This is the route described in the main text of this Route Guide. A great day out on the moors. Surprisingly varied terrain with a handful of sections that will test even the best technical riders. Even the road bits are great.
This contouring loop follows a picturesque old mine railway line. Most of the route is on wide track but there is the
occasional steep climb and descent. The northern end also throws in a great bit of technical singletrack.
You may be put off this route because of its unusual shape (you ride certain sections in both directions). Don’t be. This ride contains so many amazing trails that you will not mind riding them again and again. This ride skirts along the western edge of the National Park so is bit less Moors-y and as such contains a bit less grit and few more trees. It contains Benji’s two favourite bits of singletrack in the whole of the UK by the way.
We arrived at our B&B more than two hours later than planned but the landlady was thankfully very understanding. We did the British thing of talking about the weather for a bit and she reckoned it was going to be nice and sunny for the next few days. We smiled politely at her theory and went to bed fearing the worst. Amazingly the landlady was right. I awoke unusually early and peered with trepidation from under the duvet at the curtains. Sunlight was tantalisingly blazing through the gap in the middle and streaming onto the carpet underneath the windowsill. I immediately leapt (ok, clumsily staggered) towards the window and opened the curtains. I was greeted with a fantastic sight: azure blue skies and endless green rolling hills with nary a cloud in sight. And this was early morning. Things were only going to get better. The first route we had planned (the ‘Medium’ loop) conveniently started right outside our B&B’s doorstep. Unfortunately it began immediately with rather a testing climb up over Crossley Side. The combination of gradient, narrowing trail and rocks eventually defeated us as we approached the crest but our spirits were still high. The views opened up and we could see the awesome-looking trail ahead of us. A fantastic piece of swoopy, gritty singletrack through heather with plenty of pedal-clipping rocks, natural mini-berms and the occasional ditch to jump across (or plough into depending on your reaction time). Fabulous stuff – one solid mile of This Is Why We Do It. At the bottom of this stellar trail Jim’s mobile rang. The person on the other side was instantly subjected to a righteous, babbling testimonial about just how damned good this trail was from a pair of rather hyper mountain bikers. The caller wasn’t a cyclist themselves but you could tell he was intrigued as to what could possibly make us get so excited. We decided to call the trail ‘The Road To Damascus’ as we were sure anyone could be converted to mountain biking just by riding it.
The tracks from Danby over to Lealholm were more stereotypically North York Moors; wide, straight drove roads over exposed hilltops. Before you ride these trails you imagine them to be a bit, well, dull. To be brutally frank, some of
them can be (like the endless slogs over Bram Rigg) but the ones we were riding weren’t. Far from it. Aside from the great views over Glaisdale there were numerous rocks to dart around (or jump off), amusing little streams crossing the track in seemingly random places and the odd diversion into heather-edged singletrack running parallel to the main track if the mood so took you. We paused for awhile at Danby Beacon trying to identify the various features on the horizon handily illustrated by a plaque on top of the trig-point (a task not aided by the slightly skewiff placing of the plaque!) The weather was actually improving. The sun was getting hotter, the wind was now completely absent and the sky was getting even bluer. The drove road along Lealholm Moor was a bit smoother than the previous ones but what it lacked in technicality it more than made up for with all-out, big-ringspinning speed. We decided not to stop in Lealholm as we were determined to get as much riding in as possible today. So we buzzed right on through and followed a pleasant grassy farm track along the riverside, passed through Under Park Farm and ended up at a river crossing. We umm-ed and arr-ed for a while debating whether to attempt the ford but eventually chickened out and opted for the footbridge option. Maybe next time. Pulling into Glaisdale the lure of the pub proved to be too much. We
rationalised that this was approximately the halfway point of the route and therefore the ideal rest stop. We got our pints, crisps and sandwiches and sat on the benches outside soaking up the fabulous sun and the even better scenery.
Jim suddenly emitted a sickeningly contented giggle and stated “Benny-Boy, this was such a brilliant idea”. He presented his outstretched palm at me and I duly high-fived it. Clichéd it may be, but it was what the scene called for.
The next bridleway through the dense East Arnecliff Wood was still a bit soggy but provided a nice cooling rest period in
the shade out of the glare of the midday sun. After exiting the woods we were faced with a double-chevron tarmac climb up on to Egton Grange. Oops. The more sensible route is to head due south up the white road before and above the woods and join the road nearer the top but since when has mountain biking been about being sensible? It was strangely enjoyable in a pretending-to-be-Lance-type-way, slowly winching our way up in our granny rings, sweat dripping profusely down on to our top tubes.
Eventually the road levelled off and after a few km of pleasant singletrack road spinning it was time for some more off
road shenanigans. Straight away we were thrown into yet more whippy heatheredged singletrack. Although the gradient
was pretty flat this sort of trail just eggs you on, faster and faster, until you either burst out of the other side with a huge grin on your face or you burn out and ditch it into a bush. We burst out of the other side with huge grins on our faces just as the heather died away and the trail became grassy and overgrown. Just as we were wondering if we had taken a wrong turning, the trail suddenly pitched downwards through a series of tufty hairpin gullies. Suspension forks bottomed out as we collided with hidden immovable lumps and we wrestled with our bars trying in vain to inform our bikes where we wished to go as we bumped and tankslapped on way down the hill. Another thigh-burning road climb was the only exit out of the valley bottom onto the appropriately named High Moor. We turned off the road on to an entertaining bridleway over Glaisdale Moor. This track was sort of an amalgam of the drove roads and heather-edged singletrack we had encountered earlier; some places were wide and clear, other sections were narrow and rocky. It was highly variable and certainly kept us guessing as we headed for the next turnoff. But where was this turnoff? According
to the map the turnoff was up ahead and virtually doubling back on ourselves. But up ahead all we could make out was a couple of waterfalls and seemingly sheer cliff face. We reached the spot on the mini cliff top where the map indicated the bridleway turned off and even though there was a handy cairn marking the start we didn’t quite believe it. After a bit of hunting around for another option proved fruitless we had no option but to give it a go. Oh well, here goes nothing…
Rolling off the grassy top was simple enough but all off sudden it became rocky and the edges of the trail rose up around our ears. No sooner had we been ushered to the right when we had to negotiate a tight left hand hairpin with a big stepdown slap bang on the apex. We both got spooked on our first attempts (if you endo at the step you will be rewarded with a 50ft skydive) and bailed out, but we managed to make it down okay on the second go. The trail straightened out slightly but threw in a few more drop-ins and rear mech-eating rock gaps for good measure. After completing this nerve-wracking plummet we were rewarded with a beautifully quiet and serene spot at the head of Great Fryup Beck. Great Fryup Dale lay ahead of us, waterfalls cascaded down behind us and a babbling brook passed by the side of us. We took a well-earned break and took in the vibe for a few minutes before heading off on a sweet piece of narrow contouring singletrack that wound its way around the short-grassed hillside toward Wood End Farm.
All good things come to an end eventually. We took our time on the road back to the B&B trying in vain to cling on
to this great day. Although we were sad to get to the end of the ride our spirits perked up considerably when we realised we still had another two days of this to come. Bliss.
Need To Know
Getting there: Probably the best place to base your North York Moors adventure is Danby. From all directions head for junction 49 of the A1(M). Take the A168 to Thirsk then the A19 followed by the A172. Then using various unclassified roads follow the signs for Stokesley, Little Ayton, Kildale, Commondale and finally Danby. Good luck avoiding tractors and caravans!
Staying there: There are literally hundreds of B&B’s, Inns and Hotels in this part of the world. A good place to look for advice and contact information is the North York Moors National Park Authority website at http://www.moors.uk.net
We stayed with Mrs R Smith at Crossley Side Farm Little Fryup, Danby, YO21 2NR Tel: 01287 660313 email@example.com
Family run dairy farm situated in the beautiful dale of Little Fryup offering friendly and comfortable farmhouse accommodation.