Top tips for cycling The Ridgeway

18th September 2019

Cyclists can enjoy riding the Trail from Avebury to Goring-on-Thames but, from Goring to Ivinghoe through the Chilterns, there are footpath stretches which are not legally open to cyclists.

Occasional Chilterns stretches of The Ridgeway offer pleasant off-road cycling and riding events for mountain bikes and XC bikes. Cycling off-road is a great way to escape road traffic and discover more miles of the countryside. Cycling events using The Ridgeway can also give you the ideas and confidence to try different routes, learning from the pros. Considerate cyclists are very welcome to enjoy The Ridgeway and we are working with Cycling UK to promote the ‘Be Nice, Say Hi’ campaign.

Around The Ridgeway there are some great routes and mountain bike centres, as illustrated by the list below. In addition, cyclists can look forward to improved provision in future years as the Ridgeway Riding Route is rolled out in the Chilterns, offering a signed route for cyclists to follow for over 40 miles between Goring and Ivinghoe. 

However, The Ridgeway is not suitable for every type of cyclist and alternative places better suited to these cyclists are listed below. Trails through the countryside are shared spaces so everyone needs to ‘Be Nice, Say Hi’ and be considerate of others including waIkers, horse riders, livestock etc as per the Countryside Code and Cycling UK’s code of practice, for example. (Did you know that cyclists are legally obliged to give way to walkers and horse riders on bridleways?). If you are a mountain biker after technical challenges such as fast downhills and lots of twists and turns, The Ridgeway will feel 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. The surface of the Trail is also not suitable for road bikes and it is not appropriate to tarmac the Trail to make it so. Family groups and less fit cyclists may also find the surface difficult to manage and may be better to focus on off-road National Cycle Network routes managed by Sustrans, especially those following old railway lines like the Phoenix Trail near Princes Risborough.

Here are some tips to make the most of your outings on your bicycle:

Bike events

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 even 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.

Technical challenge!

There are more thrills and challenges at dedicated mountain bike centres where you can race, jump and shout without worrying about upsetting walkers, livestock, landowners and other users you can come across along The Ridgeway. These centres offer trails designed for beginners (green trails), intermediate riders (blue) and advanced riders (red).

  • Aston Hill Bike Park, near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire – mountain bike heaven open every day except Christmas Day! A place to build and hone your skills and ride trails used for championship events. For those wanting a challenge, there’s the 5 mile ‘Silverstone’ Cross Country route which is tough, technical and uncompromising – ‘a little piece of traditional Alpine riding in the Home Counties’. Or try the 1minute 30second ‘Root Canal’ with the infamous snaking drop to the finish. Plus lots more - click here for details.
  • Swinley Forest, near Bracknell, Berkshire – the Forest’s 15-mile cycle network can challenge highly skilled riders, but is also a fun day out for beginners and young riders. More details - click here. 
  • Wendover Woods, near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire – next door to the Aston Hill Bike Park, the Juniper cycle trail (blue) is great for those who enjoy riding in woodlands. There is a huge car park, new café and a range of activities to make Wendover Woods a great day out. More details - click here.
  • If you want more mountain bike centres in the Chilterns, please contact Cycling UK and Chilterns Conservation Board.

Circular bike rides in the Chilterns

It is important you check the rides described in books and online are not taking you along footpaths. There are Ordnance Survey maps available to download from this webpage which show the footpath stretches of the Trail and the surrounding off-road routes legally open to cyclists. There are some main A and B roads and even narrow country lanes which, during weekday rush hour and even some weekends in good weather, are busy and fast with traffic.

  • 6 circular rides, mainly off-road, from Princes Risborough, Bucks – click here.
  • 3 circular rural road rides from Wallingford, Oxon – click here.
  • Judges Ride, near Wallingford, Oxon - click here
  • Circular rides around Ashridge, near Tring, Herts - click here.

Family-friendly, easy routes linking to The Ridgeway

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Taking a break on a bike ride - Stuart Martin