Ride of the Week - Helmsley
I headed into the North York Moors for this week’s ride and took on one of the toughest loops I’ve ever undertaken for this column. The wind played as much a part in that as the hilly terrain, and even though it was a struggle at times, I thoroughly enjoyed exploring a stunning part of the county I’d never ventured into before.
1) No sooner had I exited the car park in Helmsley and I was on my first climb of the day, heading out to the north west of town. This stretch wasn’t particularly steep but it dragged for the best part of five miles and it became immediately obvious I was in for a blustery day in the saddle. A persistent sidewind slowed my progress and the descent off Newgate Bank was also a nervy one as I struggled to keep my front wheel straight. Even though I was fully focused on the road, I did catch a glimpse of the stunning view down Rye Dale and just wish I’d had more time to take it all in instead of being fixated on my wobbling front tyre.
2) The B1257 was wide and quiet with a grippy surface and I followed it through Fangdale Beck and Chop Gate. I passed a green telephone box at one point which puzzled me no end and later found out it had been given special dispensation to exist as a red box in such an idyllic location would have apparently spoiled the view! I got some respite from the wind as I climbed alongside some coniferous woodland and then turned right just before the popular Clay Bank look-out point. The descent off there was a narrow and technical one, and I had fun dodging the puddles and debris in my path as I pressed on towards Ingleby Greenhow. The quaint villages of Battersby and Kildale followed in quick succession before the REAL climbing began.
3) The first hill out of Kildale served as an appetiser to get the blood pumping and no sooner had I turned off that than I saw my next ascent looming large before me. It looked pretty imposing but I got my head down and grinded my way to the summit, zig-zagging on the steepest sections to preserve some energy for the bigger battles to come. The next descent was a steep one and I had to break hard and come to a complete stop when a ford appeared in front of me. I didn’t fancy pedalling through a foot of water so I unclipped and walked over the bridge instead. This meant I had no momentum to tackle the 20% ramp that greeted me on the other side though, and I had to stand and manually shift into a smaller gear before jumping back on and working my way up its sheer face. The gradient relented slightly as I headed back onto the moorside but I was still breathing heavily as I reached the top and immediately rocketed down the other side.
4) I let out an expletive when I saw a sign for another ford as I reached the valley bottom, but thankfully this one was dry which meant I could carry some speed into my biggest ascent of the day. Once again the early ramps were the steepest before settling into a 7% gradient at Westerdale. The straightness of the road meant you could see it rise way into the distance, and as intimidating as that was, I had no choice but to plough on and get the job done. The gusts which had thwarted my progress earlier in the ride were now aiding me somewhat but it still took over 20 minutes to make it to the summit. The views that greeted me at the top were absolutely breath-taking though, and I felt like I was on top of the world.
5) Instead of dropping immediately back down, the road ran along Blakey Ridge for a few miles and it was only when I’d passed The Lion Inn that my speed gradually ramped up. Once again the wind made things stressful and I didn’t experience the elation that usually comes with a lengthy descent of this kind. Instead of continuing into Hutton-le-Hole I headed for Fadmoor and climb into that village caught me completely unaware. I was running perilously low on energy by that point and while it was only a bump in the road compared to the beasts that had come before it, it nearly defeated me. I’m glad to say I dug deep though and felt a real sense of satisfaction when I crept over the summit. From there, it was plain sailing all the way back into Helmsley and I reached my car tired but happy I’d got such a good autumnal ride in my legs.
Difficulty Rating: 5 stars
Time: 3 Hours 32 Minutes (at 13mph average speed)
Distance: 46 miles (74km)
Parking: Cleveland Way car park in Helmsley. Grid Ref: SE 61008 83848
Public Toilets: Located in Cleveland Way car park