Top tips for cyclists
Miles of off-road cycling for mountain and XC bikes, as well as cycling events
With miles of Trail, cyclists can spend a day or many days enjoying The Ridgeway.
Cycling and horse riding is a great way to explore the countryside, socialise with family and friends and boost your physical and mental wellbeing. The Ridgeway offers various options to choose from, including circular rides that can be completed in a day to multi-day rides, and e-bike hire is now possible from some bike shops in The Ridgeway area. It is an added highlight that cyclists in the Chilterns are keeping a little-known piece of off-road cycling heritage alive, so we encourage cyclists to discover this area in particular and support our Ridgeway Riding Route project!
Cycling the Trail between Avebury and Goring over two or three days is a popular and straight-forward idea for a weekend break. This stretch of Trail takes you through the scenic North Wessex Downs AONB, passing major prehistoric monuments such as Avebury World Heritage Site, Uffington chalk horse and Lowbury Hill. The Trail in this area is great for groups of cyclists because it is predominantly a wide track, making it possible for cyclists to ride abreast. Train stations at Goring, Swindon, Great Bedwyn and Chippenham are connected to the Trail by scenic National Cycle Network routes, making it possible to pedal from your doorstep and leave the car at home. At the Avebury end, NCN 45 and NCN 482 connect Swindon train station to Marlborough or, alternatively, there is NCN 403 from Great Bedwyn station or Chippenham train station to Marlborough and Avebury. At the other end of the Trail, Goring station is just 5 minutes ride from the Trail. For these NCN routes as well as places to stay overnight and places to eat, see the cycling routes shown on our interactive map.
For those wanting to cycle the Trail end-to-end just as walkers do, The Ridgeway Partnership has launched a project to create a Ridgeway Riding Route through the Chilterns – see below for details. In the meantime, there is plenty scope for circular rides. There are numerous books, online blogs, leaflets and magazine articles describing great circular bike rides in the Chilterns. The Ridgeway Partnership is currently working on creating a set of good quality circular rides linked to the Trail and will be promoting these soon! Riding off-road is a great way to avoid traffic – some Chilterns A and B roads and even narrow country lanes can be busy and fast with traffic during weekday rush hour and weekends in good weather.
Circular routes using parts of The Ridgeway are a great option for day trips and numerous routes can be found online or through mobile phone apps. Unfortunately, there are currently no up-to-date circular ride leaflets that can be made available here for free download – this is a future project.
For those wanting a bigger challenge, the King Alfred’s Way is a popular 350km circular route which incorporates The Ridgeway between Avebury and Streatley-on-Thames. The route starts and ends in Winchester where King Alfred was buried and passes his birthplace at Wantage, just off The Ridgeway. This video shows some of the highlights along the way.
On the whole, The Ridgeway requires some level of experience and fitness if it is to be an enjoyable ride. For those seeking a technical challenge, information about mountain bike centres near the Trail is provided below under the section ‘Looking for a challenge!’. At the other end of the spectrum, family groups and others seeking a more leisurely outing can find ‘introductory’ riding near the Trail and several examples are listed below under the section ‘Easy cycling’.
Photo credit: Chris Juden, Flikr
For every cyclist, there are a few basic points about The Ridgeway to grasp before setting out.
Plan ahead, go prepared and postpone your visit if necessary. The unmade surface and terrain of the Trail means cyclists cover less miles than on tarmac routes and weather conditions can make the surface slippery and wet. To help cyclists plan their visit, alerts about poor surfaces and flooding are flagged on The Ridgeway’s interactive map.
The Trail is a ‘shared use’ route. This means you could come across not just other cyclists but also walkers, horse riders, dogs, disabled people in mobility scooters, event runners and so on. Everyone’s visit to The Ridgeway will be more enjoyable if we are friendly and considerate towards each other. It is also important to be considerate of people working and living along the Trail by, for example, not obstructing access for farmers in tractors or minimising noise near people’s homes and around livestock. All Ridgeway cyclists should make themselves familiar with the Countryside Code and Cycling UK’s code of practice. The following guidance is particularly relevant to cyclists on The Ridgeway:
Cyclists can also help conserve the heritage of the Trail. The Ridgeway is a historic route, rich in archaeology and wildlife. There are places along the Trail that are protected in law, including Scheduled Monuments and Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Cyclists need to respect and conserve this heritage, keeping erosion and disturbance to a minimum. Please stay on the worn track and, if you are after jumps and thrills, see details of mountain bike parks below.
A new route for cyclists and horse riders through the Chilterns
Lots of cyclists and horse riders are interested in riding the Trail but they cannot follow stretches of Trail in the Chilterns that are public footpath, totaling 22 miles. This is an area that played a leading role in the development of off-road cycling so we are keen to maximise opportunities for cyclists here. To address this, the Ridgeway Partnership aims to create a Ridgeway Riding Route in the Chilterns, following the example of the South Downs Way National Trail.
The Ridgeway Partnership is working with the British Horse Society and Cycling UK to realise the ambition to make it possible for cyclists and horseriders to enjoy a good quality route between Overton Hill and Ivinghoe Beacon, just as walkers currently do.
The Ridgeway Riding Route project will involve surveying routes around the footpath stretches of the National Trail in the Chilterns and talking to landowners along these routes. We will also talk to relevant businesses along the routes about how we can provide services to cyclists and horse riders and support the local economy, including cycle shops, riding stables and B&Bs.
This will be a project that takes years to complete and will be realised in phases. In December 2019, a grant was secured from HS2 Ltd to create the first section of the riding route between Pulpit Hill, near Princes Risborough, and Chivery, near Wendover during 2020-2023. The funding is enabling signage, surface improvements, cycle stands and more.
If you would like to indicate your support for the project, share ideas on what may or may not work, volunteer to help, donate money or sponsor all or part of the project, please contact the Ridgeway Officer. Small or large donations can be made to the Friends of the Ridgeway charity online here – please email the Ridgeway Officer to flag that you donation is for the Ridgeway Riding Route project. Thank you for your support!
Photo credit: Colin Drake
Try something new, gain ideas and confidence, learn from the pros
Take part in a guided bike ride or challenge event along The Ridgeway to discover the best (and legal) riding routes around the Trail. OTEC, TrailBreak and Evans Cycles organise events in the Chilterns, whilst other parts of the Trail outside the Chilterns are used by Swindon MTB club and Evans Cycles. There is also the Wallingford Festival of Cycling every summer! As the Ridgeway Riding Route gets rolled out, there is bound to be more bike events in the Chilterns. Check out the Trail’s event calendar and let us know of any off-road cycling events we can promote.
Try out mountain bike centres near The Ridgeway
Whilst The Ridgeway offers the challenge of long distances and natural surfaces, a mountain biker after technical challenges such as fast downhills and lots of twists and turns will find The Ridgeway tame. Places dedicated to mountain biking are better than the Trail for racing, jumping and shouting because there is not the risk of conflict with livestock, dogs and other people using The Ridgeway. These centres offer trails designed for beginners (green trails), intermediate riders (blue) and advanced riders (red). If you want more mountain bike centres in the Chilterns, please raise this with Cycling UK and Chilterns Conservation Board.
Build your confidence and fitness on riding routes near The Ridgeway
Family groups and less fit cyclists may find The Ridgeway tough going and so it may be better to focus most of your miles on the surfaced stretches of the National Cycle Network routes managed by Sustrans. After building your fitness and confidence, there are miles of The Ridgeway for you to discover!