top of page

#ColdDarkRides - Isobel Riley

Updated: Oct 4, 2020

We're BACK! More #ColdDarkRides to inspire your winter planning and give you an insight into the roads that our friends in the Cold Dark North love to call their favourites.

This series, we're going to be mixing things up - we'll have some climbs from further afield, some GRVL and who knows what else. We've also been keen to make sure that we have more female riders sharing their favourites this time around.

The brief for some of our favourite local riders, brands and photographers remains the same: give us 5 photos and descriptions of the places you love to ride and a bit of blurb on yourself. Over the coming months we'll be sharing their secret climbs, epic rides and favourite spots here in the Road Gauge and on Instagram.

Lancashire lass. Isobel Riley has been riding since she was a child, but ‘properly’ for the last 20 years. Her dad founded the well represented Garstang Cycling Club in 2003. She lives in Lancaster and cycles regularly in the beautiful Forest of Bowland, but also out into to Yorkshire, Cumbria, Lake District. She loves a cheeky climb, the punchier the better. Isobel has been a cycle guide for Saddle Skedaddle for 11 years – with trips to the French Alps, Pyrenees, Corsica, Provence, Spain, Tuscany (apparently those places are nice, Ed). More importantly, she's completed the Fred Whitton 5 times and 2021 will be her 6th.

Isobel says "I love that cycling allows me to explore new places and meet such a variety of people; it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from - we’re all just riding."

Isobel counts one of her worst experiences on a bike as being wrapped in a foil blanket at the feed station before Hardknott on one edition of the Fred. But she conquered it. Pictured here, smiling on that infamous ascent, it's no surprise she chose 5 different sections of road:

Harris End Fell Road || 1km, average 5.7%

This is probably my most ridden bit of road and is included in many of my local rides. Lying behind the village of Scorton in Lancashire (home to two of our favourite Cafs, by the way, Ed (, it’s a great climb but also a fantastic descent.

Three climbs within a climb, all kicking a punch, yet each with a little downhill before the next up, Harris End Fell is a cracking road. The climb opens up onto the fell, with yellow gorse in the spring and purple heather in the summer. The summit rewards you with stunning views back over Morecambe Bay and the Lake District. Descending back down is fast and exhilarating, just watch out for the slightly zany local sheep.

Cow Ark || 1.4km, average 3.7%

A hidden gem right in the heart of Lancashire - and a real local's favourite.

From Cow Ark head up the quiet, narrow road with stunning views of Waddington Fell to the right and the Hodder valley to the left. Traffic up here is rare, bringing a real sense of tranquillity and calm. But the real winner if the views at the top and over the steep descent ahead.

The top section of the descent is great fun – a mini rollercoaster - fast and steep, before weaving down through the Woods toward Waddington and Clitheroe beyond.

Lamps Moss Descent || 3.8km, average -8.1%

Lamps Moss descent is one of my all-time favourite bits of downhill on a road bike. It’s included in the Etape du Dales sportive (when it's counter-clockwise).

In my view the best side to descend is down to Nateby (so down the 100 Climbs side, Ed). Having ridden up onto the remote fell road from Keld in Swaledale, and traversing the open wild moorland, you are greeted with a fantastic section of downwards tarmac. Rolling off the moor the road veers right and you plummet down a roller-coasteresque strip of road.

The views are wide and open, allowing clear sight of the road, so if you’re a fan of descending this really is one to put on your bucket list. With a few twists and turns the roller coaster feeling keeps packing its punch all the way down to the village of Nateby.

Bowland Knotts from Stocks Reservoir || 5km, average 4.7%

I reckon the best way to tackle Bowland Knotts is from the Slaidburn side, as you get a great warm up through Gisburn Forest.

Head out on the forest road, and skirt round Stocks Reservoir. The road then turns sharply right through the trees up a cheeky 1km climb to get your legs going. As you roll through (mainly up!) the narrow forest road the smell of the pine trees surrounds you, and as the trees open out you get fantastic views of Lythe Fell and The Forest of Bowland fells. The road drops sharply, but swiftly kicks back up as you hit the start of the climb. The first section is a real kicker, but levels off across the fell to get your breath back with some sweeping bends before the final push to the top.

As you summit the panoramic views are spectacular - with the 3 Yorkshire peaks to the North, Pendle Hill to the South and the Trough of Bowland to the West. The 4-mile descent down to Clapham is cracking too, so well worth the climb!

High Salter "Road" || 4.4km, average 0.6%

Ok, so Salter Fell Road is not technically a section of tarmacked road, but this trail needs a mention to those not in the know. It’s an isolated Roman road with huge views. Riding it brings a real sense of being in the middle of nowhere. If you are in any way gravel inclined, it’s a must. (We're happy to allow it, because we blogged about it during lockdown ;) - Ed)

First you need to get into the Roeburndale Valley - a place of rare beauty by itself and a great #deadendclub ride on a road bike – then to ‘Middle Salter’ on an OS map, which can be accessed either from Wray or Caton. Both require a fair amount of pedalling, but I prefer the route in from Caton as it’s more remote and scenic.

From Middle Salter, the Salter Fell track heads south-east towards Slaidburn where the road turns into a gravel track for 8 miles, with just over 5 miles of gradual climbing before a cracking descent down off the fell to Slaidburn. A real treat of a "road".

You can often find Isobel on Instagram and maybe, if you're lucky, you'll get to join her on one of her Life of Riley rides one day!

315 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page