Time to myself today, loneliness and cycling; so I headed out to the North Yorkshire Moors to feel the raw exhilaration of being blasted by the weather. I just hadn't appreciated how wild today was going to be.
Leaving the Tees Valley I was passed by two groups of Cleveland Wheelers heading off for their club runs and sensibly choosing to ride out into a headwind so they could enjoy the tailwind at the end of the ride. I, on the other hand, was foolishly enjoying the feeling of being a cycling God bowling along at a great pace, wind assisted.
Heading towards Kildale I passed the North Yorkshire Moors railway line and a stationary coal train on the line, I couldn't tell whether it had broken down or was there on purpose. The road climbs very gently up Kildale but once or twice I noticed that my rear wheel was spinning without traction on the road surface, and this was on 5% slopes. I have Schwalbe Marathon tyres (700x28) fitted for the winter and it was a little disconcerting to feel them failing to grip, disconcerting enough to impact the choice of route I followed. Instead of taking the steep Westerdale road to Blakey Ridge I felt it was more wise to stick to less intense slopes and head out via Commondale and Castleton.
My plan at first was to ride up to the Lion Inn, have a pint and then see what time it was and decide between going south through Kirbymoorside and back along Bilsdale, or to turn around and weave a shorter but more lumpy route back around the moors. As I climbed from Castleton up Blakey Ridge the wind was now to my side and I was being knocked into the verge by strong gusts. I practiced leaning into the wind and employing the motorbiking technique of 'counter-steer' to keep in a straight line. This worked well and I was feeling very confident in my cycling abilities. The long gentle climb from Castleton up Blakey Ridge is very exposed, and the higher I rose the stronger the wind became. Eventually I had to get off - I was nearly pushed down the valley side by a very strong and sustained blast of wind. As I stood there, by the side of the road wondering what to do, I was blasted in the face by the gale.
The junction where I had stopped was the turning to Botton, signposted with a 33% descent, which I was wary of in these conditions, but I also considered that this was in the shelter of the hills and wouldn't be as fiercely windy. I gave up on my ride to the Lion Inn and dropped down to Botton.
As I drew close to Botton a couple of walkers hailed me cheerily and shouted, "nice weather for cycling!", who was I to disagree? It is important to always make cycling look easier than it is, whether in front of other cyclists or in front of cheery walkers. I assured them it was a fabulous day to be cycling, and rolled on down the hill.
The advantage of turning down the dale back towards Castleton was that I now enjoyed another section of tailwind assisted cycling and arrived at the Castleton Tearooms in no time at all. Ready for a spot of soup.
There must have been a running event taking place, a large group of over-enthusiastic and bizarrely dressed fell-running types stopped by for Cherry Bakewell and coffee. I enjoyed listening to them argue over the last pieces of cake. Obviously, as a cyclist, I was much more sensibly attired than they were. Not. Just a note, the homemade 'Mushroom Soup' was excellent.
Leaving the Castleton Tearooms and continuing uphill I rejoined my earlier route and then retraced my tyre tracks back to Commondale. The wind was right in my face for most of this section, the grass was being brushed backwards and forwards by the swirling air currents. An elderly couple in a Morris Minor passed me and pulled over by the Tractor Shed Gallery
. As they got out of the car they offered me some encouragement for my battle with the weather.
The moors look a lot more wild than they have done for many months, I have enjoyed cycling in the moors this year and capturing the various stages of colour the land has passed through. It feels bleak at the moment, but I'm sure it will feel a lot more bleak once the snow and ice start to take a grip.
Heading back out of the moors was taking a lot of energy, and somehow even standing beside the road to take photographs was exhausting! Once down through Kildale and back into Great Ayton it was clearly time for another stop and coffee. Although not strictly necessary, I also enjoyed a ham roll at Suggitts.
The darkness was drawing in now. Although I had only cycled for 3.5 hours so far, the days are very short and when it is cloudy the darkness of dusk speeds towards us. I gritted my teeth for the final push back to Ingleby Barwick, which actually didn't feel that bad - so perhaps the lower altitude of the Tees Valley was sheltering me from the worst of the wind, or the windspeed had dropped as the afternoon wore on. It was getting dusky as I reached the outskirts of Ingleby Barwick. Only 80km covered today, but it was 80km which felt more like 160km - the combination of hills and headwind had meant that I was slow going uphill and slow going downhill. I even experienced the classic "have to pedal downhill or grind to a halt" situation. Into the Fox Covert for a sneaky pint of Theakston's Old Peculier, and then home.
Although it was unintentional, the route along from Botton to Castleton was very pleasant and I'm glad I changed my plans to keep safe and still enjoy riding around the moors. It was windy today, and not just around Botton.