On your bike


If you want to experience the real ups and downs of the Yorkshire Dales,
then cycling is the only way to go

Nothing rams home the topography of a road such as the Buttertubs Pass in the Yorkshire Dales quite like tackling it on a bicycle. Climbing this road in something like the new Audi A4 Avant 3.0 TDI V6 quattro S line and the gradient is inevitably diminished. Yes, sometimes the bonnet points up and sometimes it points down and sometimes you might even detect the eightspeed tiptronic transmission select a lower gear, but essentially (and thankfully!) it’s a breeze.

Running and walking are better candidates for being the best way of feeling at one with the landscape you’re travelling through. But the changes in speed between a positive and negative incline are not as dramatic as they are on a bicycle. What’s more, travelling downhill on foot can often feel just as painful as climbing up.

'My bike might feel light when lifting it off the roof-mounted Audi bike rack, but it can only disguise a savage 25 per cent gradient so much'

   No, the bicycle wins. My Specialized S-Works Venge might feel incredibly light when lifting it off the the A4 Avant’s Audi roofmounted bike rack but it can only disguise a savage 25 per cent gradient so much. There comes a point where the road tips skywards so cruelly that you simply have to stand up on the pedals: arms, hands, core – all are recruited to help the legs propel the bike to the top of the slope. You feel every fibre of your quads begin to hurt but you just have to manage the pain.

   The final wall up to the top of this road that was made famous when the Tour de France visited in 2014 is almost silent today. No cheering crowds, no horns from the cavalcade of motor vehicles that follows a professional peloton, just the odd bleat from a sheep and the slow whum, whum as the carbon wheels slowly rotate under my tortured cadence.

   And then the summit is crested. Muscles instantly ease. Breathing slows. The temperature seems to drop. Zips are done up. The speed suddenly comes easily. Your eyes take a moment to drink in the view as you click through the gears. Then hands automatically go from hoods to drops. Your back flattens as you shift in the saddle. The descent is glorious as you carve through corners, the silence replaced with the roar of a rushing slipstream like opening a car window on the motorway.

   Nothing makes you appreciate a road’s ups and downs quite like cycling.

Written by Henry Catchpole; Photographs by Joe McGorty.


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