Cycling in Glasgow, Falkirk, Argyll and Ayrshire
From the vibrant city centre of Glasgow to remote lochside and mountain roads, this area is one long list of outstanding cycling experiences, many of them suitable for all ages and abilities. This is only a selection.
Coming into Glasgow from Ayr to the south, NCN7 runs alongside some wonderful promenades and railtrails, many stretches being excellent for families. Road cyclists will enjoy ‘freewheeling uphill’ on Electric Brae, an unsettling optical illusion on the A719 south of Dunure. Another cycling curio is the zigzags of The Serpentine, Rothesay, Isle of Bute, Britain’s most hairpinned urban road.
Glasgow itself is a fine city to explore, and though it has its fair share of unpleasant busy roads, it also has plenty of traffic-free paths. Running west along the Clyde and on a canal towpath, NCN7 takes you almost all off-road to Loch Lomond. Up its west shore, NCN40 goes delightfully on the old road, now closed to cars – a relaxing and scenically superb ride.
Running east out of Glasgow, NCN754 follows a canal towpath to Falkirk (with its extraordinary wheel lift between two watercourses) and ultimately – still car-free – to central Edinburgh. Another option between the two capitals is NCN75, again largely traffic-free, on towpaths and railtrails. All of these are family-friendly.
There’s lots of mountain biking and off-road trails in the Trossachs – some of Scotland’s best. Touring cyclists can spend days exploring the fjord-like scenery of Argyll and Bute, perhaps using the Gourock-Dunoon ferry (one of many in this area). The Isle of Arran – a kind of Scotland in miniature, with its mountainous northern half and forested, hilly southern half, and even a whisky distillery – is made for travelling by bike.
Cycling groups and clubs in Glasgow, Falkirk, Argyll and Ayrshire
CTC Glasgow (Glasgow)
Organises rides and promotes cycling in Glasgow and the west of Scotland
Cycle Ayrshire (Ayrshire)
Regular rides throughout the area and further afield
Falkirk Bicycle Club (Larbert)
Promotes road racing events in Central Scotland
Carronshore Youth Club (Carronshore)
Caledonia Cycle Group (Falkirk)
Supports and works with adults with severe or enduring mental health problems
Falkirk Easy Riders (Falkirk)
Easy rides round the Falkirk area
Belles on Bikes Falkirk (Falkirk)
Women's rides in and around Falkirk for all ages and abilities
Twechar Community Cycle Club (Twechar)
Belles on Bikes Cumbernauld (Cumbernauld)
Group for women of all levels in and around Cumbernauld
Arria Wheelers (Cumbernauld)
From entry-level base pace to fast, and many plans for expansion
Road Club Cumbernauld & Kilsyth (Cumbernauld)
Promotes safe bunch riding and competition in all forms of cycle sport
West Dunbartonshire Community Cycle Club (West Dunbartonshire)
Drumchapel Cycle Hub (Drumchapel Sports Centre) (Glasgow)
Community project promoting cycling for all with free bike hire, skills sessions, led rides
CHYP Bike Club (Glasgow)
Belles on Bikes Glasgow (Glasgow)
Rides for all ages and abilities that has also trained women to organise and lead
Wild Wheels (Glasgow)
West Coast Velo (Glasgow)
GK Velocity (Glasgow)
Alexandra Park Bike Club (Glasgow)
Glasgow Bike Station (Glasgow)
Bike recycling charity offering workshops, training and safety to individuals and groups
NHS Greater Glasgow (Glasgow)
University of the West of Scotland (Paisley)
Fuse Bike Hub (Glasgow)
Urban Roots (Glasgow)
Bike loans, journey planning advice, information on safe travel, Dr Bikes
Govanhill Baths Cycling Club (Glasgow)
Al-Meezan House (Glasgow)
Charity meeting educational and social needs of Muslim women and children; cycling lessons
South West Community Cycles (Glasgow)
Rental, maintenance, repair, park and ride, tuition, confidence building, led rides, Dr Bike
Belles on Bikes South West Community Cycles (Glasgow)
Free Wheeling (Glasgow)
Links to local clubs, events and suggestions of places to cycle
Kidical Mass Glasgow (Glasgow)
Fun, friendly, informal, child-friendly rides in the Strathclyde area
Kidical Mass Neilston (Neilston)
Melo Velo at Barrhead Centre (Barrhead)
Cycle and repair project staffed by adults who attend Barrhead Centre
Bicycle User Group South Lanarkshire College (South Lanarks)
Blantyre Bikes Better (Blantyre)
Community project getting 300 local children and families onto bikes
Gobike! Strathclyde Cycle Campaign (Strathclyde)
Campaigns in Strathclyde, mainly Glasgow and around
GCU Belles on Bikes (Glasgow Caledonian University)
Supports women who want to cycle, in a social, friendly, inclusive and relaxed environment
Beith Cycles, Beith Trust (Beith)
Initiative to encourage the people of Beith to get on their bikes
Bridge Church Community Action Project (Youth Under Construction) (Kilwinning)
Youth outreach group offering events, trips and activities
Belles on Bikes East Ayrshire (East Ayrshire)
Hope For Autism (Airdrie)
Support for families and activity groups for 2 to 25 year olds on the autistic spectrum
Glenboig Cycle Club/Glenboig Neighbourhood House (Glenboig)
Voluntary organisation that engages with residents of all ages and delivers needed services
Connect Community Trust Bike Club (Glasgow)
Four community facilities throughout the East End including a bike club
On Yer Bike (Kilwinning)
Encourages cycling through renovating donated bikes and selling affordably
East Ayrshire Recovery Group (Kilmarnock)
Free and confidential drug and alcohol support across East Ayrshire.
Killie Blue Belles (Kilmarnock)
Women-only group offering rides led by trained and experienced female leader
KSRHT Community Cycle Club (Kilmarnock)
Activities, events and hire rooms for the community
Ayr Burners Cycling (Ayr)
Cycling opportunities for children and adults, and encourages other cyclists to visit
Townhead Community Cycling Club (Glasgow)
Lochside Neighbourhood Group (Lochside)
Multi-partnership forum working for the local community promoting citizenship and pride
Girvan Wheelers (Girvan)
Organises rides, tours, events and training in Girvan and South Carrick
Safe routes using cycle paths with trained leaders to help adults get back on bikes
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.