Wetherby – Kettlewell, 1st July 2021, 97 miles

A rather cool Thursday morning saw seven riders meet at the end of the Shambles: Graham, Michael Br, Mike B, Greg, Steve W, Nick and me, Mark. The forecast was good but it felt rather cooler than we had hoped and expected. Arm warmers and windproofs were in favour. The destination was Kettlewell via Coverdale, up the less steep side of Park Rash – which is still steep.

On the dot of 9:30 we set off up the Knaresborough road at a steady pace, bearing on mind that we were embarking on one of the year’s longer rides. Once into Knaresborough we were joined as expected by Dennis and unexpectedly by Fred who had apparently arrived a few minutes late at the start and chased us down.

Continuing north we passed through Farnham and Copgrove and on towards Ripon. Somewhere along the way Fred completed his cameo appearance and peeled off home. The core of eight rode up northwest to Grewelthorpe – a lovely descent in the opposite direction – and then across to Masham for a coffee stop in the market place.

By now the clouds had cleared and it was getting warmer, with the promise of a cool tailwind to take us home later (which never really turned up, unfortunately). Plenty of folk were visiting, the market place was busy and even the bicycle parking was full.

Leaving Masham, heading north and west, we rode into Wensleydale, which was looking rather fine and green in the summer sunshine, then peeled off into Coverdale at East Witton. Nick had decided that he didn’t want to ride through to Kettlewell but would return somewhere around Leyburn, so he had dropped behind by this stage.

The other seven on us went through Coverham, ignoring “Road Closed” signs which indicated that there was very recent surface dressing. Although there was plenty of gravel on the roads it wasn’t problematic so we continued. After a couple of miles, just past the turn for Agglethorpe, things got considerably worse. The tar was very fresh and hadn’t solidified in the sun so we were treated to the painful sound of sharp grit chipping away at bicycle frames. The tight clearances and sticky tyres on Steve’s bike meant that he suffered most, and after a half mile we decided to turn back and take a loop around to get a ahead of the road work, hopefully. Steve even had to carry his bike some of the way, his wheels kept sticking solid as the chips built up.

Passing through Melmerby and Carlton we spotted a cyclist in the shade fixing a puncture, who turned out to be Nick. He’d taken a lower road to get ahead and hadn’t encountered any surface dressing works but had picked up a thorn along the way. Most of us deployed the traditional club puncture-repair assistance of standing around and chatting but Graham and Mike did get their hands dirty. Nick then rode with us to Horse House before turning back – unfortunately he did meet the loose chippings on his way back.

Continuing up the delightfully quiet and green Coverdale, with Little and Great Whernsides to our left, we pulled up towards the head of the valley, reaching the pass via a series of steep rises and false summits before beginning the plunge down Park Rash and into Kettlewell. It certainly required concentration and confidence in the performance of brakes and tyres but was an exhilarating descent.

In Kettlewell we had a little back-and-forth over the choice of café before settling on the And Then Tasting Deli. We passed on the six course tasting menu, most of us opting for a tuna melt doorstep, which we enjoyed while sitting in the sun.

Our return route was flat – in a Yorkshire Dales way – into Grassington and out to Hebden, right past the Old School Tea Room and up the back lane above Burnsall with excellent views. Then a drop down and through Appletreewick and right up the road towards Bolton Abbey. We ignored the “Road Closed” sign to fork left at Barden Tower and negotiated our way through the land slip which was the cause. We crossed the bridge at the Cavendish Pavilion, carrying and pushing our bikes to avoid causing any distress to His Grace.

From Bolton Bridge we rode through Beamsley and into Ilkley where a stop for ice cream was called at the van by the bridge. Then the last leg into Otley, Pool and across to Dunkeswick where the group split, with the north (of) Leeds crowd dragging up the Harewood hill and the rest going back through Kirby Overblow. A long ride on a lovely route and a sunny day – a fine time was had by all and I suspect we all slept well.

Mark Lawrence