When an area has riding elements named ‘The Devil’s Elbow’ and ‘Chicken Corner’, it has to be worth a visit. Added to this, when the local highways authority refuse to sign anything below 12 percent, you can expect some epic riding ... with lots of hills.The eastern edges of Nidderdale and Lower Wensleydale in North Yorkshire are away from the main tourism locations in this Mecca for cycling, but provide some of the finest and the toughest of trails and tarmac.
Devils Elbow itself, whilst short in distance twists itself to 20% at the crux, and the flowing descent to Chicken Corner, lined by dry stone walls, waits for the uninitiated and nervous handler. It’s a tough outing on both road and mountain bike, where the Rapha brigade are rarely seen, where riders wear gear because it performs and not because of its name or connections elsewhere. Yes, reputations are easily ruined, or made in this hidden corner of Yorkshire.
Hills and farmland landscaped since the time of the great monasteries provide sublime views for the visiting rider, whilst the great abbeys of Fountains and Jervaulx serve coffee and cake for the weary. Irony is not in short supply, as one of the best Cafe stops, Toft Gate Farm is just below the summit of the legendary Greenhow Hill, meaning that riders are forced to climb to the summit after replenishing lost energy with some of the finest of Yorkshire fare.
As winter moves into spring, riders from across the world will be planning their trips here, in practice for the 2019 UCI road championships which will grace these hills and lanes in September, testing the very best and providing the world of cycling with worthy champions. In the meantime, local riders such as Lizzie and Philip Deignan, and the Brownlee brothers, will train daily on these mesmerising roads, whilst hardened mountain bikers will let the gravel and stone crunch beneath their wheels as they descend the technical trails in all weathers.
Nearby, the ancient cathedral city of Ripon, will place host to riders and cycling fans from across the globe, and the local club riders will proudly lead the way, guiding visitors around the twisting lanes and flowing climbs. In the meantime, in wintry winds and the damp air of December, these hardy local cyclists will enjoy the challenge that the eastern edges of the Yorkshire Dales provide, before taking coffee and cake at Jonny Baghdad’s Cafe in the Dales market town of Masham, home of the Black Sheep Brewery.
And at nearby Chicken Corner, the hens and cockerels will sit on the wall and watch the bikes race by, hopefully taking the tight bends safely, and raising their voices when a rider fails the test. Yes, it’s a cyclists dream to ride these roads, but it’s a dream you have to earn, where challenges lie around every bend - especially the corner where the chickens sing! Yes, these are the roads at the end of the rainbow, and the pot of gold will be won here in 2019.
Robert Thorpe BA (hons) LitExecutive Editor, Pedalnorth.com