The third in our new series "Cold Dark Rides" finally takes us into the Lakes proper. The real Cold Dark North.
The brief for some of our favourite local riders, brands and photographers was basic: 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.
The next #ColdDarkRides comes from Richard Peasland - A man with a Unesco World Heritage Site on his doorstep who's not afraid to explore it!
Richard moved to Cumbria from the south seven years ago. Five years ago he borrowed a mate's road bike and never looked back. Cycling around the quiet lanes was a perfect escape from busy days working as a geography field studies tutor. Based in the North Lakes Richard is most likely to be found hunting out steep climbs all across Cumbria and the North.
Living where I do it would have been easy to fill this list with the famous roads and epic climbs of lake District. However I chose the places that never fail to put a smile on my face and brighten my day whatever weather Cumbria throws at me.
Lorton Vale - Cockermouth to Honister
(Don't worry about the stats for this one, just go and ride it)
I used to think of this road as the “flat bit” between the passes when taking on Honister, Newlands or Whinlatter but it is so much better than that! Riding from Cockermouth to the top of Honister is a beautiful ride. It begins with a massive view of the valley from the edge of the national park, soon you are descending the winding road to Crummock Water in the shadow of huge mountains, finally after the gorgeous Buttermere you enter the dramatic Gategathsdale and see the full length of Honister Pass laid out in front of you.
This is my favourite valley in the Lakes, there is nothing better to ride out on a calm sunny morning and catch the perfect reflections of the mountains in Buttermere.
The Cat Bells Road || 0.7km, 10% average (but then a lovely descent awaits!)
This is only a short road but one I always enjoy riding along. It's the perfect escape from the busy road on the other side of Derwentwater.
When heading south the little hairpins at the start get you warmed up nicely. Once at the top of the road you are treated to a fantastic panorama of Derwentwater, then the fun begins. I’m not a great descender, going up is more my forte, but I love the twisty descent down towards Grange.
Riding in the opposite direction that descent becomes a wonderful climb, giving you time to enjoy the views. I especially love this road in autumn when the woods are in full colour.
Back o’ Skiddaw || 1.6km, 8.2% average
Away from the tourist hot spots to the north of Keswick is a land of epic roads and big views. I love the roads around the Northern Fells. They cross the open commons where there's just a few sheep, and the occasional fell pony for company.
There are a few challenging climbs to choose from. The climb out of Uldale is one of my favorite in the Lakes, never too steep the road takes you up to the top of the common with great views out to the coast and Scotland beyond, in the opposite direction it’s a long gentle climb, a rarity in the Lake District.
If you’re looking for a cafe stop out here Caldbeck and Hesket Newmarket are two lovely villages to head for. When I want to go somewhere away from the tourist crowds this is my number one destination in the lakes, take any road in this area and you’re bound to have a good ride.
The North Pennines
Unthank Bank || 2.9km, 6.6% average
Before I moved to Cumbria I had no idea this part of the Cold Dark North even existed. I’m a big fan of riding over open moors with no fences or walls insight, and the North Pennines has plenty of these. There are the highest Public roads in England over Chapel Fell and Killhope Cross and the highest Road in the UK up Great Dun Fell.
My favourite of all the North Pennine climbs is the road from Stanhope to Middleton-in-Teesdale, it starts off super steep leaving Stanhope then just keeps on going for miles at a nice testing gradient with a fun little descent half way up. You need to pick a good day for a ride here it can be pretty inhospitable when cycling above 600 metres, snow poles line every road and there’s even a real ski slope in the hills above Alston,
South Western Fells
Corney Fell, Birker Fell || 6.4km, 5.8% average
I first discovered these hills during a mini cycle touring trip to the South Lakes. There are three main reasons I keep going back; Birker Fell, Corney Fell and the bakery in Broughton-in-Furness.
Overshadowed by their more famous neighbours Hardknott and Wrynose Passes the roads over Birker and Corney Fells are absolutely fantastic to ride, they have everything you would hope for in a climb combined with the awesome Lake District scenery.
Birker is the harder of the two and tough from either side, Corney is a longer and higher climb with unique views over the coast. Both are connected by the beautiful Duddon valley which is well worth an explore itself.
You can find Richard on Instagram and out in the North Lakes on his bike. We'll warn you now though - his photos will make you sickeningly jealous of the beautiful playground in which he rides