The Isle of Wight is a gem for cyclists, floating just off the South Coast of England. Easily accessible by ferry, but far enough away to put the rest of Britain out of your mind, if you haven’t cycled there before what are you waiting for?
The Lonely Planet named the Isle of Wight the best place in the world for cycling, and they clearly know what they’re talking about.
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Known to natives and other residents as ‘the Island’ it offers road, MTB and cycle tracks for families, so there’s something for everyone.
Miles and miles of lanes with very few cars
If you’ve ever got stuck in a traffic jam on Putney High Street en route to Richmond Park or found yourself dreaming of reaching the Dales whilst stuck in the labyrinth of a one-way system in Leeds then you’ll definitely appreciate the lanes of the Isle of Wight.
Rural lanes, stunning views and often miles without a passing car, this is a fantastic place to turn a pedal.
Disclaimer: there are cars down there, they might drive past you, Newport even gets queues at traffic lights. But choose the right route and you’ll soon get clear of them.
Cafés and pubs galore
Need to refuel? Fancy tying in a pub lunch? You need not look far to find somewhere to stop. Country pubs, old smuggler inns and a growing number of cycling cafes are dotted around the whole Island.
From coffee stops on a training ride to family lunches after a leisurely ride along the Red Squirrel Trail, no cyclist goes hungry on the Isle of Wight.
There’s an ice cream van on hand. Whatever the weather
Out riding in torrential rain and strong winds yet the ice cream van man of Compton is still there to give you just what you need when you’re shivering: a 99 Flake. Unbelievable, I know.
Stunning coastal vistas
Miles and miles of coastal roads, all with incredible views of beautiful cliffs and beaches. A fresh sea breeze blowing in off the Solent or the English Channel can re-energise even the weariest of riders.
The locals are very friendly
Scarecrows and humans alike are welcoming (for the most part) of grockles, so don’t hesitate to ask for directions or give a jolly greeting when you pass a dog walker or farmer in the lanes.
There’s a sportive route that’s marked all year round
The Isle of Wight Randonee takes place in May every year. The route used to alternate between a clockwise and an anti-clockwise route, but due to the event’s popularity it now only runs clockwise to avoid large queues at the Cowes-East Cowes Floating Bridge.
The blue and white signs are permanent fixtures so people can follow the route, or just sections of it, whenever the fancy takes them.
There’s only so lost you can get: reach the coast, make a turn
Ever been out riding, not quite sure where you are but kept going in the hope you’ll start to recognise the area only to end up hours from home?
Such concerns need not worry you on the Isle of Wight (or any island to be fair)… you just get to the edge then change direction, you’ll surely end up where you started eventually.
What’s more, there are no motorways so you don’t risk finding yourself on a junction of the M25 when trying to make your way home.
Besides, you can always find your way back onto the Randonee route and use the blue and white signs, mentioned above, to navigate.
You can encounter rare and exotic wildlife
The Isle of Wight is famed as being one of the few places left in Britain where you can still see red squirrels.
But they’re not the only animals you can spot on you touring ride: stop off at West Wight Alpacas for a cup of tea and you can meet the eponymous residents, or head into the South Wight and try and spot the herd of red deer that roam the fields.
The reasons for riding on the Isle of Wight are nearly innumerable, so let us know any we’ve missed… and if you haven’t been there yet, you’d best get booking the ferry.
Writer’s disclaimer: this isn’t an advert for the Isle of Wight tourist board, I’m from the Island and I love it.