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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
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    Bearsden, UK
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    1,243

    TR: Dales Divide

    The Dales Divide is a 375 mile loop from the west coast of England to the east coast, then crossing back to the west. It traverses the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors National Parks but is never too far from any civilization or resupply points. My friend told me about this ride back in the winter, it was supposed to run over the Easter weekend, about a month or so before the Highland Trail 550 that I was also signed up for. Sounded like a perfect training ride.


    Socially distant group start on the pier


    The HT550 got postponed until next year but the Dale’s just slid back to the last weekend of August. The route has mixed terrain, lots of tarmac, lots of double track and a bit of singletrack. I committed to do the ride a few weeks prior to the start and planned on riding my drop-bar 29er. A week before the race my plans changed a bit as my partner got some time off from work, we planned to do some mountain biking in the Lake District for the week following the race. This meant that I would ride my “normal” (flat-bar) bike for the race. These are trivial details, but it will make sense later.




    The late Mike Hall’s mother was there to give some words of encouragement, which was cool, and we set off. There were about 50 other riders and the field spread out pretty quickly. It’s always entertaining watching the chest-thumping types take off like it’s a sprint. Bikes ranged from the uber-hip gravel variety, all the way to full-sussers. At some point everyone would be on the wrong bike, so it really didn’t matter what you were running. I was on my single speed hardtail with flat pedals and 150mm fork – perfect.








    Nice light at the end of the first day



    Not a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, instead it was a few miles of bogs.


    I settled into the day, leapfrogging with a few folks through the first several hours. As the evening set in the terrain slowed way down. Lots of bogs and hike-a-bike. It was enjoyable enough, just had to deal with some wet feet and slower than expected miles. My plan for the day was to make it to a grocery store that was on-route at mile 113. Had it not been for the bogging I would have made it, ended up getting there about 30 minutes after they closed. I still had plenty of food to get me to the next resupply so I wasn’t down about missing the store. I ended up bivvying in a nice grassy spot just shy of York at 1:30am, about 130 miles for day 1.








    The terrain for most of the second day wasn’t the most exciting to my mountain bike-oriented brain. I did my best to get through the endless miles of farm tracks and grassy horse paths. I made it to the east coast by late afternoon, resupplied at a grocery store for the big push through the night. I got a bunch of extra calories knowing that I was going to miss out on the next big town because I would be going through in the middle of the night.



    Made it to the coast. The route goes down along the seashore around the point.


    Scarborough is a seaside zoo of a town. Riding through all the people out by the beach it was hard to imagine that there’s a pandemic going on. The route climbed away from the ocean and the chaos of town, and into the North York Moors. It was a nice transition up to the forest and eventually the moorland in the evening light. Dirt roads gave way to single track and bogs. It was clear that I wouldn’t be going into the night with dry feet.






    Another nice evening






    Wet riding through the moors, it actually rode pretty well


    The night riding went pretty smooth, there was some fun terrain – probably the most interesting of the entire route – in the national park. The moon was huge but never got too high in the sky, it had a pleasing orange glow for the handful of hours that it was up. Around 2 or 3 I started to fade a little. Popped a caffeine pill, burned one and was back in business for the last few hours of darkness.



    They don't mess around with their road grades, I'm well past the point of shame at walking on tarmac.


    Just before sunrise I got caught by another rider who I passed while he was sleeping. It was nice to chat with someone for a bit and we rode to the next town at about the same pace. I timed the bakery for breakfast nicely and then went to the market for provisions for the day. After my stop for breakfast the lack of sleep and big mileage started to catch up with me. I set off pretty slowly for the next section and had a hard time settling into a good rhythm. Again, the terrain wasn’t helping my motivation a whole lot. There were some fun sections, but for the most part it was a lot of sheep fields and obscure tracks through farms.



    I was about to walk into a grocery store but then I smelled this bakery. Naturally I went there before going into the store.



    By mid-afternoon I had found my groove, but the going was slow. The climbs were steep and the sun was hot. My left Achilles started to stiffen up a lot, like a real lot. I didn’t go into this ride with any proper training per se; I did have a handful of long rides and a few bikepacking trips under my belt from previously in the summer, so I wasn’t worried about fitness. The thing that got me was the flat pedals. I’ve grown to really like using flats when I bikepack on the MTB. The problem was that I hadn’t spent any time riding flat pedals since early June, my lower legs/ankles/feet weren’t used to it. The soft soles of the shoes weren’t helping either, I then went waaay overboard on the mileage. It was a careless move to not just ride clipped in, I don’t think I would have been in the same situation if I used the pedals/shoes I was used to.



    Mostly road riding for the last 40 miles of the route


    I managed to get back to the start/finish a little after 6pm I think, I was pretty delirious by that point. It ended up being a 35-hour push from when I had started the morning before, about 31 hours moving. Looking at those numbers does justify that not sleeping the night before got me to the end quicker. It’s hard to say if stopping for a few hours in the night might have helped to keep my Achilles in check though. Maybe? It was pretty fun to go straight through the night, I imagine it won’t be the last time I go that deep.



    Finish photo


    The worst part about the Achilles was that I basically had to just bum around the following week in the Lakes. I did manage one short ride but it didn’t feel too nice, I relegated myself to shuttle driver and cake consumer for the rest of the trip. I also had to miss another group start bikepack event 2 weeks after the Dales because I wasn’t recovered yet. It’s now 3 weeks after the race and I’m mostly back to normal, finally.
    Last edited by springsproject; 09-24-2020 at 11:45 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Posts
    657
    Nice effort!

    Question on the timing of the event - if it would have been run earlier, as originally planned, would the bogs have been even wetter? More walking? I'm not familiar with the weather there, but assume that late August would be a dry season

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Live Free or Die
    Posts
    1,089
    Strong to very strong work.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Magically whisked away to...Delaware
    Posts
    2,843
    Great ride...but that mud just looks awful! Well done!!!
    It makes perfect sense...until you think about it.

    I suspect there's logic behind the madness, but I'm too dumb to see it.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    The bottom of LCC
    Posts
    5,467
    You excel at suffering

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Bearsden, UK
    Posts
    1,243
    Quote Originally Posted by Iowagriz View Post
    Nice effort!

    Question on the timing of the event - if it would have been run earlier, as originally planned, would the bogs have been even wetter? More walking? I'm not familiar with the weather there, but assume that late August would be a dry season
    Thanks. April and May tend to be the driest months, August was pretty wet this year too. The same guy won last year and this year, he had almost the exact same finishing time for both years. Hard to say if the bogs really slowed progress, it's a good excuse though!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    san diego
    Posts
    2,141
    Nice work!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Land of Brine Shrimp and Magic Underwear
    Posts
    6,140
    Dude. Awesome! Nice work! I surely would have failed to emerge from my bag/bivy at some point.
    There's nothing better than sliding down snow... flying through the air.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Paper St. Soap Co.
    Posts
    2,562
    Nice work, some cool photos. Did the Romans build that aqueduct?

    Quote Originally Posted by springsproject View Post
    Thanks. April and May tend to be the driest months,!
    I read that when researching doing the Highland route and had a hard time believing based on my Western US bias, so good the hear from someone living there.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Posts
    221
    Great job, and thanks for the TR!

    Also, this is a symptom of the best adventures. Way to go all-in with the singlespeed!:

    "At some point everyone would be on the wrong bike, so it really didn’t matter what you were running."

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