Cycling in Conwy and North East Wales
The little-touristed lanes and back roads around Denbigh and Ruthin in north east Wales make up one of Britain’s larger Sustrans-free zones – this really is away-from-it-all cycling. But there’s a huge and popular highlight in the awesome promenade that is NCN5. It runs virtually all traffic-free, family-friendly, and right by the sea for 20 miles or more – all the way along Wales’s north coast from Prestatyn to Conwy and beyond. An ice-cream in sunny weather or cafe in rainy weather is never far away.
At Rhyl en route, you can detour inland on NCN84, another traffic-free path along the River Clwyd. It takes you to St Asaph with its tiny cathedral. Conwy itself is a delightful pace to explore by bike, with its castle, harbour front, and Britain’s smallest house. Adjacent Llandudno is a handsome old-style resort and a ride round the rugged promontory of Orme Head is a delight, especially on a windy day.
Around Llangollen, tourers can find some magnificent roads, such as Horseshoe Pass - 1,800 feet high and offering superb views from the cafe up top, if it’s fine weather. The town is a characterful delight, set in a majestic river-and-canal valley across which flies the astounding Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.
Possibly the greatest wonder of the canal network, Pontcysyllte’s precarious, flimsily-fenced mid-air towpath is officially a push-your-bike zone. That doesn’t stop locals from riding across, texting nonchalantly with one hand. The rest of the towpath is cyclable and great for families, whether west to Llangollen or east to Chirk (with its own impressive aqueduct and the nearest rail access).
Cycling groups and clubs in Conwy and North East Wales
Chester and North Wales CTC (Chester)
Rides of all types in some of Britain’s finest scenery
Wrexham Reivers (Wrexham)
Twice-monthly rides in flat or hilly terrain
Ruthin Cycling Club (Ruthin)
Golden Lion Bike Ride (Ruthin)
Mountain Biking North Wales (North Wales)
Online-based resource for meeting up and riding North Wales’s fantastic off-road
Lon Las Loonies (Prestatyn)
Enjoy cycling, raise some money, get fit and have fun!
Water Cycle North Wales
Rhos On Sea Cycling Club
What to take with you on your ride
The only thing you really need for cycling is a bike. And maybe a phone, and credit card: in Britain you’re only a call away from any service you might need.
But unless money is no object, it’s wise to take a few things with you on a day ride. A saddlebag, panniers or bikepacking bags are best for carrying stuff. A front basket is second best. A rucksack is third best. Your sweaty back will soon tell you why.
Cycling short distances in jeans and t-shirt is fine, but on a long or strenuous ride – over ten miles say, or in hills – those jeans will rub and the t-shirt will get damp and clingy. Shorts or, yes, lycra leggings and padded shorts will be much comfier, and merino or polyester cycling tops wick away the sweat, keeping you dry and comfy. (They don’t have to be lurid colours.)
If rain’s in the air, pack a rainproof top. If it might turn chilly, take a fleece or warm top. But the thing you’re most likely to forget is the sunblock.
It’s remarkable how often you enjoy being out on the bike so much that you suddenly realise it’s getting dark. So take lights (which are legally required at night). They’re price of a sandwich, take no space, are easy to put on thanks to tool-free plastic clips, and the batteries last for ever.
Take a puncture repair kit (with tyre levers) and pump. Make sure it fits your valves, which will be either ‘Presta’ or ‘Schraeder’ – realising they don’t match is a very common roadside discovery! Carrying a spare inner tube (make sure it matches your tyre size) makes puncture repair much easier: mend the old one back at home. If you do get in trouble, some kindly passing cyclist will probably stop to help.
Using a helmet is a personal choice – they’re not legally required.
Cycling makes you thirsty, so take lots of water. Long-distance riders talk about ‘the bonk’ – a sudden loss of energy rendering you almost stationary. It’s miraculously and instantly cured by eating something sweet. On short rides you’re unlikely to run out of energy, but just in case, take a snack like flapjack, banana, chocolate or jelly babies.
Taking a packed lunch or picnic will save you money, though that hot drink and cake in a cosy cafe could yet prove very tempting!
Your phone GPS could be invaluable for showing where you are when lost; you can download free detailed UK maps and GPS software before your trip.
Paper maps are still useful, though, so take one: no power source or wifi signal required, and they’re great for suggesting possibilities or changes of plan.