The North York Moors is a national park in North East Yorkshire. It has the largest expanse of heather moorland in the UK, but in cycling terms is more famed for the abundance of very steep climbs, with plenty of 25% gradient signs, and the odd 1 in 3 – if you’re lucky!
The North York Moors is only 40 miles from Menston, but I’ve never been before. It’s just out of range, and with the Yorkshire Dales nearby, there’s always other hills to do. But, I’ve been reading about some of the climbs like Boltby Bank and Rosedale Chimney and so finally made it over.
I drove to Sutton Bank and saw many signs welcoming the Tour de Yorkshire on the 1st May. I think the race route goes down Sutton Bank, but to many people’s disappointment it avoids any of the really epic 25% climbs. Perhaps a decision made not for benefit of cyclists, but for the calvacade of cars, which could get stuck on the hairpins of Rosedale Chimney.
First up was Boltby Bank. A one mile climb with a significant 25% gradient at the end. It looks imposing from the distance as you descend into Boltby. Don’t go off too hard, as it gets tougher near the top.
White Horse Bank
Second up was White Horse Bank. I enjoyed this climb. It is not as steep as some. But, 20% for quite a considerable way. Overall one mile, averaging 10%. There are quite a few corners, and the designers made more effort to reduce the steepness of the climb than is usual in the North York Moors.
I didn’t climb Sutton Bank, you get quite a lot of traffic on the main A170 road. But, I did descend from the top of the Kilburn White Horse climb. Caravans are banned going up this climb and you can see why. The signs say 74 blockages by HGVs last year. It’s a shame there is quite a bit of traffic, because it would make a great hill climb course.
After getting a little lost on the moors of North York Moors. I went to this isolated climb north of Kirbymoorside. It starts by the valley of Farndale and the small village of Church Houses. The wind was picking up, and fortunately it was a tailwind up Blakey Bank. 1.2 miles @10%, but mostly feels like 15-20%
After that there was a long descent to Hutton in the Hole. From there a long drag to the top of Rosedale Chimney and the rather ominous warning for cyclists to dismount! But, it wasn’t too bad to descend, as long as you are careful.
It was so windy I became a little nervous about coming back up.
Rosedale Chimney from south to north
There are two big climbs from Rosedale. Heading North East is the relatively easier climb. In other parts of the world, it would be a star climb, but it is somewhat overshadowed by its more illustrious neighbour the other side of the valley.
The best thing about this climb is looking over the valley and seeing the road of Rosedale Chimney thrown on to the valley. It looks as steep as it is.
Rosedale Chimney proper
Rosedale Chimney is a real beast, with a well deserved reputation of being a difficult climb. It was used as the national hill climb championship in 1987, where Paul Curran won in 5.22 – a rare defeat for Chris Boardman (2nd).
It is really steep, and I approached with some trepidation, keeping in lowest gear of 39*28 all the way up from the bottom. Fortunately, the really steep bit was sheltered from the wind and I didn’t get any wheel spin, despite a light rain. I was able to go wide around the steepest 30% hairpins then grovelled up the next unrelenting stretch of straight 25%.
If you’re lucky with traffic you can avoid the really steep 33% gradient by going wide on hairpin, But, it doesn’t feel like you’re cheeting. The next section is straight and there’s no way to avoid the gradient. Fortunately, the road surface was grippy – so no wheel slip, but it’s a bit more work picking best line.
After this steepest bit was over, the climb was still hard work because the wind seemed to pick up the more you neared the summit. At this point I had done 60+ miles and 2,500m of climbing so it felt quite an achievement.
It was great fun cycling in the North York Moors, I’m glad I drove over and had a go at four really tough hills. Shame it wasn’t a bit warmer and sunny, but it was mostly dry and the roads are quite quiet with little traffic at this time of the year.