Winter has left me feeling old and cronky; I want to feel strong and capable again. Riding round Durham always leaves me feeling slow and heavy, so it seemed like a good idea to try a flat ride on familiar roads – something I wouldn’t need to think about to navigate – something I could try and blast along. I set my mind on a Durham to York ride.
Leaving home early on Friday morning, the weather was nicely mild in Durham. Down over Elvet bridge and with a clear view of the castle and cathedral, before turning my back on Durham and following the commuter route against the flow of traffic, went straight through Bowburn and Coxhoe. No need to keep my pace down, perfectly acceptable to get sweaty today.
The mist laid thick across the valley ahead and steam rose from the road as I rode down into Sedgefield. The choice ahead was to follow Durham Rd (A177) or enjoy some less busy country lanes. As the sun was low in the sky and directly ahead, I opted for the quieter roads – I just hadn’t realised how icy they were going to be. The temperature down here was a lot colder that back in Durham. Through Bishopton and over the A66 at the cycle crossing; I made it down to Yarm for 10am and a Mocha coffee.
Back on the road by 10:20am, and ramped up the effort through Kirk Levington, but had to ease right back off again following the tiny lanes through East Rounton to Northallerton. Ice as far as the eye could see. Didn’t stop, didn’t walk – but required nerves of steel. Many of these roads have been resurfaced and they are a delight to ride. Come the summer, so long as the council don’t top coat them with gravel, they will be covered with Teesside’s cyclists.
The Hambleton Hills were deep in snow, with untouched fields of white teetering over Mount Grace Priory. As I looked past this farm to the snow beyond, I noticed the signs and was reminded of Half Man Half Biscuit’s “Asparagus Next Left”;
“This-a-way For New Potatoes”
An arrow points innocently
Dirt track to a darker place
That’s what it says to me
“Last Chance For Hanging Baskets”
They’re even giving you clues!
“Fresh Broad Beans and Aubergines”
Euphemisms, Audrey, euphemisms!
Northallerton, round the ring-road and make the choice to follow main roads down to York. If I stick to the A168 I can enjoy some hard riding, so I work hard to lift my pace. In Northallerton I’d averaged 24kph so far – I wanted to lift that a bit by the time I reached York. The sun was still low in the sky and there was a deep contrast between the shadows and the sunlight, the road was beautiful.
Reaching Thirsk I stopped at the world famous “Wetherspoons” pub for some soup. Stilton and Broccoli – which came loaded with extra cheese. Just the stuff to warm me through and charge the batteries for the next leg.
The next leg was the hardest by far: just straight down the A19 from Thirsk to York. The sign said 22 miles. I just put as much effort in as possible for the next 1 hour 2 minutes: from the roundabout where the A170 turns into the A19, to the junction with the A1237 York ring-road – it is 32km, 20 miles. I kept the effort on as much as possible and only just missed the 20mph average. At Shipton my legs started to feel empty and I finally found a use for the energy gel in my back pocket.
At 2pm I coasted to a stop outside York Cathedral. 4hrs 20mins from Durham to York. All I wanted now was to top the ride up to 5 hours with a cool down to Bishopthorpe and a pint of Samuel Smiths at the Ebor. Then it was a single train ride back to Durham. A grand hard-riding day out.