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The 8 Best Places to Ride in Britain

The 8 Best Places to Ride in Britain

The best places to cycle in Britain are individual to every cyclist. They’re your Sunday Morning Killer Loop, your local pump track or just the ride to the pub and back, beauty really is in the eye of the beholder in defining the best place to cycle. But enough of the sentimentality. It’s not going to help you discover the great riding in Britain.

Here’s a geographical list of places that are fantastic for cycling and where you might find your own favourite place to ride:

1. Scotland, the last true wilderness of these shores

It’s like a far off country. Whilst riding in Scotland our way was blocked by a huge bull of Highland Cattle variety, all horns and immovable stubbornness. You only see beasts that fearsome riding in Africa! From the rugged yet beautiful North Atlantic Coast to Hadrian’s Wall in the south, apart from the wildlife there is a life-affirming solitude to be found in riding amongst the breath-taking landscape of mountains, valleys and Lochs. It's sublime. Except if you’re ripping it up at one of the World Class mountain bike trail centres. Wow.

2. Yorkshire

It was in the 2014 edition Tour de France. The best opening 3 days to the Tour Ever! You saw it on TV – go ride it – just don’t try and eat the tarmac in Harrogate like Cavendish.

3. The Lake District, home to the iconic Fred Whitton challenge

You could do far worse than follow the route of the course that takes in all of the high passes in the Lakes. Names like Kirkstone, Hardknott and Honister strike fear into the minds and legs of the hardiest of cyclist. It's not just the steepness of the climbs but the high likelihood of bad weather of a biblical scale that will almost definitely obscure the most incredible scenery in England. If I’m not selling it to you, remember the Lake District is the only place in England with real mountains to mountain bike on/up/over/down. Come on, you know you want to.

4. Wales, it's like cycling in the Alps

Just without the 14 hour journey and chair lifts. OK… it's not quite the Alps. Maybe more the foothills but it's on the doorstep and has everything for a cyclist of any discipline. The hills of the Brecons and the valleys of South Wales have climbs to challenge the hardiest of riders and lengthy descents to provide unlimited exhilaration.  From the North to the South of Wales the mountain biking scene and infrastructure is as challenging and diverse as anywhere in Europe (just without chairlifts).

5. London. What? Yes – London 

Think about it, what better way to see the iconic sights than on a bike rather than the Underground, buses or walking? Get out early on a Sunday morning when the roads are empty and the shameless all night party goers are just heading home. That’s the time to take in Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, Hyde Park, Regents Park…the list is endless. All whilst cycling iconic roads like the Mall, Whitehall and Embankment. It’s marvellous. Just don’t jump the lights.

6. My wild card, Wiltshire. Where?

It's the County that you rage slowly through in an endless traffic jam on the way to the West Country. But turn off the A303 and step back in time to a rolling Iron Age landscape. Remember the Hovis advert with the boy on the bike going up- hill? That's actually Golds Hill in Shaftesbury, recreate the advert on the same cobbled ramp of tyre slipping pain before exploring a land that time and most road users forgot.

7. Surrey - where London rides 

The Surrey Hills have got the lot. It was the venue for the Olympic road races and Tour of Britain Stages. Look beyond Boxhill and it has some sadistic hills (White Down Lane being the most brutal). It caters for the roadie and mountain biker alike (head to Peaslake for some great single track) all 20 miles or 1 hours ride from South London. OK I’m biased, it's where I ride.

8. And last, but not least, Kent

I’m not just including Kent to appease the Eastern side of London’s cycling community or the residents of Kent. It's got some great climbs, fantastic descents and picturesque villages, it really is a nice place to ride.

For what it's worth, the worst place to cycle in Britain? Devon.

Yes, the coastal scenery is amazing and the Moors are dramatic and outer-worldly. But. The climbs are so steep and the descents are too steep. You’re hard on your brakes with no post-climb pay back as you descend the deep, narrow, unsighted lanes trying to avoid tractors, sheep and oblivious-to-the-world caravaners coming round the blind corners.  And it’s probably raining hard (making the descents even more perilous), or blowing a gale.  

But wait, my cycling-hell might be another man’s heaven and equally deserving of the title: best place to cycle.


the author

Ben Walder

Ben is a keen cyclist, road and mountain biking, runner, skier and even enjoyed a brief flirtation with boxing. He’s cycled John O Groats to Lands End, London to Paris in 24 hours, 5 countries in 3 days and ticked off some legendary climbs from the Tour de France. When he’s not dragging his mates out on cycling adventures across Europe he’s being dragged around by his 2 young daughters to karate, ballet, gymnastics, tennis and swimming..