Whilst cycling the Way of the Roses is not in the same league as a polar expedition or round the world trip, it’s worth taking a little time to get prepared.
As this route is either on roads or surfaced off-road tracks most bikes will be suitable and many cyclists complete this route each year on road bikes. Your choice of bike may be dependent on how you intend to carry luggage (see below for baggage transfer). Many cyclists, especially those with support vehicles, do the route on road bikes however if you're intending to carry luggage a touring or hybrid bike might be better. Tandems, recumbents, handcycles and tricycles may find some sections awkward but not impossible due to the occasional barrier (eg the level crossing a mile or so out of Morecambe). Please check that your bike is in a roadworthy condition. Pay special attention to your brakes - there are some steep hills on this ride and the impact on performance of poor quality brakes combined with too much speed can be multiplied many times if the road is wet and/or the rider or his load his heavy and this has caused accidents. It is essential to have adequate brakes as recommended by your local bike shop.
What equipment do I need?
With any cycle tour it’s a balance between taking too little and taking everything but the kitchen sink. There are cycle shops on the route but it’s definitely worth taking a basic toolkit with you including spare inner tubes, tyre levers, pump, multi tool and adjustable spanner.
Waterproofs - this is the North of England after all. It’s up to you if you want to take along a full set, and we would recommend waterproof not showerproof, personally I prefer to just keep my top half dry and forget about trousers but then that’s me.
There are plenty of pubs, cafes etc en route but it’s always a good option to have a couple of snacks on board.
Take a copy of the official map with you (available from Sustrans). The route is well signposted but it’s always possible that a sign is missed or missing, plus there’s lots of other useful info on it.
What's the best way to carry luggage?
So how do you carry all of this stuff? The best option is one or a set of panniers, although I’ve known plenty of people do the trip with just a small rucksack on their back. It’s recommended that you carry the least amount that you can get away with - you’ll notice every additional kilogram when you’re climbing.
It’s worth making a list or laying out all of your kit and working out which bits are essential and which are not. If you’re travelling with a group perhaps there are some things you can share.
If you prefer a supported ride with your luggage carried, there are various companies who will organise everything for you and provide mechanical back-up. See the Tour Operators page. You can also have your luggage carried, Baggage Transfer this costs from £10 per bag, per day (based on group size of 10) or £15 per bag, per day, (based on group size of 6).
How many days?
Many people do the Way of the Roses over three days - although some have done it in less and others much more - there are no rules (see our Your Stories pages.) The cumulative distance table on the Route Map page and the terrain page will give you an idea of the distances involved and help you plan where to have breaks and stay for the night. The Food and Drinks page shows the location of various rural pubs, cafes and the Places of Interest page is essential reading especially for those taking a more leisurely approach.
Way of the Roses isn’t a sportive type route but can be used for training for one provided time is allowed for slower paced cycling on narrow lanes and shared use sections.
How fit do I need to be?
A cyclist of reasonable fitness should have no problems completing this route. However we realise that it can be difficult to work out what is reasonable fitness…. Just how high are those hills and how will I feel after cycling for 3 days?
Be realistic - if the furthest you’ve cycled previously is ten miles along a canal towpath then aiming to complete the route in less than four days is probably not a good idea.
The profiles on the terrain page will give you some idea of what’s in store. The hills start after about 8 miles and the biggest climbs are between Settle and Brimham Rocks (a few miles east of Pateley Bridge). This is roughly between miles 35 and 65, so you could get them all out of the way on day one if you’re feeling particularly brave/energetic or, you could do shorter distances over the hills and then double or even treble the distance on the flatter sections. The highest point of the route is at Greenhow at 402m (1312 ft).
If you’ve never ridden a ‘fully loaded bike’ before we would recommend that you do at least a couple of short rides carrying luggage to get used to the feel and weight of the bike especially when braking downhill. Some riders would recommend that you use tyres 25mm or above for comfort and coping with variable road and path surfaces.
How do I get to the start?
The biggest problem many riders face is getting to the start/making their way home with their bike. Anyone that has travelled by train and bike can testify that it can be a frustrating experience. But plan well in advance and you should be ok. The main problem is that some local trains are restricted to carrying only 2 or 4 bikes, which when travelling as part of a large group can make things awkward. On most mainline trains, bikes spaces need to be reserved.
Lancaster is on the West Coast mainline so well served by direct trains from Scotland and the NW England and also from Birmingham and London. There are also plenty of regional trains. You can get a train to Morecambe from Lancaster - it only takes about 11 minutes, although you could just as easily ride the 4 miles to Morecambe, there’s a cycle path right outside the station (gate by platform 1).
For train services and information on all operators visit the National Rail website or call 08457 48 49 50.
Luckily I live near the start of the route as did all of my riding companions so that didn’t trouble us. To get back from Bridlington we used a hired minibus and helpful friend, who drove over and picked us up. This way about 7 people and bikes could travel back together. You will need to check out the minibus beforehand to check how you’ll all fit in (on one trip the company removed a row of seats - at a cost).
If planning on staying in B&Bs and Guest Houses etc then it’s probably best to book these in advance. You can find a range of cycle friendly accommodation on the where to stay page. Please bear in mind that if doing the route over a weekend it can be difficult to find accommodation for one night only in some locations. If at all possible and for the best deals, plan your trip mid-week and outside of peak holiday periods. If not, book early.
Good Cycling Code Please be courteous! Always cycle with respect for others, whether other cyclists, pedestrians, wheelchair users, horse riders or drivers, and acknowledge those who give way to you. Be sure to let walkers and horse riders know you’re approaching by using a bell or calling out.
Read Sustrans Good Cycling Code for more information. Keep safe, be courteous and enjoy your cycling on the National Cycle Network