Bike Packing Yorkshire Dales

Bike Packing in the Yorkshire Dales

Posted by Gav Grayston.
First Published Jul 2018; updated Jun 2023.

We give bike packing a try, and take on one of the big climbs in the Yorkshire Dales.

Bike Packing is a bit like Back Packing...but with the bike. Or, put another way, going camping and taking all of your gear on your bike.

That was the idea anyway when we discussed giving it a try with our friends over at Stage 1 Cycles in Hawes.

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Stage 1 Cycles is a successful cycle hire, cycle training, cycling children's club, bike repair, bike and accessory sales, and of course, the fabulous Firebox Cafe.

The idea was simple: load up the bikes with our gear, and both families head off over the glorious Yorkshire Dales, camp overnight, and then do a bit more cycling with the kids the next day.

They kitted us out with some great bikes, and then instead of panniers, we would be trying these new bike packing bags that fit the frame of the bike. Ingenious idea.

Bike Loaded

The Madison - Caribou bikepacking seat pack

However, the lightweight camping gear we ordered hadn't come in time, and so we took some of our regular camping gear...which wasn't going to fit into these great looking bike bags!

Fortunately, the Stage 1 Cycles minibus came in good use to ferry our larger items to the campsite ahead of us. I still carried our smaller pieces on the bike. It was good practice if nothing else.

It wasn't just our gear the minibus was going to take, but the kids too!

Cycling up buttertubs pass

Climbing up the Buttertubs Pass

The challenge to us adults was to cycle up the Buttertubs, one of the steep climbs from Stage 1 of the Tour de France, back when it started in Yorkshire.

The buttertubs cycling route

The route we cycled over The Buttertubs Pass

This was going to be too steep for the kids - it has gradients between 17 and 24% - and so the kids were taken up to near the summit, only to climb the last sections.

Joined by the kids on Buttertubs

The kids joined us near the top of The Buttertubs

Many (many) years back, when I was much younger, fitter, and lighter, I used to cycle up and down our local Shropshire hills. However, on the Buttertubs, complete with the bike-packing bags, I was more like a very slow steam train chugging up the climb.

It probably wasn't much faster than walking it!

A buttertub hole in the Dales

Butter traders used to store their tubs down here to save carrying them back over the hills

The Buttertubs gets their name from the limestone holes that have formed naturally on the hill.

Butter merchants crossing the Dales to the market in Hawes would lower their unsold butter down into these natural refrigerators, saving the effort of carrying butter back up and over the hill the next day.

Not long after the kids joined us on the last part of the climb, we stopped off to look at one of these Buttertubs.

Top of the buttertubs

At the top of the Dale

As they say, what goes up must come down, and so it was with the descent. The priority was to make sure the kids got down safely without going to fast, but even so, it didn't take long to get to the bottom of the hill.

Once back down into the next Dale, it was a short ride to the campsite, Usha Gap.

The Usha Gap campsite was one of the many that did well from the Tour de France visiting the area. The campsite reinvested the money they earnt from that event and built out some great showers and other facilities, which are in a converted barn - one of the many that dot the landscape in this part of the Yorkshire Dales.

At the Usha Gap Campsite

At the Usha Gap Campsite

A short walk from the campsite is the village of Muker, where the Farmers Arms Pub provides good grub and beer. Then it was back to the campsite for the campfire before bed.

The next morning was glorious sunshine. We could leave the tent to dry out and return to collect it later, and so we headed off with the kids down the country lanes to join the Swale Trail.

Leaving the campsite

Heading off from Usha Gap campsite

Although there were a few climbs, the route was mainly downhill, and nothing the kids couldn't handle after the odd bit of encouragement.

We paused by the River Swale while the kids crossed on the stepping stones.

Stepping stones over River Swale

Crossing the stepping stones

Further up the route, the Dale turned into moorland, and then we descended down and arrived in the town of Reeth, and a visit to the ice cream parlour.

Heading down the Swale trail

OK, so we didn't do true bike-packing. Call it more of a practice run. However, we did manage to explore some of the Yorkshire Dales by bike, camp, and then explore more the next day.

The kids loved it, and so did we. Time to start planning our next bike-packing adventure...

Eating an ice cream