Cycling in the Isle of Man
Cycling in the Isle of Man
No Sustrans National Cycle Routes here: the Isle of Man, however much it might visually resemble northern Britain, is a self-governed island with its own parliament and laws, not part of the UK.
Some roads have no speed limit, for instance – hence Man’s popularity with motorcyclists, and setting for the annual Tourist Trophy (TT) motorbike races. Its cycling culture is strong, though: multiple Tour de France stage winner Mark Cavendish was born, and first trained here.
For the visitor, there’s a lot to enjoy in a ‘country’ that’s only half a day’s ride from end to end, with climbs and mountain workouts, fine coastal roads, off-road trails for mountain bikes, quiet back lanes and car (and motorbike) free paths.
The capital Douglas, where the ferry unloads visitors, has a fine promenade that’s cyclable for the length of the bay, fine for families. South of Douglas along the coast, the scenic B80 cliffside road turns into a section closed to cars, and makes a good start to a trip down to handsome Castletown, the rugged coastal cliffs of the Calf, and seaside Port Erin.
Main roads over the mountainous heart of the island take you up the slopes of Snaefell – they can be busy with traffic (it’s the TT course, indeed) but are a thrilling road ride, with some solid climbs and descents. The roads round Laxey are very scenic, but can be busy. North of Ramsey though, the island is flat and villagey, with quiet back lanes ideal for trundling.
Two of the Isle’s great attractions – the historic Steam Railway (south from Douglas) and Electric Railway (north from Douglas) – take bikes, enabling splendidly scenic linear rides.
Cycling groups and clubs in the Isle of Man
Loaghtan Loaded MTB (Isle of Man)
Social riding MTB club that also maintains new trails and organises events
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 the Isle of Man
Day trails for all abilities, and mountain biking