Plans Can Change: A Yorkshire Bikepacking Adventure

A few weeks back, Allen Boardman tackled a route created with two clicks: one at the start and one at a bothy in Yorkshire. Things didn’t go as planned along the way. Find his 18-minute trip video with photos and a short written reflection here…

If there’s one thing bikepackers can agree on, it’s that trips rarely go as planned. Most bikepacking trips require a certain level of flexibility, often influenced by weather, trail conditions, the route, or the myriad other unknowns that present themselves when riding away from home. For Allen Boardman, the reason to change plans wasn’t quite as easy to identify, but the decision was clear. Watch the video Allen put together below, followed by a short written reflection and photos from his ride.

Words and photos by Allen Boardman

I had a free weekend, and what better way to spend it than riding my bike to the Yorkshire Dales? At least, that was the plan. My usual approach to building routes starts with where I’d like to end for the night, then working backward, trying to find an interesting way to get there, taking in as many bridleways and byways as possible. This time, I let Ordnance Survey maps auto-route everything for me. I’d hoped to head to a bothy that I stayed at with my friend Jake last year on a training ride to prepare for the 2023 Dales Divide. If I get a bothy to myself, I refer to it as “winning at bothy bingo,” though it’s likely easier to win at actual bingo.

After a few gentle roads populated by local road riders all zooming past me on their much lighter carbon bikes, one rider slowed down to chat with me about wanting to get into bikepacking. I said he had the best bike already as it had wheels, and he just needed a backpack to start with, find a hill, and let his adventure unravel. I wonder if he listened to me and has since started planning.

Plans Can Change Allen Boardman
  • Plans Can Change Allen Boardman
  • Plans Can Change Allen Boardman
  • Plans Can Change Allen Boardman

My Wahoo decided it would freeze, then randomly scroll away from my route until I reset it. I managed to route around the roads towards Slaidburn through Gisburn Forest, taking a café stop for a cookie and milkshake. The climb up Boland Knotts out of Grisdale is challenging but means a big descent on the other side. The temperature slowly started dropping a little, and I wrapped up and headed towards Clapham. This is close to when I stopped enjoying the trip. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why I had a sudden shift from loving every wheel turn to not wanting to be there anymore. This was the first time I decided to change my plans and headed towards the Station Inn at Ribblehead Viaduct. It wasn’t overly cold for January, but I feel the cold more than others and hadn’t felt my feet for hours.

The quiet lanes of Helwith Bridge felt almost abandoned in the darkness. I enjoy riding at night; everything is peaceful and nearly silent. It feels like you’re the only person around for miles. I had set my hopes that I’d be in luck when I arrived at The Station Inn and they’d have a spare table for me. The last few times I’ve been there, I’ve not been as lucky.

  • Plans Can Change Allen Boardman
  • Plans Can Change Allen Boardman
Plans Can Change Allen Boardman

Greeted by the hustle and bustle of a busy bar and the fire heating the rooms up nicely, I searched around for a staff member, ready to ask if they could feed me or not. It was my lucky night as they confirmed they had a small table by the bar. I decided on my main course and was ready to order, only to be told there was at least a 45-minute wait as they were busy dealing with the other food orders already in front of me. This was the second time my plans changed; I decided to wait and camp out somewhere local, but then the barman said there was a room for the night in the form of a bunk house at a single traveler rate. Change number three: here we come. I snapped the room up, put my bike inside, ordered a beer or two, and waited for my main course. I started to enjoy myself again and happily chatted with the friendly people at the table next to me.

“Pub quiz, anyone?” I heard from over my shoulder, initially reluctant to accept, I joined in the quiz and got an incredible score of zero questions right! There was a bonus question, which I managed to get right, and I won dessert! I was over the moon that I’d won. I usually don’t win anything. I called it a night after a couple of beers as I still had to ride back to Goosnargh the next day and fancied a second breakfast at Seasons Bakery by the pump track in Ingleton.

Plans Can Change Allen Boardman
  • Plans Can Change Allen Boardman
  • Plans Can Change Allen Boardman

I was in good spirits after a cozy night in a real bed, and the temperature, being a little higher, was much more pleasant than the day before. The return trip was a mash-up of some national cycle network routes and some follow-my-nose choices. The climb back up and over Boland Knotts was much less steep, though it was drawn out and rather windy all the way up.

I’m not sure if this can be called bikepacking in the true sense, but it was a great adventure. This trip will remind me that it’s okay for plans to change and that I just need to go with it.

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