Take a Ride on the Edge:
A Two-Day Bikepacking
Adventure in the North Pennines
A journey on two-wheels brings a wealth of experiences; the highs, the lows and all that’s in between, overcoming challenges and making lasting memories. It’s clear to see why lovers of the outdoors and cyclists alike are venturing into the world of bikepacking.
There’s a belief that bike packing is expensive, challenging and complicated, however, we wanted to show that it doesn't need to be. With a changing world and an uncertain few years ahead, this trip showed that you don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy an adventure on two-wheels.
Nestled in Cumrbia’s Eden Valley, Penrith was the start location for our two-day bike packing trip. Taking three Lapierre ambassadors, Kevin, Maz, and Chris, through the historic, rugged landscape of the North Pennines, to finish their adventure on the banks of the River Tyne in Hexham.
This often forgotten part of the UK, stays clear of the more well known neighbouring Lake District and Yorkshire Dales, presenting new challenges for the riders and their bikes. Seeped in British history, Cumbria and the North Pennines display scenes of impressive viaducts from the Industrial era, and historical landmarks such as Hadrian’s Wall. It also allowed us to go car free with easy trains from start to finish, including a direct train to and from London in just over 3 hours.
We equipped Kevin, Maz and Chris with the latest Lapierre Edge, a rugged and capable Hardtail perfect for a weekend bikepacking adventure. With the range starting at £399 and all models coming with a quality hydroformed aluminium frame which is light and tough, hydraulic disc brakes and terrain taming 100mm travel front forks.The Edge is the ultimate entry-level adventure bike, whether you're hitting the trails with friends and family, or taking on a bigger multi day adventure. Gravel bikes move over.
Kevin, Maz and Chris arrived at Penrith station, bikes loaded with kit and food for the two-day cross-Pennine adventure.
Just 18.5km into the route, sits the picturesque Blencarn Lake with a backdrop of the North Pennines and Cross Fell. The Lake provided an ideal respite before the riders took on their first challenge of the trip, Cross Fell, the highest point in the area.
Sitting at 893m, Cross Fell was set to be the most challenging part of the route for Kevin, Maz, and Chris. The long and challenging classic mountain ascent took them through open bridleway, and up onto the rocky trail leading to open moorland. Exposed to the elements, the riders were rewarded with views across the Eden Valley in the distance, and eventually through veiled drift fog, the warming site of Greg’s Hut, the highest Bothy in England.
For those who aren’t familiar, bothies are a basic stone building owned by the Mountain Bothy Association (MBA) that are free to use. Generally, they are just places to stay for a night when out on hikes, but are primarily emergency shelters if the weather conditions turn bad.
Greg’s Hut was adopted by a climbing group in 1968 after John “Greg” Gregory lost his life in a climbing accident, and they set about preserving his name to look after others on the moors of the north Pennines.
After 20 minutes of fire lighting, Kevin eventually lit the wood burning stove to warm the coffee for the group. Reluctantly, prising themselves from the warmth of the fire, the riders pressed on. Continuing along the route across the gamekeepers track over the moors, passing Beldy waterfall and Nenthead lead mines, to arrive at a hotel Maz had chosen for the group in Alston. The Nent Hall Country House Hotel provided a warming retreat from the elements, and is well worth a stay and take a look at their incredible stuffed animals. After a hearty dinner at the pub in front of a blazing fire, the riders regaled their experience to the locals and young farmers making the most of their Friday night.
With heavy legs and full bellies from the enormous breakfast, the riders rolled out early to a grey and dreary day to tackle the second day of their adventure. The 66km route would take them from right the way to Hexham, showcasing dramatic landscapes, old railway lines, roman forts and the legendary Hadrian’s Wall, something Chris had wanted to see since his childhood.
Easing themselves into the day, the route took in the former railway line and now current Tyneside trail. Kevin, Maz, and Chris cruised through arches of golden trees, deep dark cuttings along one of the flattest routes in the area. At the end of the railway line, they were greeted by Lambley Viaduct to cross the River South Tyne, with its elegant arches steeped in the history of Britain's industrial past.
Jolting between the epoques, and joining the Roman roads that form part of Route 68 of the National Cycle Route, the route is littered with the ruins of Roman forts before riding parallel to Hadrian’s Wall.
No long distance ride would be complete in the autumn without disappearing into a pub on route, and the Milecastle Inn skirting Haltwistle proved more than up to the task. Devouring chips, sandwiches and more coffee than could wake the dead, the riders were fuelled for the final push to make their 16:45 train back to Penrith from Hexham.
Rolling straight from the pub the now soggy but determined trio, stopped for their first sighting of Hadrian's Wall. The Wall drapes itself across the northern reaches of the former roman empire that stood to separate their domain from the Celts. No wall could keep the Lapierre riders out and finally the sun came out putting smiles on faces and filling legs with good vibes.
Unfortunately due to a lack of time keeping, and maybe stopping at the pub for a little longer than planned, the riders quickly realised they’d be unable to make their train at Hexham. So with quick thinking, Chris spotted Haydon bridge close to the route and a small diversion was made to get the train back to Penrith where the adventure began. Chris afterall had a mammoth journey back south to Cornwall to complete.
Descending into the sleepy riverside town of Haydon bridge in dappled sunlight, the riders reflected upon their adventure. Here are some of their top tips and best bits.
Planning Is Key
For this trip, Komoot was the go-to route planner. Apps like this allow you to connect the key places you want to go, on the nicest and most appropriate roads for your particular bike. These apps easily allow you to change and update the route if you need to, like our riders did. It’s always worth bringing along an old-fashioned OS Map as back up just in case technology fails.
When planning your route, it’s always worth planning in stops. Checking the local area for what’s about and finding bike-friendly pub and/or cafe stops. Stopping at a sensible point in the day gives you the opportunity to resupply, reset, and most importantly, enjoy the beauty of wherever you find yourself.
Happy Campers or a Night at the Ritz
There’s nothing stopping you from submerging yourself into the full bikepacking experience and camping. In the UK, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to camping. With a number of sites available all across the country, and of course the ability to wild-camp in Scotland, there are plenty of opportunities to find a good spot along your route, and embrace all that nature has to offer.
This being said, there’s also no shame in treating yourself to a night in a hotel or hostel. Our riders opted for a hotel stay to allow them to pack extra-light, get more miles in, a comfortable night’s sleep, and easily access a hearty breakfast and dinner. The hotel also allowed them to encounter the friendly-nature of the locals, and get a ‘proper’ northern experience.
If you don’t already have camping gear, a hotel or hostel can be lighter on the legs and the wallet. Not only are you getting out of carrying bulky sleeping bags and divvy bags, it can save you from splashing out on all the relevant equipment to getting a comfortable night’s sleep under the stars.
When packing, it’s crucial to make enough food for your trip, as well as having a plan for ‘proper’ meals. Eating little and often can help prevent any upset stomachs, and if you’re taking gels, make sure you’re well accustomed to them to avoid any unwanted surprises (if you know, you know).
It’s best to carry items that are going to travel well, and can be easily accessed in your bags. Some of our rider’s favourites included Stroopwafles, energy chews, and bananas; all of which can be easily stored in jersey pockets or handlebar bags. When planning your route, plan stops in towns or villages that will have a shop or petrol station just in case you need to top up on supplies.
Help keep morale high and plan in pub and coffee stops along your route. Some would argue that an autumn bikepacking adventure isn’t complete without a cosy pub-lunch stop - just make sure there’s somewhere safe to leave your bike.
You Don’t Need All the Gear To Have an Idea
The key to enjoying a long ride is not speed or aerodynamics, or money spent; It’s about enjoyment, practicality, adaptability and sharing that with friends. That's where the Edge range proved itself as a valuable and worthy companion on any off road adventure. Priding itself on its rugged durability and comfortably tackling a multitude of terrains, the Edge proved that you don’t need to spend a fortune to go on an adventure.