Singing and Cycling on the Way of the Roses
Ever had a tune that just keeps going round in your head while you are cycling? Cicerone author Rachel Crolla had just that during research rides for her guidebook to Cycling the Way of the Roses. She describes how her melody gained momentum and became the route’s unofficial anthem!
Talk to fellow outdoor enthusiasts and they will usually remember a particularly stubborn tune that has accompanied them – often endlessly repeating in their head – on a memorable route. I used to be habitually plagued by the Ski Sunday theme music on fast cycling descents. Another cyclist I met said he had I Don’t Like Mondays by the Boomtown Rats stuck in his head all the way up the monstrously tough Hardknott Pass climb; all the more irritating as it was on a Saturday morning.
Cycling is often exhilarating, uplifting and life-affirming so it stands to reason that it is normally upbeat and cheerful music that comes to mind when in the saddle. I found the Way of the Roses an especially satisfying route and had spent an enjoyable day out cycling its middle section through the Yorkshire Dales while researching the new guidebook. I had been mulling over the romantic-sounding name of the ride as I soared over the moor tops above Settle and began to freewheel down into Airton. I felt on top of the world and suddenly the name of the route was set to spontaneous music in my head – the melody started spinning round and round as my wheels turned and the road unfurled.
It was as simple as that: the chorus of the first song I had ever written had come into being. As I rode sections of the route more frequently, the simple tune kept on creeping back into my head and repeating on a loop. Eventually I sat down at home and fashioned out some verses. These became a sort of Yorkshire and Lancashire version of the classic rock song Route 66, as I wrote about the highlights and key moments of the Way of the Roses ride. The lyrics had to include my personal favourite parts of the route such as the historic county border at the Great Stone of Fourstones, the iconic Three Peaks and the toughest climb of the route at Settle’s High Hill Lane. The song was truly inspired by a great ride and to me it encapsulates everything that is great about the Way of the Roses and the spirit of the route.
After having dabbled with musical instruments for years, I had recently become part of a band with a group of local folk musicians. In spite of my misgivings about playing my first ever original material to them, the group’s response to hearing The Way of the Roses was incredibly positive and supportive. Two of the members were keen cyclists who knew the Way of the Roses well. “It’s made me want to ride the route again and sing this all the way,” said one of them, after hearing the song. The other musicians soon added a few musical flourishes and we recorded the song in a front room, as well as playing it live and at a cycling festival.
The video of images from the route, together with the musical accompaniment will hopefully give a flavour of The Way of the Roses; it is a genuinely inspirational ride! The video, featuring hand-drawn animation from junior cyclists, is available to watch below. If you'd like a free copy of the song please let us know.
Rachel Crolla is an outdoors all-rounder who loves hiking, biking, scrambling and climbing. Rachel is an outdoors writer and photographer who is also trained as a journalist and teacher. She has hiked and climbed across the UK, Europe and the USA. In 2007 Rachel became the first woman to reach the summit of every country in Europe, and co-wrote the Cicerone guide book Europe's High Points soon afterwards. She is passionate about enthusing the next generation of hikers and cyclists with a love of the outdoors.View Articles and Books by Rachel Crolla