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MTBing in North York Moors National Park

Written by Fiona June 30 2014

I have visited Scarborough dozens of times to catch up with my dear friend Em and her family but for some reason I’ve rarely explored further than the town. This time, the G-Force and I took Fern the Campervan, a pair of Paul Weller tickets and our On-One 29er mountain bikes for a weekend trip to the east coast of northern England.


The most obvious place to mountain bike is, apparently, Dalby Forest, which is located around 15 miles from the seaside holiday town of Scarborough. Much like the forests of Scotland, this large woodlands area has been developed to cater for walkers and mountain bikers.

But we didn’t ride here. Instead we had a concert date with the great Paul Weller!

On the short walk from the concert coach to the stage area in Dalby I noticed a few trail waymarkers. Next time we’re in the area I’ll be checking out the routes.

So where did we mountain bike – and how did we know where to go?

Rosedale circuit by mountain bike

A couple of years ago, a mutual friend of Em’s visited the G-Force and I in Scotland. David brought with him another friend, Sarah, who was keen to climb Curved Ridge in Glencoe. David is a huge fan of the great outdoors and lives near Scarborough so he was the perfect person to show us some of the North Yorks countryside by bike.

David suggested that we meet at Rosedale village, some eight miles from the North Yorks town of Pickering. This time another friend, Julie, came along for the mountain biking fun.


I have no idea why but in my head I’d imagined “fairly flat cross country mountain biking”. I guess the Scarborough coastal area is fairly flat. What I’d forgotten is the very hilly section that we drive through to get from the north to the east coast. This includes Sutton Bank, which is a ridiculously steep hill, and a large area of North York Moors National Park.

Which is why, within seconds of riding out of the village of Rosedale, we found ourselves quickly resorting to our easiest gears and pedalling hard to climb a hill. And this wasn’t a short hill. It was a hill that went on and on, like they do in Scotland!

Fortunately, the G-Force and I have been walking and cycling lots of hills lately as we prepare for the Quadrathlon event so we knew how to pace ourselves (and grit our teeth).

After the first section along a quite country road, we then headed on to an off-road trail. The aim was a ruined building, even further up the valley road – and the start of a long, circular and wonderfully flat cinder track.


This area of the national park was once part of a thriving ironstone works. The cinder track served as an industrial railway, following a long contour high in the moors. We also passed old ironstone kilns and chimneys as we rode the track and looked down on a spread of fantastic rolling scenery.

While the Rosedale circuit is mostly known as a walking destination, it also serves as a beautiful route for mountain bikers. The cinder track is generally easy-going and the four of us whizzed along at a good pace. The track is wide enough to ride two abreast so we could chat as we pedalled.

The time flew by – it always does when you’re riding and talking – and as we approached the end of the horseshoe route, still high above Rosedale, we were offered a choice: Descend the road on the infamous Chimney Bank, acclaimed as the steepest hill in England, or ride on to complete another cross-country route before then whizzing down Chimney Bank.

Extra loop on the Rosedale circuit

We chose the extra loop, obviously! Unfortunately, the loop was a little testing for my limited MTB skills. My technique and confidence on a mountain bike has improved but it’s a slow process. Meanwhile, David, Julie and the G-Force reckoned the downhill section through rough moorland and heather was a blast. They kindly waited for me at the bottom.

More riding on fun singletrack followed by further descent on a country road brought us to the bottom of another hill. Of course, when you have ridden down so far and you plan to end the ride with a fast descent on Chimney Bank, there is a little more climbing to do in between.

This climbing, on a dusty trail, went on and on and on. The goal was a cross-shaped monument high on the moor and far, far in the distance. For some reason, the G-Force and I decided that neither would reach this cross first and so we pushed each other along at a reasonable pace.

The “reasonable” pace took its toll on my leg muscles but I knew that just past the monument was a promised free-ride down Chimney Bank.

We were told that Chimney Bank was deemed too steep for the Tour de France riders this year, although that could be local gossip generated because the Tour will not be heading to this area of Yorkshire next week.

All I can say is that the Tour riders would love this speedy downhill road. I imagine they might also enjoy the chance to pop into a superbly located pub serving local ales some two-thirds of the way downhill. As we did.

The North York Moors offer a delightful location for cross-country mountain biking and next time we plan to explore another route, as well as Dalby Forest.


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