Lost railways: Multi-terrain from Sea to Sea on the Hornsea Rail Trail

This mixed terrain ride will take you from seaside to seaside, and we tested the perfect bike for the terrain...

During the 1960s over 5,000 miles of railway lines were axed following The Beeching Report.

Since then, many of these disused railway lines have been converted into traffic-free cycling and walking trails that we can enjoy up and down the country. We’re rounding up the best, and this week’s ride starts from Hull, on the Humber estuary and finishes at the seaside town of Hornsea.

Words: Maria David 

The Ride: Hornsea Rail Trail, East Yorkshire

Where: Hull to Hornsea

How far: 15 miles

Tucked in the corner of East Yorkshire, this former railway line ran between Hull and the coastal town of Hornsea from 1864 to 1965. As well as this greenway now being a popular route with the locals, long-distance cyclists will know it as the final part of this 215-mile long Transpennine Trail which starts in Southport.

After around 200 miles of undulating trails and lanes riders will be relieved to know that these final 15 miles are pan flat – or at most barely 20m above sea level!

Getting to the start

The start of the former Hull to Hornsea railway line was at Stoneferry Road, where a café now occupies the site of the old station. However, I started my ride from the aquarium known as The Deep, on Hull docks – an icon of Hull’s history – in the shadow of the Humber Bridge.

Reaching the trailhead was straightforward as there are lots of signs for either Hornsea, Transpennine Trail or National Cycle route 65.

The Trail

Once in the residential district of Hull I was on the trail. Although still tarmacked, it is not entirely smooth and a bike ready for off-road conditions is best. Soon I reached the Holderness Drain which marks the start of the countryside – the ride was soon is filled with views of vast plains interspersed with rural villages.

Various roads cross the trail as I reach each village, and a big house with remnants of a platform are signs that this was a station.

Nowadays these areas have been adapted as picnic sites – perfect if you’re riding with little ones (or older ones!) who need regular snack stops.

About half way along the trail the tarmac fades away and the terrain becomes a mixture of hard packed gravel and compacted earth. This is perfectly fine in the dry, however on the day I rode the route, conditions were decidedly muddy and I was in authentic cyclocross territory! The added challenge of negotiating the mud made this section of the ride an absolute treat, and it’d be good practice for anyone working on their bike handling skills.

My ride through the countryside and woodland of East Yorkshire ended on the seafront at Hornsea. I had only done 15 miles, as opposed to the 215 miles that many will have done from Southport, but it didn’t stop me from getting an ice cream as fuel for the return journey via the picturesque Hornsea Mere to Hull!

Looking for more traffic free lost railway rides? See the collection here. 

The perfect bike for the day…

The multi-terrain surface of the Hornsea Rail Trail made it an ideal opportunity for me to also test and review the Mustang Sport gravel bike that Raleigh had provided me with. A gravel bike [often called an adventure road bike in the UK] is a long amble focused version of a cyclocross bike, which bridges the gap between road and mountain bike territory – giving you the perfect steed for mixed terrain and light off road use.

Marketing Spiel Aside: What is an Adventure Road Bike For? 

This fairly new breed of bike is great for those wanting something that can perform on and off-road, whilst providing more comfort than most cyclocross bikes which are geared towards an hour of va va voom at the expense of comfort. So the geometry of the Mustang Sport is more relaxed and provides comfort even if you are on it for hours. Furthermore, mounts for a rack and mudguards on the frame allow you to carry all that you need for a long excursion.

On the quiet roads and paths through the urban districts around Hull, the Mustang Sport was fairly unchallenged and rolled along smoothly. However, on a couple of cobbled sections through Hull Old Town the bike had to step up, and it made my ride comfortable enough thanks to dampening of the Schwalbe CX Comp tyres and the carbon fork.

The more aerodynamic position of a road bike obviously meant I could speed along much more quickly than I would on a hybrid, too – which meant my ice cream stop came around more quickly.

When I got to the muddier, boggier sections through the country, the Mustang knew how to get through it, and having disc brakes meant that there was very good clearance between the frame and the tyres. So I had no worries about the bike getting clogged up. I just had to worry about the big clean-up when I got home!

Tubeless tyres are standard on the Mustang Sport, which I must admit worried me a little as I was not familiar with them. But in fact these are great as they are less likely to suffer punctures than the traditional clincher tyres. They also hold their pressure well and you don’t have to carry a spare inner tube.

In my opinion the Raleigh Mustang Sport is a good option for multi-terrain rides particularly if you are not a speed merchant. It is heavier than some cyclocross bikes, but that makes it a sturdy option on all surfaces.

Looking for more lost railway rides? 

Lost Railway Rides: Forest Way Family Friendly Traffic Free Ride in Sussex

Lost Railway Rides: The Peak District’s Tissington Trail

Lost Railway Rides: Alban Way Traffic Free Route for any Bike

Lost Railway Rides: Macclesfield to Marple on Middlewood Way

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