In 2021 I took on the Dales Divide having previously only completed one 300+ mile ride which was on a brakeless fixed gear for the festive 500. A much flatter affair. I thought I could go for the Dales Divide in a single go too but after hallucinating tanks on night one and chatting to people who weren't there on the second evening, I made it as far as the top of Cam High Road (walked the whole thing) then found a nice dip to lay in. I slept for much longer than I wanted and ended up completing the route in 2 days 4 hours and 4 mins.
So heading into the 2022 edition, I had my goals set on completing the route in less than two days and hopefully a top ten finish. The start line wasn't as busy as I was expecting. I'd read that around 200 people had signed up but I think the number of people that had made it to the start line was closer to 100. It was great to see lots of familiar faces from GBDURO and social media. After the pre-race speeches, we all headed off towards the dales!
On the first day in the hilly dales, I struggled with the heat and some cramps, regularly having to stop and do a silly leg shake to try and combat it. It really felt like the first hot ride of the year in Yorkshire. For comparison, I'd done Racing Collectives TransEngland two weekends before which was mostly below zero for the majority of the ride. Once you get past Summerbridge It starts to get a bit flatter and I could push on in the cooling evening air. I caught up with fellow Restrap buddy Danny Lane and we rode into York together and headed straight for McDonalds!
After a few interesting interactions with the York nightlife, we headed back out onto the quiet dark lanes with Andrew Mannings. We quickly found Jesse Yates too in the dark and the four of us rode through the Yorkshire Wolds together into the early hours. Andrew stopped to sleep first and then Danny stopped around 3am. Knowing how I'd coped with not sleeping in the 2021 edition I planned on getting at least some sleep this year but I wasn't ready to stop just yet.
I knew I wanted to stop at a petrol garage in Scarborough and that it opened at 6am so we just pushed on till there. Arriving at about 5:40 we got there just as the lady who was starting her shift came to open up. Luckily she didn't mind us trying to get some sleep on the forecourt. I laid down in my sleeping bag for about 45 min before getting up and raiding the petrol station. I don't really know if I slept but resting definitely helped and we set off again at 7am.
I was still riding with Jesse through the North Yorkshire Moors and we kept swapping places with Donnacha Cassidy throughout the day. It was the battle for 6th-8th place. We stayed close together as we headed into the Dales again with the sun setting. It looked pretty magical! We went through Askrigg and Bainbridge and then you are onto Cam High Road. Luckily this year I could ride most of the climb! It was a great feeling getting to the top and passing where I slept last year and not feeling like I had to sleep. I knew the rest of the route was flatter and I just had to keep on going to keep it under the two days. The last bunch of miles always takes way longer than you think. It was quarter to 5 when I made it to the finish line, greeted by Dan King the photographer. I was a bit lost for words and mostly just broken but it felt amazing to get my target of under two days, a time of 1 day 20 hours 43 mins.
I rolled back to the car and got some much needed sleep. The next day was spent consuming all the ice cream and cheering in riders who were completing the ride. A really special day catching up with friends and people who I'd met on the route.
I'm not sure if I'll be back for 2023, but it's an amazing route and I'll definitely be back at some point. Highly recommend!
Thanks to Restrap, Fairlight cycles, Albion cycling and Woodrup Cycles for the support over this race.
Carl Hopps (finished in 8th place overall)
Follow Carl on Instagram: @carlhopps
Morning! Waking up in the nearest Travelodge to Arnside just off the M6, a last minute decision rather than bivvying the night before the race. Definitely a wise one as the next couple of days would be tough. Down at the pier everyone was getting set for the race, I went into this trying to be as relaxed as possible, whatever happens happens. I set myself the target of completing the route in 60 hours which I thought was achievable but still put the pressure on as this was the first off road event. I was confident with the set up I’d gone for as I'd tested it out on plenty of training rides, being able to carry plenty of food and water to minimise stopping and all the other necessary sleeping kit for a night's bivvying.
I felt great for the first hundred miles, the sun was out and my legs felt strong. It was good to be on familiar ground through the Dales and over towards York. Riding into the night I began to have some issues with my rear end, some sort of heat rash (I’ll save you the details) and it wasn’t pretty! After a couple of hours sleep just outside of Scarborough I pushed on and had a big feed whilst getting some supplies to sort out the issue from the night before.
Throughout the second day I couldn’t seem to stomach any food but kept on trying to eat little and often. By the evening it really caught up with me and I kept on being sick, so I decided to get my head down for a bit, ten miles out of Askrigg. Even though I was keen to push on through the night to the finish I was there to enjoy myself so getting some sleep and making the most of the next day was more important. It was totally worth it as riding into the Dales the next morning was amazing, cloud inversions over the tops and premium gravel to top it off.
Reaching the finish in the afternoon with the sun shining, being greeted by other riders was great. Top marks to Carl for having some beers on hand at the finish! Overall the route was spot on; a great mix of riding. You can really see how much time the organisers have put into it. The bike and kit performed really well and couldn’t fault it, tweaking and testing beforehand definitely paid off. I’ll be back next year and the aim will be to finish in under 48 hours. Let's hope the weather’s as good as it was this year.
Nice one to all involved, until next year.
Danny Lane (finished in 18th overall)
Follow Danny on Instagram: @dnylne
So here we are, 200 plus riders at Arnside Pier peacefully awaiting the start of Dales Divide 2022. I've been on a few start lines over the years, mainly at World Enduro Series but all start lines normally feel the same. People are excited, nervous and ready to get going.
Was I ready? You bet I was. I had everything packed, maybe too much looking at some of the set ups. So what was the strategy for the ride? Well it was simple: finish. Whatever happens up to that point I didn't give too much thought to. I've never ridden beyond 8 hours in a day so it was all uncharted territory. Safe to say I set off steady and that approach didn't really changed for the whole ride. I didn't really have any low or tough moments, granted it was hard but I knew it was going to be hard, I tried to embrace it and not overwhelm me.
So the route, well it's cracking you pretty much pass through some of the most breath-taking areas in the North of England. For me though the North York Moors we're stunning, the gravel was perfect and you felt like you were riding on top of the world. The Rosedale Trainline was incredible, I even liked the monster bog sections over Fylingdales. It was all rideable and you just had to pick your line and flow. It felt like a game of chess, every move you made made the next move easier or harder.
Reaching the finish was interesting, I'd seen my parents earlier in the day which made me feel very emotional and a few tears ran down my cheek. So when I was cruising into the finish I felt relaxed and happy but not as emotional as I thought I would be. I guess that feeling had already come one. It was nice to see some of the other finishes at the pier and share stories, thankfully Carl and Danny were on hand with a bag of beer. Cheers dudes!
Will I be back next year? In short yes, anything new is a learning experience and Dales Divide was definitely new for me. Next year I think I'll look at a different set up, maybe a mountain bike, less kit and the racer inside me would like to go faster. However this approach can sometimes completely change the feeling of an event. I don't think I've ever been happier in an event, I embraced it entirely and feel all the better for it.
Congratulations to everyone that gave it a shot and thank you to Chris and his team of volunteers.
Rich Norgate (finished 28th in the overall standings)
@richnorgate on instagram, and @magicrockbrewing
Even before my GPS woes I had already decided I wouldn’t be “racing” the Dales Divide. The event fell just a week before I was due to fly out for a twice Covid postponed bikepacking trip to Tuscany so I didn’t want to break my body before finally getting there and not be able to enjoy myself.
Despite stretching over the whole 4 day Easter bank holiday weekend the 600km mixed terrain Dales Divide route still makes for some long days in the saddle, there is however the option of a shortcut for those without the time for the full version making it perfect for anyone looking for an introduction to this kind of event. I had planned to make a decision on whether to go long or short once I got to York where the route splits but the choice was immediately made for me when Garmin glitches meant I didn’t have the route to follow from the very start, and once I’d finally managed to reload the route file from my phone two hours later I had no maps, just a line vaguely wiggling across a blank screen. So I decided for simplicity to just ride with Elaine and Tony, the friends I would be sharing a van home with.
It was the perfect decision, we rode late into day one but a series of issues meant we didn’t get as far as we hoped, then Tony scratched the following morning to find a shop to mend his bike and so Elaine and I continued on but decided to use the shortcut to get back to our lift home at a reasonable time which took any pressure off and allowed us some easier days. We were both a little disappointed to not complete the full route but after hearing horror stories of hours spent trudging through bogs across the North Yorkshire Moors our relaxed picnic dinner watching the sunset in a beautiful churchyard seemed even sweeter. Being with friends enjoying bikes and discovering new places is no bad way to spend a long weekend and there are few places more beautiful than the Yorkshire Dales on a sunny day.
Maybe I’ll be back to “race” it one day, but maybe I’ll just leave it there, I doubt it will ever fall on such a perfect weekend again so why ruin those memories?
@clairefrecknall on instagram
Photos by Dan King (@breakawaydigital)
View our brand new Adventure Race Range, which premiered at Dales Divide here