What Conditions to Expect?
As we all know, the only thing predictable about British weather is how unpredictable it can be.
Checking the weather forecast before you set out is of course a good idea.
Having said that, it is possible to generalise about each season, and what this means if you are riding.
We've picked out some routes which are particularly suited to certain times of the year, to help inspire
and motivate you to keep riding all year.
- As we all know, winter is the season of cold and mud. On the plus side, you'll have the
trails pretty much to yourself, as the fair weather ramblers and riders will be at home. Not only that, but if you are
lucky enough to pick a frosty enough day, you'll find the mud is mostly frozen, although bone jarring frozen ruts present
their own hazards. Snow is possible, as the higher hills will catch snow coming down the east coast, although the comparatively
low heights will mean it tends not to stay around for long. One other hazard, especially on routes which
use minor roads, is the hedge cutting season in the first few months
of the year. At that time. unless you are very lucky, riding on road means punctures from thorns.
Taking an two inner tubes per rider, and making sure you have lots of patches saves
a long walk. In general, you'll probably be best off staying on routes which use
gravel tracks, rather than risk open moorland, although
the Gilamore route can be stunningly good if conditions are cold and dry.
- Often just as muddy as winter, but at least you get to see the valley floors carpeted in daffodils.
especially nice during this season, but you'll be sharing it with thousands of others.
- Dry trails and long days, what more could you want? After a few days of warm, dry weather the moors
will dry out, and routes across open moorlands will be at their best. Even in the peak of summer, crowds are rare once you
are away from popular areas like Roseberry Topping. In late August the heather comes into flower, and the moors turn
purple. Summer can be the best time to ride, although
nettles and bracken can make life unpleasant on some less well used routes.
- In all but the driest of years, the mud will have returned by the
end of September. By way of compensation, woodland routes like the Cropton Forest Loop and
the Pickering Newtondale Loop will be ablaze with colour
as the leaves turn, and many routes which were choked with undergrowth become easier
to ride as the vegetation dies back.
Each route description has a short summary of the local weather forecast,
and a link to the full forecast. Local weather conditions
might mean choosing a different route to what you initially considered; for example, high winds will
make routes on the high moors pretty unpleasant. It's worth remembering that air temperature changes with altitude, and
the actual temperature on the top of the moors may be a few degree colder than in the valleys. Combine that with wind chill, and
what might seem a pleasant temperature in the car park, may be dangerously cold on a exposed moorland top.
Rights and Responsibilities
You have a right to ride in certain places, but not others. Mountain bikes are
allowed to use bridleways, 'green lanes' and of course public roads. They are not
allowed to use footpaths. If you have any doubt over which is which, refer to the
reading a map page. Cyclists may also be permitted to use other areas, such as Forestry Commision land, and permissive tracks, where
the landowner has given access permission. Sadly, the recent 'right to roam' legislation
doesn't apply to cyclists.
As well as rights, you have responsibilities. Off-road cyclists have to give
way to walkers and horse riders. Close gates behind you, and don't
scare livestock. Try to treat the trail with care: don't skid, or widen puddles
by riding around them. If a short section is really, really muddy, don't be afraid to get off and
walk; chewing the path up, and coating your bike in mud does nobody any favours. When riding in moorland areas, you should
obey the Moorland Code
Treating the land, and other users of the land with respect
ensures we can carrying on riding. In other areas, notably Snowdonia, bikes have
been banned in certain areas, due to conflicts with other users, so it's in all
our interests to be responsible.
We're assuming your bike is in good working order before you set out. Of course, we've all
made mistakes in that department, but turning up for a ride with a bike that needs lengthy adjustments
after you take it out the car really hacks off the other riders, and in winter is sure-fire way to waste precious daylight.
As well as a functioning bike, you are going to need other equipment. I always take at least one spare inner tube, and
often two on longer rides, as you can't always fix a puncture on the spot, and you want to ride not walk. There's a huge choice
in multi-tools out there, just make sure yours fits all the allen bolts on your
bike. I quite like one with a chain splitter, as sometimes a chain may break when
it gets really gritty.
In warmer conditions, you can
get away with carrying less spare clothing, but you'll need more water. Unless it's guaranteed to be sunny all day, I'll always
pack a waterproof jacket. A Goretex Paclite one is small enough to keep in your bag and performs well, but there are other cheaper
alternatives which will keep you dry in a downpour. Even if it's not raining, the extra warmth
and windproofing of a jacket can make fixing a puncture far more comfortable when
it's cold and windy.
At any time of the year a spare energy bar or two is worth
taking, if you find yourself flagging towards the end. Even if you are not intending to do a night ride,
small LED lights like 'Knightlites' are worth carrying in winter, as it only takes a few minor problems to still be out after dark. Emergency lights
aren't bright enough to see much with, but will at least ensure everyone else can
see you. I carry a Petzl Tikka headtorch as fixing a puncture in the dark using a bike light is no fun at all. A very small bottle of oil (any oil is better than
nothing) isn't a bad idea, as a coating of mud, followed by a few puddles will strip
the chain of any oil, and hasten the grinding of expensive bits to nothing. A small
first aid kit isn't a bad idea either, even if the sort of injuries you can potentially
sustain may require far more than what a few plasters and a bandage can fix. Of
course, by the time you have put all your winter stuff together, you'll probably
find it doesn't fit in simple hydration pack, so it's worth investing in a pack
with a bit more space. I find a 10 litre pack works pretty well in winter, although
I always seem to fill whatever space I have, no matter how big the pack.
Getting lost: We've all done it. Sometimes it's annoying because you have to backtrack, or miss out part of the ride,
but in bad conditions, with dusk fast approaching, it can be the prelude more serious, even life threatening, problems.
Unlike man-made trails, none of the routes here are marked on the ground. Of course,
bridleways are often sign posted where they leave the
road, and at various points along the way, but the signs rarely tell you where a particular path goes. And, like many things in life,
they tend not to be there when you really need them.
The route descriptions here will help you get around the route, and a GPS loaded with the route will help,
but at the end of the day, you really do need a map and compass, and know how to use them.
A GPS on it's own just isn't reliable enough to trust with your life, and shouldn't be your only method of navigation.
The basic principles of learning to read a map are
but mastering navigation is a complex skill that takes a long time to master. In clear weather it's generally pretty easy to work out where you are, but in
bad weather on open moorland it's a different matter. If you are familiar with the area you may find a 50,000 scale 'Landranger' map is good enough.
A 25,000 scale 'Explorer' map is much better, as
far more features are show, and in greater detail. Having destroyed many paper maps over the years,
I have come to the conclusion that a
waterproof laminated map is best. Although the initial price is higher,
they work out cheaper in the long run, as
a paper map can be ruined once it gets wet. We highly recommend Aqua3 maps for this reason.
Which ever map you have, it's worth taking the time to mark the route onto the map before you set off (you can mark a laminated map with a
'chinagraph' grease pencil and erase it when you are done). It's also worth making a mental note of the route and any shortcuts and escape routes, to save time when you are out on the ride. Being familar with
the route also helps you realise when you've gone wrong.
What Bike to Ride?
Internet forums and bike magazines overflow with advice and argument over what bike
is best. My own preference is to ride a full suspension bike in summer, when the
faster trail conditions favour comfort over weight and complexity; and a rigid singlespeed
in winter, as muddy conditions remove much of the advantage of suspension and gears,
and simplicity just seems to last longer and be cheaper to fix when it does break.
My opinion is that there's no route on this site that needs more than 5 inches of
suspension travel, and indeed with skillful riding you can get down any descent
on a rigid bike, you just might take a little longer doing so. Disc brakes are one
modern invention I do like through. In dry conditions there's not much in it, but
in mud it makes a huge difference to your ability to control the bike, not to mention
reliability. I've managed to wear out a set of v-brake pads in one winter ride before.
What Tyres for...?
Tyres are the subject of endless debate on internet forums. In general a tyre will
be optimised to cope well with a particular set of conditions, unfortunately most
routes will have a huge variety of different conditions as the surface and season
changes. Which means you'll at best
only spend half the time riding in conditions the tyre was designed for. Having
said that, if you ride all year, one set of tyres for winter conditions and another
for summer isn't a bad idea, although you'll then find you'll then have 'tyre indecision'
in spring and autumn as there's no exact recomended date to switch tyres.