Yorkshire Coast Gravel with Markus Stitz

3rd November 2023

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 342: Yorkshire Coast Gravel with Markus Stitz

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Markus Stitz

TOPICS: Two epic wet days riding in Yorkshire with gravel guru Markus Stitz

LINKS: Route YC. Bike & Boot hotel. LNER. Josh Reid’s YouTube channel.


[00:00:00] Welcome to episode 342 of the Spokesmen Cycling Podcast. This show was engineered on Friday 3rd of November, 2023.

The Spokesmen Cycling Roundtable Podcast is brought to you by Tern Bicycles. The good people at Tern are committed to building bikes that are useful enough to ride every day and dependable enough to carry the people you love. In other words, they make the kind of bikes that they want to ride. Tern has e bikes for every type of rider, whether you’re commuting, taking your kids to school, or even carrying another adult.

Visit www. ternbicycles. com [00:01:00] That’s T E R N bicycles. com to learn more. You may know Markus Stitz as Scotland’s very own German gravel guru, but I caught up with him in Yorkshire for two days of epic and rather wet riding. He’s been researching gravel and road rides for Route YC, a new brand for getting out and about on the Yorkshire coast.

I’m Carlton Reid, and I recorded audio with Markus as we rode on the cinder path between Scarborough and Whitby. This former railway line is one of the suggested rides that’ll go live on RouteYC. co. uk early next year. Also along for the ride was my endurance riding son. Josh, he’s not on the audio, that’s going to follow in a second, but he was filming beside us.

[00:02:00] So watch out for this video on his YouTube channel soon. In fact, there were three videographers on the trip, so we stopped lots. My video, short and sweet, is already on the hyphen spokesman dot com. Markus, I cannot see any whisky distilleries. I cannot see any young men in kilts. I cannot, we’re not, some puddles, but there are no lochks.

Um, what kind of part of Scotland have you brought me to here, Markus?

Um, Yorkshire.

This is a bit of a detour, literally, for you, isn’t it? Like, I mean, how come you’re in Yorkshire, Markus?

Yeah, it’s a, it’s a new, new territory for me. Um, I, I was approached by Tom Campbell, who [00:03:00] designed the North Coast 500 initially, and he was working on a project down here, and he was basically creating a number of routes down here for gravel bikes, road bikes, and touring bikes, and…

Due to the fact that I’ve done quite a bit of work of the same kind in Scotland and when I wrote Great British Travel Writer, I actually travelled a fair bit out of Scotland as well. Yeah, true. Um, yeah, it was, it was interesting to be commissioned. I think it’s, it’s been, it’s been interesting from a point of view that this has pretty much been a blank canvas for me, whereas in Scotland, most of the projects.

I had some sort of connection to the areas by either having lived there or travelled and, um, and this was, was slightly different about, but really enjoyable and it’s a beautiful part of the world. It’s [00:04:00] nice and what I loved about it is, it is very central. Yeah. It’s so much more accessible for. I better just describe what we’re going through because we are now going through quagmires, quite deep mud and it’s black mud.

Uh, and you could say it’s like cinders, because this is a cinder track. I’m just going to zip my top up here. Thank you. Thank you. So we’re going through black mud. Uh, we’re going underneath railway bridges. So clearly an old railway. Yes. Where have we come from and where are we going along this, the cinder track, Marcus?

So we’ve come from Scarborough. We joined the cinder track a little bit further on, so it starts in the town. But we went a little bit along the coast first and then joined it. And we’re heading to Whidbey on this. So, I [00:05:00] think it’s about 24 miles in total, this stretch. And, I mean, you were telling us before that it was going to be quite washed out.

Yeah. Is this as worse as it’s going to get worse than this? Um, this is possibly as, as soggy as it will get. It is. I’ve ridden this in, uh, in summer, and in summer it’s, it’s really enjoyable. Yeah, summer, it’s obviously, it’s dry. Now, they were talking about, uh, putting asphalt on the cinder track all the way, because then that would make a, you know, a Whitby to Scarborough.

But clearly they haven’t done that. I think there was a lot of protest to stop them doing that. So we did some stretches on asphalt, on tarmac, through town, but now we’re on the dirt. I mean, it’s quite okay here, but there are stretches where if you were on an everyday cycle, you wouldn’t want to go through that, and then even back further back there, [00:06:00] it was a lake.

That was, uh, something else. So this is, this is, I mean, the cinder track is like, it’s at the backbone of all your routes. Is it something that you think you’d use quite a lot to get from the variety of routes you’ve chosen? Yeah, it’s part of three routes. Um, I wouldn’t say it’s a back… Well, it’s kind of…

It’s possibly the longest continuous cycle track section along the coast. Um, but… The routes itself… It’s the road bikes that only take tarmac. If you go ahead there, Markus, I’ll catch you up. We can both carry on talking, don’t worry. Yeah, and… Thank you. Hello. Hey, uh, hi guys. Yeah, so there’s routes. Gravel bikes.

Road bikes and touring bikes. Alright, so we’re not just gravel bikes. I thought it was like, it’s only gravel. So this is, this is the whole commute then, that’s good. Yeah, so it’s, yeah. And there’s [00:07:00] also, so… The heart of the project is, uh… Went about 420 kilometres. I’ve forgotten how much that is in miles. I think 260 miles.

Um, so that’s a longer adventure route. But then there’s also a route which is shorter and suitable for riding on a weekend. Yeah. Uh, then a cycle touring route because further down south is Hull. What’s the route called? What’s the, what’s the, what are these routes? Route Yorkshire Coast. Yorkshire Coast, okay.

Um, but it does venture all of those roads, uh, routes. I think I have a nice mix of coastal riding, but also you go a little bit further inland because you’ve got the Yorkshire moors. Yep. And the vaults as well. And then, I particularly like the southern section actually, um, around Holderness. Because it’s, it’s quite flat, um, but quite interesting riding.

Like it’s not, it’s not flat riding where you get easily bored. [00:08:00] It’s um, yeah, really nice. Small villages and, um, sand dunes and, yeah, it’s just a really, I think that’s what I, what I do like about this region. It’s, there’s a huge variety of landscapes in a very, very small area if you travel through it. And how long have you been working on it, Mark?

I mean, you’ve done this, like, a lot of it in the winter. So it’s going to be a huge surprise to you in the summer, or have you been working on it so long that you’ve done the whole, you’ve done every season? So, I had initial discussions in April, and then I got commissioned in early June. Yeah. Early June.

And then ever since then, pretty much on and off, with a few other projects in between as well. Um, but, yeah, pretty much since the beginning of June. I’ve been doing this. And then we, we, we joined you last night. So I’m with, uh, we’re with Josh. So I’ve got [00:09:00] two intrepid world explorers here uh, helping me.

And actually very much helped me because I had a brake block, or a brake pad problem. And uh, the two world expeditionists just sorted me out. I didn’t have to do a thing, it was great. Uh, so I’m with Josh, my son, and with Marcus here, obviously. Riding along the cinder track, between Scarborough and Whitby.

And then we’re going to be going inland a bit. But when we met you last night, because we stayed, I mean I stayed there before with a dog. And it’s a fabulous hotel for dogs, for the same reasons it’s a fabulous hotel for cyclists actually. And that’s the Bike and Boot in Scarborough. And that was a brilliant hotel.

So just describe what it, if you’re a cyclist and you’re coming to Scarborough, What are you going to get from the bike and boot? I think, as a cyclist, it’s possibly the most important thing is you can lock your bike away securely, and you can wash it. [00:10:00] There’s a fantastic bike wash there, isn’t there?

Which is particularly good if you’ve just cycled along the coast and got your bike coated in salt water. Yeah. Um, so the bike facilities are pretty top notch. They are really nice. I, I just, I also think it’s really friendly staff and, and, and the rooms are lovely as well. I think it’s got a, it’s got a nice, I like quirky places.

I like places that have character. I mean, I’m equally happy to stay in my tent for the night. Yeah. Doesn’t have to be indoors all the time. But if I stay indoors, it’s just nice to have somewhere where you kind of feel like I’m welcomed here. Um, I’ve got a nice comfy place. I’ve got a coffee machine in the rooms as well, which I think is particularly helpful.

That, that always helps, definitely. I’m a bit of a night owl and early riser, so. Um, and actually, the thing we, we missed, because we came in late, they, they’ve got free cake at 4 o’clock as well. This is why it’s perfect for cyclists. Free cake, 4 o’clock. There you go. So far, I’ve mostly missed [00:11:00] that, because I was mainly out riding my bike at that time.

So you stayed there not just last night, you stayed there previously? Yeah, I stayed there quite a few times now, yeah. Yeah, it’s a cool hotel. Uh, now you’re, you’re not at the hotel, but you are with certain people. So tell me who you were filming with yesterday, that people will, will know from your videos.

Yeah, so Mark, Mark Beaumont, good friend of mine, and Jenny Graham. Um, we’ve… We’ve actually done quite a few projects together. We’ve done a film last year in Argyll in Scotland. And we bunched up again this year to do this. Yeah, it’s quite fun. I think it’s interesting because we are very similar in the way that we’ve, the three of us have ridden around the world.

Mark and Jenny hold world records, I don’t. Um, but I’m okay with that. I’ll cycle at a single speed so that possibly counts [00:12:00] as well. That’s a world record in itself. Come on. Going round on a single speed. Yeah. Um, so yeah, it’s been really nice just to kind of ride around. And the nice thing is, like, I guess we are, all the three of us, function really well independently.

But it’s also quite nice having the three of us together. And… It’s just, it’s the old crew really, isn’t it? It’s like, absolutely, it’s your classic. So you’ve, even though, and that’s the classic Scottish crew. Yeah. So even though people would think, oh well, you know, you’re going to be doing a route in Scotland.

You’ve actually come to Yorkshire. You’ve transplanted to, uh, uh, uh, to Yorkshire. Yeah. So describe those routes again then. What, what have, what have you got? What kind of, what’s the most challenging? And what’s the easiest? And then maybe we’ll get to the middle bit. Yeah, so the most challenging is, uh, I guess I would call it a four to five day [00:13:00] route.

Um, the adventure route. Um, we, we, possibly we give it a more distinctive name, but that’s what the working title is at the moment. Um. Which is a good point. So, would, this is not actually open yet as such? When is it launching? When is the actual… to the Yorkshire. Yeah. Roots will be launching in early 2024, so at the end, back end of January next year.

Um, just hopefully in time for people making plans to plan their holiday next year on a bike. Right, so I interrupted you there Markus, sorry, just to get, you know, exactly when this is opening. So you’re starting on the challenging, so four, five day challenging route. Yeah. Is that linking every single route up, or is that like a big circle?

What is that? It’s kind of, in a way, it is a circular route that’s, which kind of encloses all the other routes which are in there. Um, but it’s a route, a route by itself and that one is, I guess it’s designed for people who either want to get into bikepacking [00:14:00] and don’t mind having a longer route, but something which is a bit less challenging to start off with so you can ease in over the first two days.

And then once you hit the North York moors, things get a bit more remote and a bit steeper. So it starts in Scarborough, heads down the coast, beautiful coastline. Basically what we’re doing now? Is that the first part of it? That will be the last part actually, so we’re going in reverse at the moment.

Right. The last section will be coming down from Bridge Beach, Scarborough, on the cinder track. Um, but yeah, you start off on the coast, go all the way down to Spurn Point, which is a super interesting place. Um, it’s a sand pit sticking out into the Humber and then back through the inland actually. So once you’ve done the coast pit, um, you go a little bit further inland, um, and then into the

moors. So through the walls first and then into the moors and then [00:15:00] north of the River Esk to Whitby and then back down to Scarborough. Yeah. And sand pit. Yeah, there’s quite a bit of climbing in that as well. But, it’s, I guess I design routes this, I think that’s, and this is, this is, this is, I guess the result of, of having done this a number of times now.

I guess I look at surface, I look at gradients, I look at how this works together so, you know, you don’t really want to batter people continuously with one steep hill after another one. Um, a nice mix of it is welcome. Um, but it’s also looking at facilities for cyclists along the way. So, um, is there, is there accommodation?

Are there places for people to get some food? I think it’s super important to kind of look at public transport as well. So actually before I did any of the routes here, [00:16:00] I had a look at how people can get here by train. And then kind of… Because it’s really good to understand what the main routes are and how people can get here and then kind of looking at starting points.

So the reason why Scarborough, for example, is the starting point. It’s just the most accessible place if you take the train. Yes, so back in the bike and boot in the, I don’t know about your room, Marcus, but say in my room there was a poster there 1930s poster for LNER, in fact. Yeah. When, you know, they were doing holiday trips to, to Scarborough.

So it is accessible by train, very accessible. We certainly got here by, by train. So we took the LNER from Newcastle, got to York. I mean, it was challenging weather yesterday. So, you know, a lot of Scotland has been inaccessible to train just recently. And parts of Yorkshire were [00:17:00] inaccessible to train yesterday.

But we did get here, about an hour. An hour late once we got the, the train from York to, to Scarborough. Got to the bike and boot and just about made it before, uh, the chef went home for the night. So we had a couple of burgers while we got in. Now, this is a beautiful route, so we’re, we’re expecting tons of rain the next day.

But right now, we’re, we’re kind of wet underfoot, but… We’re dry, we’re dry. So we’ve got squirrels going between our wheels almost. We’ve got this amazing churned up black mud. Which is where the cinder name comes from. Um, but it is beautiful. Now what we’ve got coming up so we’re gonna, in a minute we’re gonna have we’re gonna have views in about Half an hour probably to, to Robin Hood’s Bay.

What, what, what route, what can you [00:18:00] see from the cinder track? So this, this first section is, yeah, quite enclosed in the woodland. It’s beautiful. And then once we come to Ravenscar, Um, which has a lot of interesting history behind it, because it used to be, well, supposed to be a big town, but it never went, took off.

Um, so from Ravenscar onward, you’ll get some amazing views right over the bay. over to Robin Hoods Bay. And then from Robin Hoods Bay, we would have a climb up again and then views towards Whitby and the Abbey. Ooh! Ooh! Yeah, Mark has had a bit of a slip there. I’m doing my cyclocross exercise here. Yeah. Um, I mean the track is definitely quite cut up, isn’t it?

Yeah, and then yeah, I just think Whitby is such a beautiful setting, the town. And there’s also For anyone who is super brave, possibly we shouldn’t, shouldn’t encourage people to do that. But there’s a, there’s a road called [00:19:00] Church Lane, which is a extremely steep cobbled road. Um, so there’s a… Coming down from the…

Coming down from the Abbey. The Abbey in Wembley, yeah. Past the graveyard that inspired Dracula. Yeah. Bram, Bram Stoker. Bram Stoker. Yeah. Um, yeah. We tried to ride that yesterday. I think we were all brave enough for the first bit and then did, um, kind of good production over braveness, braveness and push the bike for the last bit.

Yeah. I, I have heard that someone actually circled up there on the flat bike, so it must be doable, but I think you need five inch tires for good, for a good traction. But yeah, it’s a, this is just a really nice mix of. route and some villages and some, some really nice coastal scenery, uh, big cliffs [00:20:00] coming up soon.

Yeah. So I’ve cycled here tonnes. I’ve cycled on the cinder track tonnes and it’s a, it’s a, it’s a great route. Certainly it links into lots of the walled routes that I’m guessing you’re using quite a lot. Yeah. But right now. Yeah. Yeah. We’re going to cut to a break and we’re going to go across to my colleague David as I struggle through these big, big gaps.

Take it away, David.

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And we’re back with Marcus and with Josh somewhere behind. I’m on the cindy track still. And Marcus, before the break, you were telling us, uh, about the, the long route, the challenging route. Yeah. So, first of all, tell us what we’re doing today.

Where are we ending up? So, we’re getting to Whitby. We thought we were getting to Whitby for breakfast, but we’re not. We’re going to get breakfast, or have breakfast at a hotel, but we’re going to get to Whitby. Where are we going from Whitby? Um, there’s, I guess, kind of depends on what time of the day we get there, but roughly, we [00:22:00] head west from there.

So, we either go… Above the Asquarelle to the north, or to the Asquarelle, uh, towards Crosmont. And then to Gauffland, and I’ll be staying in Gauffland. Which is a, it’s like a proper Yorkshire Moors village, with sheep grazing the streets. Yes. I remember the first time I came there, I was just like, this is um…

This is very interesting. And it’s got, I think I, I, I get a, Um, I, I like steam railways. Yeah, I was going to say there’s a railway through there, isn’t there? Yeah. So you can actually take a railway. Can you take your bikes on that railway? Yes, I think you can. Um, they have bike spaces. Um, I haven’t, I haven’t managed to get it yet.

Just done several times of filming steam trains along the way.

I’ll [00:23:00] hold your bike.

This way. There you go. And we’re going through a nice station here. Yeah, I think that used to be a old platform. Yeah. Nice brick and a concrete topping. You can tell this was a railway and a beautiful little cottage here. That was the railway station. Yeah, it would be nice to take the train here. I think it must be an absolutely amazing journey.

Yeah. So there’s somebody just living there. That’s not B& B, it’s not a restaurant, not a cafe. That’s just somebody living there in the station. That’s cool. Yeah. Right, so we’re ending up in Gowtham. And then, if we’ve got some daylight, I’ve asked you if we can crack on and maybe go to Wealdale. Is Wealdale on one of your routes?

We’re not going off route there? It is, um… Yeah, the actual Roman road itself isn’t on it, but the road basically next [00:24:00] to it is on it, yeah. Yeah, so Weald, so that, that, well, it’s still part of your route if we go through Wealdale. Have a, a look at the, the arch… Yeah. Just to, to, to explain, I came to Gowthland and to Wealdale, in fact, Wealdale Lodge, when it was still a youth hostel, and this is 25 years ago, when I was a college student, so I did my geography coursework.

in this part of the world, so I know it well. And I know how gorgeous it is. Uh, no motorcycles on this path, says that sign. Josh is coming through, so we’ll leave the gate open. So we’re gonna go and hopefully go and see the Roman road. And then we are staying in Gotland. Yes. And then, so that’s where we’re going.

So how about, uh, How about telling us about maybe the simplest routes, the, the easiest routes you can do. Are these family friendly routes? Yes. Um, there’s, so there’s one, I, [00:25:00] just out of the top of my head, the shortest route is a, is a crabber route around Friley. So it starts in Friley and then kind of meanders through the Lettish farmland um, on the back of Friley, and then you come back to Friley.

That’s about it. I think less than 10 miles in total. Um, Um, so that’s certainly. Then there’s another one up in Whitby which is a bit more hilly, but takes you on the cinder track for a short section, and then through the Asprelli and back. I guess the cinder track if it’s, if it’s in summer. section, so I particularly recommend going from Whidbey to Robin Hoods Bay and back.

That would be a nice family friendly route because it’s flat ish. Um, and there’s some nice places to get some food in Robin Hoods Bay on Whidbey. Yeah. Um, [00:26:00] and, and the other, I think the other really interesting, which is not like a route in itself, but, um, If, one thing which feels like an adventure but you don’t really go far is to head out to Spurn Point in the south.

Um, it’s a bit pushing your bike over, over the beach for a wee while, but once you get on that tarmac road which is still there, down to the lighthouse, it’s just such a really nice place with loads of birds. So, if you’re into having a bit of wildlife on your cycling trip. That’s the place to go. Thanks to Marcus Stitz there, and thanks to you for listening to episode 342 of the Spokesman podcast, brought to you in association with Turn Bicycles.

Show notes and more can be found at the spokesman. com. The next episode will be the fourth dedicated to cycle navigation apps, as I [00:27:00] talk to Komoot. That show will be out later in the month. But meanwhile, get out there and ride.[00:28:00]

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