Don’t keep to the road 100 km


Is this the UK’s toughest 100 km? It was certainly mine.

This ride isn’t some sort of trick; the route and detailed explanations of the off-road sections were sent to us by organiser Dean, including ‘don’t expect to be able to ride up the incline’. The incline in question is a unpaved, steep track up from Ingleby to the plateau of the North York Moors which was originally a rail track, moving rocks from the quarries up on the moors to the main train line lower down on more sensible terrain. It wasn’t the only bit of rough stuff though; the route also crosses a steep track over Rudland Rigg between Farndale and Bransdale, a forest road around Rievaulx Moor, and a byway over Arden Moor from Hawnby back to civilisation. And we were also warned about the full moon.

The first section was a relatively flat and rural ride to Ingleby, although just to give a taste of things to come we did follow a section of a BOAT which was full of mud and puddles that required some of us to walk around the more unpredictable sections (is this a shallow puddle or will I fall and sink into it?). It also set the weather tone for the day – it was glorious, but difficult. Cold (freezing, literally) but also bright sun which was warm when in it. Combined with steep uphill heat-producing climbs, and steep downhill chill-inducing descents, many layers were needed but they were constantly damp.

Approaching the incline was a forrest track which looked delightful but I felt like I was riding through treacle; I’m still not sure if that was me, the bike, or the imperceptible gradient. The walk up the incline was hard going, and I was even overtaken by another (walking) participant. Once at the top though it is a fantastic ride, around 10 km of fairly flat hard packed track around the top of Farndale to the Lion Inn. I’m not sure of the legality of the few off-road motorbikes that were around, but they passed fairly slowly with plenty of space, so no complaints.

The Lion was pretty busy, but I found a little table next to the bar. I thought I would be delayed waiting for food but they were amazingly efficient, I had hardly sat down before my sandwich appeared. They certainly know what they are doing. This was the last time I saw anyone else on the ride, and to be honest I was pleasantly surprised that I had at least made good enough progress to overlap with them at the halfway (in distance) point.

After a significant descent across Farndale the route once again leaves tarmac to follow a track across Rudland Ridge. This was crazily steep in parts for another BOAT – a quad bike and Landrover came up and I think I would have been unsettled in those.

Once on the top I got to ride a bit, and passed a few walkers. There then followed the descent into Bransdale which Dean had accurately described as ‘the most technical section‘. It wasn’t single track, but it was steep, rough, and eroded so there were muddy sections and big ruts. I had to walk a significant part of it, and have no idea how those on more road type bikes got on.

Once the road was met again near Cockayne progress improved. Here, following the curve around the valley head, a barn owl swooped across the road in front of me to perch just to my left. As I got nearer it moved a few metres ahead, to be repeated several times before the road took me away from its habitat. What a treat. I got to the top of this spur and stopped to put an extra layer on, anticipating the chill of the next descent.

A sharp turn off the road by an interesting stone took me on a wonderful forest track around the north end of Rievaulx Moor. Once again I had to walk up the steeper sections. I disturbed a couple of deer in the trees and was able to see the white rear end of one of them bouncing away into the woods for quite some time.

Tarmac once again met, the next stop and only section of the ride that was familiar was at Hawnby. This control offered a choice of tearoom/shop at the bottom of the hill, or pub at the top. Given my arrival time I assumed the tearoom would be closed (incorrect as it turned out), and I was not about to descend to find out only to have to go back up the hill, so I stopped at the Owl Inn. It’s quite a posh place, even the little dog that came and sat in my seat when I went to the loo was wearing a bowtie, so I felt a little out out of place, sweaty and mud-splattered as I was. The bartender was perfectly welcoming though, and after the ride I learned that they even had a stamp I could have asked for. Orange juice and soda, and salted crisps consumed, I was ready for the final stretch.

The road becomes a BOAT at Arden Hall. I walked up most of this climb. A couple in a car coming the other way (brave move in itself) stopped to ask where I was heading. When I said Northallerton they responded with “that’s a long way”; given that I was 80% done I thought it best not to elaborate. They also warned it would be dark by the time I got there, which had occurred to me.

Once I finally got to the top of the climb I was rewarded with a decent track over the plateaux, solitude, and a full moon rise behind me. Well, we were warned…it was a little eerie but also magical.

Our track meets the Cleveland way, as well as a tarmac route off the moors, at a cross roads. A couple were just leaving by car and we managed a mutually beneficial arrangement through a couple of gates. The roads were dark and very quiet now but I kept getting sight of the moon in my peripheral vision and thinking it was car headlights approaching from behind. I was also tiring and had one final stop not that far out of Northallerton to eat the last few Vimto fried eggs (highly recommended if you ever see them) from my stash.

When I finally reached the scout and guide hut, Dean broke it to me that I was about 5 minutes after the cut-off time. I hadn’t looked at my watch for quite a while but this didn’t come as a huge surprise, given how much walking I had done. I was so happy to have finished, not tempted to head back the way we came after the Lion Inn (described as the point of no return), not to mention enjoying the amazing landscapes and atmospheres that this part of the country has to offer. Fortunately for all concerned the riders on the 200 km (Three Bromptons, a Moulton and a Bickerton – that’s the name of the ride, not the entrants) were still arriving back so I hadn’t caused the fantastic band of helpers to be waiting only for me. These included Kat who had arrived on the same train as me and spent all day cooking and washing up, and Debbie and Colin who’d ridden the 50 km and then promptly rolled their sleeves up and staffed the kitchen. I was fed some excellent cheesy cauliflower soup, although sadly didn’t have room for many of the other splendid things on offer, although managed to sneak some parkin passed my digestive reluctance.

Health annoyances had kept me from cycling much over the last year or so, and it’s been a while since I did much more than my short commute, so I wasn’t as fit as I have managed to be in the past (and that itself wasn’t anything of note). I was riding my usual tourer but with its touring (rather than audax) wheels so it wasn’t the lightest, but having recently tried converting to straight bars it felt quite suitable for this ride. I would have really struggled on drops. It still feels like some sort of achievement to be out of time on a 100 km. What comes after full value? Overdrawn?

103 km, 1523 m ascent, average moving speed 13.7 kph, 10 hours.