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Thursday 23 May 2024

Cycling the Way of the Roses


Is Tgis Mutton's Gail Hanlon and husband at the start of the 170 mile long Way of the Roses from Morecambe to Bridlington

Dear friends.  We've just spent an enjoyable few days in the north of England on a guided cycling tour following the "Way of the Roses."

The Way of the Roses is a spectacular coast to coast cycle route which passes through both the red rose county of Lancashire and the white rose county of Yorkshire.

It wasn't a gifted break, we went under our own steam. The idea was to treat this as a training opportunity for a longer cycling holiday in August.  We went with Peak Tours who provide a full guided experience. 

What the Organisers Provide:

  • Detailed itinerary and guide for each day, with GPX files;
  • Transportation of our bags to each night's accommodation;
  • "Brew stops" where a van would provide us with drinks and snacks, usually setting up on pretty village greens where possible;
  • A guide cycling with the group each day, plus van back up with a trained first aider;
  • All the arrangements for accommodation and meals that were included.  
  • Bike hire if needed (including ebikes).

Day 1 - London to Morecambe (non-cycling day)

The 170 mile ride (273km) starts in the coastal town of Morecambe in Lancashire. We went by car. John's analogue bike was on the roof and my ebike was inside, having been taken apart. It was a long drive but not too busy, and we were checked in by 3pm.

We took some photos at the iconic Eric Morecambe statue. Eric, a much loved British comedian, grew up in Morecambe and changed his name from  Bartholomew to Morecambe for the stage. 

Strangely,  local people didn't like the statue at first and it was removed after being vandalised. 

Gail Hanlon from Is This Mutton poses next to the Eric Morecambe statue in the coastal town of Morecambe, Lancs

We met the rest of the group, in all 21 people, as we met in reception to walk to our dinner destination.  The majority was aged 50 plus, with just a few younger than that, and all quite serious cyclists. There were two other people who had brought their own ebikes. 

Day 2 - Morecambe to Settle, 35 miles

After a group photo at the start of the challenge we set off on the shortest rides of the four days. The group doesn't stay together, it would be impractical, and people cycle at different speeds. John had the route on his Garmin, mounted on his handlebars.

After an easy start and just a few hill rises we arrived at Gressingham, after 14 miles, for the first brew stop.

Lunch was at the Game Cock Inn in Austwick where we enjoyed pre-ordered paninis with coleslaw and chips.  By now the sun was out, which was an added bonus.  

It looks as if some of the group were so keen to have lunch they couldn't wait to throw their bikes down! 

It didn't take us long to get to Settle and our accommodation at the Harts Head Hotel, Giggleswick. My ebike was stored for the night, along with all the others, and the battery charged in our room.  Not everyone was staying at the same hotel but those of us who were had dinner together.  On the landing was a small fridge with complimentary bottled water and fresh milk for drinks, which was a nice touch.

Day 2:  Settle to Ripon, 42 miles 

Described as the hardest day of the tour. We met up in Settle town square for the morning briefing and then set off, immediately encountering "heartbreak hill," a very steep climb out of Settle.  For an ebike it was a doddle and I finished first and waited at the top to take a few pictures as the group went by. 

The first brew stop was at a picturesque spot, Burnsall village green, at 16 miles.  There were plenty of healthy snacks  (fruit, nuts) plus sweet treats  (cakes, biscuits, sweets). 

It was mostly cloudy and the sky darkened as we cycled over hilly roads across the bleak moors to get to Pateley Bridge for lunch.  There was a very steep descent into the village on a 20% hill, and I had a campervan behind me all the way, but it wasn't too impatient. 

At the Pately Bridge tea rooms I had a welcome cheese and chutney sandwich and flat white. 

The sun came out after the afternoon brew stop.  There was a pleasant diversion through the grounds of a country park, Newby Hall.

 Arriving at the elegant and historic town of Ripon we checked into the Crescent Lodge guest house.  We made our own arrangements for dinner and two other couples joined us at the Portofino restaurant in the centre of town.  I was alarmed at the size of the lasagne and feared I was visibly putting on weight. 

A 9pm every evening an ancient ceremony is enacted.  A horn is blown at the four corners of the obelisk in Ripon's Market Square, and again in front of the Mayor, wherever he or she is in Ripon, to set the 'watch'. The tradition is first mentioned in Ripon's 'Towne Book' of 1598 and was already well established by then. I must confessed we missed it:  we had already headed back to the guest house. 

Day 3: Ripon to Pocklington, 49 miles

Described as the longest,but easiest, day - although not for me on my ebike. A hilly day is easier because the battery takes you over hills very easily. On sustained flat terrain, the bike will not give assistance past 16mph  (legally), but lighter road bikes will easily be reaching much higher speeds.  It's tough pushing the bike to go faster as my ebike weighs 25kg.

Lots of variety in scenery and terrain today.   We had an all-too-brief stop in York for lunch.  A traffic free cycle path took us into the centre of York, past the Minster. The place was really bustling.

Pocklington was bathed in bright sunshine as we checked into the Feathers, where we all had dinner together.  Below: some of the local sights to see. 

Day 5:  Pocklington to Bridlington - 43 miles

A harder ride in terms of hills than yesterday.  I actually wore my new sunglasses today, yay, and was able to take off my gilet.  

The last few miles to coastal town Bridlington were tough thanks to a chilly cross wind. We'd been asked to meet up as a group before the finish so that we could ride there together.  John and I arrived in fourth and fifth position.  This had been our usual placing in the "peloton."

After 45 minutes or so everyone else had arrived and we cycled down to the finish waymarker for the finish picture.  It was extremely busy in Bridlington, and that, coupled with the fierce wind, meant we didn't do the usual cycle along the promenade. I'm third from the right, in my green anorak.

Lunch was buffet style at a nearby leisure centre.  My goodness, it was well earned today. 

It was time for some goodbyes after lunch as those catching trains set off.  The rest of us were going back to collect cars at Morecambe, a 3 hour minibus drive.   John and I stayed overnight which was a good plan because we didn't get back until 8.15. 

The next day we found our car, which had been parked for a daily fee at the hotel, had been deliberately damaged, which was a bit upsetting.

On the plus side, I didn't need to worry about piling on weight:  I was at the same weight when I got home, with slightly reduced body fat and a lower resting heart rate. All good. 

I was extremely thankful for the ebike:  I've had it a year now and in that time have learned "roadcraft," as I didn't have much prior experience of cycling.  I got the ebike in order to have a shared hobby with John, who's been a keen cyclist for many years. He used to commute to work in the City.  The ebike  means I can keep up with him. I would never have got to the standard needed on an analogue bike in just a few months. 

In summary:  a terrific holiday with good company and lots of laughs, plus outstanding scenery.  The guided tour option is excellent for cyclists as it means bikes are stored safely each night.  If you were booking your own accommodation you would have to ascertain this each time, and it's more complicated with ebikes because some hotels won't allow batteries in the room, or  allow bikes with integrated batteries. This is because of fires caused by illegal ebikes. 

Packing Notes: 4 days cycling, 2 days of travel 

You have to keep packing to a minimum because if your luggage is more than 18kg, it won't be carried to your room each night!

Here are some brief notes on what I took, clothing and cycle gear. We used two soft North Face holdalls which are perfect for this type of holiday.

Cycling gear

3 cycling jackets, one with long sleeves 
3 pairs of cycling shorts   (if you prefer bib shorts I recommend Endura who produce a pair with an ingenious "flap" to allow women to have a wee without taking everything off!). 
Cycling shoes
One gilet
Wet weather/wind cheater jacket
Deluge trousers
Waterproof over shoes
Travel detergent to wash shorts each night 
Bum butter 
Inner tube, bike pump, essential tools
Lights for front and back of bike (not essential, but useful - means we are always visible).

Non-cycling gear

4 tops
1 fleece
1 jacket  (not needed)
1 cardigan 
Pair of jeans
Pair of crops 
Pair of trainers 

Sharing my posts with these fantastic sites. 

Have you any great memories of cycling holidays?  Any plans to start exploring this way?  Do tell in the comments. 


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