even distribution of A, B

out as follows:

and U road classifications and the percentage of each is given. Use this to plan your

GRADIENT

quiet days and to give you a feel as to how much traffic you will encounter. The simple

Moderate up to 6%

rule of thumb is ‘the more yellow, the fewer cars’.

Difficult

20

GREAT BRITISH BIKE RIDES

up to 10%

Serious

up to 16%

Extreme

greater than 16%


KEY The lengths of climbs are factored into this equation to arrive at a category for each.

DIRECTION ICONS

These are not cast in stone, but are consistently calculated throughout the book. So you’ll get a feel for the climbing grade you like and those that may be beyond your reach.

Highlight Climbs

l

=

Start

Ù

=

Turn L

Ú

=

Turn R

For each ride I’ve picked out up to six sections of riding that make up the best climbs.

Û

=

Straight ahead

These are then graded and the diagrams show how the gradients change as you

=

Down

ascend the climb. The colour bands show where the various sustained gradients are

P

=

Roundabout

and follow the ratings in the previous table. Some climbs follow known named British

=

Fork L

road climbs, others are simply sections of the map that I’ve named after a local road

=

Fork R

or feature. Use these diagrams to get a feel for the detail of the climbing on the ride

=

Bear L

and whether you feel up to long sections of ‘serious’ gradient.

=

Bear R

=

Keep L

Ò

=

Keep R

This section provides you with a snippet of mapping and some detail as to where to

=

Sharp L

start the map. I’ve provided co-ordinates in OS grid and WGS84 latitude and longitude

u

=

Sharp R

to help guide you to the start. Please ensure that you park legally and with the

=

Bridge

consent of the landowner if you decide to travel by car. Also, remember that each

SP

=

Signposted

ride is a loop and you don’t necessarily have to start at my recommended position.

=

No/Insignificant Distance

=

Ferry

l

=

Finish

7

8

9

Recommended Start

Wind and best time to ride

This contains some advice concerning the best days/months/seasons to undertake the ride along with a diagram to give you an idea as to the best prevailing wind. Some rides are very long and can take over nine hours to complete. In the depths

MAP ICONS

of winter this may require lights and I’d hate you to miss out on some of the views. This is why certain routes are recommended for the longer days. Others are located

=

Start

in tourist traps and best attempted away from the crowds and some routes will be

=

Start of climb

completely shut if it snows! The compass diagram allows you to plan with the wind. It shows you the

=

End of climb

=

Route direction

percentage of the ride that you’ll be undertaking in each direction in order that you

=

Shorter option

pick the best day to ride. Each twist and turn in the road is accounted for. I prefer to

=

Body of water

ride out into the wind and return with it aiding my route home. This means that on days with northerly winds I like to ride a loop that involves a decent amount of north

MAIN MAP SCALE

and south. The compass diagram tells me just that. When you’re planning a route, check out the weather forecast and compare the winds to the compass. Will you

1 grid =

10km

spend a disproportionate amount of time riding into it? If so, consider the route for another day.

HOW TO USE THIS GUIDE

21


SOUTHERN ENGLAND 12 rides – 1,503km – 22,046 metres ascent. It’s tempting to think of the riding in southern England as green, agricultural, sedate and mainly flat. However, this part of the country goes out of its way to lull you into a false sense of security. There’s a huge network of tough rides to be had within its network of thin lanes.


I think Exmoor is one of the hardest rides in this book. Dunkery Beacon is like a terrier biting away at your legs, determined to never let go no matter how hard you kick. This climb comes early in the ride, with loads more to come; only the scenery saves you from the savagery. Its cousins in Dartmoor are equally tenacious; hills that make no excuses for their difficulty and have flashed grimaces of pain on the faces of pros and amateurs alike. Yet both of these rides have a wilderness feel as you circumnavigate wild moors and hide away in tiny lanes. The Cornish loop provides the most westerly English challenge and attempts to destroy stereotypes of sandy beaches and relaxation. This is another challenging bike ride that takes you away from the holiday camps and into the wilder areas. Further east Cheddar beckons, probably the most profound British gorge road, part of a relatively flat route that has a touch of the Netherlands about it. Dropping down to Dorset you’ll encounter a loop with a ferry crossing and a chance to take in the whole of Poole Harbour. Plenty of drama is thrown in en route, including a section of firing range. Cyclists have known about the New Forest for years and the ride from Keyhaven showcases a fantastic route through trees and across the moors. Make a weekend of it and head over to the Isle of Wight for a demanding circumnavigation of the island replete with non-stop sea views, rolling roads, a chain ferry and the country’s most eccentric theme park at Blackgang Chine.

Wiltshire presents any cyclist with a perfect challenge; tick off all of its white horses in a single ride, then take a trip a few miles north and complete a road cyclist’s tribute to the Cotswolds. Eighty miles of quiet lanes following a route designed by a club captain with many years of cycling experience. The Chilterns is another area with a huge cycling heritage and used to host innumerable road races. Sadly, many of these are gone, but the roads are still there along with a perfect balance between challenge and enjoyment. This heritage continues with the loop through the Ashdown Forest celebrating a ride that’s been run for many years along with York Hill that lays claim to being the scene of the first ever road race. Finally, there’s Surrey, home of Box Hill, the 2012 Olympic road race route and a loop that takes in Richmond Park, two ‘must do’ sections for any Great British bike rider.


CHEDDAR GORGE


102km/63.5mi/SERIOUS


CORNWALL A TOUGH COAST TO COAST THROUGH CORNWALL’S HIDDEN LANES

When you think of Cornwall you visualise pasties, sandy beaches and ice cream; idyllic summer days spent lounging on the beach watching the kids splash about in the waves.

route and that is what I have constructed

But Cornwall has a harsher side to it which is waiting to be discovered by the

of the mind in road cycling heritage?

determined cyclist. It’s hilly – in fact scratch that, it’s really hilly – and it’s almost

Try typing ‘famous Cornish cyclists’ into

impossible to find a flat ride in Cornwall. You’re either gurning up a hill or careering

Google and you’ll be disappointed.

downwards, desperately trying to avoid tractors or errant holidaymakers.

Yet there is a thriving scene, with local

here. There are not many British rides where you can cross a country in a single day and still be home for tea. So why isn’t Cornwall near the front

Cornwall doesn’t really do shallow hills, it likes them sharp, steep and to the

crits and time trials being run from

point. It’s got some of the hardest riding in the UK and you’re going to feel your legs

Penzance to Plymouth. Look up the

after a ride around here! Halfway through you will ask yourself if the gradients will

Penzance Wheelers for example and

ever ease off and allow you to rest. I’m afraid the answer is that they won’t and no

you will see that they run a whole series

you can’t. Land’s End to John o’Groats riders quite rightly fear the Cornish stage of

of events throughout the year. Why not

their trip – there is simply no way of escaping the hills down here.

ride this route one day and race the

Cornwall also has a deep industrial heritage, much of it based around stuff that

next? (Or race first so as to save the

has been dug from its soil and shipped off elsewhere to be turned into products.

legs if you’ve got anything of a

This ride eschews the sandy beach views and ice cream parlours in favour of dark

competitive side!)

back lanes and quiet Cornish roads. It gives you a flavour of both the area’s tough

Cornwall is a land of discovery for

riding and its industry as you are dragged along tiny, high-hedged lanes through

road cyclists, as long as you are prepared

an undulating landscape and over a working quarry, getting a real feel for Cornish

to forego the main roads in favour of

cycling in the process.

the lanes. The lanes can be daunting

One of Cornwall’s great advantages is that it is one of the few counties with

as some are very narrow, high-sided

a north and south coast. Therefore it clearly lends itself to a ‘coast to coast in a day’

and usually offer a complete lack of passing places. But that’s Cornwall for you, and meeting agricultural vehicles or caravans misdirected by their SatNav devices simply serves to enrich the

Newquay A3075

experience. Deal with that and what A30

A392

you’ll find is a great workout in the hills, superb scenery to distract you from

Goonhavern

A3058

St Austell

the pain and a really unique place to ride your bicycle.

A39 A390

Truro

A3078

Mevagissey

“…it’s hilly – in fact scratch that, it’s really hilly…”

CORNWALL – SOUTHERN ENGLAND

27


SOLITUDE AND SINGLETRACK ROAD

ROUTE DESCRIPTION I suggest that you kick off from Mevagissey. It’s a nice little seaside town that has

land littered with cycling opportunities

a whole host of calorific food options for the end of the ride. (Trust me you will need

and from Foxhole that’s exactly what

them.) You’ll begin nervously, fighting through its narrow lanes past bemused

you get. Look north to where you’ve

tourists looking for their bed and breakfast accommodation. Then the climbing

been and exhale an exhausted ‘phew’,

starts and you’ll feel right at home as you grind your way up the beautiful coastal

then look south towards your final

roads before turning inland at East Portholland. The lanes begin proper from here

destination and realise, with some relief,

on and the traffic dissipates. You follow National Cycle Route 3 (‘Chalk and Clays’)

that the ride is almost done.

to the Tresillian River on roads that vary from idyllic thin slabs of tarmac to can-a-cow-really-eat-that-much-grass-in-a-day spattered and rutted lanes.

It’s mostly downhill from here, but this is Cornwall, where you are always less than

Current OS maps show that NCN 3 goes over the river by a ferry. Good luck –

a mile from a climb… Green lanes drag you

when I got there I found a huge sign saying ‘Pedestrians only… no bikes’ so I’ve

down from Foxhole, through Sticker and

added in a little diversion to Tresillian and into Truro via a nice little back road and

back to the sea from whence you came.

a ludicrously small road tunnel, taller riders on ‘gate’ like bikes… watch out! You leave Truro via a gorgeous set of lanes that climb up through forest and

SHORTER OPTION

then abandon the NCN at the A30 crossing, heading instead towards Goonhavern,

There are plenty of opportunities for

where the scenery becomes more agricultural. A few more lanes and you’ve made

shortcuts along the way as this part

it to Perranporth. Nip down to the village for a proper Cornish tourist experience –

of the country is littered with roads.

a pasty and a cup of coffee. Choose carefully, as Cornish pasties vary from a sublime

Just promise me that you will steer clear

combination of tender meats, potatoes and firm, crisp pastry to some manky old

of the A30, or ‘Cornwall’s M4’, as I like

mince served up in a covering of sock. If it comes in a packet, avoid.

to call it. This is a nasty, featureless

More lanes and hills take you to Newquay, which can be avoided if you wish but

and busy bit of road populated by

I like to remind myself of why I avoid it on my Cornish holidays in favour of the more

impatient holidaymakers with cars full

quaint villages. An eclectic collection of tacky B&Bs line the A3058 as you dash out

of children being sick.

of town and are reunited with NCN 3. You now start to climb and the route begins

Looking at the map I would find it

to really stick the knife in. An increasingly challenging set of undulations wind their

hard to create a shorter loop as the

way up to the highpoint of the ride at Foxhole. You nip through Indian Queens,

epicness of the coast to coast journey

apparently named after a pub, and then climb through the clay workings to the

would be lost. Maybe skip Newquay by

summit and my favourite views of the trip.

riding from Trevoll straight to White Cross

For sure it’s nice to gaze over a sandy beach, but we’re cyclists, aren’t we, and we can’t ride our bikes over water without extreme modification. I prefer to gaze out over 28

GREAT BRITISH BIKE RIDES

using the minor roads and bringing the ride down to less than 60 miles.


DIS. CUM.

INSTRUCTION

0 0 l Turn left out of car park and head SE Valley Road

a 2.5 57.3 Ù Crossroads in village, turn left SP Trerice then keep left, SP Trerice

0.2 0.2 Û Follow one way system around centre onto Polkirt Hill, SP Portmellon

0.9 58.2 

Fork left SP Trerice

0.7 0.9 Ù

Turn left

1 59.2 Ú

Turn right at crossroads follow blue cycle sign

2.5 3.4 Ò

Keep right SP blue ‘cycle’ sign (NCN 3)

0.8 60 

Keep left

1 4.4 Ù

Turn left SP Boswinger and Penare

0.6 60.6 Ù Turn left round NT property (Trerice) following blue cycle signs

7 11.4 Ù Turn left on bend, SP Veryan, then keep left SP Veryan

2.4 63 Û

Straight over at A392

2.4 13.8 Ù

T-junction, turn left SP Veryan

2 65 Ú

Turn right over two mini roundabouts, SP Truro

1.1 14.9 Ú

T-junction, turn right SP Tregony

1 66 Ù

Turn left SP Wadebridge

0.5 15.4 Ù

T-junction, turn left, A3078 SP St Mawes

1 67 Ú

Turn right SP Colan

0.4 15.8 Ú

Turn right SP Lamorran

1.7 68.7 Ò

Keep right

2.2 18 Ú

Crossroads, turn right SP Ruan Lanihorne

4.1 72.8 Ú

Turn right at farm

0.9 18.9 Ò

Keep right into Ruan Lanihorne

0.3 73.1 Ú

T-junction, turn right

0.2 19.1 

Fork left in village

1.6 74.7 Û  Straight over at crossroads SP Newlyn East

2.2 21.3 Ù

T-junction, turn left SP St Michael Penkivel

3.4 24.7 Ú T-junction, turn right, then follow road right

then fork left 3 77.7 Ù

T-junction, turn left

past passenger ferry sign

0.3 78 P

Roundabout, 2nd exit Fraddon Hill

3.6 28.3 

Keep left SP Tresillian

0.8 78.8 P

Mini roundabout, 1st exit, straight SP St Dennis

0.2 28.5 

Keep left SP Tresillian

0.7 79.5 P

Roundabout, 2nd exit SP St Dennis

1.5 30 Ù

T-junction, turn left, A390

0.3 79.8 P

Roundabout, 2nd exit SP St Dennis

1.7 31.7 Ù

Turn left SP Pencalenick

0.2 80 P

Roundabout, 2nd exit SP Parkandillick

3.2 34.9 P Roundabout, 3rd exit, St Clement Street

2.1 82.1 Ò

Keep right SP Treviscoe

SP Perranporth

1.9 84 Ò

Keep right

0.5 35.4 Ú

Turn right, Moresk Road

1.9 85.9 Ù

T-junction, turn left SP Nanpean

0.4 35.8 Ù

Turn left, SP 13’3” Height Restriction

1.2 87.1 Ú

Turn right

1.8 37.6 Ú

T-junction, turn right

1.3 88.4 ÚÙÙ T-junction, turn right, then left, then left

0.4 38 Ò

Keep right after phonebox

1.2 39.2 Ò

Keep right by houses

0.8 89.2 Ú

Turn right SP High Street

1 40.2 Ù

T-junction, turn left following blue cycle signs

0.8 90 

Fork left

0.5 40.7 Ú Crossroads, turn right following blue cycle

again into Chegwins Hill

0.9 90.9 Û

Straight over A3058

signs (NCN 32)

0.4 91.3 u

T-junction, sharp right SP St Stephens Coombe

2.3 43 Û

Crossroads, straight over SP Goonhavern

1.2 92.5 Ù

Turn left SP Sticker

3.3 46.3 PP

Keep left at both mini roundabouts (1st exits)

1.2 93.7 Û

Straight over at crossroads

0.2 46.5 Ú

Turn right SP Reen Cross

1.1 94.8 ÙÚ T-junction, turn left SP St Austell, then right

0.7 47.2 Û

Straight over at crossroads

1.3 48.5 ÚÚ

Crossroads, turn right, then right again

1.3 96.1 Û

Straight over at crossroads SP St Ewe

0.6 49.1 Û

Keep straight through houses

2.8 98.9 Ù

T-junction, turn left SP Mevagissey

0.5 49.6 ÙÚ T-junction, turn left, B3285, then right SP Mount

0.3 99.2 Ù

T-junction, turn left SP Mevagissey

2.7 52.3 Ù

Turn left over stone bridge

2.3 101.5 Ú

Turn right, B3273 SP Mevagissey

1.3 53.6 Ú

T-junction, turn right SP Perranporth

0.5 102 l

Finish

1.2 54.8 Û

Straight over A3075

SP Mevagissey

“…For sure it is nice to gaze over a sandy beach, but we’re cyclists aren’t we?”

CORNWALL – SOUTHERN ENGLAND

29


Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2011, OpenStreetmap data © OpenStreetMap contributors.

DASHBOARD LENGTH/DURATION Ride Length

MOTIVATIONS

GRADINGS

SCENIC

102km/63.5mi

Ride Grade

Duration (Fast) 03:43 Duration (Med) 04:45

WILD

CLASSIC

Duration (Avg) 05:58 Total Ascent

30

1,979m/6,493ft

GREAT BRITISH BIKE RIDES

CHALLENGING

Serious

ROAD CLASSIFICATION 90%

Routing Grade Involved

70%

Climbing Grade Serious

50%

Gearing

Compact

30%

Wheels/Tyres

Some rough surfaces

10%

MINOR

71%

B

10% 19%

A


ROUTE INFORMATION ROUTE PROFILE

1400 5

6

1200

250 150 50 40

60

80

100

20

HEIGHT GAINED (m)

4

0.6

DISTANCE (km)

100

60

0.8

1

60

10

12

2

DISTANCE (km)

0.4

0.6

DISTANCE (km)

500

50

0.8

1

1.2

3.34km

Max Gradient: Avg Gradient: Max Altitude: Rating:

10.6% 4.1% 121m Moderate

30 10 1

1.5

60

2

DISTANCE (km)

500 100

20

18.5% 8.6% 142m Serious

20

0.5

6

6.2% 3% 209m Moderate

1

8

1.07km

Max Gradient: Avg Gradient: Max Altitude: Rating:

1.2

3.68km

Max Gradient: Avg Gradient: Max Altitude: Rating:

HEIGHT GAINED (m)

10

0.4

6

100

70

17.3% 7% 90m Serious 34m

HEIGHT GAINED (m)

30

4

0.2

1.13km

Max Gradient: Avg Gradient: Max Altitude: Rating:

599m

Moderate 24.56km

3

DISTANCE (km)

50

0.2

5

2

HEIGHT GAINED (m)

21.5% 6.1% 154m Serious

1

3

2

3.56km

101m

60

Max Gradient: Avg Gradient: Max Altitude: Rating:

400

NUMBER OF CLIMBS

81m

HEIGHT GAINED (m)

100

439m

Difficult 15.33km

600

2

HEIGHT GAINED (m)

HIGHLIGHT CLIMBS 1 500

800

200

DISTANCE (km)

222m

87m

20

Serious 5.76km

1000

66m

4

2.5

3

2.12km

Max Gradient: Avg Gradient: Max Altitude: Rating:

16.6% 6.4% 304m Difficult

98m

3

1260m

2

HEIGHT CLIMBED (m)

1

304m

ALTITUDE (m)

350

HILL ANALYSIS CLIMBS

20

3

0.5

1

DISTANCE (km)

1.5

2

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION RECOMMENDED START

WIND AND BEST TIME TO RIDE

Main car park in Mevagissey.

Recommended

Avoid

Lat: N 50.271744 Lon: W 4.790671 OS: SX 012 450

All year round.

Peak holiday periods.

N 8%

13%

W

12%

23%

18%

8%

E

15% 3%

S

CORNWALL – SOUTHERN ENGLAND

31

Profile for Vertebrate Publishing

Great British Bike Rides - Sample Pages  

Sample pages from our British road cycling guide Great British Bike Rides, written by Dave Barter. This book features 40 classic routes fo...

Great British Bike Rides - Sample Pages  

Sample pages from our British road cycling guide Great British Bike Rides, written by Dave Barter. This book features 40 classic routes fo...