In February the Steezy Collective were solidifying up plans for 2022 when adventure rep, Jade, mentioned that she was taking on the legendary Highland Trail 550. This route, also created by Alan Goldsmith: Mountain Bike Route Master, is a 550 mile off-road, ultra-distance race with a average finish time of around a week. Jade, being the gravel bikepacking machine she is, signed up but wanted a little practice and thus, the Steezy Lakeland 200 project was born.
Googling the Lakeland 200 it is associated with such terms like “… is it hard?” of “Lakeland 200 hike-a-bike” and then pulls up the record - Chris Hope, record holder – 16 hours 45 mins. We worried that we’d bitten off more than we could chew. A little reassurance from Alan himself and we knew the best way to tackle this mammoth route was in 5 days. 200km may not seem that beefy, but with only 65% of the route being rideable and 6000m of climbing we decided this was the best way to go.
Picking the dates we headed out in mid-March; a gamble with the weather, but, tourist free and far enough away from the Dales Divide that Taylor and Jade would recover in time. So we created our packing lists and knew that in cold temperatures and darker mornings we were in desperate need of one thing, some good food for camping which is where Something Good comes in. 5 days with 2 nights wild camping, 1 night at a campsite and 1 at a hostel meant we were very likely going to have to carry at least 4 meals worth of food at a time. The Western Lake District can be remote, with only a few small shops and cafes with limited opening hours. We needed some lightweight but nutritious food and reached out to Something Good! At first we thought this would just be camping food, but when we reached Keswick at 10pm on a weekend the shops were shut and the youth hostel bar was closed, we found out it’s perfect half-asleep, kettle food!
So we had our kit, who were we?
Jade: took on the Lakeland 200 on a gravel bike.
Kitty: organiser, but potentially not the biggest fan of hike-a-bike.
Alice: the local who knows the Lakes riding, but maybe not all the hiking we did.
Taylor: the vibe train, brings good vibes but also some good snack concoctions.
Vanessa: who didn’t really know what she was letting herself in for but smiled all the way.
Pau: so much experience mountain-biking and bikepacking, but Pau had never been wild camping before!
With all the food packed and our tents, kit and Vanessa’s sit mat packed up (and the mat swiftly confiscated!) we set off from Staveley with hopes of wild-camping near the Langdales. Day 1 was a breeze, we laughed, ate, rode and enjoyed everything this gift of sunny weather had to offer. A camp spot was scoped out and we ended up near the top of a techy climb at Iron Keld. We sat in the sunset, enjoying some laughter and food. We thought life couldn’t get any better, well we were right and wrong at the same time.
Day 2 rolled around and we had a lot more riding to do as well as a LOT more pushing. We rode/pushed up to the Old Man of Coniston and descended in the dark towards Eskthwaite, a pub dinner and a stealth camp left us a little disorientated as we woke up to find ourselves on a dis-used river ford. With a pub dinner we had a spare pack of Something Good, the only solution - breakfast and we discovered that actually, there is no right time for a cheeky Miso Beetroot Quinoa. Trust us, this is the breakfast of champions.
Day 3, we don’t talk about day 3. But, if we must describe it in a sentence it would be: starts off like a grand day out, ends with carrying bikes up a Lake District scramble into Keswick. This was the night we discovered Something Good and a youth hostel kettle is the only way to feel human again!
Day 4 was everyone’s favourite day. The riding was much more akin to a smooth bikepacking off-roader. Way more double track, single track smoothness and some juicy climbs that you could do on the bike. We booked into the Sykeside campsite on Brotherswater and headed in to book into the camping, here we were warned about the Badgers who ate campers’ food. Naturally, everyone laughed this off - who has ever heard of a badger eating sealed food? Pau found out the next morning. Her Something Good Chipotle Cauliflower Lentils were all devoured and the only evidence was the packet.
Day 5 we moved 3 miles in 4 hours as we pushed up the entirety of High Street. Vanessa’s old Achilles Tendinitis flared and we knew enough was enough. We wanted to finish as a team, missed out the last 5km and headed back to Staveley.
We’re sure many purists would say we haven’t finished, but in reality we got everything we needed from this Lakeland 200. An adventure, a challenge, camaraderie and a sense of achievement. If anyone out there is on the fence about this route we can give you one bit of advice - go for it. It’s tough, you’ll want to quit, but every time you head over a long hike-a-bike section the descent will make it worth it. The views will take your breath away and you’ll learn what the Lake District really has to offer. Just make sure you’ve got plenty of food! We’d bank on Something Good.
Want to see more? Our film: Steezy Lakeland 200 Project will be released on 22nd March at 7pm on SteezyTube - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtL9lGkX4jCGmhjl_jZGkog