By Stuart Clarke published
The Peak District National Park covers a rather extensive 1,440 kilometres squared - and not only is it vast, it's also beautiful and a little "undulating" to say the least.
Being on the doorstep of Manchester's National Cycling Centre, it's the stomping ground for many of British Cycling's Academy athletes - and has been visited by the Tour of Britain numerous times, as well as the Women's Tour.
If you want the opportunity to explore the very best of the area, with feed stations, mechanical support, the camaraderie of hundreds of ride buddies and a free copy of Cycling Weekly, then check out our sister company UK Cycling Events - they're hosting a Peaks Tour sportive on Sunday June 28th - and it's not too late to sign up.
Hills, hills and more hills
If you're averse to riding uphill, the Peak District is probably not the place for you. Even roads that look flat actually turn out to have a slight gradient, so a day in the saddle in the Peaks is always a challenge.
Not only are the hills plentiful, some of them are also incredibly steep. Find yourself at the foot of Winnats Pass and you'll get a strong urge to turn back. It may only average 11.7 per cent, but when it ramps up to over 20 per cent on one of the bends your legs will be screaming out for a break.
The advantage of having such a rolling landscape is that when you get to the top of a climb the views are pretty breathtaking.
Undertake the climb out of Hathersage on a sunny day and you won't be disappointed with the scenery you are greeted with from one of the many viewpoints at the top.
The unpredictable weather
Don't ride in the Peaks without a rain jacket stowed in your back pocket - the weather in the area is notoriously changeable.
Even in the fog and the rain, the Peaks holds a certain charm. Climbs and descents appear from nowhere out of the mist, while the steep ascents are made even harder by the slippery road surface.
It's not just the fields, the rivers and the trees that you can look at on your rides - what lives in them is just as interesting. A huge number of birds, fish, mammals and invertebrates have been spotted in the Peak District in recent years, including the wonderfully named Grasshopper Warbler and Southern Iron Blue Mayfly.
Granted, you'll see a lot more cows and sheep than you will Bilberry Bumblebees, but keep your eyes peeled just in case.
Take your binoculars!
A ride isn't a ride without a café stop, and many cafés in the Peak District will tempt you in with locally made Bakewell Pudding.
A stop in the Derbyshire town of Bakewell will allow you to visit the Original Bakewell Pudding Shop, where you can indulge your sweet tooth to your heart's content.
Be warned, though - whichever direction you head out of Bakewell you're likely to encounter a pretty steep hill, so make sure not to weigh yourself down too much with the local delicacies!
The cycling-friendly accommodation
The Youth Hostel Association has invested over £250,000 in making 25 of its properties around the UK cycling friendly, including some in and around the Peaks.
The hostel in Hathersage, for example, is one of those benefiting from the money, while there are plenty of other hotels, B&Bs and guest houses in the area that don't mind you bringing your bike with you.
Looking for a ride?
Navigating a new area isn't always easy. So if you want a ready made route, with heaps of support, then check out the Peaks Tour, organised by our sister company UK Cycling Events.
The sportive takes place on Saturday September 21, and promises to guide you around some of the best riding the area has to offer - starting and finishing in Bakewell for that all important fuel/recovery cake. Prices start at £31 (or £3 for under 16s) and for that you'll get 55-100 miles of supported riding, with feed stops, mechanical assistance, chip timing, plus a free copy of Cycling Weekly and much more.
Stuart Clarke is a News Associates trained journalist who has worked for the likes of the British Olympic Associate, British Rowing and the England and Wales Cricket Board, and of course Cycling Weekly. His work at Cycling Weekly has focused upon professional racing, following the World Tour races and its characters.
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