Offroad audaxing

100 (and a bit) kilometres of bastard hills around the North Yorks Moors, including offroad climbs and descents, deserted moors, abandoned railway lines, hidden valleys, forestry trails, and at least one pub which is more than a little reminiscent of a certain werewolf movie…Don't Keep to the Road 2021 just wolf



Enter Don’t Keep the Road here:

I love the film American Werewolf in London, obviously. It scared the shit out of me when I was too young to see it, but watched it anyway. It’s fairly common among my mates, when we wander into a pub and feel the atmosphere crystallise as everyone turns to stare at the New People, for one of us to mutter “bloody hell, it’s like the Slaughtered Lamb in here”. If you don’t know the film, here’s the scene.

I know, I know, it’s a total misquote, but Don’t Keep to the Road stuck as a name.

I occasionally wonder where the idea for this ride came from. My mate Graeme reckons it was during an abandoned Easter Arrow, when I suggested that we ride home from the Lion via the old railway line, and down Ingleby Incline (which was an interesting experience on fixed). We riffed on names, but Lion and Lamb never came to be, as neither of us could find a suitably-located pub called The Lamb, despite extensive research which continues to this day.

Now, the Lion isn’t quite like that, but when you’re riding up there in thick fog and it emerges out of the gloom – well, it has something of that atmosphere. Of course, everyone thinks the pub in the film is Tan Hill, but that’s the fault of a terrible Vodafone advert with poor Kyle McLachlan.

DSCF5677.1 - Rob.jpg

The Incline which takes the old railway line up to cross the watershed between Baysdale and Farndale to Blakey Ridge and the Lion is definitely the centrepiece of the ride. Hat tip to Andy Wills, who pointed out to me that the old railway was ridable, and also mentioned another abandoned railway project across the Moors which never went further than surveying – I’ll ask him about it next time I see him. Things that used to be, or never came to be, are endlessly fascinating. I was trying to find out more about the history of the track between Farndale and Bransdale (access to grouse butts, I suspect – most of them are), and came across the story of how Farndale was nearly drowned to make a massive reservoir.

And the Rosedale Railway was an amazing piece of infrastructure. When you ride up or down the Incline, imagine it in the days when steam locomotives were winched up and down the slope to take their cargo of ironstone to the furnaces on Teesside, it being far too steep for the engines to make it up themselves. You do have to remind yourself that this used to be a heavily industrial landscape. Scroll down to “crash scenes on the Incline”.

I was certainly daydreaming about the ride when I rode this to check out an offroad route from Yarm to Ingleby Greenhow. But I wanted a route ridable for the audaxers-on-classic-tourers who I imagined would ride it, and it was a bit sloppy, and the roads around there are too lovely to need a diversion.

The first year I organised the ride, it turned out to be a royal mix of bikes – all the way from high-end full-suspension MTBs through a classic Moulton to your actual factual carbon road bike with not enough spokes front and rear.  

Of course, they all got around OK, and in 2018 I added Moor Gravel Forever, with an extra loop out into the Moors, but in 2021 it’s just the perfect loop of the 100 km, and we get to miss out the lowland tracks, which can be very sloppy. Generally the upland tracks are ridable year-round. 

It’s still quite hilly – both rides are. It’s the type of riding I love, and I don’t think these routes came from any one source of inspiration. It’s the kind of riding I’ve always done, mixing on- and off-road, with a bit of “ooh-I-wonder-where-that-goes” thrown in.

Aidan Hedley and Rik Legge on Ingleby Incline.jpg

PS Chris was one of my early victims/route checkers, and he only went and took his camera round. It was December, or late November, so late spring will probably provide finer weather and visibility, but it gives a great sense of the DKttR route:

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