The Yorkshire Dales are home to some of the best, most picturesque road and mountain biking routes in Britain. The expansive countryside and rolling roads make it ideal terrain, whether you’re a cross-country mountain biker or a mile-munching roadie.
And it's not just us who think so; the head honchos of the Tour de France are apparently considering a bid from Yorkshire tourism chiefs to stage the Grand Départ of the 2016 Tour de France in the White Rose county. This will probably come as no surprise to the creators of Explore the Dales, a site dedicated to the hundreds of paths, roads and trails on offer.
Cycling fanatic Robert Thorpe and collaborator Martin Judd began work on the site earlier this year, after a computer mishap caused Thorpe to lose all of his recorded bike routes. "My laptop crashed last year and wiped everything," he told BikeRadar. "I wanted to ensure that if it ever happened again, the routes would be secure. As I thought about putting them up on the web, the idea for the site came to me and I began to look at how it could also help to promote cycling in the Dales."
It's the variety and challenge which makes cycling there so special, according to Thorpe. "Take Mastiles and Malham (towards the south) for instance. You've got a great climb along a wild bridleway, flowing fords and tight, twisting descents into the village. On the road you have superb, almost Alpine climbs such as Buttertub's Pass and sweeping descents like Wensleydale into Kettlewell. There's so much excitement and the scenery is spectacular."
Just two weeks after the initial idea, the pair had accumulated enough content to go live, and a further two until the site had, as Thorpe puts it, a "personality." Contributions from friends, who provided many of the routes, proved invaluable and have since been inundated with readers' own routes. Each route contains an Ordnance Survey map, a detailed set of directions, photographs and route information such as profile, distance and difficulty.
With 31 routes at time of writing, it's still in its infancy, but Thorpe believes there's huge scope for growth. "We want the site to be for all cyclists to share their rides, so if anyone has ridden a new one recently they can drop us an email. We want to extend the routes wider, moving across the Yorkshire Moors and possibly further afield in the longer term. If possible we want to build a structure that can support cycling clubs and create a cloud for them to store routes and share with others, while giving them their own club page."
Thorpe is focussed on improving the mapping on the site, which he admits has had its issues. He is working on incorporating the Ordnance Survey maps within the site, rather than the present external links. "We also want to create itineraries for cyclists, for we have plenty to be getting on with. But the first priority is the mapping. Once that's sorted we feel we can do something special."
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