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tour de yorkshire

A Credit Card Adventure – Le Tour de Yorkshire

I love the Tour de France. I love Yorkshire. Next year the two collide in the most unlikely of unions. The 2014 Tour de France begins in Yorkshire. It seemed a great opportunity to ride some of the course and try to get a sneak preview on this famous event.

I strongly urge anyone who enjoys cycling to do the same: it was a fantastic ride.

You could do the ride in one long day, as the pros will do. It would be a nice 120 mile challenge.
Or you can spread it out into two days, as I did.

The route goes from Leeds to Harrogate through beautiful scenery and past huge numbers of pubs and tea shops… Even if you live down south you can easily do this ride over a weekend.

If you catch the train to Leeds on Saturday morning you’ll be there in time for lunch. A 40 or 50 mile ride will see you nicely up the valley between Skipton and Buckden.

Each village has a decent pub so you can have your evening meal whenever your stomach demands it. Then sleep in a B&B or a bivvy bag (depending on your level of manliness). (Here is my advice on ultralight cycle touring).

In the morning the steep climb out of Buckden will build a nice appetite for breakfast in a cafe in Aysgarth or Bainbridge. Be sure to eat lots because from Hawes you climb over Buttertubs, the biggest climb of the ride. There’s a white-knuckle descent into the Muker valley and, apart from a big climb to reach Leyburn, now you’ve broken the back of the ride.

Pop into one of Masham’s breweries for a quick morale-boosting sup and then it’s an easy ride to Harrogate and the end…

Here is a photographic account of my ride. I was travelling light so only had my camera phone. But I really hope they encourage you to give the route a go – it is fabulous to be able to enjoy both Yorkshire’s special scenery and the razmattazz of the Tour de France at the same time.

The 2014 Tour de France begins outside Leeds Town Hall.
Leeds Town Hall

It didn’t take long to get out of the busy city…

I'mm cycling the route of Stage 1 of next year's Tour de France, though not quite at race pace. #microadventure #yorkshire #teashop

…and into Yorkshire’s other type of congested roads
Cows crossing road

The road to Skipton is pleasant but quite built-up. Riding north from Skipton is when the beautiful stuff really begins.
Road through trees

Epic storm brewing! Wet night ahead I fear. Great ride  though, and just 2.5hrs from London. #tourdeyorkshire #microadventure #yorkshire

To minimise gear and maximise enjoyment my plan was to carry no food and just rely on roadside refuelling. I did no advance planning as I knew there would be plenty of shops, cafes and pubs.
Fish and chips

After dinner I cycled out of Kettlewell, hid my bike behind a wall, and climbed a hill to sleep. It was a wonderful bivvy spot.
Sleeping on a hilltop near Kettlewell

Sleeping on a hilltop near Kettlewell

Travelling light is very satisfying. All luxuries can be left behind on a short tour like this, especially if you are treating yourself to cafe breakfasts over the next pass!
Ultralight cycle touring

Dropping into Richmondshire

Dropping into Richmondshire



Now comes the day’s biggest climb, up Buttertubs Pass. I was propelled both by my breakfast and one of my favourite quatrains.
We are the Pilgrims, master; we shall go
Always a little further: it may be
Beyond that last blue mountain barred with snow,
Across that angry or that glimmering sea.
We are the Pilgrims, Master

Climbing out of Buckden

Smiling at the top, before a belter of a downhill!
Buttertubs pass / dork on bike

Buttertubs pass

Buttertubs pass


There’s plenty of scope for some great river swims on this ride.
River Swim

I hope Team Sky find time for a spot of skinny dipping in the Tour de France...

Up and over the grouse moors – the final sting in the tail – and then down into Leyburn for tea and cake (or Masham for beer and cake…)
Heather and Grouse Moor

Black Sheep Brewery

And then it’s just a mad dash through the cheering, glorious crowds to the finish of a fabulous microadventure, however few people are there to welcome you and however pitiful your final stats may be…
Harrogate - the end of the Tour de France Grand Depart

Stage 1 of the Tour de France - my winning time!

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  1. Some amazing photos, well done on completing stage 1. Looks like you had breakfast at our Tearoom in Bainbridge – The Corn Mill, many thanks for displaying the photo.

    • Alastair Posted

      It was a bloody good breakfast! Thank you!

      You are going to be busy next year. You could offer a special Tour de France breakfast for cyclists… (a free bonus croissant for cyclists who buy a full breakfast from you, perhaps?!)

  2. Hi Al,

    This looks and sounds like a great ride, but the map of the route shows most of the roads are A-roads. How did you find the traffic level along the route? I was planning to do this ride over two days in a couple of weeks time but now wondering whether one of these alternatives would be better

    Awesome blog btw, thanks!

    • Hi Tom,
      The road out of Leeds is obviously busy, but only really to Harewood. After that the traffic was mostly perfectly fine until the last bit Ripon – Harrogate which was quite a busy road.
      I think it’s worth being a bit A-Road heavy just to get to ride the proper route.

  3. Anna Williams Posted

    I did it! Well, there may have been a little detour on my le tour but let’s not focus on that… Beautiful scenery and was fun to think of the proper guys coming through next year (about 4 times as fast as me, I bet!) so would recommend it to anyone. I agree with Al’s sentiments that there’s short sections at the start and finish that are fairly car-laden but much quieter after that and you don’t HAVE to stick to the route if you like the look of a lane coming off it and decide to follow your nose instead. Yorkshire wasn’t a county I really knew before but this has definitely given me a taste for more (no shortage of bivvy spots)!

  4. Reuben Byrnes Posted

    Great pictures. You have made it look appealing. A adventur with time to enjoy the surroundings.

  5. Rob Chambers Posted

    Planning on doing this at some point before the tour. Planning on riding the first stage in one go (so we can then watch in awe as the pros do it!) and then ride to Paris for the final stage. Looking forward to it!

  6. Hi Al,

    That looks like a great ride and really makes me miss England. I know it’s not all about the bike but have you considered using a top bar bag, such as the ones made by Alpkit or the Topeak fuel tank? I use them on my ‘Ultralight’ bike instead of a saddle bag and I really like having the access to a few thing in front of me whilst I’m pedaling.

    Nice post, trips like that are a great remedy for desk work!

  7. Hey, thanks very much for the information and the wonderful photos. I’m venturing out tomorrow and it was great to get a feel for it through your post. I’m so excited!!

  8. Neil Posted

    I doubt if many of the riders will have ridden on such narrow and twisty roads.
    Would hate to be at the front of the peleton and have a puncture waiting for a service car.
    Could well be a number of crashes on the descents.

  9. Which model Garmin do you have? Do you use it for navigating?

  10. Very inspiring, thank you! Love the spot you picked for sleeping, almost unreal. Though I would have carried my bike (a Caad10) all the way up!

    I think it’s hard to choose lock for cc touring. I’m planning on bringing a low quality (but robust looking) wire lock weighing max 500 gram (~1 pound), since I will only leave my bike out of sight for short moments like when shopping or eating at restaurants. Bringing a good and heavy lock would defy the purpose of my cc tour. Any thoughts on this?



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