Stop for a moment, and think about the things that might spring to mind about the Yorkshire Dales. Tranquility, perhaps? Rolling countryside? Certainly. Quiet villages nestled amongst verdant pastures maybe? Stoic yorkshirefolk? All of these may be valid - and yet, and yet...
This isn't a tenth of what the Dales has to offer, and it speaks not at all of the pleasures to be had mountain biking around the region. Those tranquil dales translate to lung-busting climbs and hurtling descents if you have a mind to find them - or they can just as easily turn into glorious spins around a beautiful landscape that's rich with history, from the Roman to the Industrial Age.
Here, then, is a collection of Tours that will help you to find the great experiences that are nestled within this green and pleasant land. From views and easy trails around Austwick, all the way over to the singletrack glories of the trails of the Howgill Fells above Sedbergh (yes, they're in Cumbria, but it's still within the Yorkshire Dales National Park), there's a ride to suit everyone.
Probably the best place to use as a base is Settle - not only does it have a station, but it's the base for some marvellous riding in and of itself, and there are plenty of accommodation opportunities. However, it can get somewhat busy in tourist seasons, so do plan ahead. If you want to truly explore the best the Dales has to offer, then you're probably better off travelling to riding spots by car; it's a big place, and some of the best areas can be remote.
But don't let that put you off - the Yorkshire Dales are famous for their beauty, and for good reason. Truly, there are few places in the UK which can rival it.
A hefty day out, this one, for sure - there are plenty of miles and smiles to be had here, and more than a little climbing. It's not too much of a suffer-fest, though; most of the climbs are spin-aways or grinds (naturally) but there's not much in terms of technicality. A fine all-round day ride, then, with some top drawer sites to take in along the way.
From Settle, the route heads vaguely northwards and, yes, upwards, before dropping bank down the valley to Stainforth. Up and down once more to Helwith Bridge before a spot of road work gets you to Horton in Ribblesdale.
After a swift refreshment stop, if you like, a little more road-work takes the route up the Pennine Bridleway towards Clapham Bottoms, and Ingleborough Cave, which can prove to be an entertaining diversion.
Avoiding Austwick by taking the Dales High Way, the route then drops through Feizor and drops down to Giggleswick Scar before hitting the road again back to your starting point.
There are plenty of places to stay en route, mostly in Settle itself, which is an excellent point from which to start. There are shoes, restaurants, and accommodation readily on offer, and there's a famous railway station (the Settle to Carlisle line is truly spectacular).
If you squint long and hard at a map, you might be somewhat baffled as to why the Howgill Fe''s are in a Collection about the Dales at all. Technically, Sedburgh and the Howgill Fells are in Cumbria - although in a coup that (amazingly) hasn't yet resulted in war, they fall under the aegis of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Precisely how Yorkshire managed to pull this off (it's not exactly the smallest county, after all - it has no need of the extra room) is a source of mystery, even to residents
But enough of such philosophising! This ride has plenty to recommend it; stiff climbs, stunning views and lots of peace and quiet - but from a two-wheeled perspective it's really all about Bowderdale. Sure, the ride up to it is fun enough - but it's really the descent that runs from The calf down to Bowderdale that really kick the ride up a gear or two. Nearly 4 miles (or 6 kilometres) of pristine natural singletrack; it's a fantastic experience.
As epic as that might be, the ride back also has its delights; great names (Newbiggin on Lune is a particular favourite, or the magnificently surreal Artlegarth), more stiff climbs, great views, excellent singletrack, and the final descent back into Sedbergh. This truly is a route not to be missed!
Sedburgh boasts the usual amenities of a small northern town; accommodation, food, pubs and so forth, but there are also facilities (well, pubs) on the way round. Sedburgh possesses no railway station, however, so you'd better off visiting by car. Trust us, it's well worth it.
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This is a great little ride if you fancy a gentle spin which nevertheless gives a great taste of the riding available in the Dales. There are climbs and descents, to be sure, but as it's a figure of eight it's very easy to cut short if you need to, and there are some excellent pubs along the way for a spot of refuelling.
It's even possible to ride it on a stout touring bike or the increasingly fashionable gravel bikes; there's little in the way of technical riding - but this is a fantastic ride to soak up the atmosphere and the scenery.
From Austwick, the route heads northwards and then drops down under Whlte Stone Wood (some pretty obscure naming, there) to Wharfe before heading back almost to the start. Incidentally, 'Wharfe' means 'the bend', and was originally (at least in 1379) spelled 'querf', a spelling it should have kept, to my mind.
Before heading back into Austwick, though, the route strikes out again; southeast this time, towards Feizor (meaning - Fech's Summer Pasture. No, I don't know how, either) and down to Giggleswick Scar before heading back on pretty lanes and tracks.
Austwick is the biggest town near the ride, and so makes a logical place to start, although you could also start in Wharfe or Feizor if you wanted. Whichever way you choose, it's a drive to get there, as there are no trains.
This ride is so called because of the shape of the elevation profile; it's a hefty beast and no mistake. There's plenty of steep climbing, some scrabbly surfaces and quite a few false summits - and once you're half way round you know that you've got a very similar riding profile to come!
The rewards, though, more than make up for the effort. Get even the merest smidgeon of sunshine, and you'll be rewarded with glorious views and spectacular surroundings - but even if there's no view, the Silent Hill-esque vibe lends an agreeably spooky air to proceedings.
From Horton in Ribblesdale, there's climbing aplenty to come, taking in the Hull Pot view, if you fancy.
Continuing on, the trail levels up a little, before descending to Foxup Bridge. The climb up the other side of here is a doozy; be warned. The contour lines close up, and it's a grind up the path to Horse Head Gate before dropping down the other side to the half way point.
A spot of road work carries you towards the long climb and steep pack-horse descent towards Litton, before a somewhat more gentle climb and descent back to the start.
Around the route, there is a pub available just off the trail on Buckden, and another in Litton, but pickings are pretty sparse apart from these, so pack snacks and liquids accordingly.
Horton is the natural place to start; there are more options for food; there's a campsite and other amenities including ample parking. And if you're looking for train access, there's even a station.
This is a great intermediate ride; not too long, not too short; not too technical, not too simple. Just right, in fact.
Although it manages to pack quite a bit of climbing into its relatively short distance, the route's rewards are chiefly the fantastic environment and the luscious views; lungbusting climbs are rewarded with glorious vistas.
Starting off from Bainbridge, the initial climb is along a straight-as-an-arrow Roman Road before kinking back down the trail to Countersett. From here, a road leads to the wonderfully named Stalling Busk, and the route hits the High Lane track up to Busk Lane.
From here, it's downhill all the way back to the village - again, nothing too technical, but great views, some fun trails and the knowledge that you'll have earned your post-ride snack!
There aren't many options for refreshment on the way round, so take adequate provisions with you. Bainbridge has pubs, parking and other amenities, although there are no provisions for public transport; this one's car access only. There are more options for food, drink or accommodation in nearby Askrigg if you get stuck.
Here's a route which won't take all that long (it's not too far) but packs a punch in terms of climbing for all that distance!
The rewards are worth it, though - the area is steeped in industrial history if you keep your eyes peeled, and there are plenty of descents to match all those climbs.
A long, easy grind comes first, up to Harker Top, which leads to a small but entertaining descent and then an easy drag up to the Apedale Road.
The climbing doesn't stop here, though - there are a couple of very steep (but thankfully extremely short) sections that might well have you off and pushing before you reach Apedale Head.
There now follows a long, easy descent down this old mining road, taking in the spectacular scenery before reaching some of the old mine buildings at Dent's Houses and striking north up another stiff climb.
Then it's just a great descent with some amazing views back to the start.
The ride starts at Grinton Lodge, which is a Youth Hostel just above the village; Grinton boasts pubs, conveniences and a glorious church, St Andrews, which was once the sole church for the entire Swaledale area. Unfortunately, however, there are no public transport facilities.
There's nothing too technically demanding on this ride, although you'll feel as if you've paid for the wonderful views with some stiff climbing. But this is mostly on tarmac, so it's a relatively easy spin. Most of the work on this ride comes in the second half of the ride.
The first half, then, is pretty easy going, along the Swale Trail, a newly created marvelled route along the Swale Valley. It's a very pleasant place to spend some time (and if you've got a small family, it's a fine out-and-back).
Once past Feetham, though, the route runs back on itself a little, and then the hard work begins. There's some stiff climbing (and, yes, a little descending) up onto Feetham Pasture before taking the bridlepath over Reeth Low Moor and dropping into Langthwaite.
The trail from here is a wonder, though. Undulating would be the best word to describe it, with just enough interest to keep you alert, before dropping back into Fremington.
This tour starts and ends in Fremington, at the excellent Dales Cycle Centre, which boasts accommodation, food, bike hire, a bike shop, and pretty much anything the cyclist might require. There is also accommodation in nearby Reeth.