Cycling in Cheshire
Chester, one of Britain’s most handsome old towns, has a couple of fine car-free routes: the railtrail out to Connah’s Quay (part of NCN5) which forms a family-friendly loop back via the Dee, and the (sometimes narrow) Shropshire Union Canal towpath up to Ellesmere Port. And while the famous historic shopping galleries weren’t designed for bikes, there’s a network of colour-coded routes for getting round the centre.
Cheese, salt and chemicals might come to mind once you’ve left Chester’s half-timbered houses and quaint old streets. Indeed, industrial Warrington, with its section of the Transpennine Trail running along the Manchester Ship Canal, is the county’s other big town (with a lively local cycle campaign group) and rail travellers will be familiar with Crewe, if only, literally, in passing.
Outside those places, though, Cheshire is a largely rural place with many well-to-do villages and small towns (including the ‘Golden Triangle’, with affluent places such as Wilmslow, Alderley Edge and Prestbury). It can be enjoyably explored through many short day and leisure rides. The Middlewood Way, a railtrail part of NCN55, runs 11 miles from Macclesield to Marple. Lovers of history and architecture have routes visiting the area’s finest churches; while for outdoor fans there’s Delamere Forest, not far from Chester, with a range of bike trails for family trips. Potter across on back roads to Northwich and you can cycle short stretches of canal towpath to see one of Britain’s – and the world’s – canal marvels, the Anderton Boat Lift.
And if you need a tea and cake after all that cycling, the Eureka Cafe (and bike shop) at Two Mills, outside Chester, is one of Britain’s best-known cycling cafes, a lively and friendly hub for local club rides.
Cycling groups and clubs in Cheshire
Chester CTC (Chester)
Weekly leisure and touring rides including women-only rides
Chester and North Wales CTC (Chester)
Rides of all types in some of Britain’s finest scenery
South Manchester CTC
A touring club with rides starting in start in Cheadle, Hazel Grove and Wilmslow
St Helens and Warrington Cycle Club (St Helens)
Easy paced half and full-day rides in and around St Helens and Warrington
Seamons Cycling Club (Altrincham)
Traditional cycling club of cycling as pastime and sport
Stockport Community Cycling Club (Stockport)
Offers a range of leisurely rides on and off-road for anyone from 9 years and up
Cheshire Roads Club (Stockport)
Sunday club runs plus track racing, time trialling and touring
Chester Cycling Campaign (Chester)
Campaigns to improve conditions and facilities for cyclists in Chester and area
Chester Great Outdoors Club (Chester)
Organises a variety of activities in and around Chester including mountain biking and road cycling
Chester Triathlon Club (Chester)
Social rides, coached and turbo sessions, summer evening and winter weekend rides and time trials
Hartford CATS (Hartford)
Informal social group that rides in the Cheshire countryside with tea and cake
Warrington Revolution MTB Mountain Biking Club (Warrington)
Social group that rides trails in the evenings, also day and weekend rides further afield
Wild Bikes Cycling Club (Warrington)
Weekly club rides catering for all levels in both road and mountain biking
South East Cheshire Cycle Action Group (Congleton)
Promotes cycling in and around Congleton
CycleKnutsford (Knutsford, Cheshire)
Local campaigning group, also arranges rides and training
Congleton Cycling Campaign (Congleton)
Campaigns to promote and encourage cycling
Macclesfield Wheelers (Macclesfield)
From riding for pleasure to road racing with many regular rides for a range of abilities
Cycle Wilmslow (Wilmslow)
Community organisation campaigning for better cycling provision
St Paul’s Centre Cycles (Crewe)
Volunteers collect and refurbish 400 cycles a year; the bikes are for sale twice a week
Chester Easy Riders (Chester)
Independent cycling club with moderate and brisk day rides of 40 to 80 miles on Thursdays
Crewe Clarion Wheelers (Crewe)
Sunday morning and other rides with distances between 40 and 90 miles
Audlem Cycling Club (Audlem)
Sunday club runs of 50-60 miles with a cafe stop and Wednesday MTB rides
Nantwich Cycling Group (Nantwich)
Campaigns for cycling and runs rides
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 or rear rack and panniers 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.