Sunday, 26 April 2015


Well I loved my first go at exploring the North Yorkshire Moors so much that I even hauled myself out of bed again - at an equally horrible hour of the morning - the following weekend, to go and get myself another load of only half tame rural loveliness.

This was a few weeks ago, when the calendar was still hedging its bets about whether it was winter or spring. But I'd seen one slightly nervous looking daffodil while I was out the weekend before on the sludgy green bike, along with a lot of heavily pregnant sheep; so I was happy to conclude that spring was here and with it, Drop Bar Season.

The weekend before, I'd got the sludgy green bike out. And while it is a drop barred bike in the sense that it has has... er... drop handlebars, in every other way it is not a drop barred bike. It is basically camouflaged, whereas as drop barred bikes should always be racy and flamboyant. It has a rack on the back, whereas a really lovely drop barred bike will have had things that you might find useful carefully omitted as part of the design process, to enhance its sleek, elemental beauty and prevent you from mistakenly using it to go to the Co-Op for some milk and a cheeky Ginsters..

This time, I needed a proper drop barred bike. I needed to take the Aerospace.  

Feeling a bit like Arnie in Commando where he punches a code into his garden shed and opens the door to reveal racks of guns, I wiggled the key in the rusty bike shed padlock.

The Aerospace has been hibernating over the winter - which I think was the right decision, given that both Langsett family cars have ended up a sort of uniform beige colour (with a slightly pebble dashed finish). It wasn't pristine, but it still looked absolutely belting as I wheeled it out of the shed, with its almost anodized, metallic grey and blue paint. There was that lovely moment where I lifted it and thought "Damn! This is a light bike!"

I jumped aboard and sent the Aerospace up Red Scar Lane, feeling ridiculously pleased about the way that the forty year old Shimano Crane derailleur clicked the chain over to the big cog, and the general lack of noise from the bike. I followed the winding road through Raincliffe Woods to the Derwent valley, which cuts north through rising ground towards the moors proper. It was chilly and pretty cloudy, but there was that lovely fresh smell of plants starting to grow again, and another crowd of sheep "baaah!"ing at me from the fields.

I'd had a look at the map since my ride the week before, and realised that the brilliant view I'd got at the highest point of the ride was of Troutsdale, a beautiful valley which branches off the valley of the Derwent. It looked like there was a road looping west through Troutsdale, then south again to the Vale of Pickering. On the map, Troutsdale just got narrower and higher until it merged with the high moor on either side. "Might be a bit of a climb there.", I thought.

The ride was absolutely lovely. Apart from the sheep and the pheasants, I had the whole beautiful valley to myself. I followed the road where it branched from the lane leading up to Langdale and the back door to Dalby Forest. There was a giddy little descent which bottomed out with a gravelly rush over a bridge, and then the road started to climb steadily up the northern side of the valley.

It was around this time that I started to think about Victorian road builders, and how I might have a few suggestions for the presumably top hatted and well whiskered gentlemen who planned the lane which I was following, as it pointed up hills with a casual disregard for gradient. There was a very handsome house - Troutsdale Lodge - perched high up on the hillside, and a particularly punishing step up in the road leading up to it. It must have been hilarious to have been faced to the job of carting shooting parties up here. It was pretty jolly trying to force my enormously heavy - but useless - legs to turn the Aerospace's pedals.

But as I went past the Lodge, I could see that the road levelled out and I was actually pretty close to the top to the slope. I could see up towards the head of the valley too -

- and hang on, I thought, isn't that the chuffing road again, all the way down there in the bottom of the valley, when what I would really like is for it to just follow the contour line around the rim?

Well yes, that's exactly what it was, and I had ten minutes of hanging on to the Aerospace while it roared all the way down the hill, thinking about how I would shortly have to wind it all the way to the top again to get out of the valley.

But - BUT! - the sun was finding a few gaps in the cloud, and Troutsdale was still looking absolutely lovely. The climb had a proper Alpine hairpin two thirds of the way up, which I looked at with an amount of panic as I tried to wind a line through the corner which wasn't vertical. There wasn't one, and I cheated by jumping off and wheeling the bike through the corner. But then I stormed the last bit of the climb and all of the sudden I was over the top and looking down the gentle slope into the Vale of Pickering and the northern slopes of the Wolds. Brilliant, and absolutely worth the whole being drenched in sweat and feeling like I was about to pass out thing. Perhaps I don't need more than a twenty five out back after all, I thought.

The Tour de Yorkshire is coming this way later this week (though it will be heading through Langdale rather than Troutsdale) so I'll have one of those lovely opportunities which riding a bike occasionally throws up to watch the pro peloton traversing road that nearly killed me without any visible effort.

That was the hard work done with. I had a great run back down into the Vale of Pickering, picking up the main road at Snainton and then heading back east to Scarborough. The bike worked perfectly and, like all great bikes, felt like there was someone else helping spin the pedals.

So look, here's the thing. It is really self indulgent of me to write about me riding my bike, and expect you to read it. But I've got a noble purpose in mind. My guess is that most people don't even know this perfect landscape of empty, twisting lanes and quiet valleys is here. Strava reckons that in the whole of human history 337 people have ridden the stretch up Troutsdale. So if you're getting a bit bored of your regular routes, you could do a lot worse than getting yourself up here with your bike and giving it a go.