The Coast to Coast ride takes a rider through some of the most stunning
scenery and best riding this country has to offer (and passes some of the
best pubs too). In the September of 1997 having given up work for the
summer on a whim, I decided to finish off a great six months by completing
the classic C2C ride. Many people try and complete this ride in a day,
others 2 days. Our plan was to take 4 days and stop at virtually every pub
and cake shop on route.
Having spent most of the summer riding my bike and completing various
trips abroad, I was at a bit of a loose end. I was beginning to
contemplate joining the realms of the employed once again, when as often
happens in these times of crisis, something better turned up.
A phone call from Tom, one of my old work colleagues, planted a seed of
an idea to complete the C2C. Before long hasty plans were being laid,
train tickets pre booked, and B & B’s sought out. It was decided that
we should meet on September the 11th at Euston station, outside
Knickerbox. The meeting point clinched it, any excuse in those days to
loiter outside Knickerbox and I was guaranteed to be there like a
We met at the arranged time and place and after two large Whopper
meals, staggered aboard the 6.30 train to Carlisle. If you are planning to
take you bike on BR it is often necessary to pre book your steed, and as
we found there is often an extra charge for the privilege. On arrival in
Carlisle however (where you have to change to get to Whitehaven) we
discovered that even pre booking doesn’t guarantee you a train. A strike
meant there were no trains running on the line we wanted until the
following morning. A quick decision was reached to try and find an
alternative B & B in Carlisle. After riding around for a good
half-hour we found one with a vacancy and after dumping bikes and gear
headed for the nearest pub for a quick pint before closing time.
The next day dawned bright and clear and before long we were on the
train to Whitehaven. These trains are quite small and space for bikes is
fairly limited. We were soon off on the bikes though and after passing
through the busy market town the first day was fairly simple. The trail
meandered along purpose built paths, on its way to Keswick. Sign posting
on the whole route was fantastic, resulting in us only using our Sutrans
guide on a couple of occasions during the whole 4 days.
We arrived in Keswick late afternoon and checked into our first of many
bike friendly B&B’s. All the B&B’s we stayed in were used to
people on bikes and didn’t make you feel like it was a trouble for them to
lock your bike in their garage, as I have experienced from time to time on
Next morning, after a good night in Keswick where numerous pubs were
visited and a particularly fine Curry House, we set off on the next stage
of the ride. The destination for the day Langwathby. The ride begins
behind Keswick leisure centre, and follows the route of a disused railway
for the first few miles. After that comes the first challenging part of
the whole journey, the “OLD COACH ROAD”. This is a tough bit of riding,
not because of the severity of the climb, but because of the surface which
consisted of loose boulders just waiting to eat your front wheel. There is
an alternative road route that bypasses this section, and if you are
unsure then you should take it.
The rest of the day pans out as the usual mix of quiet country roads
and off road tracks. The town of Penrith provides an ideal opportunity for
brew and a cream cake, and before long we were cycling into Langwathby.
Again a class B&B just across the road from the pub which does good
grub and a mean pint.
Day three began with a couple of Aspirins to cure the effects of the
night before, but after a good breakfast we were ready to set off. This is
the hardest day of the four with some fantastic climbing. Initially the
ride meanders along on country lanes and then begins to climb off road up
the best climb of the route, Hartside. The reward at the top is a
staggering view and a café packed with other cyclists. The rest of the day
continues in the same vain, and you find that if your not climbing your
careering headlong down some good descents. Priorsdale to Nenthead is a
fantastic offroad downhill that has you hanging onto your handlebars
screaming for mercy. Other highlights of the day include the little shop
at Garngill, which does a mean brew, and the café in Allenheads which does
the best Apple and Blackberry Danishes I’ve tasted.
That night we stayed in the Rookhope Pub, and made full use of the
advantage of being able to just stagger up stairs. Unfortunately the next
morning the route goes steeply straight up onto the moor. You have been
warned! The rest of the day descends gently all the way to Sunderland,
with the scenery becoming more and more industrial as you progress. It’s a
quick day and you soon find you have eaten up most of the miles and
arrived on the Sunderland Rivera. We’d had four days of stunning sunshine
and were feeling pretty pleased about the whole experience.
So why tell you all this? Well I’ve seen a lot of press recently about
who can do this route the fastest. This kind of talk could put people off,
making them think the whole ride is one big racetrack. Everyone should
enjoy this route, so don’t be put off by the talk of speed, I challenge
you to see who can do it the most number of days. Whether you decide to
ride it fast or ride it slow, just get out there and do it!!