Cycling in Staffordshire
Staffordshire may be better known for Alton Towers, the mighty theme park, than for its cycling possibilites, and few would place Stafford or Stoke on their list of bike-friendly towns. But there's still plenty of interest for those on two wheels.
Cannock Chase, the forested area southeast of Stafford, is Britain’s smallest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. That makes it ideal for mountain biking, with 17 marked trails, some great for families and others for experts. Birches Valley Forest Centre is the place to start, known to MTB'ers for its Dog Trail and Monkey Trail.
In the north of the county, in the White Peak area is a fabulous railpath suitable for all ages: the Manifold Trail (NCN549) runs 8 miles along the bottom of a scenic valley along a railpath from Waterhouses to Hulme End. Other family-friendly rides are in parks such as Bathpool, Dimmingsdale and Apedale. West from Stafford, a 9-mile greenway (NCN55) runs to Newport along another old rail line, another pleasant car-free ride.
The county has quite a few canal towpaths with parts you can cycle along. Stretches of towpath are being upgraded, but most are best done with a mountain bike, such as the 15-mile jaunt from Birmingham to Fazeley.
Adventurous tourers might want to explore the far north of the county in the hills around Axe Edge, on the Derbyshire border and by the side of the Peak District. Here is Flash, the highest village in the UK at 463m (1,519 feet). It has a pub to shelter in during bad weather. Or even good weather.
Cycling groups and clubs in Staffordshire
Fishface Cycles Gruppetto (Wombourne)
Three rides a week at different paces and distances
Tamworth Cycling Club (Staffordshire)
Social rides, club runs, sportives, Audaxes and competitive racing
Midland Trailquests (Staffordshire)
Wheel We Make It Saturday Cycling Club (Staffordshire)
Lichfield Re:cycle (Staffordshire)
Henry Burton CC (Stafford)
Velo-M Cycling Club (Stone)
Based at the Velo Store offering road, MTB and family rides, and skills sessions
Newport Shropshire Cycling Club (Newport)
Supports and promotes road cycling in and around Newport, including for youngsters
Stafford Road Club (Stafford)
Hosts several led road rides each week of varying length designed to cater for all abilities
North Staffs Cycling (Staffordshire)
Campaigns and offers social rides
Stone Wheelers Cycling Club (Stone)
Weekend and weekday road rides
North Staffs Wayfarers (Staffordshire)
Outdoor group that offers cycling, walking, camping and socialising events
Lyme Racing Club (Newcastle Under Lyme)
Time trials, track, road and mountain bike racing and coaching for all ages
Kidsgrove Wheelers (Kidsgrove)
Time trial, road race, Audax, mountain bike or leisurely rides for families and individuals
Commercial company that makes cycle parking
Leek CC (Leek)
Sunday runs throughout the year and Monday evening social rides in summer
Ball Bicycle Club (Staffordshire)
Audlem Cycling Club (Staffordshire)
Ayundante Bicycle (Stoke-on-Trent)
Bobbies on Bikes for Kids (Stoke-on-Trent)
Happy Healthy Cycling (Lichfield)
Team Gallagher (Staffordshire)
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.