In Issue 120 of Singletrack Magazine, our Classic Ride writers stayed at the Yorkshire Cycle Hub. Here’s what’s in store if you choose to do the same.
“I’d like a pink gin and tonic” said my wife. Good choice, I thought, I’ll have one of those too. But then it struck me – I was going to have to order two not-entirely-manly drinks from the bar of a pub full of locals. In deepest Yorkshire. Although I’ve done my best to lose my Little Lord Fauntleroy accent over the years, I wasn’t sure I would entirely blend in, so it was with no small amount of trepidation that I ordered our drinks.
“What kind of tonic water would you like with those? We’ve got a choice of different ones, designed to complement our extensive range of gins. There’s some tasting notes on the back of the gin menu” said the lady behind the bar. At this point I was already somewhat in a state of a shock. “I’d recommend the Mediterranean one, the subtle herb flavours really set off the taste of some of the gins” chipped in one of the locals sitting at the bar.
That was when I realised that I really loved Yorkshire. We’d had a properly ace day riding with the team from the Yorkshire Cycle Hub in the sunshine. Then had shovelled in a huge slice of homemade carrot and ginger cake at the YCH café afterwards. And now we were standing in their local pub, about to order our dinner and the actually-really-lovely-locals not only approved of our choice of drinking a pre-dinner G&T but actively offered advice on which was the most suitable tonic.
When I first looked up the address for the YCH and realised it was located in Great Fryup Dale, I initially thought it was some kind of late April Fool’s joke. But no – it genuinely exists. So, it’s clearly some strange kind of geographical nominative determinism – after all, what better place to build a cycling café than in the home of great fryups.
The location of the YCH is incredible – a flat terrace on the side of a hill, overlooking farmland marked out by archetypal Yorkshire drystone walls and with stunning hills and moorland on the far horizon. Unfortunately, this amazing rural location is also its slight downfall as the YCH isn’t super easy to find. Our satnav confidently took us to where it thought we wanted to go and then just coughed apologetically and waved its metaphorical arms vaguely and said “it’s somewhere here”. To be fair, the YCH website is totally honest about this and on their website it provides a Google pin which will take you straight to the door – just make sure you prepare this advance, as there’s no mobile signal for the last few miles.
Luckily the minor navigation issues were soon forgotten as we rolled down the driveway. Undoubtedly helped by a deep blue sky, fluffy white clouds and plenty of early summer sunshine, the view and the first impressions are pretty spectacular. Although the buildings on site are basically brand new, the sympathetic design and the use of local stone and timber means the whole place fits really well into the landscape.
As a mountain biker, what would you look for in your ideal trail centre? That was just one of the questions that owners Phil and Sarah asked themselves when they first came up with the idea of building a cycling ‘hub’ in the area. “I was fed up of getting changed in the van after a ride. Someone always ends up sitting in the wet patch with their clean clothes on” said Sarah. “We went and rode at loads of trail centres, both in the UK and over in the USA” continues Phil “and most of them had one or two things wrong with them – they either had a great café, but no bike shop, or the trails were amazing but there was nowhere to get changed, so we wanted to try and get everything right here”.
The YCH isn’t, however, a typical trail centre. For starters, there aren’t any man-made trails running out of the corner of the car park. In fact, there aren’t any man-made trails here at all, or at least none that have been built in the past 100 years anyway. The YCH is all about great riding, but the emphasis is firmly on riding the natural trail network and in another stroke of great location finding and planning, the area around the YCH is absolutely chocka-block with legal off-road riding.
The explosion of trail centres in the UK (and abroad) in the last 15 years, with their easy access to a waymarked and colour graded trail network, means that for some mountain bikers, their primary experience of off-road riding is on made-made trails. The consequence of this is they don’t necessarily have the right skill set or knowledge to get the most out of a day or two riding natural trails. Luckily, this is where the local knowledge of the YCH staff can come in. They offer everything from downloadable GPX files to print outs of routes, but often it’s their knowledge of trail conditions or the prevailing weather that has been more of a boon to non-local riders – even giving advice on which way to ride a circuit considering the wind direction on the day can be the difference between a ride being fun or being a slog. In order to help orientate visiting riders to the area even better, the YCH have also recently been given permission by the North York Moors National Park authority to add small YCH roundels onto appropriate existing rights of way markers, so that a combination of printed maps, GPX files and semi-waymarked routes could then be offered to customers.
Even with the amazing knowledge and advice available on tap to customers, the YCH team has still got a range of amusing stories about riders either not taking its advice and then riding the wrong way around a circuit, or getting spectacularly lost and needing some help to be ‘beamed back in’ to the YCH – the record for this currently stands at 400m from the end of the driveway. As well as having in-depth knowledge of the best riding, the YCH team is also heavily involved with trail advocacy and trail maintenance work too – the team is working with local landowners and the National Park authorities to promote access on the most appropriate trails and also to ensure that existing trails are maintained when necessary. In a first of its kind agreement with the National Park, YCH agreed as part of the planning process, to contribute towards the repair and upkeep of their local trails as well as volunteering to do some of the work.
Of course, a trail centre is about much more than just the riding. Phil and Sarah wanted to build a complete one-stop-shop, so they have a large airy café, a log burning stove and comfy sofa for colder days and most importantly, they have an ‘emergency cake lady’ permanently on call to provide cake at short notice if supplies run short. They also have their own bike shop (complete with workshop and CyTech qualified mechanic), a fleet of quality hire bikes (including some e-bikes from LaPierre that customers can demo), changing rooms with hot showers, function room, en-suite bunk rooms (for anyone who wants to make a weekend of it) drying room, guest kitchen and last but not least, a huge partly covered deck with picnic tables which overlooks the amazing view. Quite an incredible set-up in one location then, all things considered.
But it’s not just about keeping all the revenue from customers to themselves. “We’re not planning on offering evening meals” said Sarah. “We try and persuade guests to eat out at the local pub instead. That way some of the benefit of visitors coming to Fryup Dale is shared between the local community.” This theme of trying to connect the YCH to the local community is something that comes up regularly throughout our chat, but is also visible as soon as you arrive at the YCH, as there’s a North York Moors Cycling Friendly sticker on the front door as you walk in.
The National Park is really keen to promote cycling of all types throughout the North York Moors and surrounding areas and so have set up a “Cycling Friendly” initiative, where local businesses who are interested in attracting cyclists and who are willing to invest in creating the appropriate facilities (whether that’s something as simple as having ‘loaner’ locks for customers to park their bikes outside a café, or something much more involved such as the incredible facilities at the YCH) can become part of a network of collaborating businesses. The National Park will promote this network via interactive mapping on their website and asks businesses do their best to cross-promote each other too – persuading YCH customers to stop off at an accredited cycling friendly café midway through their ride, for example, is a great way to share the benefits of tourism in an area of the country in need of as many additional streams of revenue as possible. The aim is to develop a network of cycling-friendly cafes and accommodation providers all linked up with some amazing road and off road routes and also to showcase hubs and gateways such as YCH. There will also be work done on educating a new generation of riders venturing outside of trail centres so they understand the issues and considerations when riding on shared trails in protected landscapes.
I asked Phil and Sarah what they did to help promote the YCH. How do they attract customers to move away from the more famous trail centres and try something a bit different? “We tried to get customers involved in the build process (through the use of social media) right from the very start” said Sarah. “For example, we used our Instagram account to give updates of the build, right from digging the first foundation footings to the opening of the café itself”. Neil, their trusty mechanic chipped in at this point “We’ve had lots of customers who’ve come to visit us and who said they had been following us on social media and wanted to come and see it for real”.
Phil and Sarah realised early on that they couldn’t just rely on mountain bikers to keep them in business, so went out of their way to find non-cycling customers and to make local people as welcome as they possible could. “We’ve had loads of locals popping in for a coffee” said Sarah “Some of the locals hadn’t seen each other for years, but happened to come to the YCH at the same time and got chatting”. “Probably our most interesting group are the local Women’s Institute ladies”, continued Phil. “They popped in once for a coffee and some cake and a couple of them noticed we had some downhill mountain bike videos on the big screen TV on the wall. After a while they had all turned their chairs to face the TV as though they were in the cinema and we’re ‘ooing’ and ‘aahing’ like it was bonfire night. They come in regularly now and always want to watch the latest films”. The function room that they’ve built has proved to be a winner with customers too “We’ve had everything from keep fit classes, to dog trainers, to National Park meetings here” said Neil.
Dinner in the local pub was a definite hit – they had an impressive menu featuring plenty of local ingredients, could cater for a wide range of dietary conditions and the prices were extremely reasonable. And as for the rhubarb sundae that I had for pudding – well, let’s just say it was worth visiting for that alone.
After Neil dropped us off back at the YCH later that evening, we sat outside on the deck for a little while looking at the stars. The lack of light pollution nearby means when the weather is kind, the star gazing opportunities are incredible. As we headed indoors, up the pressed steel stairs (made by Phil due his background in making wood burning stoves) and into our room, we concluded that it was the little details that really made the YCH stand out from the crowd – Phil and Sarah had thought of everything, from a shelf complete with USB charger situated above your head by every bed, to the quality of the ingredients used in our cooked breakfasts next morning, they really had gone the extra mile to try to make the YCH the perfect venue.
Big thanks to:
- Phil, Sarah and Neil from the YCH should win an award for being the “hosts with the most”. We couldn’t have asked for a better welcome.
- Mike Hawtin, the Outdoor Activity Tourism Officer from the North York Moors National Park, for his knowledge and endless enthusiasm for the YCH and the local area.
Accommodation was provided free of charge by YCH so that Olly could produce the Classic Ride for Issue 120 (out this week).
Olly headed out on a classic ride for Singletrack Issue 120. Watch his video below and read the full story in Singletrack Issue 120 available online here:https://singletrackworld.com/shop/issue-120/
Posted by Singletrack Mountain Bike Magazine on Thursday, August 9, 2018