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Dales Divide Bikepacking Adventures 2024

Picture this: a crisp Good Friday morning, the sun dancing in a bright blue sky over Arnside on the west coast of England. 150 eager cyclists gather at the starting line, ready to tackle the Dales Divide, a 600km bikepacking extravaganza traversing the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors National Parks. As the flag drops, the race is on, and so begins a journey of epic proportions.

 I was invited to start the race, alongside Pat Hall,  mother of the late Mike Hall, mother of the late Mike Hall, who tragically lost his life after being struck by a car during the Indian Pacific Wheel Race from Fremantle to Sydney in 2017. Mike, at the age of 35, was a revered figure in the bikepacking community. Widely regarded as one of the finest ultra-distance cyclists globally, Mike had previously set the world circumnavigation record during the 2012 World Cycle Race, achieving an astonishing 91-day finish.

A collage of 4 photographs taken at the start of the bike race at Arnside. Group of cyclists gather around for the start of the Dales Divide Bike Ride 2024
The start of the race at Arnside

On Saturday afternoon, I joined Anne, the newest member of the Access the Dales team, in Northallerton with a mission to feed and water the weary riders as they passed through the town.  But Anne's enthusiasm knows no bounds, and she was stopping cyclists left, right, and centre, whether they were on the Dales Divide Bike Ride or not, offering them refreshments like a true cycling angel. Little did she know, one unsuspecting cyclist she tried to flag down was just on a quick milk run to the local shops.  

But amidst the chaos and the belly-busting laughter, there was only one rider who truly was part of the Dales Divide: Mike Sheldrake, rider number 77.

A cyclist on the Dales Divide holding up the flag with Debbie.

As we tracked the race, we could see that the elite cyclists had already zoomed through Northallerton and most of the other riders were still making their way to Scarborough,  so we decided to stop the catering for the day and relocate our refreshment stall to Osmotherley for the following day.

However, little did we anticipate the early risers among the cyclists, who had spent the night in unconventional accommodations like ditches, bus stops, and church yards. By the time we rolled into Osmotherley at 9 am, a good chunk of them had already breezed through.

a collage of 6 photos of a lady trying to put flags up on a windy day
Ann tackles the flags

As soon as Anne and I met up again, the laughter ensued when I reminded Anne that we weren't there to cater to just any cyclist passing by. But the real comedy show began when Anne attempted to hoist up two flags simultaneously. It was like witnessing a circus act, with Anne darting back and forth between the poles like a pro plate-spinner. Just as one flag fluttered proudly, the other came crashing down, leaving us all in stitches. It was a moment of pure hilarity amidst the whirlwind of the Dales Divide adventure. Who knew setting up flags could be such a precarious endeavour?

Welcoming the cyclists to our stall was an absolute joy, as we eagerly listened to their tales of coast-to-coast conquests and back again. But let me tell you, spotting the authentic Dales Divide riders was a breeze – they were the ones caked head to toe in mud, wearing it like a badge of honour!

A collegae of 6 photos all showing images of differnt people on the bike race.
The Dales Divide

What truly struck me was their unyielding determination to push through, despite every single one of them admitting that this year's ride was like wading through peanut butter. Some had endured thunder and lightning storms above Ribblehead, while others were so waterlogged they could've doubled as sponges. I mean, we even had cyclists wringing out their socks like they were in the laundry room while munching on a butty!

We became impromptu pharmacists, doling out painkillers for numb bums and supplying wet wipes to de-mudify faces that resembled modern art installations. But through it all, we had an absolute blast, and we can't thank the Dales Divide riders enough for the laughs, the stories, and the incredible amount of money they've raised for charity. Here's to mud-splattered adventures and the wonderful, slightly crazy folks who make them happen!


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