Cycling in Derbyshire
The spectacular but compact scenery of the Peaks, with its honey-coloured villages, green valleys, and brown moorland, is crossed by several flat and well-surfaced railtrails, opening up Derbyshire to families and casual cyclists as well as full-on tourers and roadies. In fact, it’s hard to think of any county in the UK with more all-round cycling appeal; families and tourers could easily spend a week here exploring.
Among the railtrails, the 13-mile Tissington Trail (part of NCN68) runs from Ashbourne to Buxton through fine scenery over Dovedale; the 17-mile High Peak Trail (part of NCN54) runs off of it. The Monsal Trail, boasting several tunnels and some outstanding views (such as from Monsal Head), runs 8 miles from near Buxton to Bakewell.
Another fine option for families is the 12 miles or so circuit along the edge of Ladybower and Derwent Reservoirs, especially at weekends when the road half of the route is closed to traffic.
Those exploring the back roads of the Peaks are rewarded with magnificent scenery (such as the tiny lane east off Axe Edge through a micro-Dolomites landscape). And curios: the section of the old A-road over Mam Tor, for instance, now closed due to subsidence (like several other roads around here).
Picturesque villages such as Castleton, Bakewell, Eyam, Edale or Hathersage are round every corner, all providing comfy cafes, pubs and accommodation, and Chatsworth House is one of Britain’s most impressive stately homes.
Derby, down in the south of the county, is the economic heart, known for transport manufacturing, and has a range of utility routes for locals. For the ambitious tourer, the Pennine Cycleway runs north from the city. The sign at the destination Berwick states grandly ‘Derby 355’ (miles!).
Cycling groups and clubs in Derbyshire
Alfreton CTC (Alfreton)
Organises rides (from slow to Audaxes) for all ages and abilities
CTC Derby and Burton (Derby)
Ashbourne Cycling Club (Ashbourne)
Caters for beginners to racers and offers women-only rides
Chesterfield Cycle Campaign (Chesterfield)
Campaigns and promotes cycle use in Chesterfield for leisure and utility
Manor Nifty 50s (Mansfield)
Chesterfield Spire Cycling Club (Chesterfield)
Regular rides plus touring, Audax, competitive time trials, etc
Bolsover Wheelers (Bolsover)
Sunday club runs, social events and tours in the UK and further afield, on-road and off
Derby Cycling Group (Derby)
Campaigns on behalf of cyclists in and around Derby
Cycle Mickleover (Mickleover)
Derby & Burton Leisure Cycling (Derby)
Serif (Long Eaton)
Peak Audax CTC (Derbyshire)
Buxton Cycling Club (Buxton)
Whaley Bridge Cycling Club (Whaley Bridge)
Grindleford Goats (Grindleford)
Whirlow Wheelers Cycling Club (Whirlow)
Bolsover District Council (Bolsover)
Ride Bolsover (Bolsover)
Myhill Cycling (Chesterfield)
Belper Bicycle Club (Belper)
Derbyshire Bike Trial Centre (Derbyshire)
Derwent Valley Cycleway Group (Derbyshire)
Cycle Derby (Derby)
Bike Back Derby (Derby)
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.