Aldbrough St John-Richmond-Masham-Kirby Malzeard-Pateley Bridge-Skyreholme. 44 miles.
Click here for a map of the route
Possibly our most miserable day’s cycling ever… It was raining hard as we left Aldbrough, and we had a gentle warm-up through Melsonby and up to the A66 before gliding down Gilling Bank and slogging through the first floods of the day up to Richmond. Snow started as we reached the outskirts of Richmond, and our already sodden feet started to get cold too. We cycled through Catterick (past the Gaza Barracks – can that really be right?) and on through the rain. As we slogged up one hill, a passenger in a white van was moved to wind down his window and shout “You’re mad, you are”, which seemed pretty accurate, even to us.
The roads became progressively wetter, as all the accumulated rain of the last few days ran off the fields. At Masham we stopped for a coffee in a pub (too wet to notice which one), and adjusted all the brakes, which had once again worn down considerably in the wet conditions. We decided to try to push on for Pateley Bridge before lunch, and cycled on towards Kirkby Malzeard and up onto the moor. At one flood cars were turning back, but we decided we had no choice but to cycle through, and of course we were very wet already. Cycling through water doesn’t half slow you down, though, and watching the ‘bow wave’ from the stoker’s position was a little scary. With Jonathan shouting “Whatever you do, don’t stop pedalling!” we made it through without incident, but were thoroughly saturated from the knees down.
The road up over the moor is probably lovely on a clear day, but it seemed interminable in the rain, and by now a head-wind was also contributing to our misery. After what seemed like weeks we reached the top of the descent into Pateley Bridge. At 20% in places and very wet, it was far too steep to enjoy and we took it very slowly. We arrived at the Crown in Pateley Bridge to find a roaring fire (in front of which we arranged our gently steaming socks) and the incredulous locals marvelled at our foolhardiness. After an hour in the warm, and a good lunch, we were ready to tackle our final climb, the hill out of Pateley Bridge to Greenhow. We’ve driven up this hill so many times and knew it would be hard, with several sections at 16%, but we tackled it slowly and ground our way to the top, to be greeted by a freezing headwind. We passed Stump Cross Caverns (always very spectacular when it’s been raining, but the vision of a hot bath at home was drawing us on), and finally took the turn down and into Skyreholme and home.
So. The shiny new Landescape tandem was looking somewhat less than shiny now, but we’d made it, everything had held up well and our Ortlieb panniers had proved to be utterly waterproof in the most testing of conditions. We’re now planning for Land’s End to John O’Groats – surely it couldn’t be as wet as that in June. Could it?