We set off from Danby Moors Centre and began with the climb up Park Bank towards Danby Beacon, a nice tough road climb to get us all warmed up.
We turn off left for a traverse along the moor by Castleton Pits to eventually come out at the road past Clitherbeck Farm. We then turn right onto the road and follow it for a short way to the point where it bears sharp right, at which point we turn sharp left. Here we come across an example of the harm that taking 4x4s onto the moors can do. The track here is so deeply rutted and filled with water that it's impassable, even by 4x4s, so all vehicles, bikes and people have started taking wide detours to the side, leading to more erosion off the actual trail. The "pond" was actually totally frozen over. I was hoping Tony would try to ride it.
"Not thick enough", said Sam.
"Tony or the pond?" I enquired.
So having negotiated this obstacle we track across Gerrick Moor to eventually reach the road at Three Howes Rigg where we go straight across, initially staying on the road before swooping off onto the bridleway that leads down towards the railway near Commondale station.
We follow this, staying parallel to the railway, all the way to Castleton where we hit the road once again. A Left/Right at Castleton puts us onto Wandels Lane, around the back of Danby Low Moor. A left turn from this takes us onto the bridleway to Rowantree Farm and some exceptionally sticky mud. We'd done well to be largely mud-free up to now, a result partly of the ground still being frozen in some of the potentially muddiest places. No such luck here though, the mud stuck with a vengeance, increasing our tyre diameters by a couple of inches and dragging against the crowns of our forks. Once off the track and into the farmyard we bounced our bikes along, practicing bunny-hops in a desperate attempt to shed the extra few kg's of unwelcomed weight we'd just gained!
Eventually we came out at the Danby-Ainthorpe road. Here we lost 3 of our group, 2 who were having mechanical problems and decided to take the quick way back to Danby, and another who was feeling the pace a bit in his first ride with us for quite a while. The rest of us turned right for a few metres of road work before turning right once more for the technical climb up to Ainthorpe Rigg. This track was noticeably more difficult than usual, having suffered a good deal of erosion since the last time we did it.
Once we made the top, what lay ahead was one of our favourite descents. Steep, rocky and droppy at the top it turns narrow and technical a bit further down before finally opening up into a fast and furious finish down to the road. It made a good spot to take some action shots (click for larger images).
At the bottom we meet a bunch of motorbikers who are headed UP the bridleway. Illegal and potentially very damaging, it made me realise it was probably more than just the weather to blame for the poor state of the climb we'd just done.
A short section of roadwork took us onto the bridleway into Walker's Plantation, another potentially unrideable mudfest that was rescued by the fact that the wall at the side of the track cast a shadow, meaning that half of the trail was frozen. We stuck to that half.
A traverse along the edge of the moor here took us to Danby Crag where we left the moor onto the ridged, concrete farm track. We followed this till it reached the road then continued downhill for a while before realising we'd missed our turning. Back up the hill then, and back off road once more onto a short section of bridleway that brought us back onto the road back to Danby.
By now no one could be bothered with the final steep road climb that would reward us with a fast but unchallenging downhill back to the very same road we're already on. The lure of the scones was way to strong, so it was just a couple of miles of roadwork back to the Moors Centre. The weight of mud on the bikes and the drag of our tractor-like tyres made this a real slog, except for Laurie who seemed to get some extra energy from somewhere to go sprinting off ahead. The lure of the scones, indeed.
It was a largely uneventful ride; No one fell off, conditions were excellent and Neil didn't break anything on his bike. Not much for me to write about then!
Oh, The Dales Centre was out of scones! Damn You!!!
Danby - Commondale - Castleton 16.6 Miles, 2034ft up/down, 3 1/2 Hours