A few years ago in decemeber I decided to take a day off, to go for a really big ride. My bike at the time, was a fairly fast hardtail, and with semi-slick tyres I could ride on the road at a decent speed, and cope with moderate off-road as long as it wasn't too muddy. So, I planned a ride to stitched together some nice quiet roads, to Beverley, and then to join the Hull to Hornsea Cycle trail, and then head back to York across the Wolds. This being winter, I packed some fairly serious lights with a 4 hour runtime to enable me to carry on riding after dark.
I set out from York in faint winter sunshine, and made Pocklington in good time following National Cycle Route 66. From Market Weighton I carried on along NCN 66, which followed an old railway line to Beverley. The climb was steady and easy enough to keep a decent speed on (I was typically maintaining a speed of around 16 on the flat), although there was enough mud in places to make progress noticably slower than a road.
After lunch in Beverley's market square, I headed east. My intention was to cross the river to Weel, and pickup a north-south bridleway shortly afterwards. Annoyingly the bridleway turned into a footpath, so technically this bit wasn't a legitimate right of way, even though the actual surface of the path was, apart from a small gap, farm tracks. And farm tracks, if they can handle tractors, can certainly handle bikes, even if the right of way was technically only a footpath. And, the only alternative was a detour south to the busy A 1033. Looking at the map, there was obviously once a ferry over the river Hull at Theane, but not anymore.
I arrived at Wawne, and carrying on along some easy going but muddy farm tracks, arrived at the amusingly named Swine. After Swine, I picked up the Hull to Hornsea rail trail, the easternmost portion of the Trans Pennine Trail. The path was flat, well surfaced, and fast, with my steady progress only being interupted by the need to cross roads. I arrived at Hornsea and rode down to the sea front. The sun was getting low in the sky by this point, it being only a few weeks to the shortest day of the year.
After Hornsea I headed north along the B 1242. This was the first time I encountered any traffic, and a slight head wind made this not a particularly nice section, even if the sunset views across the flat landscape and the northsea on the right were pleasant. At Skipsea I turned inland, and crossing the A 165 at Lisset, I headed up some minor roads, with the light mostly gone. I crossed the railway at Harpham, and stuck my LED lights on, to be seen, as my eyes could still see more in the fading light. By the time I reached Kilham, I was starting to feel tired, and it was dark enough to need the full lights on. Langtoff felt like the end of civilisation, as after than there was a big hill ahead, and no significant villages until the edge of York. I really felt tired going up the long road hill, but picked up a bit of speed on the long downhill to Sledmere on the B 1252.
At Sledmere I had a dilema. The orginal plan was to go offroad, Carrying on along the road, involved a big decent and climb again, to either carry on along the mainroad from Fridaythorpe, or a very indirect and hilly route via Thixendale. So, I headed offroad again, with some reluctance. Above halfway along the path near Towthorpe, I got a pucture. Fixing a puncture with a a muddy, wet tube, in the dark with cold hands wasn't nice. Additionally, the clear cold weather seemed to have lead to a dense fog forming. The residents of Towthorpe must have wondered what the strange bright lights coming through the fog were, when I passed the village. After a brief stint on the B 1248 I was back offroad, on the handy, but quite hard going track that goes above Thixendale. I was really starting to get tired by this point, and was getting really feed up of the slow going that grassy tracks, with lots of mud made. The fog had cleared a bit and the grass was now covered in frost which reflected like diamonds in the intense brightness of HID lights. It was pretty spooky up there on my own, riding with no other sign of lights. I was getting close to walking for a bit by the time I finally got to a well surfaced path, as the mud and gentle climb was sapping my will to ride. When I hit a good gravel track, I was elelated, and speeded up.
By the hill I got to Leavening Brow, I was in good spirits as I could visualise the end of the ride. I made some huge speed down the hill to Leavening, even if I did glance enviously into warm cosy looking houses as I shivered from the wind chill of the hill. I also made a slight mistake in going through Leavening, as decending via Aklam Wold would have been shorter, and downhill all the way. I could have crossed the Derwent at Howsham and carrying on minor roads to York, but instead I opted for the road to Buttercrambe. This road was hilly to my totally shattered legs, and after gettting another puncture, I was starting to feel pretty wobbly on the bike. I made it to Buttercrambe bridge, where the massive brightness of the HID lights must have totally puzzeled a driver coming over the bridge the otherway, as they pulled over to let what ever was making the lights go past, and must have been slightly disapointed to find a bike at the other end of the lights.
I followed the familar and easy road to Gate Helmsley. If I had more time, and energy and wasn't worried about the lights running out of power, I'd have gone a longer, but more pleasant way back. As it was, I just put my last reserves of strenght into powering along the A 166 back to York. The signs showing York to be every closer were welcome but slow in coming. I was pleased to have finally made it to the streetlights of York, as it was much easier when the traffic didn't dazzle you. My lights failed just outside the Barbican, so it was a close run thing. Although my spare LED front light were good enough to be seen, I'd not wanted to have ridden away form street lights.
My total miles that day (including gettting from home to central York) was 113. I'd set off around 10, and was back around 7, so that was close to 9 hours of hard riding. It was a good ride, as reaching the coast always feel satisfying. Apart from the difficulties around Beverley, the ride to the coast was pleasant. I'm not sure coming back over the wolds was a good idea. Although 113 miles is perfectly possible for a fit road cyclist, the offroad bits had really slowed me down and tired me out.