The tough list
Terrible weather, bad planning, or hard as nails – these routes we found a bit too hard. Give them a go but take it from us, check the forecast beforehand!
West Lakes, 29.55km
GPS download: po.st/westlakes
I’d been eyeing up a route that on paper had all the makings of an awe inspiring Lakeland route – a big day in the mountains with some incredibly views and great riding. It was hideous.
Starting in Ennerdale it (or rather, I) took us over Scarth Gap down to Buttermere then back up to Red Pike before dropping us back down into Ennerdale. Simple. But in no way easy. Anything that gained us altitude was a hike-a-bike including a bit of scrambling on some steeper sections. Descents were a tech fest, which were mostly fun but when you’re tired from shouldering a bike all day hard work. There seemed like precious little ‘just riding along’ and I’m pretty sure my bike was on me more than me on it, but somehow the combination of views and the final downhill made it all worthwhile. In retrospect. Just.
Walna Scar, 18.36km
GPS download: po.st/walnascar
Walna Scar, it’s a mountain biking classic. Thousands of riders can’t be wrong. Can they? Timing is everything with this ride. On a good day it’s a ride that treats you to some of Cumbria’s lesser known gems, gives you views into the heart of the Lakes and out towards Morecambe Bay. The day we did it was not a good day.
Visibility for much of the ride was down to metres due to low cloud and the wind had us off the bikes and lying in ditches for respite. Then there was the rain. It rained so hard that I couldn’t keep my lenses clear, in fact it was so bad we had to come back to re-shoot the feature. I’ve subsequently ridden the route on a crisp and clear autumn day and it was beautiful, but I think that first awful experience has left me with some kind of PTSD. To me Walna Scar will always be remembered as the time a ride broke me.
Black Mountains, 39.4km
GPS download: po.st/blackmountains
A killer loop that truly put the knife in. Due to a level of faff I previously didn’t think possible we didn’t start this 40km ride until 4.30pm. Being mid-summer I reasoned we still had a fair amount of daylight to play with and having driven for six hours to get here there was no way we weren’t doing this ride. With nowhere on the route to stop for refreshments we had to be totally self sufficient, something we absolutely failed at with not much more than an energy bar between us. The nature of the route meant there was no shortcuts we could take, we had to stick to the plan and go the full distance. Photo stops were pared back and became ever more challenging as light levels dropped and dropped. We got back to the van hungry, tired and slightly broken at 10.30pm. By this time it was pitch black and none of us had lights. We did find a can of (lukewarm and crap) beer in the van though, so that was something.
Yorkshire Dales, 34.20km
GPD download: po.st/yorkshiredales
After what felt like a winter of endlessly pedaling through filth I, optimistically, set out to try and find a route that didn’t involve mud. The Dales in winter was low on mud but after weeks of heavy rain the gravel surface was suspended in water and moved like like rock custard under tyre. Snow drifts covered much of the trails over the moors making for tricky navigation and the going was slow. Cold and with no shelter from the incessant wind we just wanted to get this ride ticked off. I’m pretty sure if one of us had got a puncture they’d have been left to fend for themselves. On a good day this route would have just been a chunky day out, on the day we rode it it was a gritted-teeth grind. The thought of coffee and cake at Dales Bike Centre was all that kept us going that day.