Mountain biking in Yorkshire
With an exceptional network of trails, great facilities and some of the UK's best scenery, Yorkshire is prime mountain biking country.
The rolling hills of the Pennines, the craggy upland peaks and wooded valleys of the Yorkshire Dales, and the open country of the North York Moors: York-based instructor Sarah Allard has racked up thousands of miles biking the trails all over the county.
England's largest county is home to an impressive network of natural and purpose-built mountain bike trails; in fact, the Yorkshire Dales alone has over 900km (560 miles) of rideable terrain. The biking is varied - there are bridleways, limestone pavements, single tracks and forest paths. Combine this with quaint, amiable villages and the stunning scenery and it’s easy to see why it’s considered one of the best regions for mountain biking in the UK. Here’s just a taste of what you can experience.
Near Osmotherly in the North York Moors
Yorkshire Dales National Park
The hilly limestone country of the Dales encompasses some of England’s most prominent peaks, the highest being Whernside at 736m (2,415ft). The mountain biking terrain is varied, but a large proportion of it is on stone tracks and bridleways following broad valleys, with some long ascents. Riding in the Dales is all about natural trails, and it’s here that you’ll really feel like you're out in the wilds.
The Yorkshire Dales covers a sizeable area and distances between the best riding locations can be further than you think. If you were wanting to tackle circular routes around the famous Three Peaks (Pen-Y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough), then you'd probably want to base yourself in Ingleton, Settle or Horton-in-Ribblesdale. Intermediates should try the 20km (12-mile) Malham to Settle route, taking in Malham Cove en route (can also be done in reverse). For the more technical rider, the Pen-Y-Ghent circuit is a must.
Further afield in the northern part of the national park, the market town of Hawes makes a great base for tackling the 30km (18-mile) circuit of Dodd Fell. This takes you on an ancient Roman road and along a fast stone track, with numerous exciting descents to choose from to get back down to the village.
Don’t let the distances and long ups dissuade you: this is fantastic mountain biking country with tremendous views, and certainly not to be missed.
On the southern flanks of the North York Moors, Dalby Forest is home to over 56km (35 miles) of graded, well-maintained trails, ranging from pleasant family-friendly green routes to the gnarly, severe-graded 2010 World Cup Cycle Trail. The classic Red Route is 37km (23 miles) in length and features drops, berms, rock gardens and flowing sections of single track. An added bonus is the Pace Bike Park at Dixon’s Hollow, with a pump track and dirt jumps. Dalby Forest has bike hire available and a nice café. Trail centres don’t get any better than this.
Classed as an Area
of Outstanding Natural Beauty, mountain biking in this area combines short and sweet afternoon rides with epic longer routes ascending and descending the valley. There’s a plethora of cafés, real ale pubs and villages to visit en route. Try the Brimham Loop from the pleasant town of Summerbridge, which takes you through the weird rock formations of Brimham Rocks before looping back. This is a short blast, but the terrain is varied and scenery is beautiful.
North York Moors National Park
From the rocky sea cliffs along the North Sea to the wide open spaces of high moorland, plus areas of forest and steep slopes, the North York Moors has enough variety to entertain families, novices and experienced mountain bikers alike.
The Moors combines purpose-built trail centres with some of the very best natural trails in the country. Dalby Forest is well established, but there’s also Guisborough Forest on the northern edge, and the newly developing trail centre at Sutton Bank in the southwest. For wild country biking, basing yourself in Osmotherly, Kirkby Moorside or Helmsley will offer endless possibilities right on your doorstep.
Spend a leisurely week along the 240km (150-mile) Moor to Sea Cycle Route, or break it into sections for an enjoyable day ride, ideal for a family getaway. Alternatively, find your way along a 300-metre-high ridge overlooking the White Horse of Kilburn, freewheeling on downhill tracks onto the Cleveland Way and riding under the ruins of the historic Rievaulx Abbey.
Stony track on the Settle Loop
The Settle Loop
Don’t be fooled by the short (16km) distance of this route , this is a classic that will make you earn your cake. The loop begins with a very steep ascent on quiet tarmacked road, winding its way high above the town of Settle and into the heart of Dales country. The route follows the National Pennine Bridleway, passing by ancient dry stone walls on a variety of different terrain, including limestone grassland and stony track. The highest point is surrounded by beautiful, exposed hills and limestone outcrops. You’ll be challenged by the rocky ascent up Stockdale Lane and rewarded with a fun, flowing track all the way back down to Settle – the perfect place for a post-ride cuppa.
TOP 5 EXPERIENCES
1. Nidderdale classic loop: 24km, 700m ascent, difficult
Raining cats and dogs, grey skies or sunshine, this is an absolutely classic route and almost 100% off-road. It begins at the impressive Scar House Reservoir before climbing high above the valley floor. Stop to enjoy the view before continuing through farmland and grassy slopes. The finale is an exciting rocky descent back to the reservoir. There are a few pubs and cafés along the way, too.
2. Ravenscar to Whitby (Moor to Sea route): 18km, easy
Explore the grand scenery and cliffside views of the North Sea on this stunning ride from the tiny coastal village of Ravenscar, cycling past Robin Hood’s Bay and finishing in Whitby. Treat yourself to some of England’s best fish and chips or a refreshing ice cream as the fisherman come in out of the bay. The route for much of the trail follows the Cinder Track, which is the old railway line between Whitby and Scarborough.
3. Tour of Pen-Y-Ghent: 30km, 670m ascent, difficult
Another undeniable classic, this route takes in the sensational scenery surrounding one of Yorkshire’s finest peaks, Pen-y-Ghent. This circular route is demanding, but doable, with two significant ascents and a satisfying descent down the shoulder of Pen-Y-Ghent. The trail is mainly off-road on rocky pathways and grassy moorland. Another highlight if time permits is visiting Hull Pot, a stunning natural feature, visible from the route.
4. Sutton Bank Blast: 14km, 404m ascent, moderate
This short route is a perfect choice for an afternoon ride or post work treat during the summer when the days are long and the sun still shines in the evening. Beginning at the Sutton Bank National Park Visitor Centre, the route takes you along a high ridgeline, before a long descent along the Cleveland Way, through the woods and past part of Gormire Lake. Bridleways and single track throughout, it's best in dry weather, though can be done year round. This route is fun!
5. Dalby Forest Red Route: 37km, 520m ascent, difficult
The Red Route is a fine example of a well-maintained trail that offers length, variety and good flow throughout. Route finding is a breeze as there are signposts along the way. The trail tackles the hilly terrain of the North York Moors, so that you’re never long on an ascent and you’re never bored with the scenery. This is a year-round venue. Try the entire 37km (23 miles) in one go or take on shorter sections – either way you’re guaranteed a good time.
WHEN TO VISIT
Best times to go:
Mountain biking can in Yorkshire is a year-round sport, but you’ll find the best conditions in the late spring and throughout the summer months. Yorkshire covers a large area, so if the weather’s not great in the Moors, try your luck in the Dales.
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