What is the C2C?
The Sea to Sea (C2C) cycle route is approximately 137 miles long depending on where you start and where you finish! It follows a variety of traffic free or quiet roads, disused railway lines and occasionally it does have to take busier main roads as well. It crosses 3 counties, Cumbria, County Durham and Northumberland and travels through some stunning scenery from the Lakes and mountains of the Lake District to the open rugged fells and moorland of the North Pennines before heading to the urban areas of Newcastle or Sunderland.
The usual starting place is in Whitehaven on the Cumbrian West coast and finishing at either Tynemouth (137 miles) or Sunderland (133 miles) on the East coast. But there are lots of variations to this route! There is also an off road version for those who like even more of a challenge!
The tradition is that you dip your bike tyre in the Irish coast and then in the North Sea when you get to the other side!
How long you take to complete it is totally up to you but the usual time is 2, 3 or 4 days. People doing it for a challenge or a charity cause often choose to do it in 2 days with just one overnight stop half way. For those wanting a more sedate pace then 3/4 days is ideal with usual overnight stopping places being Keswick, Alston and Consett/Edmundbyers before reaching the east coast.
Half Way at Alston
Being approximately half way on the route Alston has a good choice of accommodation, places to eat and shops to re-stock which makes it a favourite overnight stay for those doing it in 2 days.
Alston Youth Hostel
About 60% of our guests are cyclists and most are doing the C2C so we are fully set up to provide affordable, comfy accommodation for up to 28 people with great showers and secure indoor bike storage for up to 23 bikes with 10 power sockets for electric bikes. (overflow available) We also have the large drying room.
Hints and Tips on doing the C2C
Firstly the route is VERY challenging and should never be underestimated! Not only due to the distance involved but the gradients, terrain and most significantly the weather conditions which you may encounter at any time of the year!
If you are doing the ride as group think about the cycling ability of all within your group and plan things around those with least cycling experience.
Correct clothing, equipment and spares– It may be hot and sunny when you leave Whitehaven but by the time you reach the Hartside Summit it could be thick fog or raining or dark. So make sure you have waterproof and reflective clothing and lights on your bikes! Carry puncture repair kits, spare inner tubes etc.
Know your route – Lots of people will use GPS (e.g. Garmin) but it’s always good to use a C2C map or guide book and study it before you set off so you and all your group know where you are going! Arrange rendezvous points to re-group so you don’t lose people!
Timings – Set off early enough to allow yourself plenty of time to reach your planned stops and overnight accommodation. If you are cycling from Whitehaven to Alston then unless you are Chris Froome make sure you are on the road no later than 8am to give yourself plenty of time to enjoy the ride and reach your destination! allow at least 10 hours to get from Whitehaven to Alston.
Rest and Refuel – Build in rest stops to take on fluid and food. Don’t wait until you are hungry as it is too late by then! And importantly it helps the keep the group together if everyone knows where you will be stopping if they lose sight of the leaders.
Support Vehicles – A lot of groups will have a support vehicle to carry luggage and spares so that the riders can ride as lightly as possible. But make sure the support vehicle gets to your overnight destination before the first riders arrive so that their luggage can be dropped off and they can have showers and get changed and warm whilst waiting for the rest of the group. Standing around in damp Lycra isn’t fun! The support vehicle can then head back to give support to the slowest riders who may be struggling or even have problems or got lost!
Safety – Keep in touch with late riders. It may be tempting to head off to the pub whilst the slower riders are still out there but it does nothing for morale or safety. Make sure you know where they are and that they are OK!
Food – plan where you are going to eat when you reach your overnight stops. If going to a pub/restaurant it is a good idea to book in advance (especially in Alston) if you are a big group (5+) to ensure you can get a table. Be realistic on time! Don’t book for 6:30pm as there’s a good chance most of the group will not have arrived yet and need to shower! If you are running late do contact the pub to let them know! In Alston all the pubs stop serving food at 9pm and the supermarkets close at 10pm. You don’t want to arrive with no prospect of food!
Drink – You may be tempted to congratulate yourselves on having got as far as you have with a celebratory pint or 2 of beer but don’t over do it! Remember you have to get up early the next day and get back on your bike and cycle for another 60+ miles! And that is no fun with a hangover or lack of sleep!
Cycle Repairs – In Nenthead just 6 miles from Alston there is a great cycle repair shop called Pennine Cycles. Dave Raeside, the owner, is a terrific bike mechanic who will even come to the hostel if necessary.
Alston to The East Coast
You may think you’ve done the hardest part now you’ve reached and come over the famous Hartside Summit on Day 1 but Day 2 is when you’ll actually reach the highest point of the C2C route (609 metres) on the way to Allenheads. The route from Alston to Consett is extremely hilly in places especially the first 20 miles or so from Alston to Stanhope. The Waskerley Way from Parkhead Station above Stanhope and on the way to Consett is where the route starts to get much easier following the old railway track.
C2C guides and travel companies
There are quite a few companies that can arrange your C2C ride for you and arrange transport, accommodation and provide support such as Saddle Skedaddle, Bike4Health, Discoveredventure, Trailbrakes.
There are also plenty of great guide books and maps available such as the Ultimate C2C Guide by Sustrans.
There’s no doubt the C2C route is a fantastic and very accessible challenge open to cyclists of all abilities and it is getting more and more popular every year!
So plan well and enjoy it!