Cycling in Lancashire
Hills and mills might be among the first things that come to mind with Lancashire, a great cycling county. Certainly there’s plenty of challenging road climbs and descents in the rugged scenery of the Forest of Bowland or the Pendle; and the thrilling 28-mile Anglezarke Loop in the moors around Chorley is one of many great mountain bike challenges.
But the Red Rose County excels at the gentler stuff, too, with many flat, smooth, family-friendly paths. The ride along Blackpool seafront up to Fleetwood – part of NCN62 – runs for 12 car-free miles along the promenade, and visitors on the day after August Bank Holiday Monday get the roads closed, too, for a sneak preview of the Illuminations – a real experience.
Another lovely child-friendly ride goes from Morecambe promenade, statue of Eric and all, to Lancaster (NCN69), and then traffic-free along the Lune into the hills. It continues – on road, and very challengingly – all the way to Bridlington in East Yorkshire as the 170-mile Way of the Roses.
A hidden family gem is the 5-mile tarmac bridleway from Dunsop, in a stunning Bowland valley. You don’t even need a car: the Bowland Transit bus will take you and bikes from Clitheroe train station. Some stretches of the Leeds-Liverpool canal are great to cycle too, such as the remarkable elevated stretch in Burnley town centre, or the parts in Pendle and Colne.
Lancaster and Preston have some reasonable utility-cycling routes, and Preston’s 21-mile Guild Wheel route orbits the city on quiet roads and cycle paths, both a utility and leisure route. Lancashire also has a thriving club cycling scene, with cafes aplenty: the Green Jersey for instance, Clitheroe’s friendly bike cafe, is a favourite cake stop and you can leave cars there during your hills day ride.
Cycling groups and clubs in Lancashire
Blackburn & District CTC
The group includes postcodes BB1 to BB7 inclusive, and covers an area in Lancashire including Blackburn, Darwen, Rossendale, Hyndburn, Clitheroe and the Ribble Valley.
They have a clubroom, which is open in term time from the end of September through to March, at Norden School (The Hyndburn Academy), Stourton Street, Rishton, BB1 4ED.
There organise rides every Sunday, from 45 miles plus, varying from the Lancashire coastal plain, the Bowland Fells, the Pennines and to the Yorkshire Dales.
Burnley and Pendle CTC
A friendly cycling club, offering a chance to explore the quiet lanes around the Pendle area, the Yorkshire Dales and the Forest of Bowland with like-minded people. New riders are always made very welcome on all of the rides, whether taking up cycling for the first time or returning to it. They adjust the pace of their rides to suit the slowest rider and no one is left behind.
Fylde CTC (Fylde)
Sunday rides from 50 miles to 75 miles on plains and up to Forest of Bowland
CTC Lancaster & South Lakes (Lancashire/Cumbria)
Rochdale CTC and East Lancashire Road Club (Rochdale)
Touring and hostelling (UK and abroad), time trialling, road racing and regular rides
Hyndburn CTC (Accrington)
Weekly led rides, volunteering opportunities and some cycling-related projects.
Heywood Health and Social Cycling Club (Heywood)
Ribbleton Bike Revival (Preston)
Fulwood Free Methodist (Lancs)
Fylde Bicycle Belles (Fylde)
Cycle In Memory of Nicola Jayne Phelps (Lancashire)
Transpennine CC (Rochdale)
Road, off-road and trail riding, also weekend and longer trips away
Ramsbottom Mountain Biking Group (Ramsbottom)
National Clarion Cycling Club (Bury)
Weekend club rides, plus eight club championships and more
Whitworth Wheelers Cycling Club (Whitworth)
Sporting NRG (Lancashire)
Hollingworth Lake Community Cycle Club (Littleborough)
Littleborough Amateur Boxing Club (Littleborough)
Inspire CRI (Accrington, Lancs)
Ribble Valley Cycling and Racing Club (Lancashire)
Wide range of on and off-road disciplines plus leisurely rides for all
Cleveleys Road Club (Cleveleys)
Road cycling and racing for cyclists in Blackpool, Wyre, Fylde, Kirkham and Lytham St Annes
Aims to become the voice of mountain bikers in the Pennine area
Clitheroe Bike Club (Clitheroe)
MTB, road, leisure, touring and beginners; also provides training
Rochdale Ezi Ryders (Rochdale)
Lancashire Road Club (Bolton)
Road club offering a variety of rides at varying paces
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.