I was visiting my parents in Grassington last weekend so I took my bike with me and set off at dawn to tackle one of my favourite loops which takes in three icons of the Dales – Malham Cove, Pen-y-ghent and Kilnsey Crag.
1 It’s nice to start with a downhill section and that’s exactly what you get as you roll out of Grassington down towards the bridge. Then it’s on to Threshfield and the climb out of there will get the blood pumping as you push on towards Calendar Girls country. In fact, Cracoe Village Hall where that fundraising plan was first hatched comes into view as you pull off Grassington Road and on to Fleets Lane towards Hetton. As you pass through that village follow signs for Airton and you’ll be treated to four miles of constantly undulating terrain on very quiet roads.
2 You’re spoilt for choice with unbelievable views on this particular ride, but the ones that greet you between Airton and Malham are among the best of the bunch as you ready yourself for the first major ascent of the day. The climbing begins as soon as you exit the village and a 1:7 sign at the base of it forewarns you of the pain to come. You can catch a glimpse of the cove on your right if you want, but I’m too busy focussing on the road at this point, trying not to go into the red before the toughest section comes a kilometre or so into the climb with a brutal s-bend segment. Once you’ve got that out of the way it’s simply a matter of digging in and surviving to the summit, which comes a few minutes later.
3When you reach the top there isn’t much immediately in the way of descending I’m afraid, in fact there’s another quick-fire climb to come just after you turn left at the crossroads onto Henside Road, but once you crest that it’s all systems go for the next two miles. You’ll fly on the near-straight roads which await you, but make sure you take the right-hand option when the route forks or you’ll end up in Langcliffe. The last part of the descent is the steepest and most technical with one particularly tight corner to be aware of. You’ll need to carry as much pace as possible as once you’ve crossed the cattle grid at the bottom you’re heading straight back up a 15 per cent incline to the junction of Silverdale Road.
4 Major climb No.2 is on the cards here and Pen-y-ghent will be a constant companion on your left-hand side as you pedal up Pennine Way. The ramps are not as steep as Malham Cove and you can actually get into a nice rhythm before you reach the farm at the top. Then there’s a bit of a rollercoaster section which follows before you hurtle down into Halton Gill. This is another breakneck descent and you should keep an eye out for wayward sheep before a fairly tight right-hander comes along at the bottom.
5 The road continues to fall gradually all the way to Arncliffe and you can really get your head down here and some sustained power through your legs. The subsequent section which takes you to Kilnsey is another quick one, and you’ll be craning your neck to watch the rock climbers as you pass right under the base of the famous Crag. By this point you’ll only be four miles from home and I always take the quieter road from Conistone back to Grassington which features a short ramp in Grass Woods before one last blast along Wood Lane.