Bike exploring: Ladies Mountain Bike Sessions


7.8 km / 5 miles


1 hrs 0 m



Published on 5 min read

Helen Pollard thinks more women should cycle. She takes us on a route around Hawes in the Yorkshire Dales to encourage us to #GetOutside on our bikes either solo or with family.​

Why don’t more women cycle?

Men do nearly three times as many cycling journeys as women, and travel more than four times as far. Why?

Research by Sustrans and Cycling UK suggests the main factors stopping ladies cycling are related to safety fears, concerns about fitness and a general lack of confidence about ability. Although there are now fabulous female role models in both road and Mountain bike disciplines receiving more media coverage than ever still these barriers exist.

Close-up of mountain biker in the countryside

From a personal perspective I find the old chestnut of work life balance is the most significant barrier impacting on my riding. Although as an instructor I work on my bike all the time to find time to cycle for recreation is tricky for me too! Working full time running our business and a mum to the ever-busy Daisy is at times similar to juggling jelly. My personal riding choice is cross country mountain biking therefore as part of our Wensleydale Bike Club we host a ladies only mountain bike ride on most Sunday nights.

I was determined to challenge the preconceptions that some ladies have about MTB thinking it was not something for them. The sessions the bike club host are a free activity and 2 community owned mountain bikes are available to ensure universal accessibility.

Encouraging ladies to access mountain biking in a supportive social group provides a fantastic opportunity to improve fitness and mental well-being in an awe-inspiring adventurous outside setting. Learning to ride with ladies only automatically removes the element of competition that sometimes occurs in mixed sex groups and allows riders to comfortably participate within their own riding capacity.

This adventure post follows our first ride back of the season. It is a perfect ride for beginners and improving riders and is also a great family route. Including short climbs, descents, gravelly track and a ford to navigate it has lots of opportunities to develop fundamental mountain bike skills over a relatively short distance.

Cycling in the countryside

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Starting at station yard Hawes you cycle through the busy little market town of Hawes. Hawes is a great base for exploring, famous for being the highest market town in England, home to Wallace and Grommet Wensleydale cheese and the nearby Buttertubs. Family groups will need to take sensible precautions with young children on this section due to the traffic.

Turning out of Hawes at the school and travelling through the pretty connected hamlet of Gayle the road will lead you to the rear of the town toward the bridle way through a farm.

The bridle way continues on a clearly defined walled route. The surface is gravelly and at times washed away so a sensible speed is advised. The route offers excellent views of Fleet Moss one of the top 100 road bike climbs in England.

Continue along this route until you reach a small ford.

Cycling over a ford

This ford can be cycled through under normal conditions. It is not appropriate in flood conditions.

If you are caught out there is a footbridge 150 m to the left by a barn over which bikes could be wheeled. After the ford you will have a short sharp gravel climb to the main road. Follow this road back down to Gayle.

At one point the road is 25% descent so please check brakes are working after going through the ford. Also, when passing through farms the road narrows and although traffic flow is light close supervision of young children is advised.

At Gayle instead of returning though the town of Hawes turn right at the junction continuing round the back of Hawes auction mart and Bainbridge Ings caravan site. You will eventually reach the main road near the cemetery at this point turn left to return station yard.

Stopping for a rest whilst mountain biking

Station yard is a great base in Hawes for exploring the surrounding countryside due to toilet facilities, cafe, bike shop, NP visitors centre and Dales Countryside Museum. Parking Charges apply.

Fancy a bit of cycling? Not comfortable by yourself?

Many affiliated community clubs such as Wensleydale Bike Club offer sessions such as ourselves. Our Sunday rides are open to all not just the local community so if you are in the area on holiday get in touch. Don’t worry if MTB is not your cup of tea. British Cycling offer a scheme called Breeze which many their free sessions are road based led rides.

Cycling UK has a full list of their community club sessions throughout the country. It’s never been easier as a lady to get cycling. Cycling UK also offer bike maintenance and first aid qualifications which could be another route to developing confidence to #GetOutside on your bike either by yourself or with family.

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