Inspiration - The Yorkshire Dales

As most people that follow me on Twitter will know I ride a considerable number of miles each week in a combination of training, active recovery and socialising. Covering over 300 miles each week could quite easily become monotonous and boring if the roads you're riding on lack the views or twists and turns needed to make each ride unique. I live in Yorkshire, the training ground of many of the UK's top triathletes and cyclists, and home to the Tour of Yorkshire three day stage race following the legacy of the year the Tour De France visited our region. Yorkshire is great in so many ways, and with such a vast expanse of area you are never short of new roads to train on or the perfect route to recover. I live in Leeds and whichever way you ride you're able to get some vastly varied routes. To the north you will find the Yorkshire Dales, to the south you find the urban roads of Huddersfield, to the west the sharp and steep climbs of Haworth and finally to the east you find the flatlands of the York Vale.

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I find have such a great choice of locations helps to make training so much easier as no matter where you go there will always be something different. Typically I will head north if I want a good training session as the Dales give a great rolling landscape in which you can really test your legs and lungs but also admire the surroundings without feeling too guilty about having a quick rest. However, if I want a nice social ride with my other half or with my club I prefer to go east into the Vale so that we can actually chat and ride as a group on the flat rolling roads without splitting up as a group on any hills. The west and the south are less visited by me but great for the seriously tough days out when I want to throw myself at hill after hill.

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So many people keeping asking where it is that I ride owing to the photos I take, so I thought I would share one of my favourite routes for people to try next time they're up north.

The first is an 80 mile ride from Ilkley, home of the Cow and Calf and takes in both the Dales and the Vale. Starting in Ilkley the route winds it's way along the country lanes beside the A65 that are popular with nearly every cyclist in Leeds over the weekend that's guaranteed to give you a wave as you pass, dropping you into the market town of Otley; from here you take another quiet road up to the Official Top 100 Climb - Norwood Edge. This climb is steep,straight and tree lined at the bottom but once past the half way point opens up and snakes through the open expanses of the moors for some truly awesome views of the valley. Once at the top and with your breath back you descend down to a reservoir for some perfect photo opportunities.

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Once you climb up from the reservoir you climb into the stone wall enclosed roads of the Dales once more and sticking with the country lanes head for Pateley Bridge. This is where my favourite part of the route starts - an epic five miles of descent to Laverton and a fast flowing flat section to Ripon. This is a road to savour and really opens up the option to unleash the legs. The descent is on smooth tarmac with the view down the road as far as the eye can see and views all the way across to White Horse Bank. Another perfect photo opportunity, or even a picnic stop.

I though prefer to take my stop in Ripon at the Sun Parlour Cafe next to the spa baths and gardens. Bacon sandwiches, cakes and coffee can all be found here and the mini-golf makes for some great lunchtime laughs and "cross-training".

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Cafe stop over, the route takes a very different route home across the flat roads towards Boroughbridge before snaking west back towards Leeds. This is where things get quite interesting. There is a little road called Limekiln Lane that starts as a beautiful new tarmac road but suddenly turns into a sort of single track style lane. This seems impractical on a road bike but in all reality is perfectly good fun and safe for the bike as it only lasts 100 metres at most before the precious tarmac starts again - impromptu cyclo-cross skills lesson. However this isn't the last of it as for added adventure you then have to carry your bike over a wooden stile to reach the next stretch of real road. To the hardcore cyclist this would make them cry because the wheel might get muddy, but it's well worth the fun.

Muddy wheel making over, you join the main road and circle around the edge of Harrogate taking in one last little short climb before descending all the way down to Otley and retracing your steps from the morning.

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The route has a little bit of everything, and at the weekend my five unsuspecting friends were subject to the route themselves and loved it. If you feel the desire to visit Yorkshire definitely get in touch so I can find you an awesome road but for now here are some details on the epic little loop:

Route: https://www.strava.com/routes/3102440

Cafe: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g209973-d5891993-Reviews-Sun_Parlour_Cafe_in_Ripon-Ripon_North_Yorkshire_England.html