Coast to Coast (Off-road) - 220 miles (April 2002)

by Pete, Brian & Gary

bullet Conclusions
bullet Information
bullet Mountain Bikes Used
bullet Tools and Spares
bullet Mechanical Failures
bullet Accidents
bullet Accommodation/Transport
bullet OS Maps Required
bullet Links


Seven stout fellows set forth during Easter 2002 to cross England, from St Bees Head in the west to Robin Hood's Bay in the east. Transport was by mountain bike and the route taken was partly off-road (good) and partly on-road (bad). In terms of distance the good and bad parts were about equal, but far more time was spent on the good bits, which made it all jolly good fun.

The party consisted of Gary (task-master, organiser and leader), Guy (off-road at all costs), Brian (win at all costs), Martine (Dutch tart), Carrie (where's my make-up bag), Carl (never say die), and Pete (where's my breakfast).

We completed the route in 4 days, which made for two quite long days, and some strategic route amendments as we progressed; 5 days would have been more comfortable. We stopped at Ambleside YHA, Gunnerside and Osmotherly YHA. The first and second days in particular were long and hard, but we were blessed with good weather and firm going.

Some parts of the route that we were following appeared to have been included simply to make it harder; the section from Eskdale to Conniston being one example. There was no concensus on whether to push off-road or cycle on-road, so the party split on the first day with some cycling over Hardknott and Wrynose whilst others pushed over Harter Fell and the Walna Scar road. In any case there was ample pushing, carrying and climbing for all on day one.

We all trained a bit for the trip; Pete being the oldest and hence the best sandbagger trained like a demon all winter, and so found the trip relatively easy. Carl, being a caring and responsible sort of guy, in a steady relationship, was able to train less and hence had to dig deep at times. In any case we tried to keep stops to a minimum, and Gary was particularly good at preventing Carrie from diving into her make-up rucksac at each stop, by moving on just as she arrived.

Thursday - the Southerners arrive in Chesterfield at various times of the day. Ironically, it is Pete and Guy who are late, having to fight their way up through traffic despite having all day off (Guy using normal tactic of driving like a lunatic to make up time).  Pasta dinner, then 3.5 hour drive to St Bees.  All tucked up in the B&B by 12.30am

Day 1 (Fri 29/03/02 ) St Bees to Troutbeck (YHA)

A Gary inspired 6am start sees the bikes prepared. 


Photo 1: No, this wasn't taken with a red filter, just at 6.30 am after breakfast in St Bees. In fact breakfast was only taken due to stroppy old Pete insisting on food before we started.

Day one goes from beach to Troutbeck.  Start from the beach by 7am.  Lots of weird looks from old gimmers who are walking their dogs.  Flat cycling for 20 miles, then a carry over Black Sail Pass. 


Photo 2: The delightful ride from the coast up Ennerdale to Black Sail YHA is ample compensation for the push that follows.


Photo 3: However as push turned to carry and walk to climb, the delights of the start of the route were soon forgotten. Martine here is just negotiating the crux section where a leftward-facing egyptian has to be turned into a rightward one. That's Gary at the top, kicking the rocks down.


Photo 4: The descent was very loose, steep and busy with walkers. We walked down most of it.


Photo 5:  Carrie and Carl riding down a part of Black Sail pass.


Photo 6:  The first of many technical stream crossings; the descent from Black Sail was ridable from this point on.

Then some more hills, until our 1pm decision point. 


Photo 7: From Wasdale it was but a brief push to this delightful grass moorland crossing into Eskdale. Fond memories for Pete of an early paraglider flight over this area.


Photo 8: Brian in his happy phase at the start of the trip (i.e. before Martine hartlessly dropped him on the Hardknott ascent).

Gary and Guy decide on the full route across Harter Fell (?).  The rest can't be bothered with another carry, so go on the road.  This cuts out 10 miles and a carry, but means that we have to slog up the hard side of Hardknott Pass (1 in 3), and indeed it is a beast, but Brian proudly overtook a Honda Fireblade on the descent!. 


Photo 9:  The group argue on the way ahead at Eskdale; on-road cycling or the big push off-road.
Guy: "I not come here to turn this into a road trip!"
Pete: "You ***king **nt!"
Carrie: "Gary! Where's my make-up bag!"
Brian (thinks): "I'm so up for this! I'm going to drop you bastards on Hardknott"

The road group finished their 50 miles at 6pm, the others finish their 62 miles at 7pm.  Guy looks fine, but Gary looks a bit shakey (low blood sugar). 


Photo 10: After Gary and Guy go for the big push, Pete takes over the onerous role of group leader and the pace slackens somewhat at Rydall Water to admire the view up Therlemere.

Met some of the Wellingborough Mountaineering Club lot at the YHA in the evening, but they had failed to bring us any beer.  Disappointing class - must do better next time!

Max. mph
(50) 62
17 St Bees to Ennerdale (3600ft ascent)
15 Ennerdale to Eskdale (4445ft)
30 Eskdale to Troutbeck (YHA)

Day 2 (Sat 30/03/02) Troutbeck (YHA) to Gunnerside

60 miles across more big hills. 


Photo 11: By the start of day two the group is back together, and this time everyone skips the slog up the Garburn pass with a pleasant detour to the north.


Photo 12: Guy fully committed ...


Photo 13: ... whilst Carrie maintains her dignity (and dry tyres).


Photo 14: Fortunately we took the wrong route, quite by mistake, and avoided miles of bog just before the A6 at Shap.


Photo 15: Entering the Dales, after lunch in Shap.


Photo 16: Carl in the Dales, some time later.

A mix of road and off road for the first 40 miles, then another decision point - Tan Hill or not?  We go for it.  A killer.  A bad day for me (Brian) - didn't sleep well, and my heart rate would not come down all night.  A bit worrying - the last time this happened was when I ran my first marathon, and I spent some time with St Johns Ambulance that day.  The food situation was worrying as well - we hadn't booked an evening meal, and the pub was too far to walk to (one mile, but after cycling all day.....). 


Photo 17: Brian focusses on his heart rate near the end of day two at the top of Tan Hill.

However, Gary charmed the lady into pulling us something together, and they even had lager and Black Sheep on the menu.

Max. mph
18 Troutbeck to Shap (3500ft)
30 Shap to Keld (3600ft)
23 Keld to Gunnerside

Day 3 (Sun 31/03/02) Gunnerside to Osmotherley (YHA)

An easy day - only 45 miles, flattish, and mostly on road.  A good job for me (Brian), since another hard day may have been the end of it.  However, we got through it fairly easily, even having time to stop for lunch , and still made Osmotherly for 4pm.  Great road work by the team - taking turns up the front peloton style.  Made a mental note to ask Lance (Armstrong) if he needs any help for the tour this year.

Max. mph
36 Gunnerside to Darby Whiske (3400ft)
9 Darby Whiske to Osmotherley (YHA)

Day 4 (Mon 01/04/02) Osmotherley to Robin Hood's Bay

Last day.  A scheduled 60 (or 100 if you listened to Pete) was looking a bit worrying, since the last 1/3 was over the tough going of the North York Moors (tussocky grass, bog and anything else which slows down the bike).  Early detours through losing our way make further mileage necessary. However, a couple of ingenious alternative route decisions by Pete, Gary and Guy meant that we could cut out a lot of pointless zig zagging of the 'normal' route, and still go off road to our destination.  Fast morning speeds allowed the luxury of another lunch stop at Grosmont (or was if Grocklemont?), then the last slog to the coast. 


Photo 18: Gary slacking on a big climb in the North Yorks Moors on the last day. We were able to see the North Sea from just past the top of this climb, but as I ran out of film you'll just have to take my word for it.

Arrived at the bus at 5.30pm.  Elected not to dip the bikes in the sea, claiming too much aluminium around.  Bus back to St Bees (nice driver, but one who liked talking - "I once caught a 5 ton cod.....").  Left St Bees 10pm.

Arrived Chesterfield 1.45am.  Bed 2.30am.  Up for work 6am.  Pete and Guy set off straight for Reading, driving through the night.  When you have been on a bike for 4 days, driving through the night is a breath of fresh air.

Max. mph
22        Osmotherley    Westerdale
34        Westerdale    Robin Hood's Bay
5:50 hours cycling

Average speed for whole trip 8.6 mph.


Some comments:

1) Even though I hated some (large) parts of it, it was a great achievement.  We all did it - something we doubted at the start.

2) Doing it in four days is doable, but extremely hard.  There is no time to rest, little time to stop, not much time to take in scenery.  Bodies get run down fast, and there is no time to recover.  I was badly affected on the second night - I was very close to packing it in.  Most of us have got very knackered knees now.  But it is amazing what the body will put up with if it has to.

3) The route is a real tough one, not to be underestimated.  It should be done in 7, I think.  We met one group trying to do it in 5, and they gave up after the 4th day.

4) We were very lucky with weather - hardly a single drop of rain (whilst the Lakes got poured on behind us) and a favourable wind.  Sun on lots of occasions.  The first morning was a delight - a great mornings biking in its own right.  We would have been happy to stop there and then.  In fact, we should have done!  Map reading was excellent - very few mistakes - well done to those doing it.

5) Eating - we ate vast amounts.  Flapjack, Powerbars, Maxim, Energy Drinks, little children, etc etc.  The real problem was getting it all in - you had no appetite, but you know you had to eat.  We just became calorie processing factories.  In professional cycling, they can't eat enough solid food in the day, and have to have lots of energy drink, and it is easy to see why now.

5) Pete was a real powerhouse - we couldn't understand where he was getting it from (at his age as well). However, eventually, the secret came out.  High 5 powder.  Not just in his drink.  Adding it to his dinner, sniffing lines of it at every stop.  We should have tied a rope to his bike and got a tow!

I really enjoyed it.  I wouldn't do the same trip again, but I would do something else like it.  But I wasn's saying that yesterday morning!

Thanks everyone.  What's the next one?



Delightful report.

My main memories were:

-The masochistic nature of the route.
-The impressive size of Brian's quads and everyone else's rucksacks.
-The huge adjustable wrench that Martine carried with effortless ease.
-Carl's focus and determination.
-Gary's ballet on the Black Sail pass descent.
-Returning home at 4am to find that Mince had thoughtfully installed a
 German school girl in my bed .


My main memories are:
- Pete and Martine cycling up almost everything in sight;
- excellent navigation from Gary and Pete;
- excellent organisation in general;
- good group of people, stopping at every possible turning point and waiting for the group to catch up, nobody diving off into the distance making dodgy route choices for themselves;
- group flatulence;
- snoring chap in YHA;
- fantastic downhill section on the last day over North York moors;
- finding a rather handy disused railway alternative route and getting some speed up!
- Carrie and Pete not sporting any sign of injury at all;
- always finding the gate open;
- lack of rest breaks on first couple of days;
- spending half a day slogging on and Pete saying, "we're almost a quarter of the way there now"
- thinking knee would explode on second day and wondering how to get home from half way. Will bring some ibruproprene(?) myself next time!
- third day, quite grateful when other injuries started appearing, was feeling a bit mortal amid a group of immortals until then!

Had a great time - thanks all, especially Gary for pulling it all together.




Mountain Bikes Used

We all rode mountain bikes of various types:

Brian: Canondale, 2000 F4000SL M (27 sp.)
Carrie: Specialized, 2002 Stumpjumper M4 Disc 15.5" (27 sp.)
Carl:  Kona, Cinder Cone 18.5" (24 sp.)
Gary: Specialized, 2002 Stumpjumper M4 Disc 19" (27 sp.)
Guy: Specialized, 2000 FSR XC 18" (27 sp.)
Martine: Emprella (21 sp.)
Pete: Specialized, 2001 Stumpjumper M4 18" (27 sp.)

Tools and Spares

3 Combination cycle tools (Aliens)
Tyre levers
Chain links
2 Inner tubes per person
3 Puncture repair kits
Spoke key
1 rear light
1 large adjustable wrench

Mechanical Failures

6 Punctures (2 Carrie (Thorns), 2 Guy (Pinch), 1 Brian (Thorn), 1 Gary (Pinch))
1 Severly bent 'Granny' Ring (Guy)


1 Bruised knee (Carl)
3 Over the handle bars (2 Gary (bruised/cut shoulder), 1 Carrie)


Thurs 28/03/02
Fairladies Barn, Main Street, S Bees, Cumbria, CA27 08D, 01946 822718
The owners stayed up late awaiting our arrival and then got up early (06:30) for a great breakfast. We were able to leave our two vehicles for the four days. Excellent accommodation and hospitality.

Fri 29/03/02
Troutbeck (YHA) Bridge Lane, Troutbeck, Windermere, Cumbria LA23 1LA, Phone: 015394 43543, Fax: 015394 47165, Email: windermere@yha.org.uk. Usual YHA value at £10.25pppn (with membership - group membership for four or more). You need to book choose your £5 evening meal by 6pm (which we did by phone) and then eat your three course meal at 7pm. We found the portions too small and not as balanced as we would expect when provding for active people, being more used to Alpine Hut food. Breakfast was at 8am and for £3.40 pretty good value. Nice small dormitories with a very handy lockable bike shed.

Sat 30/03/02
Oxnop Hall, Gunnerside , Richmond, North Yorkshire, DL11 6JJ, 01748 866253. Excellent service and hositality from this farm house accommodation. The owner and her sister-in-law went out of their way to provide us with a fantastic evening meal, especially when it was our fault not to have booked. The food and service was first class. We could even buy beer and wine with the meal. We would thoroughly recommend staying here.

Sun 31/03/02
Osmotherley (YHA) Cote Ghyll, Osmotherley, Northallerton, N. Yorks DL6 3AH, Phone: 01609 883575, Fax: 01609 883715, Email: osmotherley@yha.org.uk Same pricing as the Troutbeck YHA, but the staff were even more friendly. There was a good choice for breakfast and a large bike shed outside. The dormitories are a bit large, especially when there is always someone who snores ridiculously loudly all night long.

Transfer to St Bees from Robin Hoods Bay.
Mountain Goat, Victoria Street, Windermere,England,LA23 1AD, Tel : +44 (0)15394 45161, Fax : +44 (0)15394 45164, mountain-goat@lakes-pages.com
Mountain Goat had been highly recommended to us and we were suitably impressed. The driver phoned one of our mobiles to say he had arrived 30 minutes early and where to find us. Then when we arrived 30 minutes late he greeted us with a flask of coffee and a welcome smile and congratulations. We loaded the seven mountain bikes into the luxurious mini-bus and headed to a Fish & Chip shop in Whitby.
Excellent, reliable and friendly service.

OS Maps Required (http://www.ordsvy.gov.uk/)

Landranger     1:50,000
89*    West Cumbria, Cockermouth & Wast Water
90*    Penrith, Keswick & Ambelside
91*    Appleby-in-Westmorland
92    Barnard Castle & surrounding area
93    Middlesbrough, Darlington & Hartlepool
94    Whitby & Esk Dale, Robin Hood's Bay
98    Wensleydale & Upper Wharfedale
99*    Northallerton & Ripon, Pateley Bridge & Leyburn
100    Malton & Pickering, Helmsley & Easingwold
101    Scarborough, Bridlington & Filey

or (not so good coverage):
    Outdoor Leisure Maps & Explorer 1:25,000

303    Whitehaven & Workington, Cockermouth & Egremont
4    The English Lakes N W
5    The English Lakes N E
6*    The English Lakes S W
7    The English Lakes S E
19    Howgill Fells and Upper Eden Valley
30    Yorkshire Dales N & C
302    Northallerton & Thirsk, Catterick & Bedale
304    Darlington & Richmond, Egglescliffe & Gainford
26    North Yorkshire Moors W
27    North Yorkshire Moors E

2*    Yorkshire Dales – Southern & Western areas    +++

*Tim Woodcock book states minimum map combination for complete coverage (but I don't think is correct, beware!).

The maps shown below are taken from the colin white MTB Coast2Coast web site. The marked ones show (in red) the intended route (Maps 1 & 2 haven't been marked-up, yet!).
Map 1     (marked)
Map 2     (marked)
Map 3      (marked)
Map 4      (marked)
Map 5      (marked)
Map 6      (marked)