THE HIGHS AND LOWS OF A GRAND LAKELAND TOUR
Just as an army marches on its stomach, so do two intrepid cyclists taking on a grand tour of the Lake District.
Fortified by scones and muesli bars, father and son team, Mike and Richard Carden set off from Brockhole to finish triumphantly three miles down the road in Bowness.
Taking the indirect route to their destination, the intervening 300 miles is the subject of Mike’s third book A Lake District Grand Tour: Pedalling through Lakeland: The Challenge, The History, The Wildlife, The Scones.
After cycling the length of England and Scotland for his previous titles, the Cockermouth author decided to turn his attention to his own backyard.
The tour takes in all the lakes, follows water courses from source to sea, and covers every mountain pass.
“I really enjoyed it, I really did,” enthuses Mike, who completed the tour last July.
Even the punishing gradients?
“A year on you tend to forget the slightly harder bits, the days when it didn’t seem to stop raining,” he confesses.
“When you think back it was sunny and the hills weren’t quite as bad.”
Mike began to plan a ride around the Lake District after identifying a gap in the market. “There had been no book describing a cycle tour of Lakeland, even though there are lots of cyclists now,” he says.
And given the current craze for cycling it seems there’s never been a better time to release a bike guide to the Lakes.
In just 38 days some of the best cyclists in the world will race through Cumbria during the Lake District Stage of the Tour of Britain.
“At one time, if you thought about cycling in the Lake District, you’d think of mountain bikers,” says Mike. “Now I will go on a bike ride and see more cyclists than cars.
“I think it’s all linked to the Olympics and the Tour de France. But cycling had been growing anyway. There are all sorts of reasons for it. It’s not just hardened cyclists.”
Neither is A Lake District Grand Tour just for the Chris Froomes of cycling. Although he ticks off six of the “100 Greatest Cycling Climbs” en route, just as important to Mike is a good pint or a welcoming tea shop.
And for the armchair adventurer, cycling the Lakes with Mike and Richard is an enlightening experience.
Along the way they recount the history of Cumbria through locations and place names.
They visit towns and villages in and around the Lake District, plus stone circles, castles and abbeys, as Mike spins the story of floods, monasteries, “’oond trailin” and Herdwicks, and follow his mostly unsuccessful attempts to spot Cumbria’s wildlife.
The repartee between father and son makes the reader feel like you’re riding in tandem.
“People do seem to be enjoying it,” says Mike, of the favourable reviews the book has received.
Mike has since been approached by holiday-makers to the Lakes looking for suggested cycling routes.
Bespoke tours is an idea he’s developing on his website, along with recommendations about where to stay if you’re cycling in the Lakes.
For the recreational cyclist Mike says: “If you’re not used to hills it might be a bit of a shock to begin with. But there are flat cycle routes you can do around the edges.”
For people lacking a bit of incentive, follow Mike’s lead and plan a route which ends with a pie and beer or cup of tea and slice of cake.
“I’m meeting a chap on Saturday who’s coming up to do some walking,” says Mike, 54. He’s read all my books and has proposed we find somewhere to have some pie of biblical proportions.”
Mike has designed a website to accompany the new book, complete with maps and photography from each day of the ride:
www.lakedistrictgrandtour.co.uk, and he can also be found on Twitter at @lakesgrandtour and on Facebook at Bike-Ride-Books.
A Lake District Grand Tour. Pedalling through Lakeland: The Challenge, The History, The Wildlife, The Scones’ (Bike Ride Books, £8.99) is in the shops now.