Cycling in Devon
Cycling in Devon
Glorious Devon... hilly Devon. The gorgeous countryside, with beautiful villages sitting in dramatic lush valleys and up on hills, can be hard but rewarding to cycle round, with 1-in-4 gradients common.
Mountain bikers will find plenty of places to exercise. But there are plenty of ways for riders of any bike to avoid too much hard work, such as the Devon Coast-to-Coast (part of NCN27 and NCN3) that runs between Ilfracombe on the north coast and Plymouth on the south. Over 70 of its 100 miles are off-road, much of it on well-surfaced railtrails and taking in some spectacular Victorian viaducts and tunnels. Many of its stretches are very family-friendly - the Tarka Trail part of it is 30 miles of railtrail, the country’s longest continuous example.
A promising work in progress is the Exe Estuary Trail (part of NCN2). Currently involving some road stretches, when completed it will be 26 miles of almost all car-free waterside cycle path either side of the Exe. By using one of the estuary-mouth crossings such as the historic passenger Starcross Ferry, it will make a very nice day circuit from Exeter.
Exeter’s everyday cycle-path network is pretty good, with another pleasant off-road route running up the canal past two nature reserves. Down in Plymouth there’s some handy, if brief, cycle routes round the historic harbour centre.
For adventurous tourers, Exmoor and Dartmoor offer all the wild landscapes – and ups and downs – that you could ask for. Cyclists who don’t mind the hills can explore some of Britain’s prettiest villages up on the north coast, such as Combe Martin, Mortehoe or Braunton. Or unique Clovelly, though you’ll be pushing your bike down its stepped and cobbled main street. Also on that jungle-like north coast is Lynton/Lynmouth, whose cliff-climbing funiculars allow you to take your bikes.
Cycling groups and clubs in Devon
CTC Exeter (Exeter)
Rides of all kinds, maintenance and courses, weekends away, training and events
Open to All (Plymouth)
Hairy Hand Hill Climbers (Tavistock)
Tavistock Wheelers (Tavistock)
Growing club with some pacey rides in fabulous countryside
Woodford Methodist Community Church (Plymouth)
Yogi Cycling (Plymouth)
Young vibrant off-road cycling club with regular rides into the countryside
Plymouth Cycling Campaign (Plymouth)
Campaigning for better cycling in Plymouth
Hamoaze House (Plymouth)
Plymouth Highbury Trust (Plymouth)
Active for Life (Plymouth)
Dove Project (Plymouth)
Yourway Support (Plymouth)
Kingsbridge Cycling Club (Kingsbridge)
Sangha on Cycles (Newton Abbot)
Newton Abbot College (Newton Abbot)
Family Cycling and Camping Club (Bovey Tracey)
Promoting wholesome organic food, cycling, and camping
Forest Cycle Hire (Dartmoor)
Bike hire and trails in fabulous forest scenery
Exeter Wheelers (Exeter)
Road riding and racing club with youth branch, running many regular rides
Boniface Trail Campaign (Crediton)
Bug Ex (Exeter)
BGE Cycle Club (Exeter)
Regular rides from family jaunts to competitions and a supportive ethos
Cranford Sports Club (Exmouth)
Kentisbeare Junior Cycling Club (Kentisbeare)
Lively club for 9s and over with rides, trips and adventures
Sidmouth Lifeboat Cycling Group (Sidmouth)
Axe Valley Pedallers (Axminster)
Axminster Tools Cycling Club (Axminster)
Ride On (Exeter)
Devon CTC (Devon)
Bikespace Cic (Plymouth)
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.
What have we missed? Let us know your favourite routes by leaving a comment below.
Cycling routes in Devon
Devon Coast to Coast, Dartmoor, leisure routes, and getting round Exeter, Plymouth etc