Wetherby – Richmond, Thu 27th August 2021, 90 miles

The last Thursday ride of the membership year had a varied cast as riders joined and left, the full list being Graham, Steve W, Pete D, Bill, Nick, Greg, Dennis, Geoff and me, Mark. All but Dennis and Geoff started from the Shambles at 09:30 hours precisely, heading up the lovely A168 to gain some northern ground quickly. The weather was disappointingly dull and cloudy with a substantial northerly wind blowing into our faces but we hunkered down and contented ourselves with dreams of a lovely tailwind all the way home.

The destination was Richmond via a new coffee shop in Topcliffe. So, up the A168 to Boroughbridge in a well-organised group of seven we rode, then over the Ure and through Norton-le-Clay, left in Cundall and over the Swale into Topcliffe. The Milk Churn Café and Farm Shop was our morning coffee stop and after a certain amount of arranging, locking, unlocking and rearranging we settled into the small seating area inside. We later found that there is a yard at the back of the café which can be used for bicycle parking – good to know. The coffee and cakes were good, as was the service, which included an unprompted offer to refill water bottles. The only limit to making this a regular Wheelers stop is the size of the seating area which would be tight for a large group.

Dennis and Geoff joined us at the Milk Churn and I received a bonus pack of Haribo Starmix from Dennis who apparently doesn’t eat them – strange but true. Graham just managed to resist the lure of a second coffee and we set off again, with Nick and Bill turning back at this point and Greg setting out to find some hills to train for his trip to the Alps.

Still heading north we took the A167, little sister of the A168. And still we had a headwind, but we somehow fell into a nice pattern of rotating the front – even I took a turn ! It was almost like we were a cycling club 😉. At Ainderby Steeple Dennis went straight on to find his way home while the rest of us took a right turn down the delightful Thintoft Lane which was quiet, pretty, quite well surfaced and most importantly had high hedges to give some shelter from the wind. We joined the B6271 and Great Langton and headed northeast to Richmond, including the final uphill drag of over a mile which I’d forgotten about. Steve graciously let me take the town sign honours. We took lunch in our usual haunt, the café in the Market Hall, which provided substantial portions and slightly eccentric service.

Leaving Richmond we passed over the Swale again and through Catterick Garrison via a couple of testing little rises. Along the way Pete started to have trouble changing his from derailleur so we pulled over to take a look – Geoff rode on by. We couldn’t quite figure out the cause of the problem: the shifter was working, the cable seemed fine but it just wouldn’t change chainwheels. With assurances that he wouldn’t need all those gears anyway Pete carried on, though he rear mech was also threatening to join the party and wouldn’t give a full range of changes either.

So with Pete pedalling like fury on the downhills we passed through Newton-le-Willows and West Tanfield, then Sutton Grange to roll into Ripon for afternoon break at the Sun Parlour Café. I can report that on the way the sun came out at 15:37 but changed its mind at 15:39. While we were at the café Pete called in to the nearby bike shop to have his front mech examined and it turned out that, freakishly, a pebble had somehow become lodged in the changer and stopped it from moving. I blame it on surface dressing. Anyway, a cheap (well, free) fix is always nice to find.

The last leg took us the usual way out of Ripon, through Bishop Monkton and Knaresborough where Geoff sailed off home, we assume. The remaining four of us pushed on down to Wetherby where Pete grabbed the town sign sprint and we went our separate ways after a long, varied and pleasant ride.

And the tailwind ? It never really turned up, our speed was the same in both directions – though it was hillier on the return.