We are now back from the long anticipated first family cycle tour – the first for Weston Junior at 7 months old. Also the first pukka tour on the Metabike.
For three of the four days we followed the Dales Cycleway, a 130 mile circular route taking in most of the Dales and many of the fells between them too. Since we wanted a four day route I added a 35 mile extension into South Eastern Cumbria which abuts Dentdale to the north.
The Metabike, of which much has already been said on this site, was my steed. To add to the challenge, Weston Junior was in a Chariot Trailer behind me. Add to this the clothing and waterproofs for all three of us and I had a good load to haul.
Mixed – from poor to dreadful! We were blessed with long periods of heavy rain – with only two significant dry periods during the four days – Sunday morning and Tuesday afternoon.
We have ridden the Cycleway before, in 2011, and it was again lovely in the views it offered and the quiet, yet well surfaced nature of the minor roads it covers. My extension into Cumbria was at least as good as the formal route, and would have been truly spectacular had it not been for the rain. That day started with a good view of the Northern fells of the Dales, and then climbed gently to the top of Tan Hill. As the climb started, so did the rain… For those not ‘in the know’ Tan Hill is the site of the highest pub in the UK. By the time we reached there at around 1:30pm both adults were soaked and all three of us starving hungry. Luckily the welcome, the open fire and the food were all hot and generously proportioned.
Highlights of the four days were riding across Kengarthdale Moor and then down into Swaledale, and then riding through Coverdale, over Cam Head and down into Kettlewell. The wet weather on the other sections did dampen our spirits however. Weston Junior was fine in his Chariot, with this keeping out all of the foul weather we received which was, believe me, impressive.
The other new member of the team was my Metabike, and this proved to be the ideal touring bike that I hoped it would be. Supremely comfortable and putting me in a position where I was by default looking up at the view, rather than down at the road. My rubber seat dampeners continued to work well, and with panniers on board I found the rider smoother still.
What it did teach us however, was that despite training, a great bike and packing light, carrying all our gear in addition to towing a trailer was too much for me when faced with long and significant gradients – a major feature of much of the route on all but day three. Mrs W has a weak knee so I have always played the role of ‘pack horse’ on our trips as it allows me to feel well worked and her to ride without pain – a plus point on both accounts. However 20 kg of trailer (Junior included) plus around 10 kg of gear was just too much even for just 35 miles in hilly country. If it were flat it would be OK, but then there would be no views to enjoy – and there’s no fun in that! So in June we plan a series of day rides radiating from one or two base camps. The camping (vs. B&B’s on this trip) will also allow us to make our plans last minute and choose a time of better weather too. So our trials were a cloud, but one with a silver lining – and we all know that a silver lined cloud is a cirrostratus and thus not one to yield rain.