Cycling in Hampshire
The big industrial port towns of Southampton and Portsmouth; trim, well-to-do London commuter villages; the New Forest; trout streams; the South Downs Way... the large county of Hampshire is quite a mix, and by bike is the best way to enjoy it all.
Southampton makes an effort to be a bike-friendly city, with bike recycling, groups, maintenance classes and activities, and maps helping navigate the busy town roads. For many cyclists, Portsmouth is most familiar as the ferry gateway to St Malo in France or Santander in Spain.
But the main interest for cyclists is in the countryside, and Hampshire has plenty of that, all of it conveniently accessible by train from London. Mountain bikers can ride the 100-mile South Downs Way from Winchester (ultimately to Eastbourne), and have over 700 miles of recognised off-road routes in the county to explore.
Some of those cover many parts of the New Forest, which has plenty of road cycling routes too, as well as part of NCN2. That NCN2 is some route: it also takes you from Southampton to Portsmouth alongside the Solent, and from there car-free along the seafront over to Hayling Island.
Another Sustrans route, the Test Way (part of NCN246) goes a few miles on old railway paths from Romsey up the beautiful Test Valley, famous for its trout. It’s a good option for families and casual cyclists – as is the flat Hayling Billy railtrail on Hayling Island (part of NCN2 again), accessible from Portsmouth with your bike on the passenger ferry, and connecting with Havant railway station.
Cycling groups and clubs in Hampshire
Cycling UK North Hampshire
Range of rides from 5 mile social rides to longer rides and campaigning
Portsmouth CTC (Portsmouth)
Rides of all types from pottering to racing, and active local campaigning
Winchester CTC (Winchester)
Range of rides form short and easy to more challenging
Southampton CTC (Southampton)
Range of rides from short and easy to long and challenging
New Forest Bike Project (New Forest)
Ringwood Community Cycle Club (Ringwood)
Fordingbridge Wheelers (Fordingbridge)
New Forest Cycling Week (New Forest)
Annual informal rally for cycle campers in New Forest at end of July
Totton and Eling Cycle Club (Totton)
Sotonia Cycling Club (Southampton)
All round club with 300 members and lots of rides of all types
Solent Health Spark BUG (Solent)
Sports club supporting cycling
Southampton Cargo Bike Group (Southampton)
Help to people moving stuff around by bike
Southampton Cycling Campaign (Southampton)
Striving to make Southampton better for bikes
Newforce Mountain Bike Club (Southampton)
Fortnightly mountain bike rides in New Forest, etc
Cycles for All (Southampton)
‘Anyone can cycle’: helping all to have fun on a bike
Symonds Cycling Club (Winchester)
Test Valley Council (Andover)
Test Valley Cycling Club (Whitchurch)
All-inclusive bunch of people who like riding bikes
Cycle Basingstoke (Basingstoke)
Aquila Consortium BUG (Basinstoke)
North Hampshire Road Club (Basingstoke)
Large membership club with large range of rides for all riders
Melrose and Popley Fields Community Cycling Club (Basingstoke)
Epiphanies LLP (New Alresford)
Pioneer Cycling Club (New Alresford)
Southdowns Mountain Bike Club (Southampton)
Mountain biking adventures in the South Downs area
Hampshire Police Leisure and Sport (Southampton)
Sports club for serving and retired police staff
Portsmouth North End CC (Portsmouth)
Sportives, time trials, road, MTB, cyclocross, charity rides and more
Renal Rouleurs (Portsmouth)
Portsmouth Cycle Forum (Portsmouth)
Campaigning to make Portsmouth better for cycling
Avenue Tennis Club (Portsmouth)
I-Team Cyclists’ Club (Portsmouth)
Coach-led club for all ages passionate about cycling
Emsworth Community Cycle Club (Emsworth)
Ditcham Cycling Club (Petersfield)
Fitzroy on Track (Petersfield)
Petersfield Cyclists (Petersfield)
Liss Cycling Club (Liss)
Team Boutique (Hook)
Hampshire Road Club (Havant)
Regular rides in Hampshire and Chichester area, time trials, etc
New Forest Park Authority (New Forest)
Southampton Bike Kitchen (Southampton)
New Forest District Council Cycling Club (New Forest)
Bike Social Club T/A New Forest Mountain Biking (New Forest)
Ordnance Survey Cycling Club (Southampton)
The Hub Cycleworks (Southampton)
Round About CCC (Southampton)
DC Cycles (Southampton)
IKAN Community Club (Southampton)
Pyrenees C2C (Winchester)
WNBR UK Fund (Winchester)
Cycle Tours UK Ltd (Winchester)
Cycle Winchester (Winchester)
Bespoke Biking Cic (Winchester)
Velo Club Venta (Winchester)
Primary Pedal (Whitchurch)
Chase the Sun (Whitchurch)
Meon Valley Cycling Club (Meon Valley)
James Social Cycling (Basingstoke)
Fleet Cycling (Fleet)
Farnborough Fastners Community Cycle Club (Farnborough)
Pedal Smart Bike Club (Farnborough)
Farnborough and Camberley Cycling Club (Farnborough)
North Camp Spokes and Spanners Community Cycle Camp (Farnborough)
The Source Community Cycle Club (Aldershot)
Ash Velo Community Cycle Club (Aldershot)
Fareham Wheelers CC (Fareham)
Alice Holt Cycling For All (Alice Holt Forest)
Denmead Glow Rides (Denmead)
West Leigh Cycling (Waterlooville)
Southsea Cycloution (Portsmouth)
Bike Recycling (Portsmouth)
Portsmouth Community Cycle Hub (Portsmouth)
British Red Cross Portsmouth (Portsmouth)
Pompey Pedal Pushers (Portsmouth)
Solent Mind (Portsmouth)
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.