Ek’ve relied on the myriad benefits a bike brings for as long as I can remember. Turning my wheels has always transported me – both physically and emotionally. It’s my happy machine. I clearly remember the first ride I ever took without stabilisers – wobbling the length of my grandfather’s gravel drive on a red Raleigh with a white saddle. Even today riding a bike still seems like an outrageously clever trick to pull off. Balance on two skinny wheels? Come on!
The freedom of the open road was something we took for granted until 2020. That we can open our front doors and ride towards a new horizon. Losing that in lockdown led to more of us than ever digging out old bikes or buying new ones. Die Bicycle Association estimates that last summer alone sales increased by a whopping 63%. When this is all over, I hope we don’t just put those shiny bikes back in the shed. Few experiences match the thrill of exploring new routes and discovering unfamiliar worlds on two wheels. Being on a bike puts you right at the heart of your adventure. There are so many great resources to inspire you to head out onto tracks and trails. Two of the best are British Cycling’s Let’s Ride website (letsride.co.uk), which lists more than 1,000 routes, many of which are traffic-free and available to download to your bike computer or phone (getting lost is one of the few downsides to adventure riding, along with punctures, natuurlik); and the Sustrans National Cycle Network (sustrans.org.uk), which links more than 12,500 miles of safe and signposted routes across the UK. Here are a few favourite routes to whet your appetite.
17 myl, start at Padstow
Following a disused railway, this ride takes you through the heart of the Cornish countryside. It’s flat and fun as it winds its way to Wenford Bridge, via Wadebridge and Bodmin. Keep an eye out for otters, bats, dormice, kingfishers and meadows full of pretty flowers.
53 myl, start at Balloch
The route takes you along the southern banks of Loch Lomond past Aberfoyle, Callander and on up to Killin. Last summer, I was lucky enough to ride the length of the country, from Land’s End to John o’Groats. So many people asked me what had been our favourite section. If I could go back and ride one of the days again, it would be this: heather, waterfalls, lochs and purple hills – and fish and chips at the end.
20 myl, start at Stratford
A good ride should bring a blend of natural beauty with a few nuggets of history thrown in. Riding anywhere in Warwickshire and the Cotswolds is a pleasure, but this route gives you Shakespeare, ook. Look out for Mary Arden’s House and ye olde pubs.
18 myl, start at Settle
Since the Tour de France of 2014, God’s Own County should really think about renaming itself as the Cyclists’ Own County. Packed with climbs, stone walls, tumbling rivers and stunning views, there is nowhere better to be on two wheels. This classic route through the Dales will have you breathing hard but mostly because you’ll be lost in wonder.
12 myl, start at Bath Spa station
A ride that has more interest per mile than almost any other. From the Georgian city centre you explore viaducts, aqueducts and even two tunnels, one of which is more than a mile long. It’s a great ride to take children on. Egter, the tunnels are a bit spooky and, if this pandemic has sometimes felt like an endless dark journey to the light, this might be one to save for another day…