Endless green fields sewn together by old stone walls. Deserted roads of pavement, gravel, and dirt. Taking it all in requires riding past exhaustion.
We arrived in a very small village on the outskirts of the Yorkshire Dales in the United Kingdom. By the time the hackney dropped us off, I was confident this adventure would be one of my favorites. Endless old stone walls, expansive lush green fields, narrow quiet paved roads, and many dirt trails. Not much else I could ask for.
We quickly got our bikes setup, loaded up, and started riding. Seven days later we were packing our bikes for the trip back home. Exhausted and very content.
Disclaimer: I wrote this post as a way to keep track of the equipment, routes, terrain, bike, and cycling experiments I did and used on this trip. Therefore, this writing is dry and probably boring. My interest is to learn from each ride project; however, my memory is poor so if I don’t document what I’ve done and why, I will keep making the same mistakes again and again. These pages serve as that document.
- Purpose: This trip has two primary objectives: 1) Ride on the Isle of Man – it’s been on my ride list since I first made a list. 2) Ride in the Yorkshire Dales.
- Time-frame: Riding time of six days and five nights. One day of travel. Wednesday, July 1 evening red-eye flight through Wednesday afternoon, July 8, 2015.
- Total Distance Ridden: about 200 miles.
- Locations: United Kingdom on the western side of the Yorkshire Dales. All over the Isle of Man.
- Elevation: Base-camp was about 100 feet above sea level. The highest point was just over 1,400 feet.
- Ride Type: Bikepacking with a combination of packed in meals and store bought food.
- Terrain: Very mixed. Everything from perfect pavement to very challenging rocky singletrack 99.999% rideable. The most common terrain was fantastic one lane pavement.
- Daytime Temperature: Ranged from about 75 – 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Evening Temperature: About 50 – 55 degrees.
- Weather: Rain in the evenings. the first few days were super sunny. The last three days were overcast. Only one of the dozen rides did we alter due to rain. We often were threatened by rain but didn’t have any bad situations. Saw lighting on only one night. The rain got pretty hard on some evenings. Our tent did really well considering the amount of rain and the firm ground on which we camped. Regardless, by the last morning of camping, our mattresses were pretty wet.
Highlight of the trip: Views unlike anything I’ve seen before. Serene and difficult but all manageable and rideable.
Most challenging aspects of the trip:
- Sleeplessness. I continue to have serious challenges in getting rem sleep. The issues are threefold: stomach, snoring partner, light sleeper.
- Out of shape. I thought I’d be okay because the climbing was ‘limited’ to about 100 feet per mile. However, I really struggled getting the miles in that we wanted to cover – even with the really long daylight hours. Maybe I should ride more than once a week before riding six days in a row through really tough terrain with lots of gear.
- Businesses that run more like not-businesses. We had a few true challenges with meals; restaurants and cafes that weren’t open when they said they would be. And some that weren’t open at times that seemed very reasonable. Hours seem to be vague ideas rather than something to count on. This was pretty rough while bikepacking in unknown areas where getting the next meal is often a primary focus. Arriving in a town that has one restaurant that’s closed at 7pm is drag when the next town is three hours of mixed-terrain away. Along one of these long gaps between food establishments I determine there must be a way to determine the odds of finding food in a given area. I used the Drake Equation as a base. I call my new equation the Drake Cake Equation.
I seem to have eliminated my stomach issues on longer rides of 10+ hours. I used three techniques that seemed to have helped in some combination:
- Heart-rate: Keeping my heart-rate down helps a lot. That may seem obvious but it’s really challenging when there are 20% grades and endless climbs. I believe this is the number one element that helps protect my stomach.
- Eating a lot: Once my stomach starts to hurt I can’t really eat. Not eating probably makes me feel worse on a 12-hour ride.
- Supplements: Hammer Endurance Aminos and Anti-Fatigue Caps. This was the first time I’ve used either of these on a really long multi-day ride. I think they may have made a difference. I’ll be experimenting more soon.
For more information about this specific trip, check out these posts:
- Bike Setup – The wrong bike was perfect.
- Body & Mind – It’s all cracking.
- Equipment on Bike – Traveled lighter than ever.
- Electronics & Navigation – Endless power supply.
- Camping Equipment Setup – Ready for rain.
- Food & Cooking – Keeping it light.
- Overall – to what extent would I ride here again: 9. More than anywhere I’ve visited I think I want to go back here most. Something about the terrain, landscape, and space all make me want to ride. My only hesitations are temperature – I prefer 90 degrees instead of 55 degrees and weather. We were so lucky with the weather I could never expect it to be so nice again. If it was rainy and 55 each day I would not have been a happy camper.
- Ride Location: 9. Beautiful to me. The photos express it best. I think I could ride for weeks in that area and keep finding new trails.
- Ride Difficulty: 7: Always climbing or descending. Climbs that were often 15-20 percent grades; they’re not much into switchbacks in the Dales. Not very technical riding – in a good way.
- Road: 9: Great pavement. The roads are very narrow and in excellent shape. About one care every 30-minutes. Cars are incredibly respectful of riders.
- Offroad: 5. The mixed-terrain riding we did was very rideable. I’m sure we could find more difficult mountain biking if we wanted. A cross bike would ride 99% of the trails we scouted. A road bike could ride 75% of the trails very easily. Regardless, I found the trails to be a lot of fun.
- Terrain: 7. Definitely mixed-terrain. A good variety of terrain. always climbing or descending. Beautiful expanses with very few trees.
- Wildlife & Nature: 10. Nothing at all. The worst we could find was stinging nettles and similar vegetation; I’ll take this over poison ivy any day. We couldn’t find any dangerous animals. I did ride next to a few cows and bulls that made me nervous; some of them looked pretty irritated that we were on their fields. However, everyone assured us that cows and bulls are harmless – as long at you don’t get near their calves.
- Towns & Amenities: 4. This the toughest part of the trip. If felt a bit like running the Drake Equation for food sources. The towns between trails are villages, not towns. The villages have between zero and four possible places to get food. The odds of any one of these sources being open and any particular hour is very slim. Store hours are not predictable, not published, and not consistent. The odds of vegetarian food in a pub are slim and none. When you run the variables of the the Drake Cake Equation you end up with about a 0.002% that we’d find food in any given village.
- Weather: 3. Definitely colder than I enjoy; the average daytime temperature was about 60 degrees. Nighttime rain made the 50 degrees overnight temperature seem chillier. At least there was sun for most of our riders.
Thoughts for the Next Adventure
Ride More: Start riding my bike more so that I can physically manage these tough rides better. This seems to be a recurring theme.
Get more clever about travel case: We’ve experimented with ways to leave the travel cases while bikepacking. I’ve also read about ways people do point-to-point bikepacking while dealing with travel cases. There aren’t any great options.
Pack Lighter: This includes packing for the flight and packing for the bikepacking. With each ride I’m reducing weight but there’s still a long way to go. The weight was a new low record for me at 106 lbs. Down from about 115 lbs. on our last bikepacking plane travel project. I want to get everything under 100 lbs. Here’s the actual weights for this trip:
- The Thule bike case with my Axiom SL, collapsible rack, three empty bottles, and nothing else – not even pedals – weighed in at 50.5 lbs. I found this odd. The Thule case is surprisingly heavy; a lot heavier than the S&S soft case – by about 10 lbs or so. That’s not very helpful. If I had been able to travel with my S&S travel Evergreen bike the setup would have weighed about 45 lbs if all I put in the case was the bike and rack.
- My suitcase weighed 43 lbs.
- My carry on backpack weighed about 12 lbs.
- I snuck my helmet, tent, and a few other items into Patria’s luggage: ~6 lbs.
- What I had on my body: street clothes, long sleeved riding jersey, riding jacket, and a few electronic items: not counting this weight
- Total weight: 106 lbs.
Stomach: I’m having very serious stomach problems while sleeping at camp.
Sleep: Find a way to sleep better.
That’s about it. I cannot wait for the next adventure!