Ride of the Week - Leeds
One of the things I’ve always loved about Leeds is the fact that while it houses everything you could ever wish for in a city, you can be out in beautiful rolling countryside in no time at all. As such, I started this week’s ride at the railway station and was soon tackling a really nice, varied loop skirting the West and North Yorkshire border.
1) I headed out to the north east of the city, passing the University and through Headingley on Otley Road before taking a right turn just before The Three Horseshoes Pub. Riding in the city might not be everyone’s cup of tea but most of this section is either in bus or cycle lanes, and once you’ve made it on to Weetwood Lane you’re off the main thoroughfare. By the time you’ve crossed the ring road and headed up Long Causeway, you’ll have taken in a fair bit of climbing too before you reach the countryside proper by turning right at Headingley Golf Club.
2) One of the most enjoyable parts of this ride is the Weardley Bank descent which skirts the Harewood House estate and takes you down to the A659. It’s broadly split in two with fast and twisty segments coming either side of a flatter mid-section. When you reach the bottom, turn right and pick up the Harrogate Road around half a mile later. You’ll only be on this for a few more minutes though as once you’ve crossed the River Wharfe, take a right and head towards the fearsome Kearby Cliff. This ascent is only 650m long but it averages 10% and its steepest ramps are saved for last. I’m always gasping for breath as I creep over the summit but fortunately there’s plenty of time to recover on the flat section which follows.
3) With another fun descent in the bag at Sicklinghall it’s on to Wetherby, and if you want to work a coffee break into your ride then this is the best place for it. Instead, I pressed on to Aberford and the dead-straight roads which hug the A1 are perfect for getting some time trialling or zonal efforts in. Be warned however, if the wind whips up on this relatively exposed six-mile section it can make for painfully slow progress.
4) Once you make it to Aberford, turn right onto Cattle Lane and you’ll be surrounded by farmer’s fields once again as you head towards Barwick-in-Elmet. When the giant maypole in that village comes in to view, follow the road to the left and two options back to city await you. If you’re legs are tired you could follow Leeds Road back to the centre, but I always opt to ride on to Garforth and then take the A642 towards Swillington. There’s another cheeky climb there which doesn’t look bad on a profile map, but I always find it challenging with the best part of 32 miles in my legs. The effects of that rise will have subsided as you pass through Swillington and you’ll be able to enjoy one last descent before you turn right onto Bullerthorpe Lane. Fear not, although the road starts climbing again here, you’ll only be on it for a few minutes before turning left onto Newsam Green Road.
5) This road runs parallel to the M1 and pops you out onto a large roundabout where you will follow Pontefract Lane all the way back into Leeds. If you catch a tailwind here you can absolutely fly, but if you don’t feel comfortable riding on a dual carriageway there is a good quality cycle path just to the right of the road. I took that for as long as I could on this particular ride before popping back onto the main road by the giant grass-sided Veolia building.
6) As you approach the city proper, follow signs into the centre and then take the inner loop road which will take you all the way back to the station. If you’re slightly less confident however, you can cross the River Aire on the A639 and take an alternative route through Leeds Dock and Brewery Wharf before picking the loop road up on Swinegate where you’ll only be a few hundred metres from your destination.
Difficulty Rating: 3 stars
Time: 2 Hours 30 Minutes (at 14mph average speed)
Distance: 40 miles (64km)
Parking: Trinity Leeds Car Park. Grid Ref: SE 30115 33277
Public Toilets: Located in Leeds Railway Station