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If there is one thing that Charles Oxtoby loves more than cycling through the magnificent Yorkshire landscape it is helping other people to discover the delights that cycling through God’s Own County has to offer.
A founder member of the once defunct Ilkley Cycling Club, that was re-established in 2011, Charles has been riding the roads of the Yorkshire Dales for decades. Having organised tours and trips around the UK and Europe for around 10 years, his most recent venture was and is Yorkshire Velo Tours.
Yorkshire Velo Tours was established in 2015 and run a series of tours, rides and events designed for riders of all abilities throughout the year. Charles knows the best routes, climbs, scenery and most importantly the essential café stops – it also helps that he is one of the nicest people you could wish to meet, a trait which he has seemingly passed on to his helpful and amiable team.
YVT had been toying with the idea of offering team building days for a while and, knowing how much the WTY team loves a new challenge offered us the chance to be the guinea pigs.
We cordially accepted.
Before our trip, Charles kept us all up to date and helped to build the anticipation as he worked on creating the perfect bespoke route that would suit everyone’s ability.
We began the day in Ben Rhydding at the Wheatley Arms, which sits just below the Cow and Calf rocks on the iconic Ilkley Moor, a King of the Mountains in the 2015 Tour de Yorkshire. Here we were greeted by an enthusiastic Charles and his friendly team, who showed us inside so we could devour as many pastries and cups of coffee as we could before we set out on the 40-mile route.
In the meantime, Chris from Hopey Bicycle Repairs prepped our bicycles, ensuring chains were oiled and tyres were pumped up to the optimal pressure.
As we left the Wheatley to grab our bikes, Charles lead an in depth briefing on the day’s activity and road safety on group riding for those less experienced riders in the group. After a quick team photo, we were on our way, the grand depart (some would say the grandest since 2014..).
From Ben Rhydding we travelled in two groups to Ilkley, the beautiful spa town featured in the 2014 Tour de France. Then to Addingham where we joined this year’s route of the Tour de Yorkshire towards the Yorkshire Dales, it was about this point that everyone had got to grips with handling their road bikes.
Through Addingham we swung a right up the road to the Bolton Abbey estate, the Yorkshire home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire and, as we tackled the rolling hills of the Yorkshire Dales, group leader Gill came into her own with keeping the group engaged with the surroundings, pointing out the Priory as we shared stories of our fond memories of our times in this corner of Yorkshire.
We stopped by the Cavendish Memorial Fountain for a quick snap and a swig of water; all in preparation to hit the road towards Burnsall.
A couple of miles along one of the group was lucky enough to get a puncture (yes, lucky), as across the valley we caught glimpse of the picturesque Simon’s Seat, before we approached the sweeping downhill right hand turn into Burnsall.
Having found our feet tyres, we decided to have some fun. With a few tricky little hills coming up we started our own King of the Mountains competition. James from Velo Tours knew the area very well and included any short ascent in the contest, although he won most of the climbs, this added another aspect to the ride; and this of course continued until the end – here at WTY we don’t give up easily.
Halfway through the ride we stopped for lunch at Kilnsey Park Estate, in the heart of Wharfedale with fantastic views of the Crag. In the café, they seemed to be very used to 20 cyclists bounding through the door, demanding carbs! We sat down and immediately ordered our stodge, along with a sugary drink or two; with some of the group trying to fit the stereotype by ordering a varying range of coffees. With the two groups now together, we traded thoughts on the ride so far. Some of the non-cyclists were already searching for road bikes on their phones! The cycling bug was alive and well.
After refuelling, Charles led us back towards Ilkley, this time north of the River Wharfe through the quaint Dales villages Grassington, Hebden and Appletreewick. This is where the King of the Mountains really started to hot up. There were a few steep ones along the way and a memorable chase up the climb near Howgill was very tightly contested.
With the competition now over, we began the peaceful roll back into Ilkley where we reflected on the ride and how much fun we had had as an organisation. As the first corporate experience Charles had put together, it couldn’t have gone better. As a team, we supported each other up the tricky climbs and as legs began to get tired we willed each other on.
For some of us, 40 miles was a huge achievement and to return to the pub all on wheels that was a success.
Cycling has all the ingredients to provide people with the perfect social group activity.
Charles and his team know Yorkshire, they know cycling and they know how to have fun. With Yorkshire Velo Tours they have managed to pull them all together and, having seen it for ourselves first hand, we can honestly say without hesitation that this is a real recipe for success.
Vive la YVT.