Cycling in Dorset
Cycling in Dorset
Dorset is most famous for its coast – the 95-mile Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage site that includes beauty spots such as Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove, and the strange strand of Chesil Beach – and over half the county is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The total absence of motorways, and the presence of innumerable quiet back roads through lovely countryside, makes it a great place to explore by bike. NCN2 connects the eastern end of the Jurassic Coast with Exmouth over to the west, while NCN26 links Weymouth with Dorchester; a maze of bridleways near the coast make it very attractive for mountain biking.
The stunning Isle of Purbeck may be firmly attached to the mainland, but it’s spectacular cycle touring country, with challenging climbs on the quiet ridge roads between Kimmeridge and Lulworth. On a summer’s day, there’s nowhere more inspiring to cycle in Britain (and in bad weather, there are plenty of cafes and pubs).
The most southerly point of the Jurassic Coast, the (also non-island) Isle of Portland offers more tough but scenic climbing. Coming from fabulous Swanage and Studland, a quirky chain ferry takes you and bike across the narrow mouth of vast Poole Harbour in under four minutes.
If you can tear yourself away from the coast, more must-sees include Corfe Castle, Milton Abbas, the Cerne Abbas Giant, Blandford Forum, abandoned Tyneham – and cobbled Gold Hill in Shaftesbury, one of Dorset’s many chocolate-box-beautiful towns and villages. It’s a candidate for Britain’s most famous cycle climb, thanks to starring in fake-nostalgic 1970s TV adverts for Hovis bread. The county’s big town, Bournemouth, has a fine promenade for family cycling.
Cycling groups and clubs in Dorset
CTC Wessex (Bournemouth)
Gentle to hard-riding touring cycling
Dorset Fizz (Dorchester)
Purbeck Peloton (Purbeck)
Dorset One Gear (Swanage)
Swanage Cycling Club (Swanage)
Rides round the Isle of Purbeck and beyond
Monday Cycle Group (Blandford Forum)
Dorset Rough Riders (Swanage)
Mountain biking round the beautiful Isle of Purbeck
Bournemouth Jubilee Wheelers (Bournemouth)
Large club with road, track, time trials, cyclocross and cross country MTB
Dorset Cyclists Network (Bournemouth)
Campaigning for a cycle-friendly Dorset
West Dorset Cycling (Dorchester)
Steel is Real MTB (Dorset)
Castle Wheelers Cycling Club Highcliffe (Christchurch)
Christchurch Bicycle Club (Christchurch)
Wessex Accessible Cycling Club (Moors Valley)
The Rotary Club of Westbourne - The Rotary Dorset Bike Ride
Siddy's Cyclers (Bridport)
Caundle Velo Club (Sturminster Newton)
Blackmore Vale Cycling Club (Sturminster Newton)
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? Recommend your favourite routes using the comments box below.
Cycling routes in Dorset
Getting round Dorchester, Bournemouth and Poole, and rural leisure rides