No Tony this week so the route planning was down to me. I adopted a bit of a "join the dots" approach, choosing as many steep off-road downhills as I could reasonably fit in and joining them together with (by and large) on-road climbs. It's an approach that sounds OK in theory, but is not guaranteed to provide a satisfying ride in terms of variability (and suitability) of terrain and scenery. In practice I struck lucky and ended up with a ride that had a bit of everything - some lung busting climbs (one of them an excellent off-roader), two of the finest off-road descents in the area, a previously unridden bridleway and copious amounts of mud.
Four of us set off from Danby Moors Centre car park, heading up into the village where we turned left. Down the road, under the railway bridge, sweeping round to the right before eventually forking left at Ainthorpe. Up the road past the tennis courts, we eventually turn off right onto the bridleway that goes up onto Ainthorpe Rigg.
We'd no sooner gone through the gate that leads onto the moor proper than we had to stop. I thought I'd seen enough of mechanical breakdowns with last Thursday's debacle in Guisborough woods, but no, they were to strike us again. Sam's rear dérailleur cable had snapped, frayed away where it clamps to the mech. Fortunately we were able to free up enough slack to re-clamp the cable, leaving Sam with only the four lowest gears to choose from, but given the amount of climbing I'd planned into this route that was three more gears than he'd need.
Off we went again, up the climb to the top of Ainthorpe Rigg, one of the nicest off-road climbs around. It's pretty steady, not so steep as to be unrideable, just enough to be "challenging" and with a variety of step-ups, gullies, ruts and rocks to make it very interesting.
Once at the top it was the first of our good descents, the drop down Crossley Side, one of our favourites that seems to find itself in most of the rides we do from Danby. No photos this time as it's been photod to death, so for once for me it was just the full-on enjoyment of taking the descent in one go.
From the bottom of the descent it's back onto the road, turning right to climb up New Way, the first of our lung-busting road climbs gaining us over 400 feet in just under a mile. At the top of the climb, just as the road bears sharp right, we turn off left for our second big descent. This one drops down a fairly steep but grassy section of hillside to a gate before continuing on, hugging the edge of the hill at first before cutting down it towards another gate.
Through this and then we skirt around the side of the aptly named Round Hill, dropping down it's flank to cross a field and eventually end up by a gate back out onto the road, our 400 feet lost again in nine brisk minutes.
We mistakenly go left at the road, but soon realise our mistake and back track, following the road (to the right from the field gate) to Fryup Hall Farm where we bear left and then right, up Street Lane towards the hamlet of Street and our second big road climb of the day. From bottom to top, by the time we reach Glaisdale Rigg, we've gained 600 feet in just over a mile, and felt every single foot of it. It feels, and looks, like the top of the world.
Turning right at the summit of the climb we go a few hundred yards down the road before taking a bridleway on the left where Glaisdale Rigg joins the road. Here we shoot off to the left along a singletrack amongst the heather. This track becomes so indiscernible that we soon find ourselves off track and have to cut across the moor to get back onto it. What could have been a nice bit of singletrack is spoiled for the moment by having recently been burned, an essential part of moors management. It improve steadily as height is lost before coming to a gate in a wall. Beyond that there is just a dead-straight track down a field, though a couple of gates to the road at the bottom. 500 feet lost once more, not in the most exciting of fashions but hey, they can't all be Top Descents candidates.
You know what they say in mountain biking - what comes down must go up - so we're faced with another climb, up Caper Hill. Surely it can't be as bad as the one at Street? Wrong - if anything it feels worse, a fact that is confirmed at the top by the 25% sign - the climb at Street was only graded 20%. Allied to that is the fact that we've already done enough climbing to last a whole month of rides and our legs are starting to complain! By the time we hit the top we've gained another 600 feet and that must surely be it for the day?
A brief respite at the top as we chat to a guy on a tourer and get our map out to help him with directions before turning right and heading off along the road as far as its junction with the Cut Road Path. Here we turn left but instead of taking that very obvious path we head off at 90 degrees to it in amongst the heather. Two walkers ask us "oh, so that's bridleway is it?" and I'm suspicious of why they're asking. It is bridleway and perfectly legal for bikes, so I give them a curt "yes" as we continue on our way.
Part way along this track we see a rare sight - Tim & bike part company and end up in a heap amongst the heather.
The narrow heathery singletrack ends at a gate through a wall. Beyond this is one of the area's top descents. It starts off in a narrow, rocky gully that is almost always damp to the extent it's almost a stream. This has a few tasty drops, a couple of narrow pedal-catcher sections and a right old boggy bit before it hits a very dry section and turns sharp left. At this point is a triple rock-step. Tim had three goes at it before cleaning it; I had three goes at it before walking it! The body wants to do it, the mind says "no way". Beyond that the trail stays bone dry but steep, grassy and slippery, takes a sharp right down a pretty technical stretch and eventually levels out a bit into a final blast down to a gate.
Beyond this gate the descent continues - in a stream! This section of trail is almost always wet, literally running with water, and I'm regretting leaving my crud catchers behind as the spray streaks up and muddies my face & glasses.
We turn right at the road then first left, past Wood End and Raven Hill farms and back to Fryup Hall up a moderately steep climb (180 feet) that after our previous exertions can only be described as an "undulation" - something this small doesn't pass as a hill with us boys!
Back along roads we've already ridden today we go left at Fryup Hall Farm and back to Stonebeck Gate Farm. Here we turn right onto a bridleway of unknown providence - none of us has ever ridden it before. It proves to be quite a mixed bag - wide, easy farm track at first, a succession of gates sees it gradually deteriorate (or to us, improve) into a more rough and ready cross-country trail. Grassy in parts, it twists its way across the base of the hillside below Danby Crag before entering a wood. This wood has a surprise waiting for us - a quagmire of mud over a foot deep. Thankfully there are stepping stones right across it - if we can ride them. With me at point and Sam (too) close behind, we set off. I'm doing well until near the end when the stepping stones all but vanish beneath the mud and I lose sight of them. The front wheel comes off the stones and embeds itself up to its centre, forcing me to leap from the bike. Sam has no option than to stop/swerve, so it's wet, muddy feet for him too.
We drag our bikes out of the mud, taking the long, unrideable, but dry and clean route around the last of the mud, and head out of the woods on the remainder of this very varied and quite interesting trail.
Eventually the trail emerges by Head House Farm, at roughly the same point where our usual route along the top of Danby Crag emerges. We take the concrete farm track down to the road and then follow the road back to The Moors Centre via the shortest, quickest, driest and most hill-free route. We've had enough climbs and enough mud for today and the scones are beckoning. If there are any left!
Well, back at the tea room there was only one scone left, which Tim snaffled. I had my usual beans on toast, which the waitress informed me she calls "skinheads on a raft"! The staff did their usual job of getting the food out in double quick time (tea was already on the table before I got sat down!) and we nattered about (of all things) wood turning, lathes and general machining as we basked in the warmth of the afternoon sun. It had been a great day's riding.
Danby - Glaisdale Rigg - Fryup
16 miles, 2800' of ascent in 3 hours 40, 1 hour 15 of which was spent fixing bikes, chatting, eating, admiring the views and taking photos.