Think of Dorset and you’ll probably think of Bournemouth beach and the Olympic sailing at Weymouth. Maybe even Durdle Door.
But there’s much, much more to see. Dorset is quite possibly the best place to cycle in the UK. It has everything we want and few people outside the county have experienced it.
They’re missing out as we revel in it. If you feel inclined to take your wheels to Dorset, then here’s why.
The stunning Isle of Purbeck
Yes, we know, the Isle of Purbeck is attached to the mainland. Why is it called an isle, then? That doesn’t matter. What does matter is that it is simply stunning.
You have Brownsea Island looking back at you from Poole Harbour in the north, the glorious coastal town of Swanage on the east, the cliff faces to the south and then in the centre the historic remains of Corfe Castle.
But the most iconic locations are the ones worth riding to the most: the magical arc of Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove are sites that you simply cannot go without ever visiting.
And, best of all, the Purbecks are situated on a ridge that stretches for miles, meaning that the roads are as hilly as anywhere in the south. You can’t ride a bike in the Purbecks without negating some seriously steep gradients at some point.
The Purbecks are a secret… sort of
Mention the Purbecks to someone who hasn’t lived in Dorset and most people haven’t a clue what you’re referring to. Many will recognise pictures of its landscape and features, but probably not visited it.
Take a look on Strava for proof that cyclists from outside Dorset just don’t ride here that often. Climbs on the ridge between Lulworth and Kimmeridge, including Grange Hill, have only been attempted by less than a few thousand people. Even less on many other climbs.
It’s a secret and thus the roads are almost always quiet. And as for Strava, it makes it a lot easier to claim times in the upper echelons of the leaderboard.
It’s our cycling den and we love it.
Rides to the Jurassic Coast are commonplace
Yep, we have a World Heritage Site in Dorset: the Jurassic Coast, all 95 miles of it. 185 million years old, it is.
It is absolutely bloody fantastically spectacular. And it’s not just Durdle Door worth visiting on the bike. The Isle of Portland (yes, another Isle), is the Jurassic Coast’s most southerly point, and the road that takes you up into Portland is one mile long and averages six percent. It’s tough.
Head further west and there’s Lyme Regis and West Bay, coastal towns in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Forgot riding to Brighton or Blackpool for fish and chips, there’s few places better to tuck into a well-earned chippy than this part of the country.
Taking a four-minute ferry crossing is the norm
Like adventure on your bike rides? To get to Studland Bay in the Purbecks from Sandbanks in Poole you need to take the Sandbanks chain ferry which takes all of 280 seconds.
In which other part of the country do most bike rides involve catching a quick ferry? And all for the cheap sum of £1 each way. You’re always guaranteed to see another cyclist on the ferry, too.
Ride and race on Bournemouth’s velodrome
Dorset may not house one of Britain’s six indoor velodromes, but it does have its own Olympic-sized outdoor track.
The Slades Farm track opened in 2011 and replaced the nearby Winton track as hosts of races throughout the summer months. It was the first velodrome to be built in the UK since 1962 when it was constructed.
It is open to the public at all times and track bikes are available to hire.
Best place in the UK to get a cyclist’s tan
It is frequently reported that Dorset is the sunniest place in the UK, and though recent reports have disputed that and claimed that towns in East Sussex see the most sun, Dorset as a whole sees more than 364 more hours of the sun’s rays throughout the year in comparison to the UK average.
All that sun means that for us bike riders, the cyclist’s tan is fairly easy to develop. By May most of us are sporting some sort of mark on our upper arm and legs.
In fact, this article was written with the sun beaming through the window and onto the computer screen. Always sunny, you see.
We have top quality cafes
Everyone has their own favourite cafe and every county in the country can stake a claim for having the best cyclist’s cafe. We’re not going to compare, but merely just laud Dorset’s best ones.
Coming top is Cycleccino in Portland. Located in the Old Post Office, it is believed to be the county’s first cycle cafe-bike shop and the coffee and teas are named after the Tour de France’s jerseys. The King of the Mountain cuppa is a particular favourite. The cakes and flapjacks aren’t bad, either.
Velo Domestique in Bournemouth is different in that it’s not in the countryside or a village: it’s on the high street in Southbourne. But the cycling decor and the coffee are excellent. They’ll even make repairs why you tuck into the latest Cycling Weekly.
There’s even The Salt Pig in Wareham which is ideally located if you’re en route back towards Poole after a long ride in the Purbecks.
Tour de France riders were born here
Yep, that’s right. Dan Lloyd, occasionally heard on Eurosport and a presenter for GCN, was born in Christchurch and still leaves nearby. He rode the 2010 Tour and two editions of the Giro d’Italia. All those formative years riding around the Dorset lanes and hills is behind his success…