Ride of the Week - Harrogate West
I was visiting Harrogate this week so took my bike along with me and went on a voyage of discovery over Askwith Moor and down into Otley before looping back around to where I’d started via several further tricky ascents.
1) My ride began outside Valley Gardens in Harrogate and I exited the town centre via the plush Cornwall Road before turning right onto Penny Pot Lane. As soon as I’d crossed Oak Beck the road ramped upwards and continued on that trajectory for the next five miles or so. Luckily it was a fairly consistent drag, most of which was done in my big ring as I passed the giant Army Foundation College and onto the moor. I like climbs like this and the trees on either side sheltered me from the wind before I dropped down to Fewston Reservoir. As I looked out across the water I made a mental note to return on foot before my attention returned to the road and the climbing began again.
2) I opted for the tiny North Road which took me up to Trimble and was breathing pretty heavily by the time I made it to this quint upland village. As the road flattened out I could see the giant golf balls of RAF Menwith Hill on my right, and on my left was nothing but moorland. It was exhilarating and the brief halt in gradient gave me some welcome respite before my next ascent of Askwith Moor. This climb loomed menacingly on the horizon as I approached it, but once I was actually on it, it wasn’t that bad and the 12%-15% gradients were over fairly quickly. When I reached the summit it felt like I was on top of the world and I could see right out across West Yorkshire before I began a fast and fun descent into Askwith.
3) I pushed on at a high speed all the way into Otley, but instead of continuing into the town centre, I took a left onto Farnley Lane and headed back into the countryside in a northerly direction. The climb to Farnley was another steady drag, and a helpful downhill section immediately after it allowed me to catch my breath before the toughest ascent of the day came on Norwood Edge. No sooner had I crossed Lindley Wood Reservoir than I was out of my saddle on the 16% ramps and that’s where I stayed for the next five minutes or so. It was a slow, steady and punishing grind, and only when I’d got back to base did I find out it currently ranks No 53 on Britain’s greatest cycling climbs. I have to admit I actually pulled off before the top as I needed to take a tiny back road towards Lindley, but in hindsight I wish I hadn’t as the surface was poor and there were three closed gates which hindered my progress. I was on this lane for three miles or so before I reached decent terrain again on Otley Road.
4) My last significant lump came before I reached Beckwithshaw and I clocked my fastest speed of the day on a dead-straight downhill section before racing into the village itself and turning right just after the primary school. From there it was plain sailing all the way into Harrogate and I passed RHS Harlow Carr on my left before following Harlow Moor Drive into the town centre. This loop took me less than two hours to complete but in that time I racked up almost 2,500 feet of climbing, and I’d recommend it for anyone who wants a relatively short, sharp blast around some of our county’s most challenging but ultimately rewarding roads before the weather turns wintery.
Difficulty Rating: 3 stars
Time: 1 Hour 45 Minutes (at 16mph average speed)
Distance: 28.5 miles (46km)
Parking: Pay and display on Crescent Gardens. Grid Ref: SE 29884 55507
Toilets: Located at Valley Gardens