Raleigh’s 10 Best Cycle Staycations for Summer

Raleigh’s 10 Best Cycle Staycations for Summer

Raleigh have a list of their 10 Best Cycle Staycations for Summer. This is where you can find the details of their list: https://www.raleigh.co.uk/gb/en/cycling-advice/uk-cycling-staycations/.

Ranging from 8.8 to 21.7 miles, they are day rides with easy cycling. They are really nice routes.

I’ve added a link to a map or guide book that would help you explore them.

The Raleigh Staycation List

  1. Scarborough to Whitby – 21.7 miles – the Cinder Track, one of many rides in ‘Traffic-free Cycle Trails by Nick Cotton
  2. Marriott’s Way – 18.4 miles – Norwich – Norfolk Goldeneye map
  3. Viking Coastal Trail – 9.2 miles from Margate Station to Reculver, Kent – Kent Goldeneye map
  4. London Docklands & Lea Valley – 20.7 miles – the London Cycling Guide or Cycle London guide book, plus the London & Essex cycle map
  5. Birmingham to Wolverhampton – 13.4 miles – the Birmingham Greenways map
  6. Derby Canal Path and Cloud Trail – 13.3 miles – in ‘Traffic-free Cycle Trails by Nick Cotton
  7. Preston Guild Wheel – 21.2 miles – Traffic-free Cycle Trails by Nick Cotton
  8. Route 221, the Basingstoke Canal – 8.7 miles – in ‘Traffic-free Cycle Trails by Nick Cotton
  9. Consett and Sunderland Railway Path – 14 miles – in ‘Traffic-free Cycle Trails by Nick Cotton
  10. The University Way, Bedford to Sandy – 8.8 miles – in ‘Traffic-free Cycle Trails by Nick Cotton

My Cycling Staycation List for Any Time

Best Cycle Staycation List - Newcastle to Berwick-upon-Tweed
Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Berwick-upon-Tweed

That made me wonder about my own list. I decided this would involve longer routes that would make complete staycation holidays in their own right, and I would spread them wide around the UK. So here goes:

  1. The Devon Coast to Coast cycle route – Devon Coast to Coast guide book
  2. Circuit of the Yorkshire Dales – Harvey Yorkshire Dales Cycleway map
  3. The original Coast to Coast cycle route – the C2C guide map and book
  4. A complete tour of Wales – Cycle Touring in Wales guide book
  5. The Cornish Way, from Land’s End to BudeCornwall and West Devon cycle map
  6. London to Land’s End – the London to Land’s End guide book
  7. National Byway from Cirencester to Chester – National Byway Midlands map
  8. The Western Isles of Scotland – Cycling in the Hebrides Cicerone guide book
  9. Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Berwick-upon-TweedNorthumberland Cycle Touring map
  10. The Scottish Coast to CoastThe Ultimate Scottish Coast to Coast guide book

Best Cycle Staycation List - the Yorkshire Dales
Cycling in the Yorkshire Dales

Cycling in Northumberland and Tyneside

Cycling in Northumberland and Tyneside

Holy Island - photo by Littlerich on Pixabay
The castle on Holy Island

Northumberland and Tyneside must have some of the best cycling in the country.

The area is blessed with flat family rides, longer routes into the hills and mountain biking routes.

You can always find quiet roads. There is coastal riding as well as the northern section of the Pennines and even the classic ride out to Holy Island.

The county is also home to some of the best waymarked cycle routes in the country, including sections of the C2C, the Reivers Route, Hadrian’s Cycleway and Coast & Castles South. Plus, there is the off-road waymarked Sandstone Way.

Below you will find sections on:

  • Suggested cycle touring and cycling holiday hubs
  • Gentle / family bike rides
  • Circular cycle tours
  • Guide books and maps for cycle touring
  • Waymarked long-distance cycle routes
  • Mountain biking / off-road cycle routes
  • Cycle-friendly holiday accommodation
  • Cycling maps and guide books, of which there is great range:

Suggested cycle touring and cycling holiday hubs in Northumberland

  • Alnwick is a really interesting town, full of shops and eating places, and is quite central to some very good riding. The castle is iconic, and the beach and village of Alnmouth just down the road.
  • Bamburgh is much smaller, but is a glorious village right on the coast and under the walls of the castle. It is on the Coast and Castles waymarked cycle route.
  • Rothbury makes a great place to stay to explore the quiet roads and off-road trails away from the coast. Rothbury lies on the off-road Sandstone Way trail. It is also not far from Kielder Forest with its off-road trails.

Gentle / family bike rides in Northumberland

The harbour at Amble

In the very south of the area, old railway lines and waggonways have often been converted into fabulous family-friendly cycle routes.

The guide book, ‘33 Cycle Rides in Northumberland and Tyneside‘ has one such: the Wylam and Newburn Rail Path Loop, 11.9 ‘easy’ miles on either side of the River Tyne.

Or you can use the C2C Footprint map to follow the river Derwent on cycle / walking tracks between Rowlands Gill and Hamsterley, within the Derwent Walk Country Park. There are two visitor centres with cafés and toilets.

Further north in Northumberland there are not generally the same off-road family-friendly trails, but the roads are generally reasonably quiet.

The Walkworth and Alnmouth Loop in ‘33 Cycle Rides‘ is 9 miles. It joins two fabulous villages. Walkworth has a fascinating castle, while Alnmouth has a wide and often quite empty beach.

The same guide book has a number of other rides, a bit longer, and on roads, but quite flat. An example is the Seahouses, Bamburgh and Lucker Loop at 18 miles. Perhaps not a route for small children, but older ones should enjoy it. Take care on the roads though.

Berwick-upon-Tweed to Holy Island is 10.6 iconic miles each way. It is a mix of roads and off-road trails by the sea, leading to the tidal causeway across to Holy Island. Don’t get caught out by the tides! Safe crossing times can be found at https://holyislandcrossingtimes.northumberland.gov.uk/. Again, this might not be a route for small children, but for older children, an amazing and memorable route.

Above the beach at Alnmouth

Circular cycle tours in Northumberland

You are spoilt for choice with circular cycle tours in Northumberland. Here are some examples:

  • Warkworth and Shilbottle Loop (from 33 Cycle rides). 15.5 miles of country lanes and easy off-road.
  • More of a challenge would be one of the cycle routes described in Lost Lanes North, a lovely well-photographed book. For example, Into The Wild, ‘a gravel road adventure from the pleasant pastures of the North Tyne into the rugged expanses of the Kielder Forest‘. The book has four routes within Northumberland (and one – Roof of England – including parts of Northumberland, Durham and Cumbria).
  • The follow-up to the 33 Cycle Rides book, Cycle Rides in Northumberland and Beyond, also has challenging routes, such as Alnwick West & Coastal Gems Road Route, 58 miles and moderately difficult.

Creating your own tour in Northumberland

It couldn’t be easier to create your own cycle tour using the ‘Ultimate Planning Map for Cycle Touring in Northumberland‘. The map shows all the waymarked trails plus recommended routes to join the together.

Cycle Touring Map of Northumberland

Waymarked long-distance cycle routes in Northumberland

Northumberland is the start or finish point for several iconic long-distance cycle routes.

  • The C2C from the Cumbrian coast to the North Sea is the most well-known and well-cycled of the coast to coast cycle routes. Tynemouth and Sunderland are the end points.
  • The Reivers Route starts in Tynemouth and loops northwards before finishing back on the Cumbrian coast.
  • Hadrian’s Cycleway also starts in Tynemouth and runs not far from Hadrian’s Wall across to, again, Cumbria.
  • The Coast and Castles South route heads north from Tynemouth, passing Alnwick, Berwick-upon-Tweed and the Northumbrian coast to finish in Edinburgh.
  • The Pennine Cycleway comes all the way up from the Peak District through the Pennines to finish in Berwick.

All of the above are signposted and have specific maps to follow, though their Northumbrian sections can also be found on the map Cycle Touring in Northumberland. That would allow you to join parts of each together to make a circular route within the county.


Mountain biking / off-road cycle routes in Northumberland

Northumberland has a wide range of off-road and mountain-biking routes.

There are two guide books which would help for day rides.

33 Cycle rides has ten specifically mountain-bike routes (in addition to its Waggonways and Bridleways routes). They include:

  • The circuit of Kielder Water, 24.5 miles, graded ‘moderate’
  • Hexham, Acomb and St Oswald’s Loop, 7.5 miles, graded ‘moderate’
  • Seahouses and Bamburgh, 12.7 miles, graded ‘easy’

Cycle Rides in Northumberland and Beyond has 27 off-road routes ranging from Easy to Challenging.

The Northumberland Mountain Bike Guide has no fewer than 40 rides. They range from ‘sporting’, through ‘energetic’ and ‘strenuous’ to ‘expert’. Examples include:

  • Boulmer, 11 ‘sporting’ miles
  • Rothbury Carriage Drive, 7.8 ‘energetic’ miles
  • Alnwick – Coast and Country, 26.68 ‘energetic’ miles

The ‘Sandstone Way’ is a waymarked off-road 120-mile route between Berwick-upon-Tweed and Hexham. While it is a fantastic route to do in its entirety, the Sandstone Way map also lends itself to day routes. These include:

  • Berwick-upon-Tweed to Belford, much of it coastal riding and with just short stretches on road. A linear route, so 20 miles each way.
  • Two routes from Wooler, one a challenging one into the hills, and not waymarked.
  • Rothbury Loop through the Coquetdale valley and up into the Simonside Hills and Harwood Forest.
Hadrian’s Wall

Cycle-friendly Holiday Accommodation in Northumberland

This section is still to be completed.

The maps and guide books for cycling in Northumberland and Tyneside

The ‘Cycle Touring in Northumberland’ map and ’33 Cycle Rides’ give great coverage of the area.

For the Sustrans routes, the Sustrans Tyne and Wear and the North Northumberland pocket-sized maps between them cover the whole area and beyond. Or order the National Cycle Network route-specific maps, such as the Coast and Castles South map or the Pennine Cycleway North map, for more detailed maps.

Lost Lanes North is a lovely book, of coffee table quality, with great photography and description. A great gift (either for someone else or for yourself…)

For mountain biking, again 33 Cycle Rides is very good, and then there is the Northumberland Mountain Bike Guide with its 40 routes. While the Sandstone Way will give a wonderful challenge.

Whatever sort of cycling you are looking for, something below will help! Either pop your map or guide into the basket, or click on the link for more detail.

Cycling in Northumberland and Tyneside

Cycling in the Cotswolds and Gloucestershire

Cycling in the Cotswolds and Gloucestershire

The Cotswolds are rightly known as one of the most glorious parts of the British Isles, and there are many excellent cycling routes in the area.

This is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and a bike ride taking in villages such as Stow-on-the-Wold, Broadway and Bourton-on-the-Water will confirm that.

Then there are the surrounding gorgeous towns (or in some cases small cities), including Cheltenham, Gloucester, Stroud, Cirencester and – just outside the area – Oxford.

Cycling in the Cotswolds

Much of the Cotswolds are in the county of Gloucestershire, but not all, so this blog post extends into west Oxfordshire and southern Warwickshire. For the very southern part of the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, see the separate post on Somerset and Bristol.

Gloucestershire also includes country to the west of the River Severn, including the Forest of Dean, so that is included here as well.

Below you will find sections on different aspects of cycling in the Cotswolds and Gloucestershire:

  • Suggested cycle touring and cycling holiday hubs
  • Gentle / family bike rides
  • Circular cycle tours
  • Guide books and maps for cycle touring
  • Waymarked long-distance cycle routes
  • Mountain biking / off-road cycle routes
  • Cycle-friendly holiday accommodation
  • Cycling maps and guide books

There are excellent maps and guide books for the Cotswolds, with maps from Ordnance Survey (the OS Tour series) and Goldeneye Maps, plus various cycle guide books, of which more below.

All the maps are listed at the bottom of the page, or you can click on a link to go direct to them in the Bike Ride Maps shop.

So whether you are local to the area, or planning a cycling holiday in the Cotswolds, I hope the following helps.

Suggested cycle touring and cycling holiday hubs in Gloucestershire and the wider Cotswolds

The Cotswolds and Gloucestershire have a wealth of places to stay and possible starting points for cycle touring. These are just some possible places to consider:

  • Bourton-on-the-Water is quite central in the Cotswolds and so makes a good base, and is of course a beautiful little village
  • Chipping Norton in the eastern part of the Cotswolds and not far from Oxford, has some very good cycle routes based here
  • Stroud is a working town, with a great mix of shops and cafés, and is not too far from Gloucester and Cheltenham as well as the honeypot villages of the Cotswolds

The official Cotswolds.com website has more suggestions for places to stay.

From the Ordnance Survey Tour map of the Cotswolds – more details below

Gentle / family bike rides in the Cotswolds

The Cotswolds are a range of hills and so are generally not flat territory for younger families. Having said that, there are some flatter, gentler family bike rides in and around the area.

Cotswold Country Park circular route

An 8-mile ride on generally quiet lanes starting in the Cotswold Country Park near Cirencester.

A diversion will take you into Cirencester, the ‘capital of the Cotswolds’.

Map: The Goldeneye Cotswold Country Lanes map

The Stroud Valley Cycle Trail

A 5-mile traffic-free trail on a converted railway line between Stonehouse and Nailsworth, with a traffic-free link into Stroud.

The route is great for families, with lots to see along the way.

Map: The Goldeneye Cotswold Country Lanes map

The Gloucester & Sharpness Canal

Gloucester Docks

A 13-mile more-or-less flat ride from Slimbridge Wetland Centre to the city of Gloucester at the dockside.

Much of it is canalside or close to the River Severn and is described well on the website “South West towpath bike rides: Gloucester & Sharpness Canal.”

Why not take time to visit the remarkable Slimbridge Wetland Centre and its wonderful birdlife as well as the city of Gloucester?

Slimbridge swan

Map: The Goldeneye Cotswold Country Lanes map

The Forest of Dean Family Trail

A circular 9-mile route on converted mining tracks in the Forest of Dean between Coleford and Cinderford.

The surface is fine and the route is almost entirely traffic-free. So this is very suitable for all the family. A range of bikes can be hired at the start from Pedalabikeway (Cannop Valley, Nr Coleford, Forest of Dean, GL16 7EH.

Map: The Goldeneye Cotswold Country Lanes map has an overview, while a detailed map can be picked up at Pedalabikeaway when you arrive.

Circular cycle tours in and around the Cotswolds

Cotswold cycle routes

There are many lovely cycle touring routes around the Cotswolds and Gloucestershire. Below are some special ones, with details of each route in the guide book or map shown:

Bourton-on-the-Water Loop via The Slaughters (from Cicerone’s Cycling in the Cotswolds)

This is a 14-mile ‘relatively gentle’ route involving both road and bridleway cycling, with the author not recommending a road bike for the off-road sections. She suggests on-road detours instead.

It’s a glorious route, starting in the centre of the quintessential Cotswold village of Bourton-on-the-Water and taking in the picturesque Upper and Lower Slaughter.

Guide book: ‘Cycling in the Cotswolds’ by Chiz Dakin, published by Cicerone

Chipping Norton Circular Route via Moreton-in-Marsh (from Goldeneye’s Cotswold Country Lanes map)

The Goldeneye Cotswolds map shows three really good cycle tours out of Chipping Norton. This one is 29 miles and takes you on fairly quiet lanes to Moreton-in-Marsh. There are certainly hills along the way, but beautiful little villages and glorious countryside.

Map: The Goldeneye Cotswold Country Lanes map

The High Cotswolds from Moreton-in-Marsh to Chipping Camden & Stow-on-the-Wold

A 30-mile ride from Moreton-in-Marsh including Stow-on-the-Wolds, Batsford, Chipping Camden and Broadway Tower. A hilly routed with several climbs. Takes in some of the best of the Cotswolds.

Guide book: ‘Cycle Tours Around Oxford

Around the Cotswolds’ (from Cicerone’s Cycling in the Cotswolds)

A 130-mile ‘moderate/challenging’ multi-day loop around the Cotswolds.

Starting in Stroud, the route takes in Chipping Camden, Stow-on-the-Wold, Burford and Cirencester, with possible detours to the likes of Broadway.

It’s a brilliant way to see much of the Cotswolds. Be prepared for hills!

Guide book: ‘Cycling in the Cotswolds’ by Chiz Dakin, published by Cicerone

Creating your own tour

To plan your own tour, you can get an overview of the whole of the Cotswolds and Gloucestershire from the OS Tour map.

However, bear in mind that it doesn’t show contours and is also very big when opened out, and so is not ideal for when you are actually cycling.

The Goldeneye Country Lanes map of the area gives a better idea of height levels and the Sustrans pocket-sized maps have contours shown. Goldeneye maps are particularly robust for carrying with you on a tour.

Waymarked long-distance cycle routes in and around the Cotswolds

Cycle routes through the Cotswolds

There are several waymarked National Cycle Network routes that cross the area. They do not have their own specific maps, but can be found on more general maps.

NCN Route 41

National Cycle Network Route 41 starts in Bristol and should eventually finish in Rugby in Warwickshire.

For now, the signposted route is from Bristol and follows the River Severn up to Slimbridge Wetland Centre. From there it leads into Gloucester and then Cheltenham.

Maps: Sustrans pocket-sized maps – The Goldeneye Cotswold Country Lanes map

NCN Route 45

NCN Route 45 is signposted all the way from Salisbury to Chester. It enters our area south of Cirencester and heads west to Stroud. It joins Route 41 for a while as it leads into Gloucester, and then takes on its own numbering again heading north to Tewkesbury.

Maps: Sustrans pocket-sized maps – The Goldeneye Cotswold Country Lanes map

NCN Route 48

Route 48 runs northwards from Cirencester to Northleach. When last checked, there was then a gap before the signposted route reappears at Stow-on-the-Wold, heading on to Moreton-in-Marsh and Shipston-on-Stour.

Maps: Sustrans pocket-sized maps – The Goldeneye Cotswold Country Lanes map

National Byway – Midlands

The National Byway is a series of long-distance cycle routes linking places of historic interest, whether they are stately homes, castles, ancient villages or prehistoric sites.

National Byway cycle maps
National Byway cycle maps

There is a National Byway route crossing the southern part of the Cotswolds, which has its own map plus signposting on the ground. Be aware that the signposting has not been maintained in recent years, so a map is needed in case signs are missing.

The Cotswolds section is the end part of the National Byway – Midlands. It starts in Chester and heads down through the Welsh Marches before crossing into Gloucestershire south of Ledbury. It then runs east to Tewkesbury and loops around Cheltenham to finish in Cirencester.

Map: The National Byway – Midlands

Mountain biking / off-road cycle routes in the Cotswolds

Off-road routes in the Cotswolds tend to be rolling hills, but generally not flat, with one or two exceptions.

There are two excellent sources of mountain bike or off-roade cycle routes: the ‘Goldeneye Off-road Cycle Map‘ and the ‘Cotswolds Mountain Biking‘ guide book from Vertebrate.

The Goldeneye map has 10 routes from around the area, ranging from Easy to Moderate to More Strenuous. Examples include:

  • Cotswold Water Park, 10 or 13 mostly flat miles. Grade 1
  • The Broadway Circuit, 15 1/2 miles, of which 7 is off-road. Grade 2
  • Charlebury Circuit, 18 1/2 miles, of which 14 1/2 is off-road. Grade 2
Cotswold Off-road Goldeneye routes
Cotswold Off-road Goldeneye routes

The Cotswolds Mountain Biking guide book has 20 route guides from right across the region. They range from Easy right through to Killers and include, for example:

  • Cold Aston ride, 13Km. “While never difficult, there are loose tracks, rutted fields and a couple of steep sections”.
  • Birdlip ride, 29Km. “Good trails through lovely scenery”.
  • Nailsworth and Wotton-Under-Edge, 59Km. A “big ride” with “1,600m of climbing and tricky descents”.
Cotswolds Mountain Biking guide book from Vertebrate - routes
Cotswolds Mountain Biking guide book from Vertebrate – the routes

Cycle-friendly Holiday Accommodation in the Cotswolds and Gloucestershire

This section is still to be completed.

The maps and guide books for cycling in the Cotswolds and Gloucestershire

To order a map or guide book, you can click on a link to go to the shop. Or pop one straight in your basket by clicking “Add to basket”.

The Goldeneye maps are both double-sided and made of tough weatherproof paper:

The Cicerone ‘Cycling in the Cotswolds’ guide book has 20 good long rides. The Cycle Tours Around Oxford guide book has 20 rides altogether, of which 7 are in the Cotswolds, the remainder in the Chilterns, near the Ridgeway etc.

The Ordnance Survey Tour map has the whole area on one side of one (very large) map. The National Byway map of the Midlands has a route across the southern part of the Cotswolds.

The Cotswolds Mountain Biking guide book has 20 off-road MB routes in the Cotswolds:

I hope this has been useful. Other parts of the country are covered in the Cycling In… series here.

Tips for Buying Your First Bike or E-bike

Tips for Buying Your First Bike or E-bike

by Richard Peace, cycling journalist, guide book author, map designer: richardpeacecycling.com

19th May 2020

Richard Peace, author of the Buying Your First Bike blog post

With cycling shops experiencing a boom right now it’s clear many people are heading back to two wheels at the time of the virus pandemic, both to get exercise if staying at home or as way of travelling to work without relying on public transport.

If you haven’t ventured into a bike shop in many years you might be overwhelmed by what’s on display – gone are the days of a simple choice between shopper, road bike or mountain bike. There are now many more genres and sub-genres from flat bar road bikes through to fully equipped hybrids and there are even some models made especially for older riders, such as the Islabikes ‘Janis’.

Buying your first bike - Islabikes Janis - suitable for older riders
The Islabikes Janis

And the good news is cycling technology has come on leaps and bounds, so great technology like disk brakes and wide range, easy-to-operate gearing is now much more standard when once it was in the realms of the very exotic and expensive. 

Buying the Right Bike

Rather than jumping straight to wondering about the categories why not make a list of what you want the bike to do and where you want to use it and you should probably find your list of possibles narrowing down quite quickly.

Before you even hop on the internet or go into a shop to look at models bear in mind the following:

1. Don’t be ambitious

Don’t be too ambitious when buying your first bike, thinking you need an expensive road bike to be able to speed to work in time. Over modest commuting distances that most folk cover they are not that much faster than an average leisure bike that is suitably equipped. Far more important is to get a bike that is comfortable, easy to handle and ride and feels stable – you can still ride fast if you like!

2. Borrow a similar bike

Try and borrow a bike similar in style to what you have in mind for a test ride to highlight any possible problems.

3. Mountain bike?

Getting a mountain bike to use for the daily commute on road – then off-road in your free time – might sound like a good idea but generally isn’t. The large and relatively heavy knobbly tyres when used on tarmac will certainly slow you down and not be particularly pleasant to ride in hard surfaces.

If you are aiming to tackle full on mountain bike trails far better to wait and get a separate bike for this activity. If you only need to go on things like forest dirt roads and canal towpaths that are only moderately bumpy there are plenty of so-called hybrid and trekking models that will tackle both tarmac and unsealed surfaces.

4. The weight of the bike

Weight is quite important but certainly not everything. A suitably equipped bike (and rider) and a comfortable and ergonomic riding position are equally if not more important in being able to get about quickly, efficiently and enjoyably. The more you enjoy it the more you will continue to do it!

There are plenty of bikes on the 12-13kg range which are pretty light to lift around when not riding and they are quite capable of being fast bikes if that is what you want.

5. Looks

Don’t be lead by what looks good – again, think about what you need.

Here’s a list of suggestions of things to think about:

Frame size

Get this right and pedalling will be comfortable on the knees and effective and you will be able to get on and off the bike easily too. Here’s a comprehensive guide to the subject.

Riding Position

Critical to comfort and effective pedalling – you don’t want to be reaching for the bars nor do you want to feel cramped and not be able to feel like you are riding freely. If you feel happier with a sit up straight style of riding you can look for a bike with swept back handlebars and not too much reach between handlebars and seat.

Some bikes have an adjustable handlebar stem so that you can bring the handlebars nearer or further away as required. Numerous Dawes trekking models have this feature, for example this Mojave model, which also features a nice step-thru frame making mounting and dismounting easier.

Buying your first bike - the Dawes Mojave with an adjustable stem
The Dawes Mojave Low Step

Another step thru model range with comfortable looking swept back bars is the Cannondale Treadwell.

Cannondale Treadwell
700The Cannondale Treadwell


The flatter the terrain you expect to cover, the less gears you need. Extra gears add weight and cost. Seven derailleur gears is plenty for moderate terrain with gently rolling hills. Modern gearing means you can now get 12 speed rear derailleur systems that will tackle most terrain and are easy to control from just one handlebar shifter.

Easiest of all to operate and with the lowest maintenance are hub gears. They are more widely spaced than derailleur gears so 3 hub gears are fine for moderately rolling hill territory and 7 and 8 speed variants are also quite common and will handle much hillier country.


If you are riding on good quality tarmac then ‘slick’ road tyres are the best option. If you want to mix tarmac and moderate off road use in railpaths and similar then look for a ‘semislick’ with a moderate amount of raised tread. The Schwalbe G-One is a good example.

A moderate amount of puncture protection is also a good idea – there are various grades and the heaviest and toughest are definitely harder to pedal so best chosen if you only do short flat distances through high puncture risk areas. There are plenty of tyres with a moderate level of puncture protection that will definitely help stave off punctures.

If you are really worried about punctures and have to constantly battle glass shards or hawthorn hedge cuttings there are airless tyres such as Gecko on the market – these are somewhat harder pedal than pneumatic tyres but they are improving and are fine for shorter flatter rides and especially good on e-bikes.


Do you really need a bike with front suspension? I have found it adds weight and the cheaper suspension forks relying on a steel spring can be rattly and not perform particularly well (more expensive ones relying on air compression are smoother and more effective). Choosing a wide tyre and getting the tyre pressure just right can often make for a much smoother ride over potholed roads and on towpaths and railpaths.

If your roads are extremely badly potholed and especially if you regularly venture onto very rough tracks you might want to consider a front suspension fork. Full suspension mountain bikes are really for extremely rocky trails only as they take a lot more energy to pedal.

Fitness or Practicality?

If you want to ride to get fit of course it is still possible on a heavier model designed for trundling around town and doing the shopping in a practical way – but it can feel dispiriting putting in a lot of effort on such a bike and not going as far or fast as you want.

A sporty design doesn’t need to be a ‘lean forward, head down’ road bike – for example Evans own brand Pinnacle range of hybrid bikes offer great value and are pretty light and fast. 

Pinnacle Lithium Hybrid
The Pinnacle Lithium Hybrid

Of course, if you want a bike that will get you around town for shopping or very gentle leisure rides and one that will be easy to ride, use and maintain, a practical Dutch-style bike is the ultimate choice. This Ortler is a good example and features wheelguard, fully-enclosed chainguard, kickstand, mudguard, lights and dynamo lighting. This kind of bike is designed to get on and ride and to load up with luggage and to be low maintenance. In other words an everyday bike for everyday activities.

To Fold or Not Fold?

If you regularly combine train and bike it might be worth thinking about folding bikes. The most compact folders are still the world famous Brompton bikes, still made in London. A standard three speed model with mudguards weighs around 11.5kg.

Brompton folding bike
Brompton folding bike

Tern bikes also make great folders and these are also lightweight – although they fold a little larger they have larger wheels and so handling is a less twitchy and more like a full size bike and some models are very speedy indeed.

Cheaper options include the Decathlon Tilt range and the Halfords’ Carrera Transit, both of which, at 14kg+, weigh more than most Brompton and Tern folders.

When test riding a folder also make sure you are happy folding and carrying it! 

What Price for Your First Bike?

I would suggest around £300 as a starting point for a decent quality new bike if chosen carefully.

From about £450 you will get something with hydraulic disk brakes like this Voodoo bike, the next real step up in quality.

Is an E-bike Right for You?

E-bikes are a great choice for beginners who may lack fitness but who want to cover longer distances than they would otherwise be able. And for even experienced cyclists they can be game changers in transforming that commute that would leave you tired and sweaty before you have even started your day’s work into a pleasurable, enlivening sweat-free experience.

If used correctly (ie not on full power all the time!) you can also use e-bikes to get plenty of exercise – indeed they will allow you to go further and see more on the same amount of energy on leisure rides.

If you plan to make relatively short rides, of course a non-electric bike will be fine and you probably will get fitter faster – as long it doesn’t all seem too much like hard work at first and you give up altogether. Non-electric bikes are also a lot cheaper than e-bikes of equivalent quality, are lighter (although there are some pretty light e-bikes around) and they don’t have batteries that eventually wear out and cost a lot to replace (though today’s e-bike batteries should last many years if looked after properly).

Buying Your First E-Bike

In many ways the choice of what kind of e-bike is easier than choosing a regular bike – with motor assist you don’t need as many gears as you will get up hills more easily and knobbly tyres are less of a barrier to cycling a mountain bike on tarmac as a good powerful motor will easily overcome the extra resistance (though at the cost of reduced battery range).

If you have doubts about the practicality of e-bikes our myth-buster blog might allay your concerns.      

The number of e-bike manufacturers and different motor systems can still make a first e-bike purchase seem like a minefield. The following list of considerations should clarify things.

Frame size and riding position

Those points covered above are still just as important

Motor power or light weight?

Increasingly e-bikes are heading in two opposing directions – powerful machines with bigger batteries usually featuring mid-drives (also known as crank motors and located around the pedal axle) and models that are lightweight and often feature small hub motors and smaller batteries.

Although the latter deliver less power (meaning you do more of the work) they are pretty effective nonetheless. And whilst they have smaller batteries their lighter weight and smaller power requirements help mitigate this (and spare batteries are always available).

Examples of motor systems on mid-drive machines are Bosch, Brose, Shimano and Yamaha and some of the leading manufacturers are Halfords, Cube, Haibike and Raleigh though there are many many more that use these motor systems.

The lightweight category is dominated by motor systems from Ebikemotion and Fazua, and Ribble and this Boardman are good examples.

Canyon Roadlite is a lightweight ebike using the Fazua motor system
Canyon Roadlite is a lightweight ebike using the Fazua motor system

To Fold or Not Fold?

Brompton has it’s own electric model but there are lighter versions from ARCC, Cytronex, Nano and Swytch and a powerful throttle version from Sparticle that also features some of largest batteries out there for a folder.

Cytronex Brompton conversion
Cytronex Brompton conversion

If you want something that folds or is compact with more power and range potential and more carrying capacity check out Tern’s range of e-bikes – you would just be sacrificing small folded size and adding some weight when compared to the Brompton variants.

What Price for Your First E-Bike?

There are some decent value budget e-bikes though be aware e-bay bargains are a potential source of disappointment and trouble. £650 seems a the current entry point, but again, at this price point choose with great care.

This Halfords Assist model is good value as is Decathlon’s B’Twin Elps 500 model.  

Halfords assist e-bike

If you want something for tackling steeper hills a mid-motor option is a wise option as they give motor assistance at a wide range of speeds, from slow, steep hill climbing to cruising up to 15.5mph (beyond which the motor is not legally allowed to assist you). These start around £1600.

This Decathlon model looks a great introduction to mid-drive e-bikes if you want a fully equipped town bike whilst this Carrera hybrid model looks a good option for sportier riding.

As the specification of e-bikes improves you are often dealing with the same basic types of motor assist system and increasing price tags mean things like bigger batteries, more exotic displays, better gearing systems and so on. Of these the bigger battery is probably the most worthwhile investment in purely practical terms. 

Probably top of the tree are Riese & Muller models which are hugely solidly build and come in a real ground breaking range of designs.

Riese and Muller ebikes will tackle any terrain over long distances
Riese and Muller ebikes will tackle any terrain over long distances

Buying your First Bike is by Richard Peace, the author of many cycling guide books, including the best-selling C2C cycle guide, Cycling Northern France, Cycling Southern France and the Devon C2C cycle guide.

You can read more on the Excellent Books web page.

Cycling in the Yorkshire Dales

Cycling in the Yorkshire Dales

The Ribblehead Viaduct

The beautiful Yorkshire Dales can give you challenging cycling, both in terms of distance and hills, although there are also less rigorous cycle routes available as well.

There is no doubt it is a fantastic area – a National Park with fabulous scenery, including Swaledale, Wensleydale, Nidderdale, Ribblesdale and Wharfedale.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park (from the Harvey map, Yorkshire Dales for Cyclists)

Cycling has become very popular in the Dales and you will find a good number of accommodation providers and eateries who very much welcome cyclists.

You will also find there are very good cycle maps and guide books.

In the page below you will find sections on:

  • Suggested cycle touring and cycling holiday hubs
  • Gentle / family bike rides
  • Circular cycle tours
  • Guide books and maps for cycle touring
  • Waymarked long-distance cycle routes
  • Mountain biking / off-road cycle routes
  • Cycle-friendly holiday accommodation
  • Cycling maps and guide books

Suggested cycle touring and cycling holiday hubs in the Yorkshire Dales

There are plenty of areas that can provide you with accommodation for cycle tours or as a hub for daily rides. Here are some suggestions:

  • Ingleton, on the southern border of the Yorkshire Dales, has easy access from the A65 and lanes leading into the Dales towards the Ribblehead Viaduct and Horton-in-Ribblesdale
  • Hawes is very central in the Dales, with various lanes and off-road routes within easy reach, and the Wensleydale Cheese factory
  • Grassington is in the south east of the Yorkshire Dales, within reach of the West Yorkshire towns and cities and the A1 with its links north and south
  • Settle, on the south-western side of the Dales, has good access to the Dales and is an excellent place to stay over, as well as lying on the Settle-Carlisle Railway

Gentler bike rides in the Yorkshire Dales

The Yorkshire Dales are not known for being flat. Much of it is really quite challenging as regards cycling! There are a few more moderate routes, such as the following:

Skipton to Bolton Abbey

A 13.5 miles gorgeous there-and-back route from Skipton to Bolton Abbey with its tea-rooms, walks and stepping stones over the river.

It’s not a flat road, but is described as ‘undulating’ in the Family Cycle Rides book below.

Allow family time in Skipton as well, with its castle and canal basin.

Guide book: Bradwell’s Family Cycle Rides in Yorkshire

Bradwell's Family Cycle Rides in Yorkshire
Bradwell’s Family Cycle Rides in Yorkshire

The Swale Trail

This is a 12-mile-long mostly off-road route that would suit a family on mountain bikes or similar. It follows a valley bottom and so is flat-ish, though not completely.

The first half, from Reeth to Gunnerside is the flattest, while the continuation to Keld is less so.

It is a really good route, a family-style challenge.

Read more here.

Cycle touring in the Yorkshire Dales

You can create your own routes through the Dales most easily using the Harvey map, Yorkshire Dales for Cyclists, a 1:100,000 map on tough hard-wearing paper.

It’s a clear, beautifully-drawn map, showing long-distance routes and challenging climbs, as well as marking cafés, pubs and bike shops.

As regards guide books, Cicerone have a detailed guide book, Cycling in the Yorkshire Dales. Bradwell’s have a guide book of Family Cycle Rides in Yorkshire which includes four in or close to the Dales.

Lost Lanes North‘ is a great coffee-table book of cycle rides including five in the Yorkshire Dales. There is great photography, plus maps and listings of pubs an pitstops.

Lost Lanes North - sample pages

Routes include, for example, Up Hill Down Dale – 39 moderate/challenging miles including Settle, Grassington and Malham.

Alternatively, you can follow routes in the Cicerone guide book, 24 circular rides including:

Wensleydale and Swaledale from Leyburn

28 “reasonably challenging” miles according to the Cicerone guide book (route 21) with potential café stops along the way at Reeth, Fremington, Askrigg and Bolton Castle.

Guide book: Cicerone’s Cycling in the Yorkshire Dales

Dales and Tarn from Settle

A “long challenging” 30.7 mile route in the Cicerone guide book (route 10), starting in Settle and including Malham Tarn.

Guide book: Cicerone’s Cycling in the Yorkshire Dales

Long-distance cycle routes in the Dales

Tour de France 2014

The first three stages of the 2014 Tour de France took place in England, with the first of those traversing the Yorkshire Dales.

128.6 miles from Leeds to Harrogate, and including on the way Reeth, Gunnerside and Hawes, Wharfedale, Wensleydale and Swaledale.

Perhaps too much of a day-long challenge for the vast number of cyclists, but split into stages?

Guide book: Cicerone’s Cycling in the Yorkshire Dales

The Yorkshire Dales Cycle Way

This is a 130-mile circuit in the Yorkshire Dales, with access from Skipton and Ilkley.

It passes through Malham, Settle, Ingleton, Dent, Hawes, Gunnerside, (close to) Reeth, Wensley, Kettlewell and Grassington.

A magnificent route, it is shown in one map as a complete circuit:

Map: Harvey’s Yorkshire Dales Cycle Way or can be followed on Harvey’s other map of the area, Yorkshire Dales for Cyclists

La Vuelta a Dales

A 6-day tour of the entire Yorkshire Dales, over 200 miles and over 4,300 metres of ascent.

With a start point in Settle, the route takes in all of the main valleys. An amazing route. And tough challenges along the way!

Guide book: Cicerone’s Cycling in the Yorkshire Dales

The Pennine Cycleway

The Pennine Cycleway is a waymarked Sustrans cycle route all the way from Derby up the spine of England to Berwick-upon-Tweed.

It arrives in the Yorkshire Dales National Park near Gargrave and takes a fantastic route up the west side of the National Park to Appleby-in-Westmorland over in Cumbria – about 70 miles.

There are potential stops in Settle, Ingleton and Sedbergh on the way.

This is a beautiful and often very quiet territory to explore, and there are direct trains between Gargrave and Appleby for a return route on the famed Settle-Carlisle Railway.

The Pennine Bridleway

The Pennine Bridleway starts in Derbyshire and finishes in Northumberland, with some of the best riding in the Yorkshire Dales. This is off-road riding, some of it reasonably challenging unless you are used to it.

The Yorkshire Dales section starts in Long Preston and goes via Horton-in-Ribblesdale and Garsdale Head to Ravenstonedale and is around 51 miles.

It is best followed using Cicerone’s guide book, which has excellent maps and riding instructions, plus height graphs and what to see and do.

Guide book: Cicerone’s Cycling the Pennine Bridleway (Lancashire and the Yorkshire Dales)

The Way of the Roses

The Way of the Roses is a Sustrans coast to coast route from Lancashire’s Morecambe to Yorkshire’s Bridlington, via – of course – Lancaster and York, the red and the white roses.

It is a very popular and varied ride, 170 miles altogether, including passing through Settle, Burnsall and Pateley Bridge on its way to Ripon and York.

You can read more about the Way of the Roses here.

Guide book: Way of the Roses Cicerone Guide Book

Way of the Roses Cicerone guide sample pages
Cicerone Way of the Roses guide book

Walney to Wear

The Walney to Wear route starts in south Cumbria and wends its way over the Pennines to finish in Sunderland.

The W2W includes the very northern border of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. You can read more about the Walney to Wear route here.

Mountain biking / off-road cycle routes in the Yorkshire Dales

Lovely - if often challenging - cycle routes in the Yorkshire Dales

The guide book Cycling the Pennine Bridleway (Lancashire and the Yorkshire Dales) from Cicerone in fact has a number of mountain-bike loops in the Yorkshire Dales very well described and mapped. Examples are below, and a full list can be found by clicking on the link to the guide book itself:

  • The Settle Loop is 10 miles long, of which 7.5 is off-road. It is quite a challenge with a great deal of climbing, but excellent views and very good downhills to finish. Graded: Medium.
  • Horton-in-Ribblesdale, Helwith Bridge, Sulber Nick – 12.5 miles, 0f which 6.75 miles off-road. Graded: Easy.
  • The locations of the loops are shown below:
Cycling the Pennine Bridleway - the route

Another excellent guide book, Yorkshire Dales Mountain Biking from Vertebrate, has 26 mountain bike routes all around the Dales, including around Ingleborough, Whernside and Pen-y-ghent, Swaledale, the Howgills and the Swale Trail.

Routes include an “easy” 16Km from Austwick, an “epic” from Settle to Malham Cove, and “enduro” from the Ribblehead Viaduct and the Tour d’Ingleborough as a 40Km “killer”!

There is also the specific Wharfedale Biking Guide with six routes in the areas of Grassington, Appletreewick and Bolton Abbey.

Cycle-friendly Holiday Accommodation in the Yorkshire Dales

Section still to be completed

Maps and guide books

Cycling in Norway

Cycling in Norway

Including the North Sea Cycle Route and the Rallarvegen

There is some amazing adventurous riding in Norway, particularly the Bergen to (nearly) Oslo route including the astonishing Rallarvegen; plus, there is the Norwegian section of the North Sea Cycle Route.

There are some really excellent map sets for cycling these long-distance routes in Norway published by Castor Forlag. The only thing is, they can be a bit hard to get hold of!

Norway map routes from Castor Forlag
Norway map routes from Castor Forlag

The Rallarvegen

Read Visit Norway’s description of the Rallarvegen:

The Visit Norway website - watch the Rallarvegen video!
The Visit Norway website – watch the Rallarvegen video!

Following the outskirts of the Hardangervidda mountain plateau, Rallarvegen (the navvie’s road) leads you along the Bergen Railway Line from Haugastøl via Finse, Hallingskeid, Myrdal and all the way down to Flåm by the Sognefjord, or to Voss, located in-between the Sognefjord and the Hardangerfjord.

The route was first opened for cycling in 1974, and the last few years about 25,000 cyclists from Norway and abroad find their way here each year. You can cycle the whole distance in one day, or you can spend a few days and really see the sights along the road.

There is always an option to cycle only parts of the distance according to your own desires.”

The Rallarvegen is just part of a route linking Bergen and (nearly) Oslo.

As it stands today (3rd February 2020) I have in stock the Castor Forlag map set including the Rallarvegen. Altogether the route is 539Km. (As I said, this can be hard to get hold of , so get it while it’s hot is a good tip.)

Norway - Cycle Route from Bergen to Oslo - nearly
Norway – Cycle Route from Bergen to Oslo – nearly

The North Sea Cycle Route

Of course there is also the North Sea Cycle Route from the border with Sweden via Oslo, Kristiansand and Stavanger to Bergen.

Take in the fjords and beautiful coastline of Norway on another really adventurous ride.

The North Sea Cycle Route maps are divided in to East and West. The Eastern set is available in English. The Western set is out of print in English but available (and perfectly usable) in Norwegian.

Norway - North Sea Cycle Route West in Norwegian set
Norway – “North Sea Cycle Route West” – the Norwegian set

The maps are printed on separate cards so that you only need to keep one or two out for the day. Each card has useful phone numbers and addresses on the reverse for accommodation and the like. They come in a tough, plastic box that will keep them safe on your way.

Norway - North Sea Cycle Route West in Norwegian hotel info sample
Norway – “North Sea Cycle Route West in Norwegian” – example of hotel info

There is an excellent website, Cycletourer.co.uk, which has a very comprehensive web page on cycling in Norway: https://www.cycletourer.co.uk/cycletouring/norway.shtml

Click below to order a set of maps – or email me if it says “Read More” – which generally means it is out of stock – and I can tell you if I know when they will become available.

Using the Ultimate UK Cycle Route Planner

Using the Ultimate UK Cycle Route Planner

by Richard Peace, cycling journalist, guide book author, map designer: https://richardpeacecycling.com/

UK Cycle Route Planner
The Ultimate UK Cycle Route Planner

As a cycle guide publisher we’ve done quite a few shows in the past, displaying our range of cycle books and maps to the general public and it’s always interesting to get people’s reactions. The good ones make you feel like you are doing something right but the critical are often just as helpful.

It’s been very noticeable at the shows that many people pick up our Ultimate UK Cycle Route Planner and once they have done so are extremely reluctant to put it down, studying it intensely and making ums and ahs of interest and enlightenment.

But why is it a different tale with some online reviews who occasionally criticise the map? Typical comments include ‘Not enough detail to follow correctly’ and ‘at best it is an indication of where cycle routes may be.’

So to clear up exactly what the planner is and isn’t and how it will hopefully keep on proving useful to buyers, here’s a bit more background about the contents and how it we envisage it being used.

1. The Scale

With a scale of 1:588,000 this is an overview map for planning your routes so you can see how all the UK’s main leisure cycle routes are interconnected. So it’s not meant for navigation as you ride along.

It’s simply not possible to fit all the UK’s major cycle routes onto one map at a great level of detail – if you tried you would end up with an unmanageably large sheet of paper.

1080mm x 880mm is the unfolded sheet size and is as large as we wanted to go – any larger and it becomes too much of a handful to inspect when unfolded, especially if outdoors in the wind.

It folds down to the size of an OS Landranger map and so will handily fit in the map pocket of an outdoor type coat.

2. What Routes are Shown and Who is it Aimed at?

Leisure riding
The National Cycle Network (NCN)

The UK Cycle Route Planner is aimed at leisure riders. The National Cycle Network (NCN) is shown in its entirety and stands out in bold red along. NCN route numbers are included. As the traffic-free sections (many are former railway lines converted to paths or upgraded canal towpaths) are amongst the most popular these are made to stand out in even broader red and white dashes.

There is more traffic-free info in the form of green numbers next to traffic-free sections. A separate box out names each numbered traffic-free section, allowing you to search out more detailed info online or in other guidebooks. There are 305 traffic-free sections listed and those that we know to be in rougher condition are indicated with red MB lettering to show that a mountain bike may be a wise choice on them, even though the gradients are likely to be unchallenging.

In addition to NCN routes the traffic-free numbering system also identifies easy going traffic-free trails that are not on the NCN but still legally cycleable, such as some sections of the Leeds-Liverpool canal or a route through the Forest of Dean.

More Challenging Routes

For those want more of a challenge the map also shows a selection of routes in dotted green lines. These are National Trails and other long distance off-road routes that allow bikes.

cycle maps and guide books
Southe Pennines and Peak District Off-road Cycle Map

Examples include the Pennine Bridleway and the Moors to Sea route in the North Yorks Moors. If you want to know more about the kind of track used by these routes see the BikeRideMaps blog here on the routes in the South Pennines and northern Peak District.

A selection of long distance classics are also indicated on the map including the C2C, the Way of the Roses and the Devon Coast to Coast. The map also shows 46 regional signed routes – these are also often multi day rides and fully signed on the ground but less well-known than the iconic long distance routes listed above.

Attractions En Route and Transport Links

To aid the ‘joining up’ of all the above routes the map also shows suggested minor road links and the lengthier sections of traffic-free route sometimes found alongside major roads.

The UK’s rail network and all stations are shown in full for those wanting to access their rides by train.

This allows you to make up your own bike tours; an almost infinite number of possibilities await…

Last but not least you can see where there are attractions on or near the cycle routes such as stately homes, castles, museums and many other historical sites.

3. So Just How Would You Use It?

We have had feedback from an End to End rider who said they took the map with them en route and found it invaluable. But it can also be used to discover day rides in your local area or a holiday area you don’t know that well or to make up your own multi-day rides.

As we always try and make clear to potential buyers, when out cycling you are likely to need a more detailed, larger scale map of the area you are riding in to aid you if you get lost en route.

Where the Planner comes into its own is allowing you to see easily and clearly at a glance all the many different types of route in any area of the UK you choose to look at.

That’s something we think no other publication will let you do.

Richard Peace is the author of many cycling guide books, including the best-selling C2C cycle guide, Cycling Northern France, Cycling Southern France and the Devon C2C cycle guide.

You can read more on the Excellent Books web page.