A record of my cycling trips in Britain and abroad


The Trans-Pennine Trail (TPT)

The Trans-Pennine Trail, Leeds to Sheffield section
(also known as Sustrans route 67)

Distance: very approximately 80 km from my house (about 10 km north of Leeds centre) to Sheffield

I’ve ridden this bit of the Trans-Pennine Trail (or TPT, as it’s shortened to on some signs) twice now; and neither time has been hugely succesful! It’s not that my rides have been unsuccessful, but both times it’s taken me much longer than expected. The first time, I put this down mostly to getting lost, which happened a few times, and having to stop to check the map frequently. The second time, I knew where I was going, and tried to keep moving quickly, but I didn’t manage to go much faster overall.

From Leeds city centre, the route heads south along canal towpaths. If you want to spend an afternoon ambling along, going nowhere very quickly and getting lost a lot, then this could be a nice route, but it’s certainly not a route for getting places. The main problem is the surface - it would be fine on a hybrid with tyres of perhaps 28mm or more (at least when it’s dry in summer), but it’s really not suitable for a road bike. The other problems are the stairs, fences and general barricades that get in the way every so often - including a bridge over the canal, close to Leeds, which involves a substantial climb of steps on both sides. One of these is very narrow and steep, and quite tricky with panniers on. The other thing that slowed me down were the signs, or lack thereof (though I should add that this improved considerably between my first and second rides, so hopefully it will be better marked in future; I’d still strongly recommend taking a map for the ride though).

My route basically followed the Sustrans route 67 more or less all the way to Barnsley, at which point I gave up and switched to roads; there is a little section between Royston and Barnsley where a road has been recently built, and the surface of the bike path (which now goes under the road) is appalling - it’s made from very large stones, and is impassable on anything less than a fully-fledged mountain bike. In fact, the field beside it - broken earth and long grass - is a much better riding surface! The final straw came when a fence across the path barred the way, which was neither high enough to go under nor did it leave a large enough gap to go around.

I’ve read this back and I seem to have been very scathing of the route - in fact, if you’re out for an afternoon ride on a hybrid with no particular destination, and don’t mind lifting your bike over steps from time to time, the northern section near Leeds is quite nice. It runs beside the canal, and I certainly enjoyed this section, although the sun did help! Some of the rest of it runs through quite nice scenery, too, with a good chunk of it running through mixed woodland beside a stream; it’s simply too uneven, gravelly, and overgrown to be pleasant riding on a road bike. I’d also recommend avoiding the stretch around Barnsley, whatever kind of bike you’re on - the bit around Burton Road, in particular, is manky and simply not worth it. On the second time I rode it, I didn’t get lost at all, and I only stopped for about 10 minutes for lunch, yet the whole route (about 50 miles) took me around 5 hours - I normally reckon on managing at least 10 miles an hour for a day-long ride, including all stops and navigating, so this is definitely a slow route. It’s ok if that’s what your after, but if I’m Sheffield-bound again I think I’ll be going on roads!