The Dales Divide runs over the Easter weekend and is one of the first UK Ultra Bikepacking races of the season. Starting in Arnside on the west coast, the race goes across England to Scarborough on the east coast and back again, on some of the best off road trails the Yorkshire Dales, the Yorkshire Wolds and the North York Moors have to offer.
The organisers of the Dales Divide have been keen to get closer to gender parity on their start line, and are hoping to one day reach the ideal ratio of 45:45:10 women:men:non-binary folk, but for 2023 are happy to celebrate a large increase in entries from women and non-binary riders compared to previous years. The Dales Divide have an ethos of being very beginner friendly. Riders are encouraged to support each other, help each other with mechanicals and ride together if they wish, and the organisers provide an amazing amount of detail about the route and points of interest. There is a 400km route for those pushed for time and the route was designed to never take you too far from towns or train stations. However, don’t be fooled, with the elevation and technical terrain, especially around the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors, this route is tough!
Steezy reached out to some of this years women and non-binary riders to find out what they were most looking forward to, and we loved hearing everyone’s reasons for riding.
Natalie, 31, Coventry
This is my first bike-packing event where I’ll be camping, and I’ve come into bikepacking from triathlon. I’ve done a couple of long distant tri events, including my first Ironman last year. I’m really enjoying off-road, more adventure style riding, with the focus being on having fun, rather than putting out a certain amount of watts over a certain time period. I’m finding it super-refreshing! I did the King Alfred’s Way a couple of years ago and found it incredibly challenging, but genuinely had the best time and, crucially, laughed so much. I’m really looking forward to the challenge, problem solving on the go, and riding somewhere I haven’t ridden before.
Vanessa, she/her, 31, Canadian living in Leeds
The Dales Divide will be my first ultra bikepacking event – I have entered based on the encouragement and the promotion of the event being a good first ultra to take part in. I have done the Fernie Gravel Grind back in Canada, alongside other bikepacking trips including a solo bikepacking trip up Vancouver Island where I had to worry about humans, bears, and cougars. The Dales Divide was appealing to me as it doesn’t involve dangerous wildlife and I really enjoy off-road riding, undulating and new-to-me terrain, and will also serve to give me a new personal reference point of how far I can ride across consecutive days. I am looking forward to meeting some of the riders and women specifically that I have taken inspiration from afar and who have been building community in a way that contributed to my desire to move to the UK to experience and be part of it.
I am looking forward to laughing at the bottom of hills, and laughing at the top of them with new friends and in thinking of my friends back home who I would seek out hill climbs with. There is going to be a lot of learning from this experience, that I have no doubt.
Hannah, 33, Aberfoyle, Stirling
This is my first group start. I’ve done a couple of sportives, I started cycling during lockdown so still feel pretty new to the whole thing. The dales will be such a big test.
I signed up due to peer pressure! I’m doing it with my pal Hannah Hale. But I’m also looking forward to pushing myself (my legs and probably my bike!) and seeing what I’m capable of.
I’m looking forward to exploring a bit of the country I’ve only driven through, spending time with Hannah and (hopefully) a sense of achievement once we’ve finished it!
Claire, 33, Bristol.
This is my first event!
I wanted to push myself to do more mountain biking because I love being a bit more embedded in nature than a road can take you. I also wanted to challenge myself and sign up to something I (probably) couldn’t achieve at the time.
I’m looking forward to some sunshine in new scenery, night riding under the full moon and seeing if I can complete the full route in 4days.
Megan, 28, Dorset.
First long distance race.
I signed up to Dales Divide with my boyfriend, we’re doing it as a pair. I want to see if I can make it to the end in a decent time without dying.
I am most looking forward to eating whatever I like.
Sims, they/them, 32, Sheffield.
This is my first event of this nature – although I did cycle the Lakes and Dales Loop with Steezy last September.
My good pal (and one of 2022’s ) Anna Dews started the Dales Divide last year but unfortunately had to scratch due to mechanical issues. She asked me if I’d be keen to continue our tradition of doing fun outdoorsy things by having a go at the Dales Divide together this year and I thought it sounded like the kind of type 2 fun I enjoy.
I’m most looking forward to riding a bike with my friend, the 24 hour McDonalds in York and testing my resilience when things get tough.
Lynne, 49, Peebles.
This is my second event, I did Dales Divide last year. I loved the adventure last year, switching off from normal life and being off grid. Being outdoors and having the ability to travel so far and fast by bike is the best!
I am most looking forward to not getting lost, last year my new wahoo packed in late on the first evening- I spent the rest of the event trying to navigate by phone. I enjoyed the North York Moors last time and can’t wait troop over them again!
Hannah, 44, Callander.
It’s my first bikepacking event. Definitely!
I’m a solo parent working full time. I listened in to the Big Ride Gang online discussion about the Dales Divide as the children and I reached the final leg of an eight hour journey home after Christmas. I traipsed two tired children, one emancipated dog and seventeen (no joke) bags into the house with one hand – my phone in the other, as I listened to Jade Field and the gang inform, reassure and inspire. My sense of the Dales Divide shifted from being something beyond me and intimidating, to something possible to try for the first time. Next step was to message my beautiful cycling and most things buddy, Hannah Patching. I’d hoped she’d hesitate even for a moment and suggest something smaller to try first off but no…. We’re both going to give it a go…. 🙂
I’m most looking forward to riding with Hannah in the Yorkshire Dales for however long it takes us around people who are drawn to the same thing for the same reasons…
Jenni Myers, 34, Leeds
Not my first event. I’ve risen the Alba Ultra and scratched on GBDuro (it was too hot!).
I have signed up to Dales Divide to explore whether my love for ultra cycling lies in off road or on road. I prefer riding off road but haven’t had much success in off road ultras. I also feel like I have something to prove to myself after a string of failures at the end of last year.
I’m most looking forward to a McDonalds breakfast as I pass through York. Now I’ve said that I’ll either arrive at the wrong time or it will be closed.
Beth, 37, Bristol.
It’s my first Gravel event, but I did the Pan Celtic last summer. I’d heard Dales Divide was a good intro to multi-day off road events, plus I was hoping it would encourage me to get some early training in for this year’s Pan Celtic (it hasn’t, I’m wholly under prepared!).
I am most looking forward to the scenery! And hopefully beautiful weather too!
Hannah, 39, Edinburgh.
This is my first bike packing event, yes! I have previously completed a couple of road races (mid-pack, never up front!), but I have never completed anything multi-day or off-road. This is going to be a challenge, to say the least.
I have dreamed of bike packing adventures for years, but a combination of fear and a pesky pandemic have held me back from trying anything too adventurous, until now. I have spent hours watching and reading about some of the world’s most epic bike packing races from the comfort of my living room, wrapped in a fleecy blanket. It has dawned on me that I am always most drawn to the under-represented riders: the ones who look most like me, or who have their own barriers to overcome. While I was comfortably dreaming, as always, of what bike packing adventures might be in store for me over this past New Year, I stumbled across the Dales Divide and was immediately enticed by the focus on getting as many women and non-binary riders as possible to the start line. With very little contemplation, I signed up! I am yet to discover if this was a good idea for me, or just good marketing by DD. I guess we will find out soon.
I have the naïve assumption that the Dales Divide will be beautiful rolling hills with glorious sunshine and blue skies every day (sorry, everyone, for jinxing it), so obviously, I am most looking forward to being on my bike in beautiful conditions for a few days. In reality, I think it might be quite the opposite. Under that assumption, I am absolutely intrigued to find where my limit lies – physically and mentally – and seeing how close I can ride to it. I am also so looking forward to being out with loads of other like-minded folk on the trails and hopefully befriending a few other type-2 fun addicts like myself.
Penny, 47, Coventry.
I’ve been doing triathlon for 20years with lots of Ironman events, Time Trialling, swimming, running and bike touring. But this is my first off road, wild camping adventure. I have little experience riding off road and I previously swore I was too old for camping.
I’m doing Dales Divide for a new challenge that doesn’t involve racing the clock, obsessing about my watts or my race splits. I’ve struggled with stress over the last year and the Perimenopause and injury has sucked out my motivation and confidence – so the Dales is a chance to do something difference and have some fun. Plus while I’m riding my bike for 12hours a day I don’t have time to read emails or fret about my business.
I am most looking forward to some good scenery away from the city, having some fun with my friend Natalie who I’ll be riding with and meeting some new people.
I am Gill from York and I am doing the Dales Divide as an ITT the day before the Grand Depart, I must be back in York on Easter Monday to celebrate my Wedding Anniversary. Hopefully I will resist the temptation to stop there enroute and complete the journey.
Lesley, 47, East London but soon to be Isle of Skye.
I bought an mtb at the beginning of the year to thrash around forests with my bike buddy Tom, who will also be riding the event (hopefully together!).
I was hoping to enter the HT550 as I’m moving back to Scotland in the summer but I’m still relatively new to mtb bike packing so thought that the Dales Divide would be a great taster on the new wheels, and the perfect place to meet more women attempting to do similar things.
Abby, 34, Cheltenham.
This is my first (kind of) race! I was lucky enough to get a spot on the second Komoot Womens Rally – Montanas Vacias and I did the Torino Nice Rally after that.
To be honest, so many people told me how much fun Dales Divide is that I was getting massive fomo so I signed up last minute! I’m keen to see how far I can push my body and mind, the other rallies i’ve done were a similar distance but over a longer period, I’m hoping to do this in 4 days so that’s going to add a whole new layer of challenge (especially as I love a faff).
I’m most looking forward to seeing friends that I’ve made from previous events and rallies, it’s quite a small community so you see familiar faces all the time which is really comforting. I’m also looking forward to making brand new friends, especially more women! And I’ve heard a cheeky rumour about unbelievable chips in Scarborough, so I’m definitely looking forward to that.
Nicky, 33, North Yorkshire.
This is my second time at Dales Divide, and second time attempting an off-road ultra! I’ve done various ultra-distance events and races over the past few years, road and gravel based in the UK and Europe.
I’ve signed up for Dales Divide again to re-live the epic experience of exploring my home country and local trails across the Dales. I would like to think I am coming back stronger, having learnt lessons over the past year and to carry that forward for a more rewarding experience.
I’m most looking forward to the feeling of reaching the furthest east point at Scarborough, finding the strongest coffee going before cracking on with the return leg. The mental boost that comes from turning around to ride in the right direction towards the finish can’t be underestimated.
Rosie, 43, Tuxford. Busy working mum of three.
This is my first Enduro ‘bikepacking’ Gravel event, never bikepacked at all before. Have done long distance rides John O’Groats – Lands End, NC500 and London-Edinburgh-London as long distance and various other shorter length sportives and club rides before but never carried all my own stuff previously.
I decided to attempt Dales Divide as was on a zoom call through the Sisters in the Wild instagram page and felt completely inspired by the chat and advice on the call, I’ve been wanting to try bikepacking for ages now and thought this event might be a good one to have a go at for my first attempt. I’m also doing the ride as part of a charity fundraiser I’m doing for Bike the UK for MS.
I’m most looking forward to the challenge of riding completely self supported (famous last words) and hopefully meeting some like-minded people.
Lily, 29, Nottingham.
I did the Pennine Rally last year and had such a good time I went looking for more off-road adventures like this one. Not sure exactly what defines an ‘Ultra’ but Dales Divide will be my biggest cycling challenge yet.
I joined Steezy a couple of years ago and this gave me the opportunity to meet loads of rad people, ride my bike further than I ever thought and be inspired by all the incredible things other people in the group were doing. Previously I had shied away from cycling events, didn’t know anyone going and was put off by the ‘organised fun’ element so didn’t see the appeal. Steezy brought together a new community centered around having a good time and getting outdoors and I’ve been swept up in this excitement and signed up to Dales Divide. I plan on riding on my own, but just knowing there are loads others out there I might bump into on the route makes it even more possible.
I want to challenge myself, test my limits and go on more adventures but I don’t have loads of spare time or money. Dales Divide offered a ‘pre-planned’ option where I could just show up with my kit and follow someone else’s well-thought out route!
I’m excited for the peace of just riding for several days, focussing on what I need in that moment and exploring the lush countryside of the Yorkshire Dales. I’m also excited to test out some kit that my friend Alice has lent me!
Cat, 42, Edinburgh.
I’ve ridden the Highland Trail as part of the mass start and completed an ITT of the Lakeland 200 (setting the FKT for anti-clockwise). I signed up to Dales Divide to try a new event and explore a different part of the country. I’m also part of Big Ride Gang which is supporting more women and non-binary riders to participate this year. I’m looking forward to meeting people along the way and going on my first really big ride of the year.
I did my first two-day bikepacking trip with a friend in 2021 with a tent and then got a bivvie for a 3-day solo gravel bikepacking trip last Easter in the Yorkshire Dales where I planned a fun route that allowed me to battle up massive road climbs as well as ride techy terrain. I’ve been put off challenge rides as I don’t like a race vibe. I just love riding and being in stunning terrain.
I’m touring the Dales Divide on a Trek 1120. It has the fattest wheels I’ve ever ridden on – and I’ll be staying in cheap hostels and am taking a tent and cooking stuff – so I am definitely not racing. I am passionate about getting more women on bikes (and I am a Trek ambassador and an advisor to British Cycling on diversity) so I’m taking part to have fun and so that I can encourage more women to go backpacking – and to make up their own rules and turn a race into a tour.
I’m looking forward to the end! I’ll be proud of myself for riding a challenging route on challenging terrain. On the way, I’d like some good conversations. I’d originally hoped to ride with a friend but when she dropped out some months’ ago I figured I’d enjoy a solo trip. That said, I love meeting people on my rides – my recent training weekend in Yorkshire was really friendly – and fun (apart from falling in a river!)