The Way of the Roses is a coast to coast cycle route, fully marked, between Morcambe on the west and Bridlington on the east. You can buy a map for £7.99 off Amazon, follow other people’s rides on Instagram and Twitter (#wayoftheroses) and there’s a comprehensive website with updates of things you need to know. It’s conveniently broken down into 3 sections and looked perfect for my first multi-day ride.
Putting the Team Together.
Geraint Thomas didn’t win the Tour de France on his own; I may be riding solo, but the first job was to get my Team Sky on board. Here’s an idea…
Me: “Mum, Dad, could you give me a lift to Morcambe with my bike one day in August and pick me up near Settle?”
Mum: “Ooh! I can go look around the shops in Morcambe, have coffee at the Midland and a nice lunch, go to my favourite fancy cheese shop…then I can browse gins in Booths at Settle and spend an hour in the nice pub with my kindle.”
Dad: ” I’ll ride the first day with you; keep you company. I won’t use my everyday hybrid bike that I use all the time either; I’ll dust off my special road bike that I bought 5 years ago and have never ridden. I’ll even treat myself to some of those cleats thingies you rave about. Don’t worry I’ll do one practice ride to Worsthorne the day before!”
Sister: “A night away in a pub in York? I’m in.”
Hubby: “So basically, I get to drive 2 and a half hours to see you ride to a signpost, chuck your bike in the back of the Zafira and drive 2 and a half hours back again? Well of course my darling, I love you more than the world itself and would do anything for you! My eyes will mist and my heart may possibly burst with pride as I witness you complete another astounding challenge!” (At least it was something like that…)
So, I had my Team. They were given responsibility for carrying my track pump from point a to b, meeting me at cafe stops so I didn’t look like Billy-biker-no-mates and general taxi duties. Unlike the fellas in the Team Sky cars, they were not allowed to actually touch my bike.
I’d lied to my Dad. Day 1 didn’t finish at Settle, it finished 47 miles from Morcambe in a village called Cracoe…and there was a tiny climb out of Settle to get there.
Day 1 was my favourite. Pretty much 10 miles in, and through Lancaster, you can see Ingleborough and Pen-y-gent in the distance. It’s nicely rolling riding all the way through the beautiful Yorkshire Dales. Dad had issues with his gearing but it didn’t matter. It was a nice steady ride. The roads were quiet back lanes and we had a grand old time pedalling along side by side and chatting.
Settle has a plethora of places to eat but we opted for a sit-in chippy to fuel us for the last few miles. Dad had been mumbling “I’m ready for a chip butty and a cup of tea,” under his breath for the previous 10 miles after all.
A torrential rain storm whilst we ate delayed proceedings a little before we set off for the last section and the dreaded Settle climb. The major climbs along the route are marked with black arrows, indicating ascent or descent. This was several sections of doublers and it started off on cobbles which were now slippery and wet! I won’t lie though; from the first time I’d looked at the route, I’d earmarked it as a walker. Just the job let our lunch settle!
A grand afternoon in the saddle to get the journey underway, a finish with a drink at the Devonshire Arms in Cracoe and, for Dad, the chance to test the capacity of his panniers which seemed to be loaded for a 3 week trip across the Pyrenees.
This leg is a sneaky blighter. There’s big climbing early doors before a flatter afternoon ride into York. The Settle climb of day 1 is dwarfed by the killer climbs you hit in the first 15-20 miles of this 61 mile day.
Luckily for me, my chain slipped off at the start of the climb over Greenhow Hill. My bike, Ar Julie, must have had an inkling at what was around the blind bend and saved me the panicked unclip. I didn’t succumb completely though because after the initial vertical section it’s just a long drag.
The descent from Greenhow is scary. Stop because your braking muscles are hurting scary.
This is a day for sightseeing. Brimham Rocks, Fountains Abbey, Studley Royal Deer Park and chocolate box, pretty villages. Lunch was a vegetarian cafe in an antiquarian book shop in Ripon; a place I could only ever visit on my bike for fear of carrying away half the stock of dusty, leather-bound and curiously interesting tomes. (My sister informs me there’s a decent artisan bakery to stock up on meat pasties after your vegan buddha bowl too.)
Day 2 is a cafe stop paradise, I headed for Beningborough Hall which was chocked with fellow cyclists scoffing Yorkshire lemon curd ice cream and parkin. (My sister reliably informs me that the farm shop pork pies were decent too as she continued her pastry pilgrimage across the county.)
The finish of day 2 is spectacular, though the biggest challenge of the day proved to be taking a photo of me and Ar Julie in front of the minster without any Japanese tourists getting in the shot, (handy here to a have sister who’s willing to lie on the pavement and shout at people to get out of the way.)
“What would you like for breakfast?”
“Toast. But loads of toast. As much toast as I can have please.”
“That would be lovely, thanks.”
Properly fuelled on toast and expresso, the plan was to split the final 63 miles into three 20 mile chunks. However, apart from the fact that this leg seems to be a cafe stop wilderness, I hadn’t accounted for the fact that this is where we get to the business end.
Everybody on two wheels was heading for Bridlington and whilst some were jollily pointing out that I had the same socks on that they’d spotted me wearing the previous day, (smelly,) others were more definitely The Competition.
Here the uglier side of my nature came into play. I went for a daring breakaway, sneaking a lead on a group of Castelli-clad wide-boys. I forfeited cafe stop number one to hold my lead, not greatly enjoying my mini bonk in the Wolds as they, obliviously, quaffed Yorkshire Tea and fat rascals in some twee establishment in Pocklington. As I downed my warm bottle of Tailwind I regretted that I’d not stayed with the peloton.
The last day’s riding is dull. Flat tarmac tracks between vast arable expanses. I found myself wondering at the different methods of hay baling as the miles rolled by.
51 miles in, with a pub lunch, I conceded to myself that no-one was racing this bar me. I was in danger of arriving at the finish ahead of Richard and, as I watched a large group head off, I considered there may even be a queue for the obligatory pic at the signpost. Marvelling at the discovery that I could fit a whole bag of Piper’s sea salt and cider vinegar crisps in my snack pack, I slowed down and munched along.
What a surprise to see, as I reached the seafront, that all of Team Rara where there cheering and snapping me in! The moment was almost ruined by a teenager on a dirt bike nearly taking me out by doing a wheelie along the promenade, but I managed the last 10 yards as safely as the previous 170 miles, thankfully.
The whole gang were there to capture the moment I dipped my wheel in the water; complaining profusely about getting sand on Ar Julie’s tyres. We celebrated with polystyrene cups of seaside tea.
The ride was a leisurely mini-adventure and I enjoyed it thoroughly. It was impeccably signposted throughout and wasn’t difficult to the extent that it broke me. I saw a slice of England and enjoyed my own company as I pondered the things I saw along the way.
What made it unexpectedly special was the time I spent with my family.
Richard is long-suffering in the best possible sense; he always supports my whims and I always know he’ll be at any finish line with a hug.
I had a great day riding with my Dad. When I was about 8 years old he tried to take me on a bike ride to Hebden Bridge that ended with me in tears on a grass verge in the Thursden Valley and Mum had to come and rescue us. I think I did him proud with how far my cycling has come since then.
Mum is a map whizz and a feeder. Enough said.
Caroline has crewed me on several micro-adventures over the years. I applaud her tolerance of cheap overnight accommodation, cheap wine and her ability to kill time in a layby. I’ll leave you with her final words.
“At least it wasn’t another blumming triathlon.”