Charlotte and I had been wanting to try out riding a tandem, and the best place to do this is at JD Tandems in Gargrave, North Yorkshire, which just so happens to be about 15 miles from the checkpoint at Settle.
The folks at JD Tandems were ready for us when we arrived shortly before 10am after a drive of just over 2 hours from Newcastle. We had arranged to try out a couple of tandems, one with flat bars at the front and another with drops. After some tuition on how to start and stop, which initially involved Charlotte riding on the back whilst piloted around the small car park by our tutor, we pedalled off up the rode for a mile or so before returning to try out the second machine.
Fortunately both of us preferred the second tandem and so we got ready for our planned route of just over 30 miles to Settle and back. After a quick call into the local co-op for a snack to keep us going (it was already after 11) we set off up the road only for me to realise I had left my phone (containing the question to be answered in Settle) in the car, so it was back to the car again before finally getting going.
Our route had been planned to be largely on small country lanes and avoiding the most severe of local climbs. And so we set off towards Malham before turning southwest and dropping down to cross over the A65 at Hellifield where we opted to continue on past the café there to find lunch in Settle.
Leaving Hellifield we took possibly the narrowest lane I have ever come across, initially with perfect tarmac but a short distance later requiring careful steering between grass in the centre and nettles on the side. The lane wasn't too long, and on reaching the end of it we found a car whose driver had been recommended that route in reverse by his satnav. We managed to point him to a better alternative.
It was fortunate that we hadn't met a vehicle on that stretch of our route, but a little further on we had to stop to allow a tanker to pass in the other direction which he did far too fast and close for comfort. Whilst the route we had chosen for the day was nice, we did find the traffic surprisingly very busy on much of it.
We made it into Settle for about 1pm to find that it was the weekend of their Folk Gathering, and hence the market square and cafes were packed. Fortunately we found a café down a small side street which was largely empty and were treated to a live rendition of Scarborough Fair over lunch. Returning to the market place we caught the last dance of the Flag Crackers of Craven, the first Morris side I have seen with blacked faces, something I imagine is quite scary for young children!
Settle is another of those places I have previously visited by bike in between my periods of collecting cycle quest checkpoints. Last time was in June 2011 when I stopped there for lunch with Alan and Tyrone as we rode the Way of the Roses cycle route from Morecambe to Bridlington. This time I called in for the answer to the checkpoint at Settle railway station before we retraced our route out of the town for a few miles.
We found we made much better progress on the tandem in the afternoon, with more confidence on the downhills and maintaining our momentum better on the uphills, even overtaking a few cyclists in the process. Our biggest challenge on the return was a substantial climb at Nappa including a maximum gradient of 9%. With low gearing we made it up to be rewarded with a largely downhill final few miles to Gargrave. On entering the village we gave the brakes a good test as I failed to spot a large tractor bearing down on us and had to make an emergency stop!
We made use of the Dalesman café in Gargrave to have a cup of tea and gather our thoughts on our tandem trial. Overall the ride had been a success, although Charlotte's wrists were painful following the ride and we both found it a little less comfortable than our own bikes due to being less able to shuffle around or get out of the saddle during the ride. We shall now have to decide whether it is worth us buying our own tandem.
The checkpoint at Settle was my 201st cycle quest checkpoint out of 402, and therefore marks the halfway point of my quest. It was good to mark the occasion with another new cycle quest experience!