Way of the Roses - Bikepacking Coast to Coast
I recently joined a group of friends to cycle the Way of the Roses a 170-mile coast to coast route that takes you from Morecambe to Bridlington (or vice versa), we chose to undertake this in a more or less unsupported manner, meaning we would carry our accommodation (tents) and supplies with us and obtain what food we needed en route.
In the recent past, the normal setup to do this would be to attach metal racks to our bikes and from these hang panniers front and rear, however more recently people doing these trips have been tending to do what is termed ‘Bikepacking’ basically a synthesis of cycle touring and minimalist camping utilising lighter weight ‘bikepacking’ bags that hold your gear and strap directly onto your bike, normally a large saddle bag, handlebar bag and some sort of bag that fits into the space within the bike frame. This kind of setup is used by people undertaking some of the most impressive feats of endurance and determination such as the Tour Divide (a 2745 mile long race from Canada to Mexico), our trip definitely did not involve any great feats of endurance or superhuman stamina, we just wanted to have a long weekend away from home among friends and enjoy the British countryside.
• Everything packed & ready to go.
We chose to split the route down into 4 days each between 40-50 miles a day and found campsites close to the route for each night so we’d have the basic comforts of a hot shower and running water. One thing to consider when you are planning routes like this is that carrying everything with you is going to make your bike considerably heavier, on flat ground you don’t notice the weight so much but be aware that at the merest whiff of a hill you’re really going to feel every gram of kit you’ve packed, so your choice of equipment is important, as is the gearing of your bike (lower is better when those hills come around!) I’m going to go on to give you a quick rundown of what I packed and a few tips/observations I’ve gleaned from my previous trips but first a little recap of the journey.
Being based in Manchester made Morecambe the obvious starting point for our group and the plan was straightforward, we took a train to Lancaster and rode the few miles out to Morecambe along a very pleasant off-road cycle path, Storm Ellen had just swept into the country and while there were strong wind warnings we lucked out a bit as the winds were pretty much behind us for the full trip (a rare occurrence!). We arrived in a damp Morecambe and found the statue of Ernie Wise on the seafront which serves as the official start/end point for the route, picked a few last-minute provisions, dipped our toes in the sea then set off towards our first nights stop at Malham Cove near Settle in the Yorkshire Dales.
• Heading out of Morecambe.
• The view across to Friars Head.
This was the hilliest of our days, however spirits were high and the views great once we had ground our way up to the tops. We stopped for a pub break about halfway along and then again at Settle for an al fresco chippy tea. Then an inevitable slog up High Hill Lane which at points has inclines of 20%, clearly locals knew what we were in for and we had a sarcastic “enjoy the hill!” as we rounded the corner to see what we were about to climb, it was a beast, but such is life and we eventually made it, and then enjoyed the downhill to Malham Cove. That evening was probably the best test for a tent I’ve ever slept in, Storm Ellen really pelted it down and numerous times in the night I felt I had to check my MSR tent was holding up, but all was fine and apart from the noise from the rain I had a toasty night in my newly acquired Montbell Down quilt.
• My Hubba NX setup.
• Packing up to ready start a day on the saddle.
The morning of Day 2 was damp, but we packed up in between breaks in the showers and headed onwards towards Kirkby Malzeard, stopping about halfway in at Burnsall for pub food and drinks before the climb out to descend into Pateley Bridge, from which the only way out is one of many notorious climbs and we had Old Church Lane, the very worst of them! The only plus side to such a climb is that it finally gave way to a 5-mile descent across bleak but spectacular moors of Nidderdale AONB to Kirkby Malzeard and our pitch for the night.
• Crossing the damp, bleak, but scenic moors above Pateley Bridge.
• Riding through the remains of Storm Ellen.
After brewing coffee and eating the breakfast supplies purchased the night before we packed up for Day 3 which after a short descent was to become an almost flat ride across the Yorkshire Lowlands with their patchwork of farmed fields, along almost traffic-free service roads towards York city centre. A brief stop in York for a beer and a catch up with friends was in order before the last stretch that took us to Fangfoss and the end of day 3 and a feeling the weather was changing for the better.
• Flat, sunny & peaceful as we roll across the Yorkshire Lowlands.
Day 4 started as it meant to continue, we sat in the warm early morning sun fresh brewing coffee in our individual titanium pots on the gas stoves we all carry to heat an evening meal in, but most importantly make the morning coffee that starts the day. From Fangfoss our destination was Bridlington and the end of the Way of the Roses, we wanted to make sure we had time to enjoy the beach before returning to Manchester so we made good pace riding as a mini peloton, the front rider setting the pace and allowing those behind to benefit from their slipstream and thus saving energy.
• Bridlingtom Promenade
• Helinox's taking the weight while watching the tide come in and the swimmers swim.
Before long we reached the start of the long climb that we would take before descending into Bridlington, from quite a distance we could see the wind farms dotted along the coast and just beyond them the North Sea and the end of our ride. On reaching Bridlington we headed for the Beach and after a quick stop for beers we rounded the day off watching the tide come in and the braver of us getting completely submerged. Before long it was time to climb aboard the westward train back to Manchester and enjoy sleeping in our own beds once again.
1) Lightweight Waterproof Jacket 2) Montbell Mesh Crusher Cap 3) North Face Throwback Tech Hat 4) Synthetic Wicking Tee 5) Longsleeve Merino Top 6) Lightweight Down Jacket 7) Arcteryx Palisade Shorts 8) 90’s North Face Swim Shorts 9) Lightweight Running Tights 10) Shimano SD66 SPD Cycling Sandals 11) EVA Birkenstocks 12) Wash Kit 13) Tool Kit 14) Oakley Sunglasses 15) Cook Kit: Titanium Pot, Spork, Stove, Gas Canister & Coffee Dripper 16) Japanese Dinex Mug 17) Water Bottles 18) Packable Backpack 19) Face Mask 20) Electronics: Powerbank, Cables, Garmin & iPhone (not pictured) 21) Petzl Head Torch 22) Merino Socks 23) Thermarest Pillow 24) Lightweight Inflatable Sleeping Mat 25) MSR Footprint 26) MSR Hubba NX Tent & Poles 27) Montbell Down Sleeping Wrap #2 28) Helinox Chair Zero
Clothes: I‘ve never really been one to favour a full lycra outfit when riding, all power to those who do, but for me a pair of padded under shorts is the only ‘proper’ cycling element to my kit. When undertaking these trips I take one set of ‘day/riding’ clothes and a set of ‘night/evening’ clothes, all of these work around a layering principle for flexibility.
For shorts I’ve been using the Arcteryx Palisade Shorts, which are a quick drying synthetic short with 4 zippable pockets to keep important things (wallet/phone/etc ) close to hand but secure, they also have 4 way stretch for comfort. On my top half a basic synthetic wicking tee with a lightweight waterproof jacket for rain and also as a windproof layer, something like the Montbell Rain Trekker would be a good choice, anything that will pack away small is going to do you well, I carry a lightweight down jacket too, which can be worn at night to keep warm or underneath the waterproof if the weather is really foul, both the Arc’teryx Cerium and the synthetic Patagonia NanoPuff are good options for this layer. For head wear i’ve recently taken to wearing the Montbell Mesh Crusher Cap, it’s well ventilated & quick drying. Rounded out with a pair of sunglasses for when the sun decides to make an appearance, I favour Oakley’s as they’re pretty much indestructible with a retainer so when the sun disappears the glasses can just dangle round my neck within easy reach.
When off the bike in the evening I still use some of the same items but tend to take along a pair of swim shorts (just in case I fancy a dip!) mine are some crazy printed ‘90s The North Face ones but Patagonia Baggies are a good shout, if its cold or the bugs are biting i’ll layer these over a pair of running tights, and on my feet i’ve taken to wearing the Birkenstock’s EVA sandals as they’re so light and impermeable, but Teva Original Universal could also be a good call, throw in a long sleeve merino top and maybe a merino beanie & socks and that’s pretty much all i need for a few days away.
• All this on a bike; my camp setup.
Shelter/Sleeping: I picked up an MSR Hubba NX a few years ago and have not been disappointed with it, on hotter/dryer trips i’ve just used the inner layer to keep the bugs off at night, and recently it's been able to keep out everything Storm Ellen threw at me, it’s a doddle to set up, is free-standing and really flexible in the ways you can set it up, there are lighter options like the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV2 Platinum if you want to save a few grams, but for me it’s a solid option.
To sleep in i’ve previously used a RAB sleeping bag, but for this trip i upgraded to a Montbell Down Multi Blanket #2 which is the slightly warmer version of the Montbell Down Multi Blanket #5, this paired with a lightweight inflatable sleeping mat similar to the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite and a Therm-a-Rest Air Head Pillow made for a sleeping setup that I looked forward to getting into at night.
Coffee/Food: I tend to take a very simple cooking set up, i’m not making multi pot meals but normally just reheating something (although often an evening meal may well be fish & chips or something pre-prepared) but i definitely want to be able to make coffee in the morning, it’s one of my favourite rituals, so I have a Titanium pot that is large enough to hold a gas canister and stove head, I often just plump for making cowboy coffee and serve it in the plastic mug you can see dangling from the back of my bike, although i’m keen to try out the Montbell Coffee Dripper and the new Aeropress Go. A titanium spork is good for stirring or eating with, and a separate little knife like a Victorinox one is useful. As a real luxury on this trip I brought along a Helinox Chair Zero, which is their lightest offering and a perfect post ride/morning coffee perch (a soggy bum is no one's idea of fun!)
Navigation/Electronics: As I mentioned, we navigated using Garmin’s (Handheld GPS devices) with preloaded routes that we planned beforehand. I use a really old battery powered model as I like the fact that I can easily obtain AA batteries on the road, and it lasts for about 2+ days riding on a single pair. You could of course use a smartphone to navigate, but you’ll want to have a good large size powerbank to keep it charged up, as not every place you camp will allow you to charge your devices.
Although this is a list for a cycling trip the same lightweight/multipurpose approach will work well for walking trips too.
If you're interested in learning more about the Way of the Roses route the official website is HERE
The actual route we took, is uploaded on Ride with GPS HERE
For more info on bikepacking including bikes choices/routes etc Bikepacking.com is a good resource.