Cycling in Stirling
Historic Stirling, with its fine old town and Wallace monument, has plenty for the cycle-tourist to see. The local cycle group, Stirling Cycle Hub, have a few easy town routes on their website that take you through all the sights. There are a few hills here and there.
There are also several national routes in and around Stirling. NCN765 goes 11 miles along quiet country lanes from Stirling to Doune; eventually it will be extended to Callander, a gateway town for the Trossachs.
Winding round and alongside the Tay estuary, NCN76 follows quiet roads, with a few off-road paths, into Stirling from the south (where it links with the canal towpath from Glasgow to Edinburgh), and out west towards Clackmannan. From there, NCN764 heads 14 tarmac flat miles along a railpath to Dunfermline, enjoyable for families.
The Trossachs, west of Stirling, is a lovely area of lakes and forests. Road tourers may feel frustrated, though: the tarmac roads are only linked by bumpy tracks, making it hard to plan a logical route.
However, there are many loops of an hour or two that are great for family or easy leisure cycling – Stirling Cycle Hub’s website has a list – so long as you have sturdy bikes, ideally mountain bikes. For example, the 4-mile Loch Ard Loop (nearest station Balloch); the banks of Loch Eck (9 miles, Inverkip); the Rob Roy Loop (8 miles, Stirling) – are all fine for children. More strenuous routes for adventurous adults include a 31-mile tour of the Trossachs.
Cycling groups and clubs in Stirling
Callander Youth Project (Callander)
Discover Dunblane (Dunblane)
Represents shops and businesses promoting tourism
Hawkhill Community Centre (Alloa)
Offers a range of facilities and activities
Stirling Bike Club (Stirling)
Caters for all types of cycling including mountain biking, track racing and road
Ride Alloa (Alloa)
Belles on Bikes Stirling (Stirling)
Led rides for women who want to get out on their bike
Get Out Get Active Cycles (Stirling)
Stirling Triathlon Club (Stirling)
Weekly training schedule to suit people of all abilities
1st Step Bikes (Stirling)
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 or rear rack and panniers 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.