Cycling in Kent
Cycling in Kent
The ‘Garden of England’ is densely packed with trails, quiet lanes, big-ticket sightseeing, quirky coastal towns, salubrious towns and villages, and curious one-offs. Access is easy thanks to a good rail network. You can even cycle to Canterbury from central London largely car free beside the Thames along NCN1.
You could cycle a whole summer here and never see it all. Below is only a fraction of what you’ll find in Kent.
Kent’s extensive coastline is cyclable virtually all the way, often on traffic-free promenade routes, many stretches of which are great for family riding. NCN2 links Folkestone and Dover, while NCN1 runs from there towards Ramsgate.
NCN15 links the vibrant and characterful art-towns of Ramsgate, Broadstairs and Whitstable, including the Oyster Bay Trail, past beach huts and fresh seafood stalls. This is, subtly and pleasantly, unlike any other cycle touring in England.
Developed by Cycling UK in 2022 with funding from the EXPERIENCE Project, the Cantii Way is a 147-mile circular route. Taking in traffic-free cycle paths, bridleways and quiet roads, it is ideal for touring and hybrid bikes. It makes for a leisurely trip, with lots to discover along the way – from remnants of military defences to vibrant art trails and vineyards.
There’s also the North Downs Way, 153 miles from the Surrey Hills into the Kent Downs. In 2018, Cycling UK worked with the British Horse Society and North Downs Way trail manager to propose an alternative rideable route to the official trail, which takes in many footpaths. Find out more about the North Downs Way riders’ route here.
Shorter family-friendly routes include the Harty Trail through the Isle of Sheppey past beaches and bird reserves. A unique experience kids will also love is to take your bike on the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch miniature railway, and explore the shingle beaches of Dungeness.
The Crab and Winkle Way (part of NCN1) is a delightful, mostly car-free link through varied inland scenery from Whitstable to Canterbury; a tourist magnet that’s best explored by bike. The 32-mile Viking Coastal Trail around the Isle of Thanet is a great cobweb-blower.
Tunbridge Wells is a destination for mountain bikers, with the wooded trails of Bedgebury Forest, though the rolling country round here is lovely for slow back-lanes touring too. Back up towards the Thames, Dartford boasts a BMX centre – and a free coach service to transport bikes across the Queen Elizabeth bridge to Essex.
Cycling groups and clubs in Kent
West Kent CTC (West Kent)
Southborough and District Wheelers
Meridian CC (SE London & West Kent)
Cycle Club Bexley
Gravesend Cycling Club
Team Sidcup Cycles
Tenterden Cycling Club
Thanet Road Club
Herne Bay Ladies Cycling Club
Kent Velo Girls (Hildenborough)
Friends of Pilgrims Hospice Social Cycling (Canterbury)
Ashford Road Cycling Club
Medway Velo Club
San Fairy Ann CC (Maidstone)
Sofa to Saddle (West Malling)
Veterans Time Trials
Deal and Walmer Wheelers
Cycle Circle (Ashford)
Sevenoaks Post-Office Chain Gang
West Kent Road Club (Dartford)
Cyclopark Trust (Gravesend)
Gay Outdoor Club (Tonbridge)
The De Laune Cycling Club (Maidstone)
Canterbury Bike Project
Dartford and Gravesham Cycle Forum
Maidstone Cycle Campaign Forum
Sevenoaks Cycling Campaign
Shepway Bike Project (Folkestone)
Tonbridge Bicycle Users Group
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 10 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 café 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 wi-fi signal required, and they’re great for suggesting possibilities or changes of plan.
Cycling routes in Kent
Day and leisure rides aplenty, countless themed trails, and exploring characterful coastal towns.
- Cycle A-way’s list of maps, routes and resources for Kent
- Journey Planner
- The Cantii Way
- Experience Kent by bike
- North Downs Way by bike
- Cycle Routes in Medway
- White Cliffs Country Cycle Routes
Cycling events in Kent
We can only create our long-distance routes like the Cantii Way with your help. Funding for these trails comes from membership fees. By joining, you will be helping us to put together more routes, as well as allowing us to campaign for better conditions for cyclists.