Cycling in Kent
Cycling in Kent
The ‘Garden of England’ is densely packed with trails, quiet lanes, big-ticket sightseeing, quirky coastal towns, salubrious towns and villages, and curious one-offs. Access is easy thanks to a network of trains, and you can even cycle to Canterbury from central London largely car-free beside the Thames (along NCN1). You could cycle a whole summer here and never see it all, and below is only a fraction of what there is.
Kent’s coast is cyclable virtually all the way, often on traffic-free promenade routes, many stretches of which are great for family riding: NCN2 links Folkestone and Dover, NCN1 runs from there towards Ramsgate, and NCN15 links the vibrant and characterful art-towns of Ramsgate, Broadstairs and Whitstable, past beach huts and fresh seafood stalls. This is, subtly and pleasantly, unlike any other cycle touring in England.
Other family-friendly routes include the Harty Trail through the Isle of Sheppey past beaches and bird reserves. A unique experience kids will also love is to take your bike on the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch miniature (but very much practical and useful) railway, and explore the weird shingle beaches of Dungeness.
The Crab and Winkle Way (part of NCN1) is a delightful, mostly car-free link through varied inland scenery from Whitstable to Canterbury; a tourist magnet that’s well explored by bike. While the 27-mile Viking Coastal Trail around the Isle of Thanet is a great cobweb-blower.
Tunbridge Wells is a destination for mountain bikers, with the wooded trails of Bedgebury Forest – the rolling country round here is lovely for slow back-lanes touring too. Back up towards the Thames, Dartford boasts a BMX centre – and a free coach service to transport bikes across the Queen Elizabeth bridge to Essex.
Cycling groups and clubs in Kent
West Kent CTC (West Kent)
Umbrella organisation for 15 groups across Kent and SE London
Sevenoaks Cycling Campaign (Sevenoaks)
Penshurst Off Road Cycling (Penshurst)
Off-road centre in Kent woods
Velo House Limited (Tunbridge Wells)
Southborough and District Wheelers (Southborough)
Kent Trails (Kent)
Meridian CC (SE London & West Kent)
Cycle Club Bexley (Bexley)
Time trials, road races and tourist events; social rides, too
Gravesend Cycling Club (Gravesend)
Cycle Healthy Cycle Happy (Kent)
Team Sidcup Cycles (Sidcup)
Tenterden Cycling Club (Tenterden)
Enjoying the ride, whatever your ability; two weekly outings
Shepway Bike Project (Folkestone)
Campaigning for better cycling facilities round Folkestone and Hythe
Campaiging for better facilities in East Kent
Thanet Road Club (Thanet)
Time trials, road racing, circuits, Audax, MTB and social rides
Herne Bay Ladies Cycling Club (Herne Bay)
Canterbury Bike Project (Canterbury)
Friends of Pilgrims Hospice Social Cycling (Canterbury)
Calendar of rides through the year across Kent
Ashford Road Cycling Club (Ashford)
Regular rides with a ‘no drop’ policy round Kent and beyond
Ashford Wheelers (Ashford)
Time trials, races, rides, MTB, sportives, Audaxes, training and more
Royal Marines Cycling Club (Sittingbourne)
Medway Velo Club (Medway)
Road racing, time trials, track racing, cyclocross and more
San Fairy Ann CC (Maidstone)
Caters for cyclist of all ages and levels
Maidstone Cycle Campaign Forum (Maidstone)
Sofa to Saddle (West Malling)
Veterans Time Trials (Kent)
Racing and time trialling club for the over-40s
GS Avanti (Kent)
Deal and Walmer Wheelers (Deal)
Wye Active (Kent)
Catha's Seat Group (Stour Valley)
Cycle Circle (Ashford)
AXA Cycling (Royal Tunbridge Wells)
Sevenoaks Post-Office Chain Gang (Sevenoaks)
West Kent Road Club (Dartford)
Cyclopark Trust (Gravesend)
Gravesend CTC (Gravesend)
CTC Swale (Swale)
Dartford and Gravesham Cycle Forum (Dartford)
Gay Outdoor Club (Tonbridge)
Tonbridge Bicycle Users Group (Tonbridge)
The De Laune Cycling Club (Maidstone)
Community Cycleworks (Maidstone)
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 Kent
Day and leisure rides aplenty, countless themed trails, and exploring characterful coastal towns