Helvellyn Ridge & The Old Coach Road Mountain Bike Route
Our second Helvellyn route (the first is here) takes a slightly different approach. We tried to consider which of the many bridleways on the ridge are actually the most ridable, and this is what we came up with.
This route starts one the Thirlmere side of the Helvellyn range, from the car park at Thirlspot. We climb from here on an old pony track onto the ridge, a lot of which is surprisingly rideable. After a quick there-and-back of the summit (ok then, maybe not quick!), the route follows the whole ridge from south to north before descending from Great Dodd on grassy singletrack. Finally, a blast along the Old Coach Road and a short road section gets you back to the car.
Start this route at Thirlspot, or one of the other nearby laybys or car parks. Go through the yard of the Thirlspot Inn and through the gate signposted bridleway. Follow the track over the field and over the bridge.
You will reach a sign post, pointing left and right for a footpath and back where you've just been as a bridleway. This sign is wrong as there are two bridleways straight ahead of you. Carry on to the stone signpost, saying 'Helvellyn Straight Up' and take a left here and look at for a faint track leading diagonally up the mountain, take this route. This path heads towards Fisherplace Gill before switching back on itself and continuing onto the ridge.
Where a track seems to head for the summit of White Side, ignore it. Instead continue on the contour-hugging lines of the lower bridleway as they're much more rideable. This will take you around White Side to meet the ridge bridleway between the peaks of White Side and Lower Man.
Turn right onto this path, heading south now along the ridge. Ride for as long as possible until you have no choice but to shoulder the bike for the final slog up Lower Man. Once you've reached the summit however, the rest of the way to Helvellyn's summit is easily rideable. Of course this little detour to the summit is optional, but if you haven't been up here before it's definitely recommended, just wait till you see the view!
When you're ready to continue, retrace your steps down Helvellyn and then Little Man, but carry on straight past the bridleway that got you onto the ridge and climb to the summit of Whiteside. Climb again from here onto Raise. The descent of this summit is fast, so enjoy it! Heading north along the ridge, descend White Side to the junction with Sticks Pass and continue straight over, climbing onto Stybarrow Dodd. Continue this high-ridge adventure past Watsons Dodd and onto Great Dodd which is your final summit before the descent begins.
Head north from the summit, following the small cairns down this steep grassy track. Soon the track becomes less steep and more defined and as it does, it also becomes much more enjoyable. This superb singletrack across Matterdale Common is probably the best descent of the Helvellyn ridge, and it leads all the way to the Old Coach Road, losing over 400m of height in the process in a distance of about 4km.
At the end of this lovely section is another mountain biking classic, the Old Coach Road. Take a left onto it and follow its twists and turns for the 6km (4mi) or so of downhill that gets you back to the road at St John's In The Vale. This leaves just a tarmac section to get back to the car. Turn left and spin the last few kilometers back to Thirlspot.
Points of Interest
Helvellyn is the highest peak legally accessible by mountain bike in England.
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