Cycling in Berkshire
Cycling in Berkshire
For easy, scenic leisure cycling alongside rivers and canals through calendar-view ‘old England’ – Windsor Castle, polo in the Great Park, Eton College, Thameside pubs – Britain’s only royal county is hard to beat.
The Jubilee River Route (part of NCN61), an 11-mile circular route through Eton and Dorney, is a family-friendly gem through watery landscapes. The part of NCN4 that goes alongside the Kennet and Avon Canal west of Reading is similarly car-free, flat and picturesque, and the route continues (partly along roads) to Newbury and Hungerford. (And even on to Bath and Bristol, if you have an extra day or two. There can be muddy stretches, though, and lots of gates.)
Cycling the quiet lanes around the lovely Thames towns of Pangbourne and Streatley – and exploring the Berkshire Downs west of them – is a delight too. There are many on-road routes to try round here, including the 140-mile Round Berkshire Cycle Route that makes a lovely long weekend tour. The Crown Estate Woodland near Bracknell and Windsor has some fine on and off-road cycling, with a good trail centre at Swinley Forest.
Getting by bike around the big commuter and business towns of Reading and Slough (a good overnight option if doing the Thames Path) isn’t always so enjoyable, though there are plans for improvements – and at least train access there is easy. Finally, while you have to push your bike across the quaint bridge between Eton and Windsor, a bridge you certainly can cycle over though is Brunel’s historic Thames crossing in Maidenhead.
Cycling groups and clubs in Berkshire
Reading CTC (Reading)
Friendly, thriving club for all cyclists with regular rides and events
Berks on Bikes Mountain Bike Club (Bracknell)
Lively MTB outings most days in Berks, UK and abroad
Reading Cycle Campaign (Reading)
Campaigns for better facilities in the town
Green Wheelers (Reading)
Maiden Erlegh School (Reading)
Reading YMCA (Reading)
Abu Bakr Mosque (Reading)
Bulmershe School (Reading)
St Mary’s School (Reading)
Pakistani Community Centre (Reading)
Coley Outreach Group Scheme (Reading)
Shinfield Baptist (Reading)
Foster Wheeler Cycling Club (Reading)
Reading Bike Kitchen (Reading)
Jacquah Cycling Club (Reading)
Rough Riders (Reading)
Indian Community Centre (Reading)
Reading Belles on Bikes (Reading)
Reading University (Reading)
Tri20 Triathlon Club (Reading)
Maidenhead Cycling Hub (Maidenhead)
Helps young people into work and sells refurbished bikes
Team Inkpen (Hungerford)
West Berkshire Spokes (Newbury)
Pinard 2 Paris (Marlston Hermitage)
YPWD (Berkshire West)
Wokingham Cycling Club
High Wycombe Cycling Club (High Wycombe)
Bucks MTB Bike Club
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, panniers or bikepacking bags 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.