HONEY TO IVY
Not your usual Coast to Coast, more of a home to home challenge. As part of my training I wanted to put myself out of my comfort zone and test my navigational and endurance skills for a big challenge which I am doing in June.
STEEL HARDTAILS ARE THE ONLY BIKE PACKING MACHINES.
After some careful planning with friends and family, I wanted to ride from our home – Honeysuckle Cottage in the far West of Yorkshire, to my Mum and Dad’s home, Ivy Cottage in the far East of Yorkshire. This was a bit sentimental for me as our twins are named after these two special homes and I wanted to do this before my parents moved out of our 28 year-long family home this year. The plan was to ride as much off-road as possible, self supported and solo. Now this doesn’t sound too crazy but when you’re talking 185km/115 miles off-road by myself over 3 days with nothing to keep me company except for my bike, it really pushed me out of my comfort zone.
That and the fact I didn’t even have a bike until a couple of days before I set off, never spent more than 5 hours in the saddle and my navigational skills were pretty much non existent.
Everyone kept saying how steel hardtails would be perfect bike packing – minimal and spacious for carrying those bike bags. Sounded perfect. I kept reserving myself an RC529 in medium, but I kept selling them to eager customers which meant when it came round to building my bike, we had no mediums left. Ohohhhhh. The next batch was not due in until after I had set off, which would have been as much use a chocolate fireguard.
Luckily, we had one medium RC295 left, our full suspension 135mm travel carbon trail bike. Certainly not complaining as I had been wanting one of these since I tested the production one a couple of years ago but they sell faster than hotcakes. Luckily got my mitts on one and our suppliers were kind enough to sort me out with the parts to get the bike built in time and what a weapon it is.
Build: RC295 / Medium / Custom built with:
Rockshox Pike Ultimate, 140mm + 42mm offset.
Sram GX Lunar Eagle groupset. Sram Guide Ultimate brakes.
Sram rotors 180. Fox Factory Evol DPS rear shock 135mm.
Pace RC46 stem 32mm reach + Pace top cap.
Pro Bike Gear lock-on grips. Raceface 35 handlebar.
Bikeyoke Revive 160mm dropper.
WTB Volt saddle.
Hunt Trailwide 29” wheelset.
Maxxis Ardent Sidewalls 29” 2.4, tubeless.
Alturacycling Vortex Waterproof Framepack.
Alturacycling Vortex 2 Waterproof saddlebag.
Alpkit Enduro pod top tube bag.
Alpkit Airlok Dual 13L handlebar dry bag.
11am on Thursday 29th April I set off on my 3 day challenge through the heart of the Yorkshire Dales. Riding from my house near Clapham, I peddled up the bridleway through the tunnels and climbed up onto Clapham Bottoms, along to Trowgill and then took it easy along a nice fast path down to River Ribble and Far Moor Bridge. Far Moor bridge is part of the new 350-mile Pennine Bridleway National Trail, it’s a beautiful and iconic structure, you may have seen this if you have cycled the Yorkshire 3 Peaks.
I then said goodbye to any freewheeling for a while as I started my climb along the Pennine Way up past High Birkwith Farm, slowly reaching Cam High Road. I could forever see Ribblehead Viaduct out of the corner of my left eye and I felt like I was riding for hours and it wasn’t disappearing. Finally reached the top of Cam High road and hit the tarmac for a couple of minutes which was welcomed but was still battling the North East head wind I had been working against since I set off that morning.
Quick Soreen and Wensleydale cheese sandwich refuel and then gently climbed up to see some lovely views down to Sleddale valley. I then peeled off and welcomed a nice long and fast decent down the Common Allotments, hit a short but steep tarmac climb up and over Green Scar Mire crag and a steep and short descent down to the Crème De La Crème of Yorkshire – Semer Water. What a treat that was. Utter bliss. Sat there and enjoyed the views up Ryedale Valley and refuelled on my Voom Caffine Bar and some Haribo Tangtastics, deciding what to do next. By this time it was 16:30 but I still felt strong so I decided to keep going for a couple of hours.
A very long and tedious climb up out of Semer Water up Stalling Busk, but the descent was worth it. Once I hit Thoralby Common it was a super fun and fast descent all the way down the valley of Heck Brow, my stove rattling around and my legs nicely tired I was more than ready to call it a day.
I had a friend who lives in West Burton, my next village to hit, and asked her if she knew of anywhere I could camp. Luckily her farming friend, Eddie let me camp in his animal-free field which was much appreciated.
Tent set up, rummaged in my bag for tea of an Alpkit Chilli Con Carne (must pay attention to water levels as mine was like soup) I was surprised to find a little G&T tin that my husband Sam had sneaked in my bag, well of course I had to drink that to get rid of some weight. Changed out of my sweaty riding kit into my only one other dry base layers and quickly fell asleep.
This was my first ever solo wild camp, I wasn’t too cold and warmed up quickly in my Alpkit Skyehigh 900 sleeping bag, hyper sensitive to every sound but had a little chat with myself and drifted off to sleep quickly after my 55km day.
Friday 30th April was a beautiful morning, frost on the ground at 05:30am but I was supporting a heavy head. Not sure if it was the G&T tin I had or the lack of electrolytes the day before but I knew I needed to drink more water that day.
Porridge with peanut butter and a black coffee I was keen to get going and packed up and away riding by 07:30am.
First climb of the day rudely awoke my legs up, the climb out of West burton up Walden and Fleensop Moor seemed never ending. Dropped down a lovely piece of singletrack to Arkleside but quickly forgotten soon as I saw what was infront of me – Deadman’s Climb. Probably one of the worst climbs out of the whole trip, a lot more shoving than riding but finally made it to the top by 10:30am with an amazing view of Scar House Reservoir.
Dropped down to the reservoir and hit a lovely bridleway alongside the water, stopped and refilled my water using my MSR water filter pump as I had pretty much drank my 2L already.
A gentle climb then up onto Brown Ridge and around to Pott Moor, the views across Yorkshire was amazing. I had now left the Dales and entered Nidderdale and vaguely in the distance I could spot the big white balls of Menwith hill near Harrogate in the far distance.
Fast path along High Ash Head more I could just make out the outline of Sutton Bank, it was really bizarre as infront of me now was just flat landscapes, no more rolling giant hills, with just the darkness of Sutton Bank in the far distance. Soon as I saw that I knew I was a tiny bit closer.
Felt the temperature drop here descending down to Masham and hit a small hailstone flurry, but I had just timed it right and sheltered under some trees until it passed. I reached Masham at 14:00 and decided to power on and go and surprise my Mum who runs Sutton Bank Bikes at the top of Sutton Bank.
On the flatland now compared to a few hours ago, I quickly got to the bottom of Sutton Bank at 16:30 and ditched what little water I had left and demolished whatever energy bars I had left, I then decided to ride up Sutton Bank. I have done this a few times, but not with a fresh 125km in my legs and carrying all that extra weight. Infact I was meant to go through Kilburn Woods instead but I accidentally missed that turning coming out of Thirsk, so I didn't have much choice.
25% gradient I slowly pushed through the pain and gritted my teeth, people hanging out their car windows shouting “You can do it lass” got me to the top.
Probably the hardest thing I have ever done riding up there in that situation, I nearly threw up when I got to the top but the excitement of surprising my Mum banished any unwell feelings.
Mum wasn’t expecting me until Saturday morning, so I was way ahead of schedule and as expected she was super buzzing to see me.
I had decided to camp somewhere there for the night and have an enjoyable shorter day tomorrow with only 46km to go. Sipped on a lovely cup of Yorkshire tea and had a bite to eat, Sam my husband and Mum got me all revved up to finish it that day.
“But its 46km to go, I am broken…”
“Go for it, you can do this Soph”
So that’s what I did, changed my base layer, re charged my Garmin and got back on the saddle. Enjoyed the Bridleway down to Scawton and passed the place I was meant to camp, feeling bitter sweet that I wasn’t stopping just yet. I then hit Rievaulx which is a lovely historical village but I knew I was in the valley bottom and just as I started to climb out who was there waiting for me? My Dad. Sat looking fresh faced and pleased to see me on his much lighter RC295 he decided to surprise me and finish the last leg with me. And I am so glad he did.
I quickly regretted my decision up on Rievaulx Moor, but now at 85km (140km all in) I was so close to the end and the thought of having an actual bed kept me going.
I started to feel a bit dizzy and shaky, and had no energy to power up any climbs, just sat and span away slowly with the company from Dad distracting me from any pain I started to feel.
We cut 15km off the end as I was completely broken, but still kept it off-road and made it to Ivy Cottage at 21:30 with a total of 165km.
Seeing ‘End Point’ on my Garmin and getting in that bath is a feeling I’ll cherish forever, well that and the Carter homemade curry I yomped down!
165km and 3892m of climbing in 1.5 days, 22 hours of riding and I made it. Even shaved a whole day off my trip.
What an adventure that was, something I will remember forever. I really recommend getting into the Dales and riding some of these trails, absolute perfection it is. If you keen get intouch and I can email you my map – firstname.lastname@example.org.
The RC295 was faultless the whole time, considering I had not even been for a ride on this without my kit on was a bit silly, but turns out I didn’t need to. What a machine that is, it eats up anything infront of it, be that ascending or descending. Hardtails definitely are not just the one for bike packing.
Anyway I won’t be pulling any tricks like that on our challenge which is 400km over 7 days through Scotland from the far East – Ardnarmurchan to Aberdeen on some of the wildest of Scottish trails you can find. You can sponsor us by clicking the link here and reading more about our story there.