Cycling in Gloucestershire and Bristol
Cycling in Gloucestershire and Bristol
It’s debatable where the boundaries of the Cotswolds are, but what’s not in doubt is that most of it is in Gloucestershire and that it offers the cyclist the essential English touring experience. The country’s essence is here in the golden cottages, beautiful villages, formal gardens, stately homes, wildflower lanes and lush hills.
There are even flat waterscapes (the Cotswold Water Park offers several family-friendly short paths) and the occasional railtrail (part of NCN45 runs traffic-free along the valley between Nailsworth and Stroud).
In amongst the Cotswolds’ quiet lanes are sometimes crowded tourist honeypots with their well-heeled incomers and London-prices shops – Bourton, Burford, Broadway, Chipping Campden – but also more serene olde-worlde villages like Kingham or the Slaughters. Train access is possible via Gloucester, Kemble or Moreton-in-Marsh.
There’s a vast range of Cotswold routes available online or in guide books, but this is a place you can well explore spontaneously, with a map and a sense of adventure. Quaint cafes and pubs are never far away, but it’s a good idea to have your accommodation booked – B&Bs are not cheap.
As if the Cotswolds weren’t enough, the Forest of Dean over to the west of the county offers more deep-green touring, with plenty of options for mountain bikers and families – there’s a specially-surfaced child-friendly loop of 11 miles from Cannop Valley, for instance.
Gloucester – a pleasant enough centre to explore by bike, with its cathedral and a few handsome old buildings– has a good canal path (part of NCN41) running southwest from the docks area. It makes handy access for Stonebench, one of the best places to view the remarkable Severn Bore.
Bristol finds itself in this section: a vibrant up-and-coming city for utility cycling that has plenty to see and enjoy for the cyclist – the Mud Dock Cafe in the central harbour area was a cycle-cafe years before the recent boom. The city also boasts an active campaign group and the first-ever Sustrans venture, the superb cycleway to Bath.
Cycling groups and clubs in Gloucestershire and Bristol
Cheltenham CTC (Cheltenham)
Non-racing club that offers rides that cater for a wide range of interest and abilities
Cycle Bristol CTC (Bristol)
Organised weekend rides from 15 to 100 miles, and Audax events
Royal Dean Forest Cycling Club (Forest of Dean)
MTB and road rides, time trials and MTB sportives
Newent Cycling Group (Newent)
Easy-paced rides around the lanes of north Glos, etc; also campaigns
Gloucester City Cycle Club (Gloucester)
Touring, racing, time trials, cyclocross, on road and on track; also campaigns
Tidal Lagoon Power (Gloucester)
Leadon Vale Cycle Club (Gloucestershire)
Rides for all for over 14s from beginner to more experienced
Bigfoot Mountain Bike Club (Gloucestershire)
Evening rides year round on singletrack and downhill trails, from beginner level to advanced
Stonehouse Wheelers (Stonehouse)
Sunday rides from flat to hilly routes.
The Cranks (Dursley)
Cheltenham & County CC (Cheltenham)
Holds road, cyclocross, mtb and women's events
Plough Cycling (Moreton-in-Marsh)
North Cotswold Cycling Club (Moreton-in-Marsh)
On and off-road club offering regular rides with trained leaders
Winchcombe Cycling Club (Winchcombe)
Social rides, Audax/sportives, MTB enduro events, road racing, time trialling and touring
Stroud Valleys CC (Stroud)
Graded rides for a range of abilities, from novices through to experienced cyclists
Cyclebag East (Fishponds, Bristol)
Touring club offering fortnightly rides of 30-60 miles
Bristol Uni Bike Tours (Bristol)
One Good Turn (Bristol)
A Ride In the Park (Bristol)
Community group enabling locals to cycle and organising all-access events
Bedminster Down Bike Club (Bristol)
RC Bikers (Bristol)
Bristol Thursday Old Time Cyclists (Bristol)
Mostly retired people with a shared passion for cycling rides several times a week
North Bristol Cycling Club (Bradley Stoke)
Severn Road Club (Bradley Stoke)
Stokes Cycling Club (Bradley Stoke)
Ldoc Charity Events (Filton)
Joint Cycleway Group (Chipping Sodbury)
Balance and Health Fitness (Bristol)
Ape Project Cic (Bristol)
Bristol Cycling Campaign (Bristol)
Bike Back Bristol (Bristol)
Smooth Ride (Bristol)
Emmaus Bristol (Bristol)
The Chipping Surgery (Wotton-under-Edge)
Cotswold Clarion Cycling Club (Tetbury)
Gloucestershire Bike Project Cic (Gloucester)
Gloucestershire County Council (Gloucester)
Barnwood Bespoked (Barnwood)
Zona 1 (Stroud)
Corinium Cycling Club (Cirencester)
Heart of the Forest School (Forest of Dean)
Ross-on-Wye and District Cycling Club
Ripjar Cycling Group (Cheltenham)
Evesham and District Wheelers (Gloucestershire)
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.
Cycling routes in Gloucestershire and Bristol
Many routes in the Cotswolds and Forest of Dean, and getting round Gloucester and Bristol