The UK, I would say, is pretty flat. If you argue with that statement I would say to you that Ben Neviss, the UK’s highest mountain (if you can call it that), is 1344 metres high. Compare that to Everest which is 8,848 metres high then you realise Ben Neviss is basically just a bump in the road. Andreas – 1 Argumentative reader – 0.
All jokes aside, there is some great cycling to be had in the UK and all you need to know is how to find it and plan your route. By the end of reading this article all your friends will be praising you for being the organised one. Anyway, let’s get planning for an awesome bit of cycling with friends, a girlfriend, a husband or, let’s be honest, for some romantic time just you and your bike.
Step 1 – Find a route
The first step is to find a route you may want to do. Here’s how I would do it:
- Sustrans website – click on “Sustans near you” and pick out some of their rides
- Route finding websites – I have listed these before on London Cyclist and it’s a great way of discovering routes other people have done
- Ask around – real life people are usually a good source of information though try and avoid them wanting to show you 500 pictures from their recent 2 day cycling trip. It has happened to me.
- Books – If you still live in the stone age then there is plenty of books with cycle routes. This ones a good’un.
- Google – just type in “cycling” and then the area. For example “Cycling Milton Keynes” will present you with a lovely array of badly designed websites.
Step 2 – Directions
You can skip this step if you’re a man. On second thoughts if you’re a man don’t skip this step. You really have a couple of choices here. You can either memorise the route (what are you an elephant?), follow the signposts (most national cycle routes are well sign posted), use ordnance survey maps or use technology. I’ll explore the two best options in a bit more depth.
Option A – Welcome to the 21st century
There is an awesome website called GPS Visualizer. On that site pick either the OpenCycleMap or Terrain view. The beauty of OpenCycleMap is that all the national cycle routes are shown. On this amazing website you can also add your GPS points and then export the data to your GPS device. Perfecto! No more getting lost.
To do this simply select the Trk button and tap the map to add points. When you are done adding all the points click the save GPX button and click the final point on your map. You can then save it to your computer and send it over to your GPS device or something like Google Earth. The great thing about Google Earth is that you can get a feel of the route before you have even ridden it using the pictures and satellite images.
Alternatively just print off any maps you need and take them with you.
Option B – For those who refuse to reap the benefits of technology
Get yourself some ordnance survey maps and plan your route on there. I recommend a nice pink highlighter.
Step 3 – Workout how to get your bike there
Everyone knows walking is rubbish so make sure you get your bike to the destination. To check if you can take your bike on the train checkout the ever-useful UK Bike/Rail page. Also book your train tickets in advance on TrainLine and save some dosh. Alternatively, if travelling by car, buy a good cycle rack.
The other option is to rent a bike when you get there.
Step 4 – Check the weather and convince your friends to come with you
Convincing tactics I recommend:
“Go on mate it’ll be fun, I promise not to poke fun at your bike / shaven legs / haircut again”
“Go on mate, you need to loose a bit of weight” *point disapprovingly at their belly*
Step 5 – Take the kit
Some of the bits you will need:
- Camera – I have this one because it takes amazing pictures, doesn’t cost to much and fits in my pocket nicely.
- Spare inner tube
- Puncture repair kit
- Cycling shorts – I have discussed what to look for in a good pair and recommended some good ones here
- Allen key
Step 6 – Eat, drink and be merry
Make sure before you set-off you arm yourself with good local knowledge of the pubs. So you can get drunk refuel with some fine food. Also if its a trip that will take two days find yourself a good hotel.
Step 8 – Tell people about it
As I don’t like the number 7, I skipped it. Step 8 – leave a comment about an awesome route you did on this blog or upload it to one of the cycle route websites to share it with others.