Cycling in Fife
The gentle countryside, quiet lanes and characterful fishing villages of Fife – plus, of course, the university-and-golf town of St Andrews – make for delightful leisurely cycling.
Families might have to search a bit for child-friendly routes, but one excellent option is the recent 13-mile path around Loch Leven, centred on Kinross (which is on NCN1). Not completely flat, but you don’t need a mountain bike either. From Dunfermline – once the capital of Scotland, and having some fine historic buildings to see – a railpath suitable for any riders or bikes (NCN764) runs 14 miles to Clackmannan.
For tourers, that NCN1 route is part of the Coasts and Castles North route, 172 miles from Edinburgh to Aberdeen. It passes through St Andrews – a must-stay place, as interesting as Oxford or Cambridge but small enough to walk round. From there it winds round the coast with several car-free stretches (some through forest) to cross the Tay Bridge to Dundee. NCN777 meanwhile runs alongside the Tay itself. Another popular route follows part of Route 76 from Edinburgh to St Andrews, a challenging ride of roughly 57 miles. The annual June charity ride in aid of Lepra Health in Action uses this particular route.
Fife’s south coast is a good area to explore slowly by bike. Once over the Forth Bridge, a mix of quiet roads and car-free paths gives you views of Edinburgh and takes you alongside the water to Kirkcaldy (part of NCN76). From there, follow quiet roads and lanes all alongside or parallel to the coast, and visit lovely little fishing villages of the East Neuk such as Elie, Anstruther, St Monans, Crail (perhaps the prettiest) and others, each one-of-a-kind and all with atmospheric places to eat (sometimes with fish straight out the water) and drink.
Cycling groups and clubs in Fife
CTC Fife and Kinross
Taycoasters (North Fife Community Cycling)
CTC Tayside (Tayside)
Caters for members from a large area comprising Angus, Dundee and Perthshire
Coupar Angus Cycling Hub (Coupar)
Parent and Child Community Cycling Club (Fife)
Belles on Bikes Fife (Fife)
Promotes and encourages women's cycling for all ages and abilities
Belles on Bikes Tayside (Tayside)
A group for women in Tayside that welcomes all ages and abilities of cyclist
CLEAR Buckhaven (Buckhaven)
Mukyriderz Cycling Club (Glenrothes)
Charity rides, cyclocross, mtb racing, sportives and recreational riding
Filles a Velo (Burntisland, Fife)
Provides framework to support female cyclists from all disciplines in Scotland
The Vat Pack (Rosyth)
Cycling Dalgety Bay (Dalgety Bay)
Facebook page for cyclists in and around Dalgety Bay
Assisted Cycling Events (Dunfermline)
Promotes cycling for health and well-being and helps people have fun on bikes for free
Dunfermline CC (Dunfermline)
Road racing, time trails, cyclocross, mountain biking and recreational 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.