The Dales is a great place to ride a mountain bike and much quieter than the Peak District to the south and Lakes District to the west. It’s true that some of the climb can be grassy and energy sapping however as there is approximately 650km of bridleways there is lots of choice; so get involved!
Like anywhere in the UK if you catch a ride in the Yorkshire Dales on a good day it can provided some of the best riding available in the UK. The climbs vary from gentle easy going ones to full on, steep, technical assaults that only the best riders will be able to master. As for the descents, there is only a few that the inexperienced might to intimidated by, meaning that this is an awesome mountain biking destination for any level of cyclist.
I cycled pretty much all of the Dales and as any of my friends will tell you I know all bogs, un-ride able moors and best hike-a-bike trails out there. Great news for anybody reading this though, as what follows, is a collection of my favourite routes around the Dales based of years of exploring which avoids the rubbish bits. You don’t have to annoy your mates and waste days trying to find the best trails, as they are all here!
They vary from easy to hard; and from a few hours to all day epics. So check your bike over, grab a packed lunch and Hit the Hills!
#1 Hetton Common
Great loop starting from Threshfield near Grassington in the south east of the Dales. Should take 3-5 hours, not overly technical with a good descent to finish. Great for those wanting to take in some classic Dales Scenery.
#2 Tour of Pen-y-Ghent
This is a circular route round one of Yorkshire’s most famous peaks. Will take you 3-5 hours depending on your fitness. It’s a bit grassy in places so can be energy sapping on the southern half if wet but still rideable. Not too much climbing here either as you keep your height for most of the ride, then gains it again pretty easily. It can be ridden in both directions but my favourite is clock-wise from Horton-in-Ribblesdale.
#3 Buckden Pike Mo-Fo
Right this won’t appeal to everybody as some of the climbs are steep with a bit of pushing required in places. That said, for those who have the minerals, it’s awesome! The bridleway off the top of Buckden Pike give you a 500 meter descent to finish on which leaves you grinning for weeks! (I still smile when I think about it).
This will take 6-8 hours and you should come prepared as it is hard work.
#4 Horton-in-Ribblesdales to Halton Gill
This cycling routes takes in a great descent from the Buckden Pike Mo-Fo taking you up Horse Head Moor (bit of pushing required as this is steep) above Starbotton and fires you out in Halton Gill. It’s kind of a ride of two halves as the beginning is quite flat and easy going but then when the good stuff kicks in, the tempo increases dramatically. You can choose the final leg round Pen-y-Ghent; either north (for a swift-ish finish) or south if you have fancy a fast finish.
#5 Tour of Dentdale
I first rode this in 1999 on a jump bike and loved it! Quite far north this one, so much quieter than the southern Dales too. It’s a varied ride this one with an uber steep road climb out of Dent, massive descent under the Arten Gill Viaduct, a very satisfying path under the Ribblehead Viaduct (admire the Victorian engineering) with some technical climbing and a fast finish into Dent.
#6 Barden Moor
#7 Tour of Nidderdale
Nidderdale ain’t quite in the National Park but this is a classic Yorkshire Dales ride in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The ride can be ridden in either direction, I prefer the anti-clockwise one which gives a nice descent to finish down to Lofthouse. It also gives you a massively challenging climb from Scarhouse Reservoir – must be said that this is a great descent but very short so try it in both directions to make up your own mind up.
#8 Bowerdale Classic (Howgills)
Save this one for a fine day as it’s quite exposed up top but you are rewarded for your efforts with 8km of sweet singletrack which some suggest is the best in the UK. That is a massive statement; ride it and make your own mind up. I thought it was great! Anyway, check out this post for a full description and photos of the Bowerdale Classic.
#9 Buckden Pike Demi
This one is great if you have a morning to kill or fancy a short outing with some great Dales scenery. The climb out of Starbotton is steep but is soon eases up onto nice high level singletrack before a fast finish down some double track.
#10 Ingleton, Dent and the Ribblehead Viaduct
Ride this in the summer when there is blue skies and the sun is shining. It’s a big day and it’s awesome! Has some nice riding under the Riblehead viaduct through some limestone pavement and finishes with a ludicrously fast descent into Dent to finish.