The off road coast to coast from St. Bees in Cumbria to Robin Hood's Bay in North Yokshire was the first truly long distance touring ride that we had done. To be precise it was the second, as Karen and I had completed the Coast to Coast on our own in 1996, but we hadn't properly documented it. Then we rode on our Marin Bear Valley hard tails, carrying the minimum of gear in a saddle bag and a Trek back pack each, staying in B&Bs and hostels.
After months of pestering by our good friends Phil and Krystyna, we consented to do the Coast to Coast again, only this time we made the ride on our brand new Giant xtc920 full suspension bikes (nearest current equivalent being the Anthem xo) and rather than carry back packs we purchased the Topeak MTX EXP Trunk Bag - Black
Three other friends joined us. Mike for the whole ride, John 1 for the early section and John 2 for the latter section. Again, we rode without any support and stayed in B&Bs.
First time around we used Tim Woodcock's excellent guide The Coast-to-coast Ride: 210 Miles of Challenging Riding from the West Coast of Cumbria to Robin Hood's Bay (Wheelwright's Mountain Bike Route Guides). As with any guide, rights of way change and maps get out of date. There were a few times where the route explanation didn't quite match reality and we had to back track a few times, but it made for interesting riding. This version is now no longer in print, but I note that Tim has produced a newer version called The Coast-to-coast Mountain Bike Route Pack (Mountain bike route companion packs) If it is anything like his original version it is a worthwhile purchase.
Now just a note of caution here. This coast to coast route should not be confused with the much easier C to C route. The latter is largely on tracks and road. It is considerably shorter and can easily be achieved in a two or three days.
The mountain bike coast to coast route takes six or seven days and sections of it are over pretty testing terrain demanding a reasonable level of fitness. Certain sections required us to carry our bikes up steep moorland. Daily distances therefore tend to be substantially shorter than that which can be achieved on road.
The guide book promises "210 miles of challenging riding from the west coast of Cumbria to Robin Hood's Bay in North Yorkshire," although we clocked it at 230 miles, probably due to a few detours.
I am not going to reproduce Tim's guide here. Copyright wouldn't allow it and besides why reproduce the wheel. However I'll give you an idea of how we got on.
Our ride descriptions give an account of the ride that we completed. As part of the description we also provide links to Wikiloc or Google maps and elevation profiles based on mapping data available through the internet. The ride profiles are smoothed to give what in our opinion is a more beneficial view of the profile. We use paper maps, GPS and on line data to plan and conduct our rides. We are happy for you to use our descriptions, but be aware that we do not guarantee the accuracy of the information provided as situations surrounding any ride change over time.
Coast to Coast - St. Bees to Ennerdale Ride Profile
After the obligatory wheel dip in the Irish Sea, we posed for the team photo, mounted our steeds and commenced the English Coast to Coast ride in the afternoon sunshine.
Apart from the initial pull up out of St Bees, the first day was an easy 17 miles starting on tarmac and finishing with a pleasant ride through the forest by the side of Ennerdale water for our first nights stay at the Ennerdale Youth Hostel.
We looked forward to a hearty meal and perhaps a bottle or three of Old Peculiar. As dusk approached, little did we suspect that it would be us that would be on the menu of 100 zillion voracious midges. The dreaded black beastie waits for Coast to Coasters with voracious appetite. Mike was obviously the tastier dish as he proved the next day by showing off the 176 bites on his pasty white legs.
A good night's sleep would set us up for the climb up Black Sail Pass the next morning, but Karen and Krystyna had yet to sample the delights of the "snorer" in the dorm. Finally Krystyna could stand it no more and escaped to the dining room downstairs where she slept blissfully for the rest of the night.
Coast to Coast - Ennerdale to Eskdale Ride Profile
The next morning, following a great breakfast courtesy of the YHA, we started our ascent of Black Sail Pass. The last time Karen and I had climbed it, we had done so in lashing rain, but today the weather was kind to us and we all set off in good humour to reach the point where we had to dismount and start to push. We quickly came to realise that Tim Woodcock's claim to by cycling in the footsteps of Wainwright's Coast to Coast walk was not far off the mark.
The push soon developed into a carry and finally we shouldered our bikes as we climbed the last few hundred metres to the Pass.
As we reached the top a fit and handsome fell runner ran towards us. He nodded to the girls and with a flick of his long dark hair sped down the mountain. Krystyna was having palpitations and it was several minutes before we could continue.
We had all been looking forward to the prospect of a hair raising descent down to Wasdale Head and we set off with gusto, only to be quickly brought up short when John sheared the hanger of his rear mech.
Disaster! With a bit of innovative thinking we had him back on the road with a fixed gear. Good enough to get him to Wasdale at least. It was a good job that he had only planned to come with us for the first day or so. as that was to be the end of his Coast to Coast ride.
Lunch at the Wasdale Head Inn, but the "fine selection of baps" were not quite the fleshy mounds that Phil was thinking of!
We set off over Burnmoor, which was again a long push. We were starting to think that we were going to walk further than riding and in fact that wasn't far off the truth, but the view from the top was worth the climb. We discarded our shoes whilst we paddled in Burnmoor Tarn.
Coast to Coast - Eskdale to Town End Ride Profile
We set off up Harter Fell and guess what? Yep, we were pushing again!
We traversed around Harter Fell and through the forestry area. A few years earlier this had been rough felled trees and we had struggled to push and carry our bikes, but this time it was an easy ride. The guide book had warned us about the Dutton Steps across Dutton River.
We arrived at a small stream and proceeded across the Dutton Stones.
We couldn't see what all the fuss was about despite all being a load of "wusses" and holding hands to cross the stream. It turned out we had taken a wrong turn and this was not the Dutton River
Back on track we rode down through a lovely piece of single track, complicated by numerous tree roots.
It made Steve's day when he was propositioned by eight young, nubile women walkers!
We arrived at the Dutton River, which was some 20 metres wide with broad stepping stones and a hold wire strung about 5 feet above the stones.
The worst thing was that the midges were back, so not only did we have to gingerly step across the stones while holding onto bike and wire, but we also had to beat off the hoards. It made for an eventful crossing, but thankfully we all kept dry.
Next we climb up Walna Scar Road - pushing again! The track is covered in slate, making it impossible to ride.
It is unending and unrelenting. By the time you reach the top your legs are like jelly. By contrast, the ride down the other side towards Coniston is breathtaking. The brakes were working overtime as we charged down arriving in Coniston in time for lunch.
The next section around Grasmere was easy by comparison and the views of the lake were spectacular.
That night we stayed at the Windermere YHA and had a special treat, eating at the listed Porthole restaurant in Bowness, (Karen's highlight of the week), although the place has changed hands at least once since then.
So, day 3 of the Coast to Coast completed and we were in high spirits.
Coast to Coast Town End to Kirkby Stephen Ride Profile
The weather was certainly being much kinder to us this time around. We rode up the valley from Town End to Garburn Pass in warm sunshine. Steve was looking forward to the descent into Kentmere. Not only was the ride down exhilarating, but he had fond recollections of arriving there seven years earlier into the arms of a beautiful woman with a mug of hot tea. Alas there was no such welcome this year, but the ride was still just as good even though at one point Phil did his, by now well rehearsed trick, of sliding off his bike into the bracken.
We cycled through Kentmere and started up towards Stile End, over the col and down into Sadgill. From here we started the climb up LongSleddale, which started over well enough but half way up turns into a cobbled road that was built during the mining era. This proved so difficult to ride that the only way was to get off and push (again). Last time Karen and I rode up here it was in a howling gale and rain. We had taken shelter behind a rock half way up while we downed a Mars bar for energy.
Today it was fine and sunny. We reached the top and set off across Mosedale. It still looked foreboding even in good weather.
In rain and low cloud years earlier we had totally lost the track. This time the ride was easier, but the track was still not easy to follow.
However, we were making good time. We took the fine weather track to the south of High Wether Howe and Seat Robert.
....but the Coast to Coast always keeps a few surprises back just to catch you off your gurad when you least expect it.
As we started our descent, Phil ground to a halt. His back wheel was making a terrible noise and it was clear that the bearing had collapsed.
We quickly removed the cones give what bearings there were a clean and packed them with butter and sun tan oil (the only forms of grease that we had). This allowed us to continue slowly and as we breasted the hill, the M6 motorway hove into view and Mike cried with relief as he realised that the Lake District was now behind us.
Phil coaxed his wheel down into Shap by the side of the M6, but by the time we arrived it was clear that it wasn't going any further.
We sought out a coffee at a local hostelry and Phil headed off by car to Penrith to buy a new wheel. The rest of the team then carried on toward the Dales. The evening was warm and still and the ride was pleasant.
We pushed on enthusiastically to catch the fish and chip shop before it closed at 9-00pm. Arriving at 8-45pm, not only had all three fish and chip shops closed, but all the pubs had stopped serving at 8-30pm!! Starving, tired and thoroughly dejected we trudged to the only other option. The local and decidedly mediocre Chinese take away.
It was at this point that Phil rolled up in a taxi. This was Phil's highlight, seeing us all there waiting for him. So, food in hand and dressed in our warmest clothes, we shared the town centre bus shelter with the local teenage "tartlets" and were regaled by the "boom boom" music from the local boy racers.
Although we were cold, after a good meal we cheered up and drunk to the half way point of our Coast to Coast adventure.
Coast to Coast - Kirkby Stephen to Reeth Ride Profile
The next morning was an exercise in logistics. With no luck in Penrith the day before, Phil had travelled, with his wheel, by taxi to Kirkby Stephen, leaving his bike at the garage in Shap. Fortunately there was a bike shop in Kirkby Stephen, but it didn't open to until 10-00, so Phil got up early and took a taxi, with Steve's bike to Shap. The taxi driver picked up Phil's bike and brought it back to Kirkby Stephen. We got the wheel repaired whilst Phil cycled his lost miles on Steve's bike from Shap back to Kirkby Stephen, joining us in the town at 11-00. Reunited, we continued our journey. As we began our climb up the Pennines, we took a last look back toward the Lakes, at the first half of our Coast to Coast ride.
And, as the summer sun burned down and the rivers dried up, our start team fashion the latest team colours!
The climb to the top of the Pennines was rewarded as we arrived at Tan Hill Inn, the highest pub in England. Time for some Old Peculiar.
Here, our intrepid photographer spotted a couple of biking babes. Krystyna tucks into a bowl of chips. "Watch where that Gravy's going dear"
Our second hot babe sits demurely by the falls.
From Tan Hill we followed part of the Pennine Way and pressed on toward Swaledale. The descent from Crackpot to Swinnergill was a hair raising ride and a wonderful bit of off-road track.
Having ridden along the valley we stopped for our next night in Reeth.
Here we met John2 and Mary, who had brought him by car to meet up with us for the last part of the Coast to Coast ride.
We had a hearty meal at a local hostelry, a good nights sleep.
Coast to Coast - Reeth to Osmotherley Ride Profile
Our recollection of the route from Reeth to Richmond was of a pretty comfortable ride, but we had forgotten that there were still a couple of reasonable climbs and some decent off roa. As we rode over fields and trails, disaster struck again. This time Karen's free wheel hub failed and she couldn't pedal any further. She had free wheeled down hill to the main road into Richmond.
Here, Steve put on his most forlorn face and managed to hitch a lift into Richmond with Stan and Vera in their camper van, while the remainder of the crew cycled the few miles into Richmond.
Another new wheel and we were back on our way, arriving at Osmotherley Youth Hostel.
A quick shower and a change and we walked back into the village for dinner and few pints of Old Peculiar at the local hostelry. Here we were met by John 1. The country air (and sun) had clearly got the better of John 2 in his first day in the saddle.
Fortunately, John1 took us back to the youth hostel and later Krystyna demonstrates how even such mundane things as youth hostel sheets can stir a man's loins.
As the girls prepared for bed, two down trodden souls meet on the stairway.
"Hi, Phil. What have you been sent for?"
"Glass of water."
"Hmm. Me too."
Our two heroes promptly return dutifully to their loved ones, the World is once more at peace and we only have two more days to go on our Coast to Coast ride.
Osmotherley to Glaisdale Ride Profile
Onward from Osmotherley and Karen's disc brakes are playing up. In a scene reminiscent of Blue Peter (here's one I made earlier), ever-ready Steve fashioned a packing washer from an expired blood donor card and we were on our way.
As we approached the closing stages of our ride, time for some action shots, leading up to Head Trig Point on the North Yorkshire Moors and a group photo at the top.
Glaisdale to Robin Hood's Bay Ride Profile
By now we could almost smell the sea as we charged across superb peaty, single tracks. So much so in fact that the camera was totally forgotten, eager as we were to get to the finish line.
As we lived in North Yorkshire and had cycled these routes before, we new all the short cuts so in fact we didn't follow the official route, choosing instead to take the more direct path via Maybeck. Finally, looking a lot more weather beaten than we had started, we arrived to a warm and balmy Robin Hood's Bay.
Karen, who had carried a stone with her all the way from St Bees, lobbed it into the North Sea to clinch the ride.
And yes it really was warm enough to go in for a swim, (in our cycling gear or in Krystyna's case bra and pants).
And finally, Mary, Linda and John 1 joined us on the beach for smoked salmon, cream cheese, strawberries and cream all washed down with lashings of Champagne.
This year the Coast to Coast.......NEXT YEAR THE PYRENEES!!!!!
Link back to our Tours page from Coast to Coast
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