Ransack your memory bank for recollections of the depths of winter, and no doubt many cyclists will recall hours spent pedalling indoors, or riding through blizzards – legs powered by the promise of summer sun to come.
With temperatures touching 30°c in the UK, the coming weeks and months are the time to realise those promises – and though we can’t deny that destinations overseas bring with them unique delights, the pleasures of our own shores are almost boundless too.
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There’s thousands of miles to explore, and we’ve pulled out five locations we don’t think you should miss out on.
Each is home to a sportive organised by our sister company, UK Cycling Events, too. If you want to enjoy the ride without the pesky admin of route planning or worry over fuelling or mechanical failure, then their fully supported rides might be up your street.
The Mendips, Somerset
The Somerset Area of Natural Beauty is a magnet for cyclists, looking to explore the limestone cliffs and dramatic valleys which played home to a stage three of the 2018 Tour of Britain, won by Julian Alaphilippe.
The hilly Mendips’ crowning glory is perhaps Cheddar Gorge, less so for its challenge – it’s a 2.1 mile climb averaging 5 per cent, and there are steeper brutes in the area – but more so for the thrilling way the road sweeps through the rock. Don’t get lulled into a false sense of security, though, there is a steep 24 per cent ramp at the top.
It’s not all about climbing. The Somerset levels to the south provide pan flat lanes, ideal for a gentle warm-up and club run chatter.
The Ridgeway, Wiltshire to Buckinghamshire
One for gravel/cross adventurers, the Ridgeway is more of a route than an ‘area’ – but it’s well worth a mention, as Britain’s oldest road.
The 87 mile long trail would be more accurately described as a track in modern day terms, and its use extends back over 5,000 years. There’s countless homages to past human existence along the way – such as the Uffington White Horse of the North Sussex Downs, stone circle at Avebury and Iron Age forts built to defend the trade routes.
The original path was lengthened, and slightly altered, then given National Trail status in 1972.
The most popular section for cyclists travels the 43 miles from Overton Hill to Streatley on the River Thames, accumulating 2421 feet of climbing along the way. Much of the soil is chalk heavy, so tyre choice will be important.
Yorkshire Dales, Yorkshire
Home to the UCI World Championships this September, Yorkshire hosts the annual Tour de Yorkshire and has produced champions such as Lizzie Deignan and Beryl Burton.
In fact, the cycling prestige behind the northern county is so great, it’s difficult to image reasons for a cyclist not to pay homage.
Yorkshire’s Dales National Park borders the North Pennines as well as the lesser known Ninnerdale Area of Natural Beauty. You’ll find wide expanses of wild moors and woodland, with terrain that – we won’t lie – is leg sapping in its undulation, but will pay dividends in late summer strength.
Peak District, Buxton
Another favourite if you absolutely love a good climb. The Peak District offers ample gravitational challenges, with technical descents accompanied by panoramic views from its central position in the country.
Not too far from Manchester, and thus British Cycling’s National Cycling Centre, the Peaks have long been the training ground for Olympic Academy cyclists – with quick trains to and from the capital adding to the weekender appeal.
If that’s not enough, the area it’s also home to the Original Bakewell Pudding Shop, in Bakewell, naturally.
Test it out: Peaks Tour Sportive, Saturday September 21
New Forest, Hampshire
Many of the destinations sought out by cyclists are selected for their elevation gain. But the New Forest is an exception: much of the southern National Park is gloriously flat.
If you’re looking for somewhere to check off your first century ride, or perhaps you’re fastest, then this could be it.
Famous for its forest trails, and the relatively quiet roads which loop betwixt the heathland, the park covers 738 km squared, nestled in a bowl between the Dorset Downs to the west, the West Wiltshire Downs to the north and the South Hampshire Lowlands and South Coast Plain to the east.
The local wildlife can’t be ignored, with the New Forest being the native habitat for the moorland ponies.
Test it out: New Forest 100 sportive, Saturday September 14 2019
That’s just five of many – let us know where you’re riding by tagging @cyclingweekly / @cyclingweeklymagazine in your Twitter and Instagram posts…