Cycling in Somerset
Somerset sprawls in its warm, leisurely way over a remarkable range of countryside. In one county you can cycle some of Britain’s best railtrails and towpaths, through remarkable car-free tunnels, alongside beaches, up hills and along endless plains, and more.
Up at the county’s northern end is Bath, and an atmospheric way to arrive from the north is along the wonderful, intimate last 20 miles or so of the Fosse Way, the Roman Road from Lincoln. When you’ve finished strolling round the beautiful (and hilly) Georgian and Roman city, you can cycle to Bristol on the scenic 13-mile railway path (NCN4) – Sustrans’s first ever project, and arguably still the country’s ‘best cycle path’, useful for both tourists and commuters.
Or you can strike out east on NCN4 from Bath along the gorgeous Kennet and Avon canal towpath to London. Or tackle the Two Tunnels route (NCN244) from the south of the city: it’s a new railtrail through, yes, two very long thrilling tunnels, with some awesome views, and linking to the canal. Down to the southwest, Taunton and Bridgwater are linked by a fine 14-mile canal towpath (NCN3) that features a scale model of the solar system.
All the above are great for families, and many more routes exist. Road tourers meanwhile can explore the wide-open wetlands of the Somerset Levels, dominated by dramatic Glastonbury Tor, the hilly Mendips with Chew Valley Lake, or the hillier Quantocks. The seaside town of Minehead, on Somerset’s western margins, is also a gateway to Exmoor (mountain bikers take note).
Wells, with its cathedral, is a fine historic place worth visiting, too; Frome is a pleasant market town; Weston-super-Mare is a day at the seaside; and – as if Somerset didn’t already offer more than enough – cycling the road up or down Cheddar Gorge is one of the most geologically spectacular bike rides in England.
Cycling groups and clubs in Somerset
CTC Frome (Frome)
Regular rides often of 25 to 30 miles (CTC means ‘coffee tea and cake’)
Bath Cyclists' Touring Club (Bath)
Cycling club based in Bath that offers rides of varying length and pace
Bath Cycling Club (Bath)
Time trial and road riding club dating from the era of the 'penny farthing'
Somer Valley Cycling Club (Somerton)
Road racing, time trialling, mountain biking and social rides
Colliers Way Cycling Group (Radstock)
Rides generally 20 to 30 miles long in Radstock and Midsomer Norton area
Wellington Wheelers (Wellington)
Social cycling club with regular rides, time trials, climbs, and fun events
Taunton Vineyard (Taunton)
Minehead CC (Minehead)
Cycle Somerset (Taunton)
Everyday cycling club with social rides and emphasis on having fun
Taunton Bike Club (Taunton)
GoRide club offering activities, training and rides for 8-16 year olds
Bridgewater CC (Bridgwater)
Axe Valley Pedallers (Axminster)
Yeovil Cycling Club (Yeovil)
Road racing, time trials and club runs
Axbridge Cycling Group (Axbridge)
Social, rides and club runs
BK Velo (Burnham on Sea)
Road riding, Audax, sportives and cyclocross, facilitated online
Halsall Cycling Club (Halsall)
Weston Wheelers (Weston super Mare)
Regular club rides around the Weston area
RC Bikers (Nailsea)
Clevedon and District Road Club (Clevedon)
Several group rides regularly across the week
Portishead and Clevedon Triathlon (Portishead)
For cyclists who want to progress to triathlon
Frome & District Wheelers (Frome)
Road cycling club offering regular social rides and time trials (summer) for newcomers to experienced riders
Website about cycling: reviews, forums, news on racing and campaigning
Fcbstudios Bike Club (Bath)
In 2 Biking - Age2Age (Weston-super-Mare)
Julian House Bike Workshop (Bath)
Taunton Vineyard Church (Taunton)
On Your Bike Recycle (Somerset)
Love Musgrove Cycle Group (Somerset)
The Chris Evans Bike Ride & Barbeque
Wincanton PLC (Wincanton)
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? Let us know your favourite routes by leaving a comment below.