“We’re going to the Hole of Horcum on Friday” announced John.
“The whole of what?” I asked.
“It’s a place in North Yorkshire, he explained, a huge moorland amphitheatre several hundred feet deep and one mile across. But we will set off in the opposite direction and take the trails out towards Scarborough and the coast.”
“Brilliant! I’ve never ridden in that area before.”
The weather was perfect; blue sky and light wind although the temperature was only just above zero when five of us set off. It is a superb feeling to be out early with a light crust of frost on the ground and a thin layer of ice on the puddles.
We made good progress on easy, wide trails and soon I recognised one of them as part of the Dalby Forest Mountain Bike red route which I’d ridden on a pushbike many times.
Then it got harder with narrow, rutted lanes and the only option being the lumpy, washed-out middle line. We had a quick stop at Cockmoor Hall plantation which is right in the middle of the area used for the Ryedale Rally. This is a two-day event in July when riders from far and wide convene to take part in a challenging 250 mile course.
I’m thinking of doing it this year but after hearing John’s tale of woe, I’m reconsidering.
Ten years ago, he was riding as a motorbike marshall for the event and had stopped on a wide trail behind two competitors. Another marshall, who apparently was looking backwards while still riding at 40mph, crashed into John who was left pinned under his bike with the footpeg through his leg. Anyway, he needed six months off work, skin grafts and some considerable time to regain his confidence on the bike. The Ryedale Rally is a fast and furious event, even if it is designated ‘friendly’.
We had another quick pause overlooking Harwood Dale. At moments like this, we always say ‘What an amazing place we live in. Look at that view!!’
Crossing the Dale, we picked up the A171 briefly before descending steeply onto a challenging track across Cloughton Moor. This is where I found myself doing a lot of ‘paddling’ to negotiate the deep water-filled ruts, the mud and rocky steps. But if I stay upright, I’m usually satisfied.
It got so bad that our ride leader decided to turn around and take the easier route. Hauling bikes through mud is unappealing.
We stopped for fuel and a quick bite to eat at East Ayton. I recognised its chip shop as the one where I’d once stopped after a day on the mountain bike – best fish and chips ever!
During lunch I checked out the bikes my compadres were riding. John’s bike is the same as mine, the Honda CRF 250L, but his hasn’t suffered the humiliation of lowered suspension and carved out seat. Frankly, it looks a lot better than mine!
Paul was on a Gas Gas EC250 from 2000 which only has a kick start but is very light.
The two KTMs were a 350cc and a 450cc Exc Six Days (as in extreme race in Argentina) model. This is a beautiful, massively powerful bike and its rider is an ex motorcross racer with more metal pins and plates in his body than a hardware store. He looks OK from the outside though!
Our return route took us through Wykeham Forest. I was mesmerised by the sun casting shadows through the trees and forgot for a moment that I was riding. But you can never stop concentrating: anyone who has ever thrown a leg over a bike knows that!