Cycling in the Lake District and Cumbria
Whether you are into road or mountain biking, the Lake District and Cumbria provides you with challenges and rewards on every level. Whatever your ability, you can enjoy your cycling by means of off-road, purpose-built circuits, sustrans cycleways or extreme road hill climbing, unrivalled this side of the French alps.
Staveley provides an excellent base for cycling and Wilf's café is where many cyclists depart from. You can cycle on the quiet Kentmere roads or get muddy on the Garburn pass trail deep into the hills. Post-ride sports massage and injury treatment can be found at the BodyRehab Injury and Rehabilitation Clinic. Moving further into the Lakes, you could use Grizedale forest and Hawkshead as a base, utilising over 40 miles of off-road tracks that are free from traffic.
The Keswick area also provides purpose-built tracks as well as miles of disused railway lines alongside magnificent river views. It is also a gateway to the really steep mountain passes of the famous Fred Whitton cycle sportive.
The Fred Whitton Challenge is an annual cycling challenge, in memory of Fred Whitton. It's a truly classic bike ride that raises much money for charity and involves 112 miles in one day. It includes some of the most challenging passes in the Lake District - Kirkstone, Honister, Newlands, Whinlatter, Hardknott & Wrynose. A new electronic timing system is now in place making the Fred Whitton Challenge available all year round: Sportident UK have timing stations around the route, so if you missed the annual challenge, or would rather take a more leisurely pace, you can still get an official time for this demanding Lake District cycling route.
Opened in June 2015 is the 100-mile Morecambe Bay Cycle Way which connects Walney Island to Glasson Dock. The new path includes many traffic-free sections and quiet lanes and is aimed at families and leisure cyclists who want to go at their own pace to explore the distinctive culture, wildlife and food of the area. The signed path leads visitors through Gleaston Water Mill, Ulverston, Humphrey Head, Grange–over-Sands, Levens Hall, Arnside and Silverdale AONB, Carnforth, Morecambe and Lancaster.
Moving into the heart of Cumbria and the Lakes provides the ultimate in challenges both on and off-road, with the 1 in 3 climbs of Wrynose and hard knot passes and superb mountain biking around Eskdale and the foothills of Scafell. Ambleside remains a popular place to stay when in the Lake District with its easy access to the fells and classic road and mountain biking routes. Detailed descriptions of these routes can be found in various local guide books.
Cycling is popular in the Kendal district and you can download free cycle maps from here. Also throughout the summer, Kendal & District Cycle Scene run free cycle events called 'Easy Tuesdays'. They begin from Kendal Leisure Centre at 7pm every Tuesday apart from the third Tuesday of the month when they start from Milnthorpe or Bowness / Windermere. The rides involve a gentle pace and are generally between 10 and 20 miles.
The South Lakes Group of the Rough Stuff Fellowship organise rides that are open to cyclists of all abilities, all ages and on all types of cycle (perhaps with the exception of lightweight racers, as they do go off road). They are easy paced, non-competitive social rides usually calling at one cafe in the morning, although participants are asked to bring a pack lunch. If you are a non-member you are welcome to join the group for two or three rides, check them out, and then hopefully become a member (£12.00 per year). Just turn up on the day or for further information call Simeon on 01524 811843 after 6:00pm. Forthcoming group rides are listed here.
A new database of Mountain Bike Rides was launched by the Westmorland Gazette during the summer of 2013. You can view the rides here, download GPX files which connect with GPS devices and add your own favourite ride.
In 2012 'bike and ride' buses were first introduced. They were very successful and so the Bike Bus service is provided each summer. The route 800 service is run by Stagecoach Cumbria as part of the GoLakes Travel sustainable transport programme. The hourly services in each direction run from May until September, although only at weekends and on bank holidays between May and July and during the month of September. For six weeks from mid-July until the end of August, the bike bus service is provided daily.
Specially-converted buses, that are able to carry up to 12 bikes and riders, travel along the A591 from Windermere Railway Station to the Whinlatter Forest Visitor Centre. The route 800 buses stop at Kelsick Road in Ambleside, Brockhole, Windermere train station, Bowness-on-Windermere Pier, Fell Foot Park, Newby Bridge, Lakeland Motor Museum and Lakeside & Havethwaite Railway. Download Bike Bus Timetable. Another leaflet 'Rides from the Bike Bus' (see links on left hand side of page) is also available. Here's a BBC Video news report.
A bike ferry known as a 'Bike Boat' runs through mid-Summer. It is operated by Windermere Lake Cruises who have adapted a traditional wooden vessel to carry up to 12 bikes and passengers across England's largest lake and back. Running every 20 minutes, the Bike Boat connects Brockhole on the eastern side of Windermere and Wray Jetty (near Wray Castle) on the West Shore of the lake.
In 2016 a new 190 mile cycle route taking in two national parks - the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales - was unveiled. The Lakes and Dales Loop is a revised and revatalised version of the former Cumbria Cycleway, which was opened in 1980, using quieter lanes linking the Lake District with the Lune and Eden valleys and the new extensions into the Yorkshire Dales. Full details can be found here.
So, you can see that whatever kind of cycling you are passionate about, the Lake District has it all. MTB routes, classic road biking, quiet country lanes, vicious hill climbs, exciting mountain bike adventures, long multi-day touring routes and all washed down with a cup of tea and a cake from a local café! For beautiful, magnificent views, you can't do better than pick the Lake District for all your cycling needs.