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With so many more people discovering the pleasures of cycling in recent years, it’s no surprise that there’s been a huge surge in trips planned around being out on your bike. Whether you fancy a few nights away in the UK and are happy to organise your own itinerary or you’d prefer to sign up with a specialist tour company for a cycle holiday here or abroad, there’s something for everyone.

There’s no doubt that a holiday on a bike has a lot going for it. While setting off on a week’s cycling tour may sound a little daunting, it doesn’t have to be gruelling – you can decide on the challenge that suits you and there are always plenty of tempting pubs and tearooms in which to recharge your energy!  Breaking up the day by visiting places en route makes a day in the saddle much more manageable.  Cycling is a nice, relaxing way to travel without all the usual stresses of getting around, instead you can take time to enjoy discovering new places at your own pace.

Having said that, it’s amazing how you can eat up the miles on a bike and there are some great routes to choose from. In Yorkshire, we’re fortunate to have some of the UK’s best cycling country just a short ride away and there are also an increasing number of self-guided routes you can follow.  Starting in Seascale and finishing in Whitby, the 150m Coast to Coast ride remains one of the most popular.  The Way of the Roses, a 170 mile route from Morecambe to Bridlington is another fun challenge, as is the more recent 200m Lakes and Dales loop which takes in some of the region’s most stunning scenery as it meanders through Cumbria.

 

Do make sure that you’ve done some training before you embark on your cycling adventure – even if you’re fairly fit, spending hours in the saddle can be a challenge if your muscles aren’t used to it! Obviously, if you’re planning an independent trip, choose a suitable itinerary for your ability and don’t be too over-ambitious with your distances. Make sure you have a physical map with you (don’t just rely on GPS!) and also that you’ve researched refreshments stops and bike repair shops along the way.  If you are staying overnight on your trip, you might want to organise for a taxi company to transport your bags between your hotels so you don’t have to carry all your gear with you in panniers.

 

Most guided tours offer different levels of rides, so pick an appropriate one for your level of fitness to ensure you get the most out of the experience. You don’t want to feel under pressure to keep up with a fast group of enthusiasts, neither do you want to be frustrated by the more leisurely pace of a less experienced group.  Organised trips usually include a support vehicle so you have the comfort of knowing you can get a lift if that final hill proves too much!

 

Whatever the type of cycle tour, do make sure that you’re confident on a bike and understand road safety and etiquette.

 

Finally, your cycle challenge is going to be a lot more enjoyable if you are equipped with the right kit. A helmet is, of course, essential and it’s probably better to take your own, even on an organised tour.  High performance padded cycle shorts are also a must, as are cycle gloves.  Ideally, wear cycle specific shoes – clip in cleats make cycling considerably more efficient.  It’s also worth having high-wicking tee-shirts, a good quality, compact waterproof jacket and arm warmers to give you flexibility, whatever the weather.  Don’t be tempted to take a rucksack, it will quickly become very uncomfortable.  Instead, use a small saddle, frame or handlebar bag for your personal essentials – and don’t forget to include a basic tool kit, including a spare inner tool and tyre repair tools!  If you’re embarking on a more strenuous trip, you may well prefer to take your own bike with you rather than hiring a bike even if you’re going abroad; purpose-made bike travel boxes are now readily available to protect your bike in transit.

Whatever type of cycle trip you choose, preparation is key – so make sure you’re ready and then you can enjoy a holiday with a difference!

 

Fortunately, we’ve enjoyed relatively good weather so far and with months of summer still ahead, why not make the most of it and plan a day out on your bike? In Yorkshire, we’re lucky that for many of us, it’s easy to get into some beautiful countryside, even if you don’t reach the Dales, there are lots of rolling hills and pretty villages just a short ride away.

 

But a word of warning, planning is key to enjoying your rural adventure. The starting point, of course, is your trusty bike.  No doubt, you regularly have it serviced professionally as well as keeping it clean and in good working order yourself, so it should be in tip top condition and ready to go – if not, get it checked out at a reputable bike shop!

If you really feel that your bicycle is past its best and actually you need to invest in a more up-to-date, efficient model, there are literally hundreds to choose from. Again, visit a decent bike store with plenty of choice and well-informed staff who can guide you – and ideally go to one which offers the option to go for a spin on your chosen bike before buying.  Don’t forget that the Government’s Cycle to Work scheme is a great way of helping to offset the cost of buying a new bike with employees at many places of work able to benefit from tax exemptions on their purchase.

So, having checked your tyres and lubed your chain, you’re ready to set off, but what else should you have with you? While space on a bike is limited, a small under saddle kit bag will give you room to carry essentials such as a spare inner tube, tyre levers and a pump plus some basic tools.  It’s well worth investing in a small CO2 inflator which makes the job of changing a tyre much quicker and easier.

In terms of what you need, as with any sport, having the right kit will really pay off. Good quality, padded cycling shorts are a must ; and so is a high performance waterproof jacket which can easily be packed away – it doesn’t matter how sunny it is when you set off, always take a waterproof with you, we are in Yorkshire!  Another good option for our changeable weather is to buy some ‘warms’, lightweight arm warmers which are perfect to slip on or off as needed.  Cycling leg warmers are also really useful, particularly as they can be stuffed into a pocket.

Always put on plenty of sun cream before you set off, and ideally take a small tube with you. As you tend to be in pretty much the same position on a bike and have the breeze cooling you, it’s easy to get burnt.  You could also wear a cap under your helmet to help keep the sun off your face and, of course, some good quality cycling sun glasses are essential.

Finally, don’t forget to refuel! Cycling uses up lots of energy and, like the guys on the Tour, you need to make sure that you drink and eat frequently – little and often is the key.  Take two bottles of fluid with you, ideally one containing a specific energy drink for sports as these are specially designed to provide the sugars, carbohydrates and electrolytes you need.  It’s also a good idea to take a couple of energy gels, these are basically a concentrated form of sugars which provide a quick energy hit in a very compact form.  You can also take along energy chews to graze on while riding, or energy bars, these are cereal bars designed to be easily absorbed and digested.  Another tip is to supplement these snacks by making sure that your ride takes in one of Yorkshire’s many tempting tearooms!

So, with a little bit of planning, you can enjoy the wonders of cycling in God’s Own County this summer! Just pop into one of our stores in Wetherby or at Salt’s Mill and we’ll get you kitted out and ready to head for the hills.

Somewhere in my dim and distant past I have vague memories of ‘enjoying’ the ‘vigour’ of an early Sunday morning time trial, usually on some rainy freezing cold dual carriageway in South Wales where I grew up.  Despite the obvious picture of bleakness, I’ve managed to convince myself that this ‘enjoyment’ was real, and in the pursuit of rolling back the hand of time, (and with a lack of suitable road races on the calendar!) I decided it would be a good idea to enter a couple of time trials this weekend….. and that’s where the ‘happy’ memories and stark reality went their separate ways!

 

 

First up was the Valley Striders CC 25 mile TT on the V235 course near Boroughbridge.  Despite my apparent amnesia of the pain involved in TT’ing, I rode this event last year producing a time of 56:29 to finish 7th.  I also rode the same course a few weeks ago in the Halifax Imperial Wheelers event, bettering my time down to a 55:00, and taking 6th on the day.  Not too bad, but over a minute and a half off the winning time.  So I was looking forward to getting back on the course and trying to improve my time.  TT’ing is all about pacing, and I knew that in the Halifax Imps event, I set off too hard, and got carried away coming off a roundabout midway through lifting my power from the targeted 350 watts to well over 450 for a couple of minutes….. and promptly blew up on the next climb.  So I had a good idea of how I could do better!

On Saturday morning I woke up coughing up lumps of green phlegm, and feeling like I was coming down with a bit of a cold, only one way answer to this … kill or cure!  I got out to the race HQ nice and early to sign in and collect my number, before heading off to a nice layby on the course, and warming up on the turbo, pleased to note that I didn’t feel quite as bad as I thought I would!  Ten minutes to my start time I headed off to find the time keepers, and did some final stretching before getting the countdown and heading off on my way.

 

“Don’t go too hard….. don’t go too hard… don’t go too hard” I kept telling myself, I look down at the power meter…. 450 watts… aaaghh…. I’m doing it again!!!  I ease it back and try to find a decent rhythm while the fear of being caught by someone starting after me kept me checking my power numbers with alarming nerdiness. (Is that a real word?!?!)

At the halfway point I was down on my previous best time, but I knew (hoped!) that I had more in reserve.  Coming out of the roundabout I had previously over cooked it on, I cautiously wound up the gear making sure I didn’t go too hard, and then twenty five minutes later it was all over!  I knew I’d beaten my previous best, but not sure by how much, so I headed back to the car to warm down and change, before heading back to HQ to check my time.

 

First look at the board, and there was still 40 odd riders to come back, but I’d finished in 54:26, and I was top of the leader board.  As the results filtered back through to HQ from the remaining riders I watched them being written up in amazement, as none of the seeded riders beat my time…. Until the last man off – Richard Dean, an accomplished TT’er from Team Swift finally put me out of my misery recording a 53:39, leaving me in 2nd place.  Pleased with that I headed home to work out my strategy for the Otley CC 50 mile Time Trial the following morning.

Looking at my power numbers from that day event, I could see that I was a good 20 watts down on where I’d wanted to be, so I was even happier with the result knowing that there is more in the tank.  But how to pace a 50?!?!  The last time I rode a 50 was in 1994…. Back then power meters were new technology that only the top pro’s had access to, and lets be honest, I struggle to remember what I did this morning let alone what I did 23 years ago!  Luckily, Google came to my rescue, and I managed to find a few pointers that you should aim for around 90% of your FTP.  Mine is around 350 at the moment, so I worked out that I should aim for around 315 – 320 watts for an average…. Simple!….. or so I thought!

 

Sunday morning, 07:30, clear blue skies, 19c showing on the thermometer in the car, and I’m sat spinning my legs over on the turbo trainer in a random layby overlooking the A1….. my legs are still a bit sore from yesterdays effort, at 43 years old my legs don’t quite recover as well as they did 20 years ago, oh well, spin them out and we’ll be fine.  I’m only doing this to ‘have a go’ at the longer distance so I can learn to Pace myself over it.  The race is up and down the old A1 around Boroughbridge and Dishforth, and the first half of the course is identical to yesterdays.  No big hills, but some long drags and open roads with a gusting cross wind.

 

Just over an hour later and I’m off, 320 watts feels hard, but I’ve got sore legs from yesterday I keep telling myself, to keep at it.  I catch my minute man in the first few miles and my two minute man by the first turn at five and a half miles, (and he’s off on a number 5… so a seeded rider…. Hmmmm… have I got this right??)  Up to the top turn at Dishforth, and I’m picking off riders who started over ten minutes ahead of me, but my legs are starting to pay the price…. I ease back and do a quick recalculation (ok… a guess!) at what I should be aiming for, “over 300 watts should be fine, I raced yesterday… I’ve got a good excuse for not hitting 320!!!”

 

As the miles tick by, it get harder and harder to hold the pace.  Coming back from Dishforth heading South, the wind is more of a noticeable headwind, and I keep my head tucked as low as possible to stay out of its way.  35 miles in, I remember to take my energy gel, and after a few minutes I feel a boost of energy, I’m back pushing 310 watts, but only for a short while before the pain takes over again, and then it’s the final turn and the push for home.  As I cross the line I stop my watch, its somewhere around 1 hour and 56 minutes since I started, with an average power of 290 watts, but I’ve no idea how that compares to everyone else.  I head back to the car to lie down and get a drink, finally noticing quite how hot it is as I rub the salt off the arms and legs of my skinsuit.

 

Half an hour later and its back to HQ for a cup of tea, slice of cake and a friendly (but very nerdy!) chat about crosswinds, aerodynamics, power numbers and how much time we all lost in the roundabouts(!) with all the other competitors.  I take my time before checking the results, I’ve finished in 1:55:55, one second quicker than Doug Hart from Ilkley CC, and about a minute and a half behind Blaine Metcalf of Team Swift who is in second place.  I recheck the results…. I’m third… but I’m nearly six minutes behind the winner, Steve Ayres from Bronte Wheelers who recorded a time of 1:50:13!

 

I know Steve well, he’s a great Time Triallist and a specialist at these events.  Only six minutes behind him, after I’ve raced the previous day, I’m very pleased with that!  I catch up with him for a chat… “I’m quite pleased with my time” he says, “especially after I had to stop when my chain came off “!!!  Well that’s me put firmly back in my box then!    Not sure I’ll do too many 50’s but about from the two hours on the bike I enjoyed it…. Long live the happy memories!!!

Yorkshire Lads set off for a Wednesday night ride from All Terrain Cycles Wetherby Bikestore

 

A new cycle club, Yorkshire Lads, suitable for all levels of cyclist, has grown to almost 200 members in just six months!

 

The club, sponsored by All Terrain Cycles and founded by Carl Horsfall, the husband of Kate Horsfall one of the women who launched the popular ladies-only club Yorkshire Lass, two years ago, has set up the men’s counterpart with a similar ethos.

The founders of Yorkshire Lad; Carl Horsfall , Tony Booth and Ian Worrall

“I’ve cycled for over 30 years, but I’m not competitive, I just want to enjoy a ride and have a laugh with like-minded people,” explains Carl, who lives in Wetherby. “Having been a customer of All Terrain Cycles since it opened, when they approached me to set up a club in a similar vein to Yorkshire Lass, I was happy to help.  It is very much an inclusive club which welcomes everyone and has rides suitable for all riders, whatever their level and whether they’re road cyclists or mountain bikers.”

 

The club offers regular rides every Wednesday evening and Sunday morning from All Terrain’s cycle superstores in Wetherby and Saltaire, as well as casual rides organised by members throughout the week. It is a social group, not subscription only membership, and, therefore, all cyclists are welcome.

 

Carl continues: “As I work shifts, I’m often out on my bike during the week and see lots of other cyclists out on their own. The club is a great way of bringing people together so they can enjoy some company on their ride.

 

“Primarily the club is about social cycling with a choice of leisurely Sunday morning rides suitable for beginners, less fit or older people, both on mountain and road bikes. There’s also the option of more serious pelaton-style cycling on a Wednesday evening when some of the All Terrain race team come along too.

 

“I’ve found that a lot of clubs tend to take cycling quite seriously which can be off-putting for the social cyclist. Yorkshire Lad CC has no minimum standards – just come out with us, ride your bike and have some fun!”

 

While Carl, assisted by Ian Worrall, husband of Yorkshire Lass co-founder Judith Worrall of Thirsk, organises rides from All Terrain Cycles’ Wetherby store, some of the All Terrain team at its Saltaire store organise rides from there.

 

Yorkshire Lads Cycling Jersey – exclusive to All Terrain Cycles £39.99

The region’s new club is being supported by the region’s oldest cycling business, All Terrain Cycles, which is committed to promoting cycling in Yorkshire. The company has funded Yorkshire Lads CC’s affiliation to the British Cycling association and has also had exclusive club kit manufactured complementing the Yorkshire Lass CC jerseys.

 

“While there are lots of cycling clubs in the region, many are fairly hard core and can put off the less fit or casual cyclist and we really want to make the sport accessible to everyone,” comments Tony Booth, managing director of All Terrain Cycles. “Yorkshire Lass has proved hugely popular with hundreds of ladies taking part in its weekly rides over the last two years, and we expect its male counterpart to also appeal to lots of guys who just want to get out on their bike with other enthusiasts and enjoy a ride.”

 

Dating back to 1907, All Terrain Cycles is the oldest cycling business in Yorkshire. Having supported the sport of cycling since 1997 with its own race team, All Terrain Cycles is committed to playing an active part in the region’s cycling fraternity, sponsoring a number of cycling and charity events in the region every year.

   2017 was my first crack at the Fred Whitton, I knew the route but had never done the actual event. I was due to ride it with two lads from the local club and luckily we were being supported by a car which met us twice during the event.

The gruelling Fred Whiton 2017

 

    The day started reasonably chilly with a steady wind blowing from the north, not ideal but the forecast was good for later so we started with arm warmers and a gillet. Sign on was very quick as was the start, no queue to speak of, before we knew it we were climbing towards Troutbeck and onto Honister. The top was gloomy, damp and windy but there were loads of supporters so spirits were raised. The weather started to pick up near Keswick and by the time we were onto Whinlatter it was really starting to warm up, again the crowds were amazing on the passes with cowbells being rung and all sorts of fancy dress wearing supporters. I struggled over Cold Fell but some food picked me up and soon it was on to Hardknott and Wrynose. The organizers had done a great job of closing the roads from the bottom of the pass so we were free to use the whole road….I managed to clean both climbs (most don’t) and enjoyed the traffic free descent. We finished in 7hrs 47 minutes, considering I’d not done half the hill work prep I should have done I was happy enough with that. A nice touch was crossing the line to be given a glass Fred Whitton tankard and a cold can of (alcohol free) lager too. Big shout to my daughter Emily and to Anita Allen for supporting us, the feed stations were pretty busy so it was nice to be able to have our own crew.

A welcome pint in a well deserved Fred Whitton 2017 tankard

   The Etape du Dales wasn’t quite as entertaining……I’ve done the route a few times so I know it well, coming in a week after the Fred I’d always the double but thought I should give it a go. A fresh start saw the day improving but the wind never relented,  I was on my own and tagged onto as many groups as I could. At the top of the Buttertubs Andy Cunningham from Team ATC caught me up and I tagged onto his wheel down Swaledale but I couldn’t stick with him on the climbs, the run up Arkengarthdale to the Tan Hill was sunny but a strong cross/head wind sapped my ebbing strength. I kept up a reasonable pace (for me) till the Mallerstang where I really started to struggle, the Coal Road finished me off and by the time I was heading down Ribblesdale I was completely spent, I’d not stopped, I’d carried my own food but I was out of fluids and feeling empty. The feed at Stainforth was a very welcome site, not least as it was staffed by my local club The Settle Wheelers so I received a fantastic welcome. A brew, cake and a banana saw me up to Dale Head, but I’d left it too late and my stomach wasn’t having it…..Just past Halton Ghyll I pulled over and was sick, I had to sit down and take 15 minutes to recover and then limped it to the finish. Lesson learned! 

   I think next year I’m going to concentrate on the Fred with some steep hill specific training and see how I feel for the Etape (and see what the weather is doing!)