Pennine Bridleway Ranger, Bill (also an experienced cyclist), shares his top tips and advice for cycling the Pennine Bridleway whilst answering this popular question.
“There is no need to rush out and buy the latest bike for the Pennine Bridleway! You can ride the route on any bike but it might not be fast or comfortable and it might not stand up to the terrain for long. The route is not a canal towpath, or a smooth cycle path, nor is it a well-groomed forest gravel track. The Pennine Bridleway takes in a variety of surfaces, well away from towns and villages, on old routes that can shake your fillings loose in sections.
“A full suspension bike, although comfortable will be slower than a hardtail. I personally would avoid a hybrid bike as although they may be part road, part mountain bike, they tend to have an emphasis on road or smooth surface riding. The majority of the Pennine Bridleway is off road so your bike choice should reflect this. A cross country hardtail with front suspension is the best compromise for comfort and speed.
“Tyres are again a personal choice. I personally go for a grippy tyre on the front and a fast rolling cross country (XC) tyre on the back. The majority of the route has some sort of stone surface so a heavy mud tyre would be unnecessary and would create more drag. Very fast rolling, lightweight file treads or hybrid town and country tyres will offer little grip in Pennine conditions (think rain and mud!) and may suffer sidewall damage easily. If you’re riding a rigid bike, having tyres with volume will help with comfort over those bumps.
“In terms of gears, there are a lot of short stabby climbs and some long drags uphill so gearing that you can winch uphill is recommended. It’s also advisable to make sure you’ve got suitable shoes for walking in – there’s nothing wrong with getting off and walking, be that uphill or downhill. Road cleats would not be recommended.
“Make sure you’re carrying spare parts that are specific for your bike. Whilst there may be cycle shops near the route, they will need a detour of several miles to reach them. Some sections of the trail are very remote. Having a selection of maintenance skills and spares that can get you off the hills is worthwhile. A few recommendations would include:
- Brake pads: Wet South Pennines grit can happily destroy a set of pads in day so start with fresh pads and bring a couple of spares. (FUN Fact: the quarries around Rossendale provided the stone slabs for Trafalgar Square in London. It was used for paving in London because of its hard-wearing nature!)
- Rear mechanism hanger. There’s nothing worse than snapping this and having to ride the rest of the route with a single speed. A split link and chain splitter is also a useful addition to your pack
- Spare inner tubes. Even if you run tubeless, it’ll be easier to fit an inner tube than to try to re-seat a flattened tubeless. A tyre boot is always useful in your kit bag.
“How you pack and what you bring will also affect your ride; their would-be little point in using a lightweight gravel bike only to overload it with excessive baggage. It’s possible to spend a lot on bike packing gear but remember, the more you carry the heavier (and harder to handle) your bike becomes. It might be better to spend some money on a couple of nights’ accommodation meaning you can lighten your load, and remembering the Pennine weather, you might also have the option to wash and dry your kit too!
“Saddles sores on a multi-day trip are no fun. Chamois cream, dry/clean bib shorts and a small tub of Sudocream (usually used for nappy rash) would be my top tips.
“Always check your kit before a big multi-day ride and in particular consider how easy it is to load up and how it sits on the bike. It’s always best to go for a day ride before attempting a multi-day ride to sort out any issues with packing stability.”