The Bay Cycle Way in a day.

Discussion in 'Member's Travelogues' started by Globalti, 31 Jul 2015.

  1. Globalti

    Globalti Legendary Member

    Gti Junior (@SamR on here) aged 16 wanted to do his first 100 miler so we thought the new Sustrans The Bay Cycle Way might make a good route. After a lifetime of climbing and walking in The Lakes and 26 years living in Lancashire I still hadn’t fulfilled my ambition actually to stop and explore the South Lakes peninsulas so this looked like an ideal opportunity. Sustrans recommends three or four days for ths ride but we thought it looked possible in one, though what we didn't reckon on was time and the few hills on the route; a quick look at the Sustrans map seems to show a flat coastal route but then you notice the route profile at the top and a few climbs up to about 80 - 100 metres and one big steep one, Bigland Hill, to 175 metres between Ulverston and Cartmel. On the ride we thought the attrition to the legs was worth 10 miles from this climb alone. My legs were already a little sore having spent the previous day on my roof cleaning off moss, clearing gutters and re-flaunching my chimney pot!

    So we set off to drive to Lancaster with, we thought, plenty of time in hand having left 15 minutes earlier than planned. Traffic in Lancaster and then time wasted finding somewhere to leave the car near the station that wasn't "residents only" meant we cycled into the station with just enough time to buy tickets and two coffees. The cheaper tickets were available on the 09.47 train to Barrow but with hindsight we should have bitten the bullet, paid the small extra and taken a train at least two hours earlier.



    The train ride from Lancaster to Barrow in Furness is spectacular with superb views of Morecambe bay and the Irish Sea and just before 11.00 we arrived in Barrow, a town with that bright airy atmosphere that you only get when the sea is all around. More faffing and trips to the loo then we set off to cross the Jubilee Bridge onto Walney Island, my first ever visit, and the official start of the route.


    By about 11.15 we were on our way at last and heading though the massive sheds of the Barrow shipyards, almost entirely in use by BAE Systems with even a glimpse of a submarine to reward us. Barrow has a spacious feel with broad boulevards and the purposeful look of a town that can achieve things. Past some elegant red sandstone tenement buildings in proper Glaswegian style and we found ourselves skirting a refinery and heading round the south coast of the Barrow peninsula in glorious bright sunshine with a stiff, cool westerly helping us along most of the time. For a few miles we rode with Richard, a fit and strong triathlete and Police officer from Liverpool. At a couple of points we had good views of the Isle of Man and way beyond the Morecambe Bay wind farms we could even see Blackpool Tower on the southern horizon.


    By mile 10 we were inland and passing through a succession of villages with names like Leece, Dendron and Gleaston. In Gleaston the little blue cycle route signs weren’t clear and we sought local advice, which turned out to be wrong as the local was actually a tourist. It doesn't help that the Sustrans map shows the route as a thick yellow road and doesn’t number the roads or distinguish between road classifications and after a mile or two we found ourselves unexpectedly at a T junction with the coastal A road. Just before the T junction we had the only small mishap of the trip when GtiJ’s glasses slipped out of his jersey pocket and skidded along the road, scratching the lenses. Study of the map showed that we’d gone wrong in Gleaston despite spending some time there and the only logical conclusion was that we had turned south-east and hit the A5087 coastal road. D of E hill avoidance training kicked in and Gti Junior noticed that by sticking to the A road we would bypass a couple of hills inland so we took the pragmatic option and headed north east through a couple of villages, eventually enjoying a long cruise down past a spectacular Buddhist centre into Ulverston.

    In Ulverston we stopped at a garage and refuelled with coffee and a comfort stop, competing for the garage toilets with several red-clad people who had walked in from the Buddhist place, which seemed to be holding a conference judging from the fact that they all had IDs around their necks. More pragmatism kicked in here and instead of winding our way along the Sustrans route over a couple more hills we stuck with the A590 and time-trialled the couple of miles to Greenodd, the first major waypoint of the route where you cross the Ulverston channel on a footbridge and head onto the Grange peninsula. For a couple of miles we followed a stony track through delightful scenery, happy that our Roubaix frames were soaking up some of the bumps but unhappy at the 100 psi pressure in our tyres! Relieved not to have punctured we tackled the steep and strenuous climb up Bigland Hill through Low Wood straight from sea level to around 175 metres. It was hard work and made us breathe hard but the reward was glorious swooping lanes, taking us down to the remarkable little village of Cartmel, which has its own racetrack and priory and a great selection of pubs and cafes. A calorific treat of cheese and bacon sandwich went down well and off we set again for Flookburgh and Ravenstown, enjoying the big open coastal landscapes and mostly helped by the cool wind. A short climb to Kent’s Bank was soon dismissed and we found ourselves freewheeling into the retirement town of Grange over Sands where we didn’t stop except for a couple of map checks.

    From Town End to Levens we rode on the deserted old road, which parallels the busy A590 South Lakes road. By now the day was getting on and we were only just approaching 50 miles so we stopped briefly in Levens to get a water topup from a pub then crossed the River Kent, the second geographically significant waypoint, soon joining the familiar old A6 where more pragmatism set in and we chain-ganged against the south westerly wind straight south then out onto the flats avoiding Heversham and Milnthorpe. Outside Milthorpe a decision was needed – do we head straight on south on Sustrans route 6 through the Yealands or out onto the Arnside peninsula on the new 700 route? We have friends in Yealand Conyers who we could have tapped for a coffee but that would have lost us another hour and by now the shadows were lengthening. So we decided to stick to plan B and do the pretty but hilly section through Arnside and Silverdale. The views from Silverdale were back towards Barrow and it was thrilling to think that we had ridden all the way from there.


    Down off the Silverdale limestone hills into Carnforth and again, we decided to yomp down the A6 to save time rather than follow the wibbly-wobbly route of the Lancaster canal as recommended by Sustrans. In Bolton-le-Sands we turned right for Morecambe and the worst section of the ride – the road was interminable, badly potholed and straight into a stiff headwind and we suffered the only unpleasant incident of the trip when a moron in a knackered chav car miscalculated his approach and locked up to avoid hitting a pedestrian refuge, which, judging from his gestures, was our fault for daring to take up his road space.

    After what seemed like miles of headwind, potholes, failing hotels, smelly chippies and empty shops we finally reached the area of Morecambe we recognised from the start of the Way of the Roses and turned gratefully inland with the wind following down the old railway track to Lancaster. A swift blast down there saw us arriving at the footbridge over the River Lune, with about 75 miles travelled.

    Seeing how time was passing we agreed that the 100 mile target wasn’t realistic so agreed to go for 80 miles, intending to head out towards Glasson Dock then turn back at the point required to hit our target back in Lancaster. However the beauty of the scenery and the perfect flatness of the old railway line brought us to realise that we ought to finish all 81 miles of the ride and then bag a few extra miles going back up to Lancaster so with GtiJ’s legs tiring we cruised along and finished in Glasson dock with the shadows lengthening and not many folk around.


    The five miles back to Lancaster was swiftly accomplished with wind assistance and as we rode along the quayside we spotted a right turn that would take us up to the railway station. Straight up here and it began to dawn on me that I couldn’t really remember where we had left the car and faced with the thought of cruising around endless residential streets in increasing darkness and desperation we were relieved to find it quite quickly.

    So a fantastic day out in new territory, with no serious mishaps, breakdowns or punctures. We were home at dusk for hot supper and a shower and a great night’s sleep.

    The final reckoning? 86.94 miles at 13.7 mph in 6.17 hours of riding time, with 3650 ft of climbing according to Bikehike. A really superb route, mostly well-signed with only a couple of problem junctions.
    Last edited: 1 Aug 2015
    Slick, Spinney, jay clock and 19 others like this.
  2. SamR

    SamR Rider on the Lancastrian storm

    Can indeed confirm it was an excellent ride, even if we didn't quite hit our 100 mile target, but that's for another day when the route will be flat!
  3. roadrash

    roadrash cycle chatterer

    Congratulations to both of you,and an excellent write up , good luck on your next attempt on a FLAT route. :bicycle:
    SamR likes this.
  4. doughnut

    doughnut Über Member

    Great write up. I've got my eye on this for my first 100 miler. Is the route ok for a normal road bike? You mention a couple of miles of stony track - I can handle that ok with a bit of luck, but is the rest of the route ok?
  5. SamR

    SamR Rider on the Lancastrian storm

    We set out to do 100 miles, but didn't manage because of the hills. I think if you started early and gave yourself a lot more time than you thought you'd need and plenty of breaks, you'd be okay. Our problem was we started about 11AM, and therefore didn't have enough time left in the day to push on further than 80 miles.
    The stony track only lasts for a mile or two, and we handled it fine on two road bikes with 23c tyres. Apart from that, low gears were useful for the hills.
    If you plan on doing the full 100, try to avoid the hills on the route whenever possible. There were plenty of times where we were able to hop on the main roads for a few miles and avoid hills throughout the day, but a few were unavoidable.
    doughnut likes this.
  6. OP

    Globalti Legendary Member

    Yes, as SamR says, perfectly fine on any road bike, even the stony bit before Cartmel and the cinder track on the old railway to Glasson Dock. With hindsight we could have dropped our tyre pressures to 95 psi, which would have made life a little more comfortable on those sections and on some of the tarmac as well.

    Also with hindsight, as SamR also says above, to follow the full Sustrans route without nipping along some A and B roads as we did, would be a prodigious effort as your overall climb would increase by at least 1000 ft. In order to enjoy the route and have time to explore places like Cartmel, I would recommend doing it over two days. If you want to incorporate it in your first 100 miler you are biting off a huge chunk; you'd do better to do that 100 miler somewhere flat like Cheshire and better, in a Sportiff ride where you can spend a bit of time in some chaingangs and enjoy the drafting.
    doughnut likes this.
  7. doughnut

    doughnut Über Member

    Thanks for the replies. I'm in a fortunate position because my mother-in-law lives on Walney, so my plan is to get my wife to drive me there first thing in the morning and I set off while she spends the day there. At about 6pm I can ring her up and tell her how far I got and where to pick me up on her way back home to just south of Preston. I'm pretty confident I can make the 100 miles (managed ok for about 75 miles/6000ft on ColinJs recent ride around Settle) but if it all goes wrong then she can pick me up from the pub in Grange ^_^
  8. OP

    Globalti Legendary Member

    Ah well then you can simply jump on the A6 and keep riding due South. If it's 81 miles to Glasson Dock you'd easily hit 100 by Preston. The A6 is good for fast miles though the surface can be rough but there are a couple of towns you can pass through for pit stops.
  9. MontyVeda

    MontyVeda a short-tempered ill-controlled small-minded troll

    If you want to enjoy the ride than i'd recommend not going anywhere near the A6.
  10. MontyVeda

    MontyVeda a short-tempered ill-controlled small-minded troll

    ...and the route between Ulverston and Greenodd is lovely, don't miss this by taking the main road for a few miles... a lot of the route is as flat as a pancake, by the end of it, you'll be pining for an incline (especially if finishing at Glasson Dock; the stretch between Carnforth and Glasson is canal, promenade, disused railway, barely any hills and frankly a tad boring). I'm inclined to believe that the route will be better starting at Glasson
  11. Bariton

    Bariton Active Member

    Thank you for the write up Globalti. I'm hoping to do this ride next April with a few of the guys from work. My personal target is also 100 miles which will include the ride from Glasson Dock back to Morecambe tagged on at the end.
  12. RobWard

    RobWard Well-Known Member

    Great write up! Ive got my heart set on The Way of the Roses route. Something I want to achieve before I hit 50.
    Well done to both of you
  13. OP

    Globalti Legendary Member

    The Way of the Roses is a cracking ride. The best bits for me were also the flattest, east of York as the route followed some fascinating ancient roads.
    RobWard likes this.
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