Cycling in Bedfordshire

CTC Bedfordshire

Cycling in Bedfordshire

Looking for information about cycling in Bedfordshire? Cycling UK's guide to cycling in Bedfordshire gives you routes, events, clubs and advice to inspire you to cycle in the county. ​

Outside the big towns of Bedford and Luton – whose growing network for commuter and town cyclists, with a quarter being traffic-free, has seen recent increases in people getting round the town by bike – Bedfordshire is a county of quiet lanes and pretty villages such as Old Warden and Barton le Clay.

It’s a fine place to explore by bike. Three major railways give easy access to most of its 60-odd towns, and there are plenty of museums, parks, gardens and woods, plus Woburn Abbey and Whipsnade Zoo. Though close to London, it feels a long way away in the back lanes.

A trio of National Cycle Routes – various sections of NCN6, NCN12 and NCN51 – will eventually form a triangle round the county, and there are countless circular leisure rides from a few miles up to a full day out. Many start in Bedford and loop into the surrounding villages, such as the 23-mile Greenwood Trail.

NCN51 – a high-quality railtrail running seven miles or so from Bedford to Sandy – is one of the best routes, especially for families or inexperienced cyclists. Bedfordshire has its mostly gentle hills and rolling country, but routes don’t come flatter than NCN6. It runs mostly traffic-free from Luton through Dunstable to Leighton Buzzard, taking you along the winding towpath of the Grand Union Canal out to Milton Keynes.

If all that cycling gives you an appetite, your cafe stop might include a ‘clanger’ – the local speciality, a dumpling containing meat or jam, or both.

Cycling groups and clubs in Bedfordshire

Bedfordshire CTC (Bedford)

Rides for all from beginner to expert around the county. Club rides from 10 miles to 100km

Icknield Road Club (Luton)

Cycling club based in Flitwick, Ampthill, Luton and Bedfordshire

Leighton Buzzcycles (Leighton Buzzard)

Campaign group and cycling club that does rides and events

Chicksands Bike Park (Shefford)

Mountain bike trail centre and campaign group

WeeCycle Bedford Park Rotary Club (Bedford)

Organises annual charity rides

What to take with you on your ride 

The only thing you really need for cycling is a bike. And maybe a phone, and credit card: in Britain you’re only a call away from any service you might need. 

But unless money is no object, it’s wise to take a few things with you on a day ride. A saddlebag or rear rack and panniers are best for carrying stuff. A front basket is second best. A rucksack is third best. Your sweaty back will soon tell you why.

Cycling short distances in jeans and t-shirt is fine, but on a long or strenuous ride – over ten miles say, or in hills – those jeans will rub and the t-shirt will get damp and clingy. Shorts or, yes, lycra leggings and padded shorts will be much comfier, and merino or polyester cycling tops wick away the sweat, keeping you dry and comfy. (They don’t have to be lurid colours.)

If rain’s in the air, pack a rainproof top. If it might turn chilly, take a fleece or warm top. But the thing you’re most likely to forget is the sunblock. 

It’s remarkable how often you enjoy being out on the bike so much that you suddenly realise it’s getting dark. So take lights (which are legally required at night). They’re price of a sandwich, take no space, are easy to put on thanks to tool-free plastic clips, and the batteries last for ever.

Take a puncture repair kit (with tyre levers) and pump. Make sure it fits your valves, which will be either ‘Presta’ or ‘Schraeder’ – realising they don’t match is a very common roadside discovery! Carrying a spare inner tube (make sure it matches your tyre size) makes puncture repair much easier: mend the old one back at home. If you do get in trouble, some kindly passing cyclist will probably stop to help. 

Using a helmet is a personal choice – they’re not legally required.

Cycling makes you thirsty, so take lots of water. Long-distance riders talk about ‘the bonk’ – a sudden loss of energy rendering you almost stationary. It’s miraculously and instantly cured by eating something sweet. On short rides you’re unlikely to run out of energy, but just in case, take a snack like flapjack, banana, chocolate or jelly babies. 

Taking a packed lunch or picnic will save you money, though that hot drink and cake in a cosy cafe could yet prove very tempting!

Your phone GPS could be invaluable for showing where you are when lost; you can download free detailed UK maps and GPS software before your trip. 

Paper maps are still useful, though, so take one: no power source or wifi signal required, and they’re great for suggesting possibilities or changes of plan. 

What have we missed? Let us know your favourite routes by leaving a comment below. 

Cycling routes in Bedfordshire

Cycle A-way’s list of Bedfordshire cycling maps, routes and resources

Journey Planner

The Grand Union Canal 

National Cycle Route 6

The Jubilee Way

Cycling events in Bedfordshire​

Check out our events calendar to find a ride that suits you

Make sure your bike is working
(from our partners, Halfords)

Creaking cranks, wobbly wheels or slipping saddles are the last thing you want, but Halfords' guide to basic bike maintenance will keep you rolling smoothly. Whether you’re a regular commuter, a leisurely weekend rider, or prefer to tear it up on a serious MTB trail, signs of wear and tear might keep you off the saddle from time to time. Whilst we can’t promise to banish those roadside mishaps, we can help keep your bike tip top with our top tips!

You’re heading out on your lovely bike, with a pannier packed with your essentials. A glorious route lies ahead, but then you run into a spot of bother! Most of the time there are handy hacks you can do to tide you over whilst out and about, and we’ve taken a look into the most common bike problems and solutions…

Clicking saddle? Check that the bolts connecting the saddle to the seat post are not loose. Tighten until the saddle is firmly secured using an allen key from your trusty toolbox!
Squealing brakes? This could be down to dirt or oil on the brake pads. Give it a quick wipe down, then when you get home take the brake pads off and readjust.
Squeaky derailleur? A little lube should help. Remove any excess.
Creaky pedals? Dry pedal bearings, loose crank arms or a worn bottom bracket could be the culprit. Once home, remove and lube the pedal bearings, tighten and lube the crank arms, or replace the bottom bracket if it’s still making a fuss.

Problem areas

Some of the problems you find with your bike might need a closer look, and here’s where Halfords can help!
Wobbling disc rotors, spongy brakes and rattling bolts needn’t be as pesky as they sound for long enough to keep you off your bike! Call and see us with your two wheels at your local Halfords, or with any other bike bothers you might have.
From as little as £15 a year, Halfords will take the labour out of looking after your bike. Halfords offer a range of care packages, they provide free fitting on all parts and accessories bought from Halfords, and even include an annual service worth £50 as part of the plan! 

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<p>Since 2013 the Luton-Dunstable Busway has been open with a shared use path running parallel. On opening this was a compacted gravel surface and not great for all bike paths with &quot;A-frames&quot; designed to stop motorbike but hindered cyclists too. Since, the route has started to be upgraded with tarmac and the removal of most of the A-frames. This makes for a great traffic (99%) free route from Dunstable North to Luton town centre.</p>

<p>Give it a go!</p>

<p>Central Beds Travel Choices has a online map showing the route and surrounding areas.</p>


It remains to gather all the friends together and send them to ride. By the way, I still need to buy a good bike, I just can’t choose which one suits me best. Maybe someone wants to join us?

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