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Britain’s Best Bike Ride… again

Having ridden this route anti-clockwise it was time to ride it again clockwise. On a perfect August day with blue skies, no wind, and a cool summer morning Nick and I left Lowick heading North to Coniston Water. Nick is a cyclist from Toronto, Canada over in the Lakes for a few days after attending a family wedding in the UK. Having checked out my web site and seeing more of this route on YouTube the omens were set for an epic ride. He hired the Titanium Zeppelin road bike with a triple and set off confidently oblivious to the severity of the challenge ahead.

But nothing could prepare Nick for the phenomenal views across Coniston Water towards the Old Man of Coniston and Dow Crags. We stopped several times for iphone photo opportunities as our legs warmed as we rolled smoothly along the lake’s shore. A few minor climbs took us to the top of Hawkshead Hill where we turned left passing the Wild Boar Hotel prior to dropping into Little Langdale.

A sharp turn left in the village proved a problem as this blind turn hid a sharp climb and we were both in the wrong gear, so had to do a three sixty to establish the gear needed to attempt the first part of this epic climb. Once out of the village the road opens up and levels out in the valley with looming mountains surrounding us as we near Wrynose Pass. But where is the pass as there is no obvious road winding its way over the mountains?

We need to fuel up our bodies before the climb so stop for another photo opportunity and to scoff a couple of bags of energy beans. Good job we did as we soon encountered the 25 degree slope sign, but it failed to say that this slope would be maintained relentlessly for a couple of miles!

“Is that it for today’s climbing?” asks Nick. “Yes” I respond, it’s down hill all the way to Broughton-in-Furness, well only a few little hills. The descent from the top of Wrynose is another epic after the climb, a 30 mph plus wizz. But I did get a back wheel wobble as I braked strongly to avoid a climbing car, as I left Nick picking his way safely around the corners of the descent. [Not many narrow windy roads in Canada.] We continued down the Duddon Valley through the changing landscape as it altered from open mountain to bracken covered fell to verdant farmed valley bottoms. Eventually we arrived at Duddon Bridge, almost at sea level, to turn left and climb a small brow into Broughton village.

Hurray for the Square Cafe, where we stopped off for a quick cup of coffee and a bite to eat, sitting outside in the Cumbrian sunshine overlooking the cross in the square. “How many miles to go now?” asked a revitalised Nick. “Only 8 but another little hill to climb over” I reply. “OK lets go.”

What I failed to say that this last eight miles includes the climb over Woodland Fell, which is quite a sting in the tail of this ride but totally doable as we climb into a headwind blowing in from Morecambe Bay beneath us. As we crest the summit of the fell the welcome vista of the Crake valley is ahead with Lowick nestling in the valley bottom. We are back home the ride completed.

42 miles with 5600 ft of climbing, in approx 4 hours. Two full water bottles emptied, 4 bags of energy sweets eaten, and 5 pounds lost in weight! This is some ride and made all the more enjoyable by being a perfect August day. Would I attempt this ride in winter – no. In early spring or late autumn – no. The roads are steep and slippery when wet and the top of Wrynose Pass is a very high mountain pass and open to all the prevailing elements the weather can throw at us.

Nick says:

“I have climbed most of the Alpine iconic climbs but nothing compares with the consistent 25% climb from Little Langdale to the top of Wrynose Pass, it is unforgiving, but with a triple gear set well worth the all the effort…. and there was lots of effort…..unforgettable… Thanks John.”

and:
“When planning my Lake District trip earlier this year I found John’s website and after exchanging  a couple of emails a bike hire was arranged and date for a guided ride was set. The tour we did has been written up in Cycling Plus and had been given the heady title of ‘One of UK’s Best Rides’ so, I thought we should give it a go. John knew the route so off we went, and, I can confirm its title does not oversell itself, scenery was stunning, route has everything you’d want in a challenging ride including one of the hardest climbs I’ve ever done (Wyrnose Pass). John’s guidance, local knowledge and companionship was first class. On my next visit to the Lakes I will check John’s availability for sure and if anyone is planning a trip to the area for a ride I would suggest they do the same.
Thanks again John.”

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