Cycling in the UK has a long and colorful history, and some may be surprised to hear that although cycling in major UK cities is encouraged today, the number of cyclists on city streets in the UK actually peaked at 15 million back in 1949. In the 20th century, cycling popularity declined but a resurgence is afoot and the sport is undergoing a vibrant renaissance. Trails are popping up in cities, across counties, and on mountains all along the countryside. With encouragement from local citizens and robust cycling safety organizations, it’s now easier than ever to find safe and exciting cycling trails in the UK for any season. Whether you’re a professional cycler or someone on the trail to feel the wind in their spokes at a more leisurely pace, the over 14,000 miles of UK cycling trails can be enjoyed by anyone with a bicycle and a desire to ride.
With thousands of trail miles to choose from, it’s difficult to decide where to start. Luckily, there are a few major cycling networks that offer comprehensive guides and maps of trail systems around the UK, with specifications and difficulty levels front and center to help you decide whether your chosen trail would make for a good rainy day ride, or whether you could withstand the wind if the forecast is gusty.
The National Cycle Network connects over 14,000 miles of trailway throughout the UK. Their network is easily searchable, comprised of national and regional routes, and spotlights an interactive map that can be easily accessed to plan routes and gauge ride difficulty. If you’re riding with little ones or prefer a car-free ride, you can navigate to their traffic free routes page to easily plan your trip. If you’re beginning a ride in Barking Abbey and know you want to ride approximately 20 miles, click anywhere along the roadway map to see routes that run through your specified location. From there, it’s easy to see which regional routes may fit your desired specifications. In that case, see us zooming along the Pilgrimage Way route from Barking Abbey to Waltham Abbey.
If dirt cycling is more your speed, the Forest Commission of England offers the ultimate free forest guide, an app that allows riders to find forest cycling trails of all terrain type and difficulty level by grade.
To make it even simpler, here are a few of the most popular trails featured on by the Forest Commission and the National Cycle Network.
Perfect for a family cycle outing, this short 6-mile trail is a mixture of an all-weather limestone surface and semi-natural terrain which is rideable year-round.
This ride is beautiful in the winter. Located in the heart of the Trossachs, this 35-mile route is a challenging one built for adventurers. Prepare for some steep accents through the Achray Forest.
We've the historic canal that links the Thames and Bristol channel from Bath to Reading.
Take a moody spin amongst the striking Cadar Idris. Discover the impressive Mawddach Estuary and spot ravens and peregrines as they circle overhead.
Along this 99-mile coast to coast route, expect to explore the beaches and estuaries of North Devon before cruising beside the lush green valleys of the West Country rivers. This route is not too daunting for a longer ride, and offers many flat sections.
Now suit up, grab snacks and water, and get on out to explore the countryside.
And to get you even more pumped about hopping on two wheels:
In 2019, the UCI Raceworld World Championships are slated to be held in Harrogate, UK, which will host two circuit races, while the other races will start in locations across the county of Yorkshire, including Northallerton, Ripon, York, Beverley, Doncaster, and the city of Leeds.
The event in September 2019 will mean cycling on a scale never seen before in Yorkshire. The 2015 event in Richmond, USA brought over 645,000 visitors to the Virginia city for a week of international celebration, and the next in the UK is expected to be even bigger. Harrogate’s successful bid to bring the championship to the county solidifies a global reputation for the sport after the hosting ‘the grandest of Grand Départs’ for the 2014 Tour de France and the annual legacy race the Tour de Yorkshire. In addition, £15 million of government funding will be used to develop 27 cycle sport facilities across the UK as part of the event’s legacy.
This can only mean one thing. Opportunities for cycling in the UK will only improve as continued support for safe and assorted cycling trails remain a priority to counties across the UK.
Fall really is the best season in the UK to get on your bicycle and hit the countryside. So strap on your gear and hit the trails!
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