The rolling limestone hills of the Yorkshire Dales conceal some of the UK’s best biking, and if you haven’t experienced them for yourself yet, start planning. This route makes a great introduction to the region — a kind of Dales in a nutshell, with just about every kind of trail you could imagine, and some pretty amazing scenery too.
Malham to Street Gate’s a tall order, and the early climbing doesn’t end where the tarmac stops; as a grassy track takes over and carries you well above the 500m contour line — that’s a total of over 300m of ascent in the first hour. But the descent to Arncliffe pays back, especially the switchbacks, and is followed by an easy lane cruise that allows plenty of time for recovery. Litton marks the start of another big climb, this one off road onto the flanks of Plover Hill. The steep and rocky plummet to Helwith Bridge is well worth the price paid, as are the views back over the clinks and grikes to the distinctive summit of one of the Dale’s most-loved fells: Pen-y-ghent.
The walled climb from Stainforth is the steepest and most sustained of the whole outing — you’ll need a low gear and strong legs to beat this one. But save some stamina for the singletrack descent into Settle, which is sure to put the smile back on your face; and perhaps a little more for the day’s final big ascent, which leads from the town’s tiny streets onto the rocky horror show of Stockdale Lane — a little tamer due to the Pennine Bridleway, but still a challenge. It’s downhill all the way from the top — 250m of high-speed shenanigans that wrap the whole thing up perfectly.