Traffic-free and off-road cycling

A lot of people are understandably a bit iffy about road cycling. Unless you already do it, all the lycra and the Strava can be a bit intimidating and then there is the general stress and unpleasantness of sharing a space with cars. I don't do it myself, and stick to cycle paths and trails around where I live. Here are a few things it might be handy to know if you would like to cycle more but don't want to go on the roads:

1. There are dedicated trail centres all over the UK now with graded routes ranging from Green (family-friendly and slow), Blue (slightly more challenging but mostly can still be ridden on a regular 'hybrid' bike) to Red (proper mountain bike needed) and Black (deep pockets and deathwish needed, though I wouldn't know because I've never been on one!).

2. 'Hybrid cycling' where people might do a bit on quiet roads but mostly take to canal tow-paths, disused railway lines, dedicated family trails, farm tracks or green lanes/bridleways is really, really enjoyable and do-able at almost any level of fitness and on almost any bike (if you live in a very hilly place or have health issues/are very unfit/overweight, see my earlier post about e-bikes: healthunlocked.com/nhsweigh... I got started cycling on e-bikes and now I mostly power myself around).

This kind of cycling is mostly about avoiding cars and riding through beautiful places. With a hybrid (fatter/stronger than a road bike, not as rugged as a mountain bike) or a cheap (under £300) mountain bike, you can do all of it.

3. The internet is your friend. You can map out your rides to avoid traffic by Googling 'cycle routes in ... ' or by looking at the Sustrans map or Forestry Commission or mountain-biking websites like Dirt (don't be put off by the fact that a lot of people are very young, predominantly male and kitted up to the nines - it's a very friendly sport/pastime and everyone's very relaxed - I'm a middle-aged overweight lady on my own and nobody's ever been mean or even offish to me - a lot of people -mostly men of my own age-have said they wish more people of different ages and women would join in because they're missing out on the fun and it would balance out the teenage boys - who are lovely people too by the way)

4. Here are some links that might get you started/give you some ideas:

forestry.gov.uk/forestry/in...

forestry.gov.uk/england-mou...

ibikeride.com/ (trail site reviewed by riders)

sustrans.org.uk/ncn/map/nat... (look out for traffic-free routes)

canalrivertrust.org.uk/enjo...

letsride.co.uk/breeze (aimed at getting more women on bikes)

britishcycling.org.uk/knowl... (I basically adapted this to off-road cycling)

Curious about a route near you but not sure if you'll like it when you get there? Search for it on YouTube - chances are someone has made a video of themselves cycling the entire length of it. To music!

youtube.com/results?search_...

And lastly, a blue trail that you might need a decent bike for - this one's on my bucket list:

Have fun!

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2 Replies

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  • This looks really interesting thank you mayaena 😊 I'll read it properly later

  • Thank you for posting. I like cycling but don't like cars so you have given me a lot of new information. I will have a look at the links later. 🚴🏽‍♀️

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