Cycling in Essex
Cycling in Essex
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)
Four member groups: Chelmsford City, Colchester, Havering, SE Essex
Chelmsford CTC (Chelmsford)
Sunday rides, occasional car-assisted rides and social events
Havering CTC (Havering)
Sociable rides for adults - members are encouraged to chat as they ride at 11mph-12mph
Windmill Club (Saffron Walden)
Colchester Rovers CC (Colchester)
Offers time trials, mtb races, grass track and cyclocross
Colchester Healthy Bikers (Colchester)
Fun With Fitness (Colchester)
Colchester Sixth Form College (Colchester)
En Form (Colchester)
World Naked Bike Ride (Clacton)
Maldon & District CC (Maldon)
Witham Cycling (Maldon)
Crest Cycling Club (Chingford)
Something for every discipline – on-road, off-road and track - and weekly club runs
UK Police Unity Tour (Ilford)
Danbury Cycling Club (Danbury)
Maldon Mudguards (Maldon)
Radical Bikes Community Interest Company (Chelmsford)
Trials, BMX and dirt jumping venue and host to the annual Radfest
League of Ordinary Riders (Chelmsford)
Festival in July 2017 celebrating 200 years of the cycle
Chelmsford Chainlinks (Chelmsford)
Chelmer Cycling Club (Chelmsford)
Racing, coaching and training, leisure and touring, family rides, group training rides
Rapier Road Club (Epping)
Harlow Cycling Club (Harlow)
Hub and Spoke Harlow CIC (Harlow)
Not-for-profit for all things cycling: led rides, bike recycling, servicing, repairs, training
Forty Plus Cycling Club (Essex)
Rides for all including returners; also Beds, Essex, Herts, Kent, E. Northants, Surrey, Sussex
Yellow Jersey CC (Billericay)
Bike shop running Saturday rides averaging 15mph over around 25 miles
Traditional Touring Club (Rayleigh)
Southend Wheelers (Southend)
Southminster Burnham Cycle Path Acc (Burnham-on-Crouch)
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.
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
Cycling events in Essex
Make sure your bike is working
(from our partners, Halfords)
Creaking cranks, wobbly wheels or slipping saddles are the last thing you want, but Halfords' guide to basic bike maintenance will keep you rolling smoothly. Whether you’re a regular commuter, a leisurely weekend rider, or prefer to tear it up on a serious MTB trail, signs of wear and tear might keep you off the saddle from time to time. Whilst we can’t promise to banish those roadside mishaps, we can help keep your bike tip top with our top tips!
You’re heading out on your lovely bike, with a pannier packed with your essentials. A glorious route lies ahead, but then you run into a spot of bother! Most of the time there are handy hacks you can do to tide you over whilst out and about, and we’ve taken a look into the most common bike problems and solutions…
Clicking saddle? Check that the bolts connecting the saddle to the seat post are not loose. Tighten until the saddle is firmly secured using an allen key from your trusty toolbox!
Squealing brakes? This could be down to dirt or oil on the brake pads. Give it a quick wipe down, then when you get home take the brake pads off and readjust.
Squeaky derailleur? A little lube should help. Remove any excess.
Creaky pedals? Dry pedal bearings, loose crank arms or a worn bottom bracket could be the culprit. Once home, remove and lube the pedal bearings, tighten and lube the crank arms, or replace the bottom bracket if it’s still making a fuss.
Some of the problems you find with your bike might need a closer look, and here’s where we can help!
Wobbling disc rotors, spongy brakes and rattling bolts needn’t be as pesky as they sound for long enough to keep you off your bike! Call and see us with your two wheels at your local Halfords, or with any other bike bothers you might have.
From as little as £15 a year, Halfords will take the labour out of looking after your bike. Halfords offer a range of care packages, they provide free fitting on all parts and accessories bought from Halfords, and even include an annual service worth £50 as part of the plan!