Cycling in Essex

Cycling in Colchester

Cycling in Essex

Looking for information about cycling in Essex? Cycling UK's guide to cycling in Essex gives you routes, events, clubs and advice to inspire you to cycle in the county. ​

Jostling the eastern edge of Greater London – making it a favourite destination of city riders escaping the capital via CS3 cycle superhighway from Westminster to Barking – Essex isn’t short of images. But on a bike you can escape the stereotypes and discover the real county, a place of atmospheric backwaters, lovely villages, gentle scenery (this is Constable and Gainsborough country) and even ‘mountain’ biking, in Epping Forest.

No wonder the 2014 Tour de France came through here to great media effect, notably in Saffron Walden. Among five recent routes exploiting the scenery is a 34-mile circuit from there, taking in beautiful Thaxted and Audley End House.

Finchingfield is one of England’s prettiest villages, and the Blue Egg cafe in neighbouring Great Bardfield is a staple cake stop on club runs. Castle Hedingham, towards Suffolk, is another picture-postcard place, while Tollesbury’s marshy marinas and characteristic wooden sail lofts are a delight to explore by bike.

Mersea Island is another place with a unique estuary charm, and the tiny ferry boats take bikes. They depart from Brightlingsea, a short ride from the county’s main town Colchester; Wivenhoe, en route, feels more like Copenhagen than the Home Counties. 

Southend’s pier, the world’s longest, isn’t cycleable, but the town’s promenade is, and out east you can cycle all the way from Jaywick to Walton via Clacton along the seafront, mostly car-free (NCN51). The Flitch Way, from Braintree six miles to Dunmow on a railtrail, is another route perfect for families.

Getting around Essex’s many big town centres by bike – Chelmsford, Colchester, Basildon, Romford – isn’t always easy, though Colchester has active cycle campaigners.

Cycling groups and clubs in Essex

Essex CTC (Essex)

http://www.cyclinguk.org/local-groups/essex-ctc-member-group

http://www.essexcycling.co.uk/

Four member groups: Chelmsford City, Colchester, Havering, SE Essex

Chelmsford CTC (Chelmsford)

http://www.cyclinguk.org/local-groups/chelmsford

http://www.essexcycling.co.uk/

Sunday rides, occasional car-assisted rides and social events

Havering CTC (Havering)

http://www.cyclinguk.org/local-groups/havering

http://www.haveringcycling.com/

Sociable rides for adults - members are encouraged to chat as they ride ­at 11mph-12mph

Windmill Club (Saffron Walden)

http://www.cyclinguk.org/local-groups/windmill-club

https://thewindmillclubdotnet.wordpress.com

Colchester Rovers CC (Colchester)

http://www.cyclinguk.org/local-groups/colchester-rovers-cc

http://colchesterrovers.apps-1and1.net

Offers time trials, mtb races, grass track and cyclocross

Colchester Healthy Bikers (Colchester)

http://www.cyclinguk.org/local-groups/colchester-healthy-bikers

Colchester Sixth Form College (Colchester)

http://www.cyclinguk.org/local-groups/colchester-sixth-form-college

En Form (Colchester)

http://www.cyclinguk.org/local-groups/en-form

World Naked Bike Ride (Clacton)

http://www.cyclinguk.org/local-groups/world-naked-bike-ride

Maldon & District CC (Maldon)

http://www.cyclinguk.org/local-groups/maldon-district-cc

Witham Cycling (Maldon)

http://www.cyclinguk.org/local-groups/witham-cycling

Cycle Witham BB (Maldon)

https://www.cyclinguk.org/cycle-centre/cycle-witham-bb

Crest Cycling Club (Chingford)

http://www.cyclinguk.org/local-groups/crest-cycling-club

http://crestcyclingclub.org.uk/

Something for every discipline – on-road, off-road and track - and weekly club runs

UK Police Unity Tour (Ilford)

http://www.cyclinguk.org/local-groups/uk-police-unity-tour

Danbury Cycling Club (Danbury)

http://www.cyclinguk.org/local-groups/danbury-cycling-club

Maldon Mudguards (Maldon)

http://www.cyclinguk.org/local-groups/maldon-mudguards

Radical Bikes Community Interest Company (Chelmsford)

http://www.cyclinguk.org/local-groups/radical-bikes-community-interest-company

http://radicalbikes.co.uk/

Trials, BMX and dirt jumping venue and host to the annual Radfest

League of Ordinary Riders (Chelmsford)

http://www.cyclinguk.org/local-groups/league-ordinary-riders

Chelmsford Chainlinks (Chelmsford)

http://www.cyclinguk.org/local-groups/chelmsford-chainlinks

https://www.facebook.com/groups/796382717063379/

Chelmer Cycling Club (Chelmsford) 

http://www.cyclinguk.org/local-groups/chelmer-cycling-club

http://www.chelmercc.org.uk/

Racing, coaching and training, leisure and touring, family rides, group training rides

Rapier Road Club (Epping) 

http://www.cyclinguk.org/local-groups/rapier-road-club

Harlow Cycling Club (Harlow)

http://www.cyclinguk.org/local-groups/harlow-cycling-club

Hub and Spoke Harlow CIC (Harlow)

http://www.cyclinguk.org/local-groups/hub-spoke-harlow-cic

http://www.hubandspokeharlow.co.uk/web/

Not-for-profit for all things cycling: led rides, bike recycling, servicing, repairs, training

Forty Plus Cycling Club (Essex)

http://www.cyclinguk.org/local-groups/forty-plus-cc

http://www.fortypluscc.co.uk/

Rides for all including returners; also Beds, Essex, Herts, Kent, E. Northants, Surrey, Sussex

Yellow Jersey CC (Billericay)

http://www.cyclinguk.org/local-groups/yellow-jersey-cycles

https://www.yellowjerseycycles.co.uk/social-rides/

Bike shop running Saturday rides averaging 15mph over around 25 miles

Traditional Touring Club (Rayleigh)

http://www.cyclinguk.org/local-groups/traditional-touring-club

Southend Wheelers (Southend)

http://www.cyclinguk.org/local-groups/southend-wheelers

Southminster Burnham Cycle Path Acc (Burnham-on-Crouch)

http://www.cyclinguk.org/local-groups/southminster-burnham-cycle-path-acc

Braintree Easy Riders (Braintree)

https://www.cyclinguk.org/local-groups/braintree-easy-riders

https://www.braintreeeasyriders.org

Average Joe's Cycling Club (Braintree)

https://www.cyclinguk.org/local-groups/average-joes-cycling-club

Bishops Stortford CC (Bishops Stortford)

https://www.cyclinguk.org/local-groups/bishops-stortford-cc

http://www.bs-cc.org

The Randonneurs Road Club (Colchester)

https://www.cyclinguk.org/local-groups/randonneurs-road-club

http://www.randonneurs.co.uk/

Gravelo (Colchester)

https://www.cyclinguk.org/group/gravelo

Fenn Wright (Colchester)

https://www.cyclinguk.org/group/fenn-wright

Inclusion Ventures Jaywick Bike Kitchen (Clacton-on-Sea)

https://www.cyclinguk.org/group/inclusion-ventures-jaywick-bike-kitchen

https://www.inclusionventures.co.uk/bike-kitchens

Hadleigh Park Cycle Group (Hadleigh Park)

https://www.cyclinguk.org/group/hadleigh-park-cycle-group

Hadleigh Park Riders (Hadleigh Park)

https://www.cyclinguk.org/group/hadleigh-park-riders

Basildon Sporting Village Cycle Group (Basildon)

https://www.cyclinguk.org/group/basildon-sporting-village-cycle-group

Thorndon Cycle Centre (Thorndon)

https://www.cyclinguk.org/cycle-centre/trailnet

The Brentwood Cycle Centre Group (Brentwood)

https://www.cyclinguk.org/group/brentwood-centre-cycle-group

High Beech Youth Cycle Club (Epping Forest)

https://www.cyclinguk.org/group/high-beach-youth-cycle-club

https://www.facebook.com/groups/HBYCC

Stort Valley (Sawbridgeworth)

https://www.cyclinguk.org/local-groups/stort-valley

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 saddlebagpanniers 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 Essex

Getting around Colchester, Chelmsford etc, rural rides, and the Lee Valley

Cycle A-way’s list of routes and resources

Journey Planner

Essex Cycling Routes

Maldon District Cycle Routes

Colchester Circular Route

Cycling events in Essex

Check out our events calendar to find a ride that suits you

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