Cycling in Norfolk
Norwich – a fine place to cycle round, with a handsome old centre and cathedral area – is about as hectic as it gets round here. Away from the city, Norfolk is a rural county of quiet, picturesque villages, historic churches, big-sky coastlines and the unique watery landscape of the Broads.
There are no mountains to speak – a few hills here and there – but you’re best off with a mountain bike for the 46-mile Peddar’s Way, an almost totally off-road track that follows a Roman Road northwest from Knettishall Heath to Holme-next-the-Sea via pleasant Castle Acre.
There are a couple of railtrails – NCN1 north out of Norwich (part of the 26-mile Marriott’s Way loop), or up from Kings Lynn, for instance – but essentially cycle-touring here means roads. Not that there’s too much traffic away on the country lanes, though. The Norfolk Coast Cycleway is a 92-mile network of quiet roads that tracks NCN1 and NCN30 from Kings Lynn to Cromer and Great Yarmouth, with lovely views of the coastline and countryside.
En route you pass Happisburgh, known for its eroding coastline. Much of Norfolk’s cycle-touring charm comes from the lovely villages and towns you pass through, some of the most picturesque being Blakeney, Cley, Burnham Market, Holkham with its estate and nature reserve, and the pilgrimage village of Walsingham.
The Broads are arguably best explored by boat, but there are many bike trails through it. A quirky cycling experience is the tiny chain ferry at Reedham, the only crossing of the Yare for miles (so check it’s working before cycling the long cul-de-sac to get there).
Cycling groups and clubs in Norfolk
Norwich CTC (Norwich)
Has three branches based in each of Norwich, Diss and West Norfolk (King's Lynn)
West Norfolk (King's Lynn)
King's Lynn Cycling Club (King's Lynn)
Timber MTB (Thetford)
Mountain biking in Thetford
Keystone Green Bikes (Thetford)
Thetford Racing Cycle Group (Thetford)
TJ Motorsport (Attleborough)
Ob Cafe (Attleborough)
The Basket Bikers (Attleborough)
Tuesday Tarmac Tours (King's Lynn)
Mapus BUG (King's Lynn)
Sandringham & West Norfolk Cyclists (Sandringham)
Cycling Club Breckland (Norfolk)
King's Lynn MTB Club (Kings Lynn)
East Anglian Cycling Club (Norwich)
It's Not About The Bike (Norwich)
Norwich Cycling Campaign (Norwich)
Campaigning group encouraging and supporting the improvement of cycling facilities in Norwich
Wensum Valley Cycle Group (Norfolk)
Wymondham Wheelers (Wymondham)
Norfolk Police BUG (Norfolk)
Offers Sunday and Tuesday rides
UK Police Unity Tour- Eastern Chapter (Dereham)
12th Man Cycling Club (Norwich)
Marlpit Cycling Hub (Norwich)
Bungay Black Dog Running Club (Bungay)
Godric Cycling Cub (Bungay)
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.