While the thought of getting on a track bike and spinning around a velodrome like Sir Chris Hoy might be appealing to some, the relatively small number of locations, plus a complex accreditation system, makes for a real commitment. However, with more than 200,000 miles of paved road in the UK, getting out on the tarmac couldn’t be easier.
The UK plays host to various affiliated cycling clubs, all of which can be found through the domestic sport’s governing body, British Cycling. Whatever your location, preference or experience there is likely to be a club for you – from child-friendly groups to Audax clubs (covering extremely long distances within a pre-determined time limit).
While on the British Cycling website, check out the skills and techniques section for some top tips, such as advice on how to ride in a group, or peloton. These techniques will come in handy if you’re planning on regular club rides or sportives (races), as these events all have their own rules and procedures.
There is also the potential benefit of combining exercise with networking, and there are dedicated groups across the UK catering to professionals for this reason. BDOVELO, for example, was established a few years ago.
“I don’t play golf – I used to hack around a course, but that’s because it was a way to meet people who did play golf,” says Chris Grove, head of transaction services at top six firm BDO, who helped establish the network. Structured like a normal club, it offers regular rides, alongside events, where people can get out and network on two wheels. “We’re very happy for people to come along and bring clients’ contacts and generally network,” Grove explains.
Matt Mannakee, managing director of Struggle Events, identified this same niche. He runs a group called network cycling – a Harrogate-based group with regular rides out of Prologue cycle café. He is also the founder of a duo of corporate and mass-participation events, Struggle the Moors and Struggle the Dales, for the dedicated masochists in the cycling community. As the names suggest, these events are about taking on some of the most challenging terrain the country has to offer.
They have, he says, gained cult status among serious cyclists in the country. People like to set them as a goal in their calendar, to travel around the country and “tick off certain climbs”. While events like these may be motivation for some, here’s a choice of three more of the UK’s most iconic cycling locations, for those wanting to challenge themselves – but at their own pace.
The Surrey hills, Surrey
Although the area has been popular among cyclists for years, it gained notoriety after its inclusion in the 2012 Olympics. Starting and finishing on the Mall, Olympians slogged it out on the infamous Box Hill before looping back to the city. The course proved so popular it is now ridden each year in the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100.
Though there are a variety of ways to reach the Surrey Hills, Strava offers a comprehensive record of the circuit used in the RideLondon event – all 102 miles of it. From the central London
start, the course heads out past Buckingham Palace and Hyde Park towards Hammersmith. After turning south-west and winding through Richmond park and past Hampton Court Palace, the route heads through Esher towards the Surrey Hills proper.
After Peaslake, riders turn east and begin to climb over Leith Hill, turning north and dropping down through Dorking and then pushing back up to Box Hill. The route then finally heads back towards
the capital through Epsom and Wimbledon. After crossing the River Thames the circuit goes back through Fulham and past Westminster, before coming to a finish on the iconic Mall.
The top time in the Prudential RideLondon 2017 was four hours, five minutes and 41 seconds. If you’re looking to take in the Surrey Hills but can’t spare the time, then a regular 30-minute train runs between Waterloo and Guildford, a decent staging point from which to launch an assault on the most challenging sections – the 8.7% climb on Leith Hill and Box Hill’s notorious and lung-busting zig-zag road – a 2.2km, 5.2% monster.
785 Huez RS – Look Weight, or the lack of, matters on a bike, especially when tackling the steepest of inclines. Look, the creators of the first carbon frame – and the first clipless pedals – is worth a, well, look. The 785 Huez RS is the flagship alpine offering from the renowned French brand, rather svelte at 5.9kg.
With more than 30 years of experience, Look has used “ultra high modulus carbon” to construct the 730g frame and 250g forks, which when supplemented with a ZED monobloc crankset makes for a mean climber. The RS is available in four different colour schemes and component choices. The lowest priced set-up costs €3,999, whereas a complete replica of those used by Team Fortuneo-Oscaro in the Tour de France 2017 is €9,999.
The Strines, the Pennines
Only 29 minutes outside Sheffield by car, Low Bradfield offers a perfect starting point to tackle some of the most beautiful, and intimidating, climbs in the Pennines. Making up part of the course of the 2014 Tour de France, the area showcases dramatic views, and even more dramatic riding.
The Sheffrec Tour of the Strines Sportive – a British Cycling-registered event in September, organised by local cycling group Sheffrec CC – takes full advantage of some of the most intense sections in the area. Also starting in Low Bradfield, the sportive is a 50-mile slog that includes just short of 2,500m of climbing. From start to finish the interwoven circuit covers many stretches that wiggle and slope their way through the hills.
For those not wanting to take on the full 50-mile juggernaut but still desiring a challenge, one of the toughest sections – ominously nicknamed “deliverance” – can be accessed by following Mortimer road south from Midhopestone, itself only a 40-minute drive from Sheffield. The nom de guerre for the section is apt – it rises 130m over 0.9km at an average 13% incline.
Endura Pro SL Classics Jersey II
Blessed with some of the UK’s most picturesque and rugged cycling, Scotland is also home to Endura, the humble cyclewear brand turned global player. One of the reasons behind its success is offerings such as the Pro SL Classics II – a really waterproof and breathable cycling jersey that has become the kit of choice for the professional cycling Movistar Team. The jersey has waterproof ratings comparable to Gore-Tex and a high neck that provides additional protection and prevents rain seeping down your back. The short-sleeve jersey comes with accompanying arm warmers so that it can be used in a range of weather. Available in blue or black for £149.99.
Unisex Equipe Gore-Tex
This offering from the waterproofing specialist will guarantee a dry head even in the wettest of weathers. The cap is made from the material used in all of the Gore-Tex weather range, meaning your head will be windproof under your helmet and waterproof in extreme conditions. The elasticated design means that this cap fits heads of all shapes, sizes and genders, and it costs £29.99.
Castelli Tempesta 2 Glove
Cycling in the winter is a lot less glamorous than cycling in the sun. Luckily, Castelli knows this and has produced a glove designed to make things as comfortable as possible, one it claims is its best glove yet, waterproof and insulating without being too bulky. They have a hefty price tag at £80 a pair, but keep hands warm and functioning in horrible conditions.
The Mendips and Cheddar gorge, Somerset
While the area surrounding Glastonbury is comparatively flat apart from the occasional tor, the landscape rises dramatically towards the Mendips, south of Bath and Bristol, and soars
up before dropping into deep gorges and valleys. The area is popular among cyclists, so much so that online bike retailer Wiggle organises three separate sportives there – a 31-mile short route, a standard 65-mile and a muscle-shredding 99-miler.
One of the focal points, and major challenges, for many cyclists tempted by the outstanding beauty of the area is the route through Cheddar Gorge. The section, according to Strava, includes a 3.5km climb, rising 165 metres from the mouth of the gorge up to the finish, with an average incline of 5%. There are ways to enjoy the area without going up. An hour south of Bristol by bike, Chew Valley Lake allows for a serene loop and beautiful views of the Somerset countryside.