Yorkshire, there’s no place quite like it. From the coast to the inland hills, the flood-prone flat plains to Tour de France-tested climbs on the moors and the Dales, Yorkshire has something to satisfy every sort of rider. Whether you’re into rapid straight lanes in noble Roman style to scythe along at a blistering pace, or more into steep tarmac that whisks you up above the treeline onto the exposed, dramatic landscapes that inspired the Bronte sisters, here’s where you’ll find it. (And we won’t be the only ones to tell you this).
The first rule of Yorkshire is to talk about it. Talk about how great it is. That’s the thing, you see, Yorkshire thrives on the exuberance of its locals and its visitors.
Out of the UK’s regions, Yorkshire has by far some of the easiest access to the hills, seeing them run amok all over the county, in all shapes and sizes. The biggest are found in the Dales, stretching all the way down past Sheffield as part of the Pennine Chain. To the east, there’s the rolling Yorkshire Wolds stretching to the coast, where you’ll find all the quietest backroads. Just above the Wolds, you can pedal across the bleak high moorland of the North Yorkshire Moors, punctuated by deep valleys and equally as quiet roads. At the end of all these lumps and bumps, you’re rewarded with a string of quaint coastal towns and sandy beaches.
On any given day in Yorkshire you will see a cyclist. At least one, but probably many. They’ll offer you a jam sandwich, or a slab of Wensleydale cheese. They’re kind like that – but then they’ll probably sit in your slipstream for a while, because even on a calm day in Yorkshire, there’s always a headwind.
Harrogate is probably the best place for deep-diving into Yorkshire’s biking scene. Come September 2019, this historic town with all its charming old stone buildings will step up to the world stage as the host town of the UCI 2019 Road World Championships, truly putting the region’s credentials as the cycling capital of the UK to test.
But they’ve never really been in doubt, have they? Back in 2014 it hosted the Grand Depart of the Tour de France, a glorious celebration of cycling in a region that has long boasted above-average participation. If you go into York, you’ll see more bikes than in any other British town–with cargo bikes, tandems, chariots, and all manner of two-wheeled machines. A thriving piece of the Lowlands here in the UK.
For geography and history aficionados, Yorkshire could present the country’s finest case studies – look at flood defences, Roman roads, medieval abbeys, Georgian estates, the influence of the Vikings (evidenced by the place names), and coastal erosion. The list goes on. This collection encompasses it all, much like the most well-rounded academic, these routes are the ones to learn by rote.
You’ll see, there’s nowhere quite like Yorkshire - a place known by many as ‘God’s own country.’
Tracing a circular route along backroads in the bottom corner of the Yorkshire Dales, this ride is a demonstration of the finest Yorkshire roads – especially in the eyes of local Lizzie Deignen.
An Otley cyclist born and bred, the former World Champion cut her teeth on these lumps and bumps in the roads and describes the terrain as "relentless and unforgiving." Sounds about right. She continues: "There are no easy rides and it teaches you to be tough.”
Big words from the Trek rider, and while the idea of suffering might not initially appeal to you, this route in the Dales is one of the most rewarding rides around with views galore.
Halfway round the route you'll reach picturesque Pateley Bridge. From here,there's a noticeable climb up Hebden Road that lasts about 2.5 miles (4 km), before reaching a little plateau so ideally pick a clear day for this route to really make the most of the views.
The village of Bolton Abbey on the River Wharfe (look out for the turreted aqueduct) welcomes you for a pit stop, with its ruined priory and highly popular Cavendish Pavilion cafe – a potential port-of-call for great cakes and a sitdown.
From here, it's quite a fast fly-down back to Otley, taking the most common backroads from Ilkey, which are understandably popular with cyclists. The A65 isn't really a road you'd want to be cycling along!
This represents one of the most accessible rides for the Leeds–Bradford conurbation for those arriving in Otley by car, where there's ample parking.
The most family-friendly route of the collection, this is an A–to–B route from Selby train station up to York station along traffic-free bike paths and little-used back roads.
There's barely a hill in sight for the whole ride, which makes it ideal for newbies or those less confident. It takes you from Selby to York, calling into the unbeatable bike shop and cafe Cycle Heaven, which is in a repurposed warehouse just over Millennium Bridge on the approach to York.
For those with an interest in astronomy, this is a delightful route that incorporates the Planets' Trail. This 6.4 mile (10.5 km) stretch essentially embodies the solar system, displaying the planets positioned to scale. At one end of the disused railway, you've got the entrance to York where you'll find the sun, and the furthest planet is at the other end of the trail.
A quirky way to pass the time on the trail, and you might even learn something too.
Get recommendations on the best single tracks, peaks, & plenty of other exciting outdoor places.
From Leeds to Harrogate along 99% of the 2019 UCI Road World Championship elite men's route, this is no walk in the park. However, let's get it out there right now – there's no shame in cutting this route into two and finding a B&B in the pretty town of Askrigg, exactly halfway around the route.
This ride predominately follows the same as the World Champs course, however, it avoids main roads wherever possible – something that a 200-strong elite peloton with closed roads don't really need to worry about.
As you'd expect from a World Champs course that will be televised across the globe, the race organisers have created a parcours that captures virtually every Yorkshire highlight. Just wait until you see it for yourself.
Leaving Leeds, this goes directly northwards for many kilometres, taking you right into the heart of the Dales. Expect winding, narrow, hilly roads with stone walls on either sides, linking one small village after another. It's a challenging first part of the ride, which could be another good motive for splitting this one into two.
It then heads into Wensleydale through Hawes and over Buttertubs Pass (ave 6.5%, max 20%) – which appeared in the Tour de France 2014. It's a spectacular climb that could get busy on bank holidays, and fingers crossed you won't get stuck behind any cars here. The Dales, you'll come to realise, are quite popular for Sunday drivers – and who can blame them?
From the deep narrow valley of Swaledale, the route turns south and takes you through the picturesque town of Masham, before taking the most direct quiet roads to Harrogate. Here's another diversion to the elite men's course which loops into Ripon – we've put you on the elite women's and U23 men's course because, quite frankly, it's just prettier this way.
Harrogate is going to be the HQ for the World Championships in 2019, where the elites will then tackle an 8.7 mile (14 km) finishing circuit. This route will simply take you to the train station. Those finishing circuits can be done another day, right?
Throwing in a little gravel for the mix, this is a superb, largely traffic-free route that does a sweet half-inland, half-coastal oval between Whitby and Scarborough.
The way out from Scarborough wiggles northwards through little villages and largely uninhabited scenery before skirting eastwards to Whitby, many people's favourite seaside town. Have a meander down to the harbour if you're running ahead of schedule, if not get straight onto the Cinder Track, the disused East Coast railway line. This is a truly great piece of gravel riding – people might say it's fine for a touring bike, but really, in bad weather, it can get a little bit churned up in parts. It'll alternate with views over the North Sea and mystical tunnel-like sections through trees.
But whatever the view, those coastal kilometres will whizz by; you'll be back in Scarborough at the train station before you know it. There's a cafe stop just before reaching Scarborough at a really quaint old station house. It also does a B&B service too, if you felt like stretching the ride out into two days and making the most of the great British seaside. We wouldn't blame you if you did.
The route starts and finishes from Scarborough train station, which is really well served by trains on the Hull and Liverpool lines. Bikes need to be booked at least 24 hours in advance. Check nationalrail.co.uk for times.
One of the most easy-going of the Yorkshire routes, this is a beautiful century-distance ride that ends right on the coast. Ice cream obligatory.
Heading out of York from its centrally located train station, there's a string of bucolic villages to be visited, threaded together carefully by winding lanes and rolling hills that will trail off as you approach the North Sea.
The Yorkshire Wolds are fairly unmissable, forming a sort of semi-basin around the flat plains of York and adding one not-so-insignificant climb.
This route has cherry-picked the quietest backroads and most postcard-perfect views. Almost halfway into the route you'll reach the Georgian country house at Sledmere, whose gardens are rightfully celebrated.
From here, the roads continue to wind their way gracefully towards the coast, first popping you out at Filey, one of the more understated British seaside towns with a charming centre, promenade, and magnificent cliffs. This is where you'll wish that you had a better memory for those long-forgotten geography lessons on coastal erosion. Oh well, soak up the view instead and worry about the ever-diminishing coastline after a quick ice cream.
Back onto your bike now to hunt down the quiet, rolling coast road to Bridlington, a livelier sort of British seaside town. There's a lot going on here so arrive in time for some traditional seaside fare before hopping on one of the regular trains back to York!
Check out nationalrail.co.uk for train times and information on booking your bike in advance.
This predominately flat route is all about shifting down a gear and enjoying the cruise. A fine demonstration of 'taking the scenic route', this one has grandeur aplenty.
Starting from Rawcliffe Bar Park & Ride on the outskirts of York, this route is a rapid one, with just one gentle climb over the Howardian Hills.
It's a popular social circuit for cyclists and those quiet roads are undeniably attractive as they meander their way through the landscape.
There's a real ecclesial element for this ride, with the ruins of Byland Abbey proving the hardest to refute. This flat route takes you right alongside the majestic ruins, just nudging you slightly into the foothills as you ride towards Ampleforth, where an academic coffee awaits.
Exactly halfway around the route, the Benedictine boarding school at Ampleforth Abbey isn't half as old as Byland Abbey (founded by monks in 1802 who fled the French Revolution), but fortunately it is better preserved. In fact, it's in such pristine condition that some cyclists might even be interested in their school fees.
We'd suggest not getting too comfortable in the noble confines of the cafe as you've got the ride's only notable hill to tackle once you leave. After that swooping descent, expect more little lanes and high speeds to bring you back to the outskirts of York.
The finest limestone landscape unfolds on this circular route from Settle to Hawes over Yorkshire's highest road (that's an achievement), followed by the cobbled streets of Dent and what could be the hardest climb around.
This ride is one of the best kinds of all-dayers, which will see you roll back into Settle with an exhausted yet hugely satisfied smile on your face. Covering quite a distance, this route unravels the Yorkshire Dales in all their finery, with breathtaking moorland on the highest points of the course. The roads are so satisfyingly narrow that most cars will be dissuaded from using them.
Hawes comes halfway round the course and it's the home of Wensleydale cheese – you know the one, the crumbly one, it's a bit decisive when it comes to likeability. But Hawes itself is a beautiful town with a lot to see. Upon leaving Hawes the route rolls into Dent, which has to be one of the most underrated villages in the Dales. It's a real find!
From there, you're faced with the steepest climb of the day up Deepdale - just grit your teeth and look forward to the rollercoaster-type fun on the descent to Ingleton and then coasting along the backroads back to Settle.
There's a risk of snow on the exposed parts in winter, and certain bits of the deep valleys might be icy.
Settle has a train station – the famous Settle to Carlisle line – which is rated as one of the most beautiful in the country. It could be a nice way to round off your ride!
So many reasons to love this route, not least because of the start and finish location in Great Fryup Dale – a sunny part of the Yorkshire Moors that you might not be so familiar with.
It's a place that's very much worth having on your radar though, as it's slowly becoming the epicentre of the cycling scene. It has long been the stomping ground for mountain bikers from all over the country given its proximity to Dalby Forest, but its road riding and gravel riding fanfare have been noticeable quieter.
With the creation of the Yorkshire Cycle Hub, a purpose-built road and mtb centre with a cafe, accommodation, regular events, bike hire and much more, this area is ripe for discovery.
This route starts and finishes at the Hub in Great Fryup Dale, a stunning part of the Moors that's fairly isolated, so expect quiet roads, undisturbed views, lots of sheep, deep valleys with layers of lush farmland topped off with rich heathery moors.
It's a fairly bumpy route, but as it ends up back at the Hub you know you and your exhausted legs will be in good hands.
A ride of contrasts, of valleys and high moorland, rolling lanes and eye-poppingly, leg-burningly steep 33% gradients, of the bustle of Malton and Pickering and the solitude of Rosedale. It's a special ride, not least because it includes everyone's champion, bucket-list climb: Chimney Bank.
There's a pleasantly nice flat start from Malton to Pickering, which is located on the edge of the Moors. You'll see hills rising up in the distance, increasing in their stature as you ride northwards. In fact, that's the interesting thing about the Moors – most roads are in a North–South direction, so you can usually expect a hill if you're riding East–West. Rosedale is your next port-of-call, one of the most special of all the valleys and usually fairly quiet. This route takes you right to the very end of Rosedale, where there's a dedicated bike cafe, Dale Head Farm Tea Gardens. Any urgent mechanicals? They've got a workshop for repairs. The great thing about this working farm cafe isn't just the warm welcome for those who venture up the valley to visit it, but it's the fact that's open all year round – oftentimes just with an honesty box and self service. The sort of good, honest cafe that any cyclist or hiking with hunger pangs will appreciate.
In fact, it's wise to tuck into something at the cafe because after riding back down Rosedale you'll be met with the climb of all climbs. Chimney Bank with its sign at the top recommending that cyclists dismount. We'd advise again that! Its gradient maxes out at 33%, but we can assure you that the final third of this under-one-mile (1.4 km) climb is easier on the legs. There are even hairpins down at the bottom, reminiscent of a true Alpine climb (although we doubt that French or Swiss engineers would ever have allowed a road so steep to be built).
Either way, it's a spectacular achievement, so well done in advance. From the top the views are as stunning as you would expect and you'll be able to coast back to Malton via the picturesque Hutton-le-Hole, giving yourself a well-earned pat on the back.
For trains to and from Malton check nationalrail.co.uk
Here's a real geography in action with a beautiful spin along a rapidly eroding coastline (don't worry, your road is safe for now). From the busy seaside village of Hornsea, head southwards on a quiet road and visit Mappleton, which is the typical A-level case study. You might see some students with clipboards.
From there, pedal inland and go through a string of quiet villages, before looping back towards Hornsea passing Wassand Hall and the Mere.
It's a really great ride for those with young kids in tow. Naturally, as you're on the North Sea coast it could be blustery so best save this for a day when the winds are fairly calm.
End the family-friendly ride with a jaunt out onto Yorkshire's largest freshwater lake with a rowing boat, or just an ice cream and a quick bird watching session.