Cycling in Merseyside
Merseyside – in other words, Liverpool and around – has some really good areas to get around by bike, whether touring or just getting from A to B, thanks to several fine family-friendly railtrails and traffic-free paths. (And for the many parts that aren’t, there’s Merseyside Cycle Campaign.)
From the lively modern cityscape of Albert Dock, with its museums, galleries and bars, you can cycle along the promenade 5 miles to Otterspool, and then to Sefton Park. It’s part of NCN56, which continues across the Mersey: the ride across on the famous ferry is a bike highlight. (At night you’re allowed to cycle through the Queensway Tunnel, though it’s not everyone’s idea of a pleasant ride.) Over in Birkenhead, the promenade path continues as NCN56 and then NCN89, with splendid views of Liverpool’s riverfront.
At Merseyside’s northern spur is Southport, whose pier marks the start of the Transpennine Trail all the way to the east coast. From there, NCN62 runs car-free past desert-like sand dunes and right through Liverpool on a railtrail down to Speke (handy for Liverpool airport).
An interesting alternative though is to visit Crosby beach, stirringly dotted with statues staring out to the wind turbines (Antony Gormley’s installation Another Place). NCN810 is another traffic-free trail from the beachfront to Liverpool, and part of it passes through Everton Park, a good family destination with some inner-city wildlife. You can take your bike on Merseyrail trains free.
The 120-mile-long Leeds-Liverpool canal starts right from the centre. It’s an interesting ride on a mountain bike through some fascinating industrial heritage, but don’t underestimate it just ‘because it’s flat’: the bumpy surface is tiring, there’s broken glass here and there, and a couple of scruffy town stretches can be intimidating.
Cycling groups and clubs in Merseyside
Cycling UK Merseyside (Merseyside)
Sociable and non-competitive cycling in countryside of various lengths
A Team Merseyside Touring Group (Merseyside)
Cycling group run by volunteers who are Sustrans ride-leader trained
Southport CC (Southport)
Road club offering weekend and weekday runs with junior and women’s sections
Beginners and standard rides on the Sefton coastal route and Transpennine Trail every Friday
Liverpool Century Road Club (Liverpool)
Offers club, beginners and standard rides, coaching and racing
Merseyside Wheelers (Merseyside)
Southport Cycling Belles (Southport)
Meet once a fortnight in Sefton
Maghull & Lydiate U3A (Sefton)
U3A group enjoying local rides of up to 30 miles
Tour de Friends (Merseyside)
Weekly two-hour, leisurely-paced social rides open to all
Woollybacks Mountain Bike Club (Merseyside)
Club and weekend rides for over-18s covering the north-west of England
Bike Bible (Merseyside)
Merseyside Cycling Campaign (Merseyside)
Cycle Speke (Merseyside)
Making Tracks (Merseyside)
Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group (Liverpool)
St Vincent's School (Liverpool)
Liverpool Road and Trail Club (Liverpool)
Big Bike Safari (Liverpool)
Cycle Safari (Liverpool)
Professional Liverpool (Liverpool)
North Liverpool Cycle Club (Liverpool)
North Liverpool Cycling Project Community Cycle Club (Liverpool)
Kensington Vision Cic (Liverpool)
Peloton Liverpool (Liverpool)
Daisy Chains Community Cycle Club (Liverpool)
DOBS & FOBS (Wirral)
Sundays rides and occasionally during the week; not racing
Wirral Wheelers (Wirral)
Regular rides on lanes of Wirral, Cheshire, and the hillier parts of North Wales
En Vélo Cycle Club (Wirral)
Tuesday Evening Cyclists (Wirral)
Wirral Cycling Group (Wirral)
Encourages people to use their bicycles to explore the countryside and get fit
Anfield Bicycle Club (Anfield, Liverpool)
Club runs in West Cheshire, weekends in North Wales, and the classic Anfield 100
Harp Pedlars (Wirral)
Two Mills (Wirral)
Offers a variety of pace and destinations with rides, mostly on surfaced roads, at weekends and during the week.
Trailblazers Community Cycle Club (Wirral)
Wirral Wanderers Cycling Group (Wirral)
Bicycle Belles (Wirral)
Offers bike rides for women using Wirral's local cycle network
Wirral on Wheels Community Cycle Club (Wirral)
Hype Bikes (Wirral)
Hope 4 All Community Cycle Club (Wirral)
Neston Road Club (Wirral)
Eastham CC Hub (Wirral)
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.