Cycling in Leicestershire and Rutland
Leicester is something of a pioneer in making everyday cycling easy. While not up to Copenhagen standards yet, it has done some very good things in its bike-friendly centre, with shared pedestrian-cyclist spaces, and some useful segregated paths. (Lots of community projects promote cycling, too.) Leicester Spokes, the city’s friendly campaign group, works actively to improve things.
For commuters and tourists, city centre access north and south (NCN6) and northwest (NCN63) is pretty good thanks to long river and canalside towpaths, and roadside paths. NCN6 continues northwards and includes the 13-mile Cloud Trail, on an old railpath, which runs all the way from Worthington into the outskirts of Derby.
The National Forest is in the north of the county, with some nice off-road family trails – the Conkers Circuit south of Swadlincote and the Ashby Woulds Trail on an old railway line (NCN63). Thornton Reservoir here is a wildlife haven. There are mountain biking opportunities to be had in Leicestershire, but it wouldn’t be your first choice for off-road adventures.
The countryside around Leicester is not known for its spectacular hills or views, but it’s pleasant enough to cycle-tour through as part of a larger plan. There are village gems such as Knipton or Horninghold, and nearby Market Harborough is a handsome town.
In the north east of the county, Melton Mowbray’s status as a ‘rural capital of food’ is well-deserved. It has some good cafes and local specialities of pork pie and Stilton cheese – possibly why it’s such a popular destination for club runs.
We’ve tagged Rutland on here too: much of the tiny county, east of Leicestershire, is taken up with the water park of Rutland Water, a reservoir that only dates back to 1978. The 31-mile cycle track around it is a car-free delight, great for families and dawdlers. There’s accommodation, pubs and cafes, and plenty to do and see, including a curious half-submerged church.
Cycling groups and clubs in Leicestershire and Rutland
Leicestershire and Rutland CTC (Leicestershire)
Umbrella group for Cycling UK groups in Leicestershire.
In Tandem (Loughborough)
ITP Events (Loughborough)
Treble One Trust (Melton Mowbray)
Leicestershire & Rutland Masonic Cycle Association (Leicestershire)
Leicestershire Road Club (Leicester)
Promotes cyclocross and mountain biking in addition to road cycling
Syston Syclers (Wreake Valley)
Caters for people new to cycling through to the competitive
Century Cycle Challenge (Rutland)
Charity bike ride for the Leicester Royal Infirmary teenage cancer unit
Industrial Agents Society (Leicestershire)
Western Park Freeride Club (Leicester)
Volunteers designing, building and maintaining the cycle trails on Western Park
Stoney Stanton Velo Club (Stoney Stanton)
Ratae Road Club (Leicester)
Offers time trialling, road racing, weekend or mid-week social rides and a walking group
Welland Valley CC (Market Harborough)
Road, circuit and cyclocross races; time trials and mountain bike events
Fusiliers Cycling Club (Leicestershire)
Fusiliers Regiment club for “road, mountain or Penny Farthing” riders
Welland Wanderers (Rutland)
Wakerley Wheelers (Rutland)
Jazzy Cycles (Leicester)
UK Police Unity Tour - Chapter IX East Midlands (Leicester)
East Midlands Unity Tour (Leicester)
Leicester Spokes (Leicester)
Black Horse Riders (Leicester)
Streetvibe Young People's Service (Leicester)
Rugby Mountain Bike Club (Rugby)
1485 Tri Club (Leicestershire)
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.