September 7, 2010 - 2.0
Ive done this loads of times in the car and twice on the Pan European - West to East. It is a good challenge in the car and presents no real problems if you choose the gear and speed sensibly. On a bike however, you need to be cautious and commited - and know which of these traits to apply when. Wrynose (eastern half) is a good lead in to Hard Knott (western side) and is certainly the most enjoyable of the two passes. About 0.5 mile after Cockley Bridge, the road takes some viscious hairpins on a surface which is difficult to negotiate. Cars cars coming down the hill have ruffled the surface under the weight of their brakes. This leaves most front wheel drive cars scrabbling for grip - especially if there is a lot of gravel from rain (as there usually is).
Traversing West to East is (in my opinion) the best option, take this bit very slowly and careful use of back and front brakes on wide lines will see you safe. And try to avoid looking at the sheer drop on the left coming down the hill.
Even the West to East run presents a problem. A nice run along the Eskdale valley and then the gradient increases. You can see the corners coming, but one right handed hairpin is a serious challenge. The inside of the bend on the right is worse than 45 degrees - so if you stop here a) the front brake wont hold you and b) there is no road within reach of your right foot. The outside of the bend is tight but much better - but covered in gravel. Theres usually a line between the two which requires measured speed and lean. And you cant stop beforehand to line it up. Riding 2-up on a heavy Pan European was perhaps not the best choice - but I managed it OK. I still have a Pan, and I won do this bit again.
If you want to try this road for the first time, I suggest approaching from Seathwaite to the South. Stop at Cockly Bridge and take a walk up the first section of Hard Knott. Youll get a measure of what it is really like. If you decide its not for you, the road from here over Wrynose pass is really quite pleasant.