Cycling in the Isle of Wight
Cycling in the Isle of Wight
England in miniature, but without the busy roads... The Isle of Wight’s reputation as ‘bicycle island’ is well deserved; in fact, its quiet country lanes and scenic off-road paths often have the feel of a ‘golden age’ cycle-touring poster from the 1950s, especially on a fine summer day (the Isle claims to be the sunniest area of the UK).
The Red Squirrel trail (NCN23), running smoothly along old railway lines down the centre of the island for 23 miles, links Cowes, Newport, Sandown, Shanklin and Wroxall, and is ideal for families and leisurely explorers. The leg between Merstone and Newport features troll sculptures and picnic benches. And yes, you do stand a good chance of seeing red squirrels in its many stretches of green countryside: the Isle is a grey-free zone in most senses.
More of a challenge for the tourer is the 65-mile route round the island, NCN67. Apart from a short car-free stretch from Yarmouth to Freshwater, it’s on-road, but is a fine way to know the island in one go, and probably two days. Thanks to the island’s compact nature, you’re never far from a bike shop, cafe or pub.
While there aren’t any ‘mountains’ to speak of, mountain bikers have plenty of bridleways and offroad trails, particularly in the western half of the island. A mountain bike centre is just outside Newport.
Getting to the island with your bike is easy thanks to the many frequent (but notoriously pricey) ferries. Arrive at the end of Ryde Pier, and you can cycle its third of a mile length (only Southend’s is longer) to the mainland along wooden planks – a curious experience.
Cycling groups and clubs in the Isle of Wight
Wayfarer Cycle Touring Club (Isle of Wight)
Annual randonnee plus range of led outings including camping and club runs
Square to Square Charity Cycle Challenges (Newport)
Triennial endurance cycle challenges, from the Isle of Wight to Europe
IW Cycle Fest (Isle of Wight)
Week-long island-wide festival of all things cycling
Bembridge Wheelers (Bembridge)
Rides leave from Bembridge church
Cyclewight (Isle of Wight)
Seeks better cycle provision on the island and encourages cycling
West Wight Wheelers (Isle of Wight)
Encourages beginner, experienced and returning cyclists
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? Recommend your favourite routes using the comments box below.
Cycling routes in the Isle of Wight
Island guides, and tours based on railway stations
Cycling events in the Isle of Wight
Regular time trials and technical courses
‘Very sociable club’ runs regular rides
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.
Some of the problems you find with your bike might need a closer look, and here’s where we 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!