Sights for sore thighs... on an uphill struggle or gentle spin
The beauty of the Yorkshire Dales and our county’s broad countryside has never been in question.
Tour de France organisers Amaury Sports Organisation were bowled over by Yorkshire Grand Départ stage highlights like Buttertubs Pass, with views over Swaledale, Wensleydale and beyond, when given a helicopter tour of the route in 2013.
So it’s hardly surprising that our rolling hills and country roads have seen cycling interest kick up a gear since the announcement that the Grand Départ will begin in God’s Own County this July.
Nevertheless, for those of us who are relatively new to two wheels and might not fancy a non-stop 190km stint along the stage one route from Leeds to Harrogate, where are the best places to go cycling in Yorkshire?
A good start
Beginners should take to quieter routes, from forest trails to canal towpaths.
The Leeds-Liverpool Canal towpath is well used by cyclists looking to stay away from the traffic. It takes you past sights including Kirkstall Abbey, the Saltaire World Heritage Site and East Riddlesden Hall, depending how far you ride.
Elsewhere in West Yorkshire, the 14-mile Calder Valley Cycleway between Sowerby Bridge and Warland is a worthwhile beginner ride, taking in paths, quiet roads, canal towpaths and collections of public art.
Artwork, including a flock of Swaledale sheep made from recycled scrap metal, is also on the itinerary on the eight-mile off-road Spen Valley Greenway from Cleckheaton to Bradford via Dewsbury and Heckmondwike along a disused railway track.
Further north, a new route for cyclists from Harrogate to Ripley was opened last year. The Nidderdale Greenway was created by reopening the railway viaduct and part of the Harrogate to Ripon railway.
The coastal Cinder Track is also a popular starting point. Covering 21.5 miles, it follows a disused railway line from Whitby to Scarborough and runs alongside the North Yorkshire Heritage Coast.
If you fancy a gentle 15-mile ride try the York to Selby Cycle Route, which is NCN Route 65 of the Sustrans National Cycle Network (NCN). There are 1,000 miles of designated NCN routes in Yorkshire. Visit www.sustrans.org.uk.
Planning your tour
Taking to two wheels is one of the best ways to enjoy the region’s rolling hills.
Seasoned riders might take in the great Yorkshire outdoors by covering larger distances over several hours or a number of days, so planning food stops at village cafes or accommodation ahead of time is always best.
The 130-mile Yorkshire Dales Cycleway starts and finishes in Skipton, taking you through six of the finest valleys in the region including Wharfedale, Coverdale and Swaledale via quiet country lanes. The route is often sectioned into six daily rides of 20 to 25 miles.
Another circular route, the 146-mile South Dalton Yorkshire Wolds Cycle Route, takes riders around coastal cliffs, hidden valleys, beaches and picturesque villages. You can start at places including Driffield and Malton.
Elsewhere you can ride from the North York Moors to the ruins of Scarborough Castle on the Heritage Coast by taking on the 100-mile Moor to Sea Cycle Trail.
The east coast White Rose Cycle Route is also a much-travelled path for cyclists, rolling from Hull along the River Ouse to York and eventually to the foothills of the North York Moors.
Or for those looking for a taste of this year’s Grand Départ stages and any other gluttons for punishment, the 150-mile circular West Yorkshire Cycleway roughly follows the West Yorkshire county boundary. Tourers can take a detour to tackle the brutal Cragg Vale incline or the Holme Moss ascent from Holmbridge. Both climbs lie on stage two of Le Tour.
If you’re looking for the full experience, you can always cycle the July 5 and 6 Grand Départ stages.
coast to coast
Cycling from one side of the country to the other is another scenic route that passes the county’s most impressive sights.
The Way of the Roses Cycle Route is a signposted 170-mile trail that takes riders from Morecambe through the Forest of Bowland and the Yorkshire Dales along cycle paths and quieter roads to Bridlington Bay.
You can also cycle from coast to coast on the 171-mile Walney to Wear and Whitby (W2W) trail, which goes from Walney Island in Cumbria to Whitby via Tan Hall.