Bored with bashing the same old miles around the forest, week in week out, back in 1997 on Univega Alpina hardtails, myself and Col would regularly venture outside of the forest bounds, armed with map and compass, looking for that special ride. Doctors Gate in it's current (and final form) was developed and refined over several years. Having shared this route with many, I'd like to think it's a classic.
I distinctly remember the first attempt - a grim January day in the depths of winter, occasional bouts of horizontal rain, greyness engulfing us. Back then we took OS maps as gospel and with experience, now know them to be nothing more than a guide, their accuracy to be taken with a pinch of salt. That line on the paper across the moor turned out to be one of those 'guides' ! Ankle deep in wet, stinking bog, convincing ourselves that the half mile or so of pushing/carrying we'd done would end soon. It wasn't to be.
That day was the first time we experienced the bonk and an extreme attack of it : that energy sapping, soul destroying feeling of just wanting to lie down and close your eyes. By sheer chance, one of us had a packet of energy tablets in our saddle bags (hydration systems hadn't been invented back then as I recall) : a freebie with a mountain bike magazine. That day, those energy tablets probably saved our lives...
Doctors Gate is a 21.8 miles circular route, starting from the forest, climbing 2821ft using quiet road sections to link the off road sections. This should be tackled clockwise : start off by going along the Grove Link. There are more road miles on this route than ideal for a mountain bike ride but the blast down the Weardale Way and the descent into the forest make up for this.
At the County Durham sign on the B6278, carry on, DO NOT take the track on the right hand side which descends 916ft over 2.9 miles : this is not a legal right of way. The two foot wide/deep drainage channel across the track near the top of this section is an indication by the land owner that they do not want it to be used.
Craig ‘Rifty’ Cummings