Washington to Moscow: The route planning stages

It might seem like a really massive distance to try and cover in two days; but cycling from Washington to Moscow should be doable for many cyclists with a bit of preparation. A group of us are doing it in May, and I’m planning a route that I’ve nicknamed ‘WashCow’ and v3 is available on the RideWithGPS site.
With the rain lashing down and the wind blowing outside, there is only one suitable antidote: sitting in front of a fire planning a nice big bike ride for a warm and sunny May Bank Holiday in Scotland. Well, it seems like a good idea, I just hope some of the roads and bridges remain standing after all these storms.
There will be a bunch of cyclists taking two days to ride from Washington to Moscow, so I’m enjoying myself looking at route options. This should be a fun adventure and I hope that I can ride alongside my friends all of the way, but I don’t know everyone who is going. We’re hoping to travel the same roads – but this route I’m working on is just a suggestion rather than a requirement; basically other riders are free to chose where they go and how they get there. This isn’t a Cyclosportive, it isn’t even an Audax. It is just a bunch of cyclists, touring in their own time and under their own steam: there will be no medals or anything! To add to the melee there’s a bunch of Scooterists doing the ride as well.
We’ll be riding public roads – so if you’re interested in coming along it’ll be happening in May 2016. Some caveats:
  • I don’t know everyone who will be riding, so I can’t predict whether this route is suitable for others.
    • It is a suitable route for me.
  • This isn’t an ‘event’.
    • The route will not be signposted like those ‘Sportive’ things.
    • Its not an Audax either; so I’m not providing a turn-by-turn routesheet.
    • I’m not aware of any backup vehicles, I plan to be self-sufficient.
  • I am making my GPS route planning available because it might be useful.
    • I’ve had silly off-road moments thanks to RideWithGPS in the past
    • I think I’ve avoided any off-road silliness.

Day 1: Angel of the North to Hawick
Approximately 130km (80 miles), with most of the big hills for the weekend.
I’ll start with a ride from Durham to the Angel of the North along the A167. Should just be 16km (10 miles) and I can meet up with everyone at the Angel of the North. I know this isn’t quite Washington, but it is near enough and its where we’ve agreed to meet.
Then the plan is to follow the A167 north through Gateshead and cross the river Tyne on the High Level Bridge with a view of the Sage and the Baltic. There are good wide roads and some well-surfaced cycle lanes all the way out to the other side of the river. Once over the river, I’ll be weaving my way through some residential streets to reach the B6324 and follow this to Stamfordham. Its a basic road, not too quiet but not too busy, the main selling point is that it goes the right way without silly hills.
After Fenwick, on to some little lanes to reach the famous ‘Ryals’ a stepped series of lungbusting hills. Which I’ll ride down. Yay!
Reaching the A68 and avoiding using it, I will cross straight onto the A6079 and use this to reach the narrow lanes to Barrasford. I like this bit of the route because it will keep me on nice little lanes all the way to Wark and across the river North Tyne.
Navigating now is going to be exceptionally easy. I’ll follow the B6320 to the hill just above Bellingham and take a left turn towards Kielder Water and follow this road all the way through the National Park to Saughtree. A long way!
I’ll turn right in Saughtree onto the B6357 and the largest climb of the weekend starts immediately, rising 200m along an 8km section. I’ll pass Dod Fell and Wigg Knowe riding through Wauchope Forest and then start a fast descent to Wolfelee. I plan to turn left here onto tiny country lanes and cut off the Bonchester Bridge corner to join the A6088, there are some more hills but nothing like the preceeding ‘Col’. I’m expect this section to be hard but rewarding.
The A6088 looks like a bleak open fast road, so just after Kirkton I’m going to turn left onto more quiet lanes and drop down into Hawes and stay at a B&B (Beer & Bed).
Day 2: Hawick to Moscow
Approximately 150km (93 miles) and after the first couple of climbs should feel a lot easier, depending on how the legs have recovered.
Leaving Hawick on the A7 it would be a good idea to get an early start before the heavy tourist traffic wakes up. I rode this in 2009 on a LEJOG and I think I was on the road about 5/6am. A late start here has the potential to turn this into an ugly ride, but as I’ll be riding on the Sunday of a Bank Holiday I expect it to be quiet early on. It is about 16km (10 miles) along the A7 to Selkirk including the two big hills of the day.
After Selkirk I’m on the A707 for 10km (6 miles). I don’t know this road but it won’t last very long and then just after Caddonfoot I’ll be leaving the mainroads and following a National Cycle route I’ve done before. Stunningly beautiful and totally quiet narrow lanes south of the river Tweed, for 26km (16 miles). It will begin to feel too long and too lonely… but I’ve ridden before and eventually I reach Peebles and I’m sure a coffee will be in order.
After Peebles there is a short section of the A72 to Lyne Station where my route joins the B712 down past Castle Stobo and after a little climb on an unmarked road drops down into Broughton. Although there are no significantly big hills around here, I pass from the Tweed valley to the Clyde valley along the B7016 within sight of Goseland Hill. The road I remember being surprising flat for such a significant crossing.
I’ll go through Biggar and then with one tiny section of the A73 from Thankerton to the next left turn – I think it is signposted Carmichael – I will be back on tiny country lanes again for 16km (10 miles) to cross the M74 into Lesmahagow. There is a climb past a big supermarket which is going to feel hard, but there is a pretty good truckstop cafe on the left hand side.
Next is a little bit of a rise to reach Boghead, and then I plan to join the B7086 for a while before turning left again onto the quiet and narrow ‘High Kype Rd’. After about 5km another side turning onto an even quieter and smaller road cuts a corner off and brings me to the B743, south of ‘West Cauldcoats’. The B743 is hardly a busy road itself.
I will follow this to Dungavel and take the B745 and then an unmarked road to finally reach the A71. There is not much choice to avoid this road, and the traffic moves fast. The road is wide enough though and fairly open so it should be safe enough. Last time I used this I had a tailwind and I blasted the whole way to Galston. This time I plan to turn off at Priestland and use the much nicer looking National Cycle Route to Greenholm along the south bank of the river Irving.
In Greenholm I’m going to rejoin the A71 because the next section of cycle route goes into Galston awkwardly, and I think there was broken glass at the Galston end. So a brief flit down the A71 and then…
Well, if I’m going to Moscow ‘proper’, then I need to turn north on the A719 for 4km, or if I’m going to the Kilmarnock Travelodge it’s just straight on along the A71. There is still some planning to do regarding the final day.
So: My route. God willing I will be well enough and to ride, that we’ll all be blessed with good weather and that there are no family emergencies to prevent this event going ahead.

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