Cycling in Shropshire
Shrewsbury – whose nostalgic beauty is celebrated in many an AE Housman poem – is a county of picturesque villages and gorgeous countryside, perfect for leisurely tours. Good news for weary cyclists seeking refreshment is that fine food and drink is something of speciality. (It helps if you’re not on a tight budget.)
Ludlow for example, one of England’s loveliest market towns, is well known for its restaurants, and has an annual Food and Drink festival, though many other less-known places also offer good scenery with good living: Bishop’s Castle (the county has plenty of castles), Church Stretton (next to the dramatic Long Mynd), Much Wenlock (whose games led to the modern Olympics) or Market Drayton (home of gingerbread and some fine beer). All of them can be the base for delightful day rides.
Or Ironbridge, in the middle of the area where the Industrial Revolution started, and formed the modern world. (By bike is a good way to explore the related sights.) Its historic world-first bridge is closed to traffic, but you can cycle over it, and enjoy some largely traffic-free cycle routes from it down the dramatic Severn Gorge (NCN45) or up to new-town Telford (NCN55).
Families can take advantage of many short circular routes, on quiet roads and occasionally off-road, round Ludlow, Shrewsbury and Oswestry; experienced tourers can follow the new 185-mile Shropshire Cycleway round the scenic county border (as yet, it’s unsigned: leaflets have the route).
Handsome Shrewsbury itself is fine to explore by bike, particularly the Severnside path that loops almost back on itself round the peninsula on which the old city stands. Part of NCN81, it’ll also take you out of town – though it’s also very well connected by train.
Cycling groups and clubs in Shropshire
Cycling UK Shropshire (Shrewsbury)
Regular weekly and weekend rides from Wellington and Shrewsbury
Cycling Oswestry Gently (Oswestry)
Monthly easy-paced social rides for families, beginners and returners
North Shropshire Wheelers (Whitchurch)
Primarily a time-trialling club but also track and road racers, mountain bikers and triathletes
Cannell Cycling Club (Shropshire)
Eastridge Trail Partnership (Eastridge)
Builds forest trails to internationally recognised standards
Severn Spokes (Telford)
Easy-paced rides two or three times a week on quiet lanes; evening women-only rides
Castle Cyclists (Bishop’s Castle)
Organises two ‘meet at the destination’ rides per month for all abilities
Ludlow 21 (Ludlow)
Local voluntary group that promotes sustainability and organises annual Green Festival
Derwen College WFA (Oswestry)
Oswestry Paragon CC (Oswestry)
Nova Raiders Cycling Club (Newport)
Velo Club Severn (Shrewsbury)
Cycling4All - Shropshire (Shropshire)
Welshpool Biking Belles (Shropshire)
Newport Shropshire Cycling Club (Newport)
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.