Cycling in Oxfordshire
Cycling in Oxfordshire
Oxford may not have quite the levels of cycling of its academic counterpart Cambridge, but if anything it’s a lovelier place to explore on a bike, with its countless gorgeous college buildings and easier layout – and thanks to its student population of all descriptions, bicycles are everywhere. This is a city where a lot of people get around by bike, from the local trundling to work, to the college rowing coach shouting at the crew while pedalling the towpath, handlebar in one hand, megaphone in the other. Even the buses between Oxford and London take bikes.
The Thames is called the Isis here, and there’s lovely car-free leisure riding along its towpath, perhaps continuing on lanes right up to the riverside Trout pub at Godstow. The Oxford Canal’s towpaths offer additional options – for sturdy-tyred bikes, anyway.
From Oxford to Woodstock – and Blenheim Palace – NCN5 takes you along 10 miles of off-road tracks and quiet roads – a good family outing (though you can’t cycle inside Blenheim Park). South from Oxford, NCN5 takes you along the Thames Route – not always by the riverside, though with plenty of car-free stretches – through Abingdon, Didcot, even all the way to Reading and central London, 100 miles away.
Leisurely road touring doesn’t come much better than the Oxfordshire Cotswolds, with its quiet lanes, rich countryside, cottagey pubs, cosy cafes and beautiful villages: Aston, Kingham, Minster Lovell, Bruern, Asthall, Kelmscott... there’s even a mini-Stonehenge: the Rollright Stones.
In the southwest of the county, the fabulous Uffington White Horse is just off the Ridgeway, whose first 43 miles from Overton (Wilts) though Oxfordshire to to Streatley (Berks) is a mountain biking delight.
Cycling groups and clubs in Oxfordshire
Cycling UK Oxfordshire (Oxfordshire)
Hub for Cycling UK and CTC activities in the county, organising rides
Cycling UK Wantage (Wantage)
Rides for all types of recreational rider, including families, on roads and quiet lanes
CTC Wallingford (Wallingford)
Offers two rides each month, easy and medium
Cycle campaigning group based in Oxford
Didcot Phoenix CC (Didcot)
Touring, racing, Audax, off-road and events to encourage aspiring cyclists
Ridgeway Cycles (Wantage)
Community (not a club) that rides routes devised to try to cater for a wide range of skills
Etape Cycling Club (Oxfordshire)
Zappis Cycling Club (Abingdon)
Abingdon Freewheeling (Abingdon)
Oxford Social Network (Oxford)
Oxford City Cycling UK (Oxford)
Oxfordshire Midweek (Oxfordshire)
Isis Cyclists (Oxford)
Short rides for women in Oxford to encourage people onto bikes
Thame Convivial Cycling (Thame)
Bucks MTB Bike Club (Oxfordshire)
The Racing Collective (Oxfordshire)
Broken Spoke Bike Co-Op (Oxfordshire)
Women's History Oxford (Oxford)
Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (Oxford)
VC Jericho (Oxfordshire)
TVP / Hants Police Unity Tour (Oxfordshire)
Tackley Ride for Hope 2019 (Oxfordshire)
Bicester Social Cycling (Bicester)
Junior Wheels For All Witney (Witney)
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.
What have we missed? Recommend your favourite routes using the comments box below.
Cycling routes in Oxfordshire
Cotswolds routes, canal paths, rural rides and getting round Oxford
Cycle A-way’s list of routes, maps and resources for Oxfordshire
The Hanson Way Cycle Map (NCN5)
Didcot to Wantage and The Ridgeway
Cycle Rides in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds