Yorkshire Dales – Day 2

3am and a constant beeping woke me up. I ignored it and fell back to sleep. 5.30am it woke me again. I ignored it, but didn’t fall back to sleep. I kept trying to ignore it but still I couldn’t fall asleep. In the end I couldn’t ignore it any longer and so I got up, moving as quietly as I could across the top bunk so as not to disturb Alistair, sleeping below. Out on the landing the beeping was louder, I followed it downstairs to a fire alarm box, pressed some buttons and wished I had done it before, because the beeping stopped. I needed a coffee, but found the power was out. If it didn’t come back soon the undercharged Garministas would be in a tiz.

8am and the power was still out. Missing a hot breakfast I could cope with, but with a ride over Buttertubs Pass planned, I wasn’t sure if I would cope without my morning coffees. Fortunately the gents at the Dales Bike Centre were as resourceful as they were hospitable. It wasn’t long before they had a gas-fuelled hotplate and BBQ going for bacon butties and steaming mugs of tea and coffee. Things were looking brighter, including out the window too!

We had two big climbs planned, although the route was a relatively short 30miler (well, most of us did have a 3 hour drive back down the A1, following the disappointing signs to The South – I’m always happier following the ones pointing to The North).

Swaledale Riding

Swaledale Riding

We set off to Reeth where our legs were woken by a sharp little climb through the town. From there it was a long ride through Swaledale. We had a bit of a head wind, but the newly resurfaced road more than compensated. We were on the Tour route, but heading in the opposite direction. Whether the pro’s get to appreciate the beauty of riding by the swift peat-stained river and through the woods, pungently scented by the brilliant white carpets of wild garlic, I’m not sure.

Buttertubs Pass

Buttertubs Pass

17km in we turned left and started our ascent of Buttertubs Pass. The group split quickly on the steep lower slope, averaging just over 10%. The gradient eased. Ahead the road followed a gentle zig-zag up the hillside; a sign warned of its 25% gradient. It was hard, but enjoyable, my legs felt good and I was getting some encouragement from descending riders. I followed the road around a bend and was in for a real treat. The road flattened  and even dipped. I flicked the gears, picking up speed. The edge of the road had a protective wire fence, on the other side, the hillside dropped away to the tumbling waters of Cliff Beck, abrading a faster course through the bedrock. It was a stunning view. The road kicked up further ahead – it looked like a short little sprint. Hardly. It was another brutal 10-20% climb, at least this time only to the cattle gridded summit. 260m, 6% average (but with a downhill section!), open and wild, steep grinds and fast relief, Buttertubs Pass is a superb climb, probably the best of the weekend. If you like climbing, I defy you not to fall in love with Buttertubs!

Buttertubs Pass Conquered

Buttertubs Pass Conquered

The descent to Simonstone was steep and fast, my brake pads were again getting a thorough work out. From there we picked up a tailwind and flew across to Askrigg. We took a left turn and started to climb out of Wensleydale and back to Swaledale. There are several roads criss-crossing the moorland between the two Dales. Buttertubs is one. Oxnop Scar is another and features in Simon Warren’s 100 Greatest Climbs and from his description, I think the climb we did, up to Fleak Moss, sounds similar. After a steep start the gradient eased. Off to our right was the grey rock wall of Ellerkin Scar. The road switched back sharply to the right, but you couldn’t see it for the hedges. I found I was under geared and stalling on a 20% gradient. I was forced to a halt so that I could sort my gears, but getting going again was hard work. The road continued to rise steeply. Ahead of me Wayne was rocking all over his handlebars, Steve was happily spinning onwards. The gradient eased and I caught up to Wayne, then gradient kicked again. It was a pattern that was repeated over and over again, you couldn’t settle in to a rhythm, rather you had to push through the steeper bits and try to recover on the shallower sections. Eventually we reached the top and seemingly obligatory summit cattle grid. 313m at an 8% average gradient, it was some climb.

On The Fleak - too tough for le Tour?

On The Fleak – too tough for le Tour?

Unlike other climbs we’d done, the road surface here was rough. Not such a problem on the ascent, but it added a new dimension of fear to the, yet again, stupidly steep descent. Halfway down Wayne punctured. It was a long descent, Wayne’s puncture gave the rest of us an opportunity to admire Crackpot Side.

Crackpot (side)

Crackpot (side)

As we rejoined the main road back to Reeth we met up with Andy and Alistair for an easy ride home.

The Final Descent

The Final Descent


It was a great weekend and I can thoroughly recommend Dales Bike Centre for cake, coffee or a place to stay. Finally, thanks to Andy for organising the trip. Yeah, the Giro may be on, but I can’t wait for July, to follow signs to The North again.

Tour's coming...

Tour’s coming…

About richardjostler

Data Scientist working at Rothamsted Research
This entry was posted in Cycling, Hill climb, Tour De France and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Yorkshire Dales – Day 2

  1. hsudleHarpal says:

    Hi Richard. Been trawling the net and reading through your posts. Lovely reading. Could you tell me what gearing you used to tackle Buttertubs? I am a little concerned with mine as running a 11/25 on back and 50/34 front and never really taken on a climb like that. Thank you. Harpal


    • velorichard says:

      Hi Harpal, thanks for the comment, it’s much appreciated! The first time I rode Buttertubs was on a standard with an 11/23. I never had to stop and walk, but it was a real grind and I wouldn’t recommend it. The next time was on a standard again but with a 12/27. That made the climb easier and quicker, I was in the saddle more than out, but on the steeper sections I was again grinding. Next time I’ll switch to a compact like yours but keep the 12/27.

      Of course climbing isn’t just the gearing, but your fitness, age, weight, the bike’s weight and your experience. What are the hills like around you? If you have any with 10% gradient, can you ride it in the saddle with your current gears, do you you need that 25 for that? Think about how you tackle something like that then scale up to a slope going from 10 to 20 to 25% gradients. My advice would be to go for at least a 27, or for more latitude a 29. Two more pieces of advice, first make sure your brakes or in tip top condition, you’ll be using them a lot and hard. If you can, tackle a couple of smaller hills the day before and when you first ride out, go for a gentle pace in the small ring and let your legs warm up. Anyway I hope this has been of some help and enjoy the Dales, it’ll be hard but well worth the effort!


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