A Grand Day Out

I first went to Austwick with my bike about 12 years ago and was blown away by it all. Up till that point I had mostly ridden the local stuff and a couple of trail centres. I’d never been out somewhere that needed a map or didn’t have multi coloured arrows telling me which way to go. Since then I’ve had a bit of a soft spot for it and try and get back for a couple of hours when time and family constraints permit. It isn’t the longest or prettiest ride in the world but it is quite tough and it is my favourite.
Neil and I met at 9:00am at the rendezvous point, chucked all of my gear in the back of his car -big boot, wipe clean seats (!) – then set off up the M66 towards th’ills with joy in our hearts and Fruit Pastilles in the glove box. Neil has done “Austwick” before and if we have time we’ll look for evidence of the several pints of blood that he left all over a rather sharp lump of lime stone during our last visit. I too have some crash history in this part of the world having executed an over the bars manoeuvre similar to that bit in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where Sean Connery sticks a pole through the front wheel of a motorcycle.

An hour later we pulled into the car park in Clapham and started to get our kit together. There were no other mountain bikers about but there were hoards of walkers including several sturdy looking “Jolly Hockey Sticks” young ladies with stern faces, pneumatic cleavages and expensive boots.

Ten minutes off faffing later and we were off. We rumbled past the ramblers who have rallied outside The New Inn and head off into Austwick for the first and second climbs. Both are pretty awful on a cold start (like doing The Rake, then doing it again) but after a mile or so you get the reward of the descent through Austwick Beck and down Blue Bell Lane into Wharfe. It has everything that you want in a technical descent. Rocks, roots, tight corners, changes in gradient, tight sections between walls and speed. It also has walkers. Lots of them. We slowed for each group and said hello etc and everybody was pleasant. Everybody except the bloke in the last bunch who informed me loud and boorishly that I had forgotten my bell. The cock. Still, they had as much right to be there as us so I nodded and smiled and rode past at a considerate pace safe in the knowledge that I had been courteous and that he was, and forever would be, a cock. I smiled at his wife. I bet that she hated him. I hope so.

After that it was the bridleway into Feizor. Previously this had been a tricky couple of miles of roots, pot holes and rocks the size of your fist. However now, due to trail sanitization, it is as smooth as industrial lino. Bugger. What used to be a testing 20 minutes was now an uneventful 5. I can see why they’ve done it though because it used to be a real ankle breaker.

Out of Feizor it’s another climb punctuated by gates which break up the flow. The advantage of the gates is that you are forced to stop and take in the view. I just wish I’d had the foresight to take a picture of it. Without the gates I would have just spent the climb looking at the word MANITOU on the top of the fork arch.

Over the other side is a screamer of a farm track descent towards Helwith Bridge before heading back towards Austwick. At this point we decided to do the climb up to the beck and Blue Bell Lane again. With 10 miles already in our legs the climb was a breeze and with only one set of walkers to say “hello” to the descent was a blast.

The last bit of the ride is the climb over the hill back to Clapham and the grand finale. A steep descent through tunnels. Awesome! As Neil pointed out it is like going as fast as you can down a rocky descent then having somebody steal one of your senses. Temporarily losing the ability to smell wouldn’t be a problem, but losing the ability to see means that when you pop out in the village centre at the bottom you are giggling on an adrenaline overdose. Apparently the tunnels were built by the land owner because he didn’t like the sight of his workers trudging across his eye line on their way to work. They must have been a bloody ugly bunch if he was prepared to shell out for a couple of hundred feet of underground road to stop his sensibilities being offended.


And then it was back to the car.
The discussion on the way home was that it wasn’t as tough as it used to be. The hills haven’t got smaller so we must have got better. The Austwick Ride is still a favourite, but we need to find something a bit more taxing.





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2 Responses to A Grand Day Out

  1. Fat Lad says:

    Good ride report, have you got a maplink/screenshot/grid reference for the tunnels? I’m dead intrigued 🙂

  2. The tunnels are in the middle of Clapham. Head up the road towards the church with the stream on your left. You will come to a disc shaped scuplture on your right and the tunnel exit is behind it.

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