Cycling in Surrey
London’s leafy suburbs: the archetypal Home County of Surrey is Britain’s most affluent (highest GDP per head) and most wooded (nearly a quarter by area, twice the average, with lots of green belt). Its immaculate villages such as Abinger Hammer or Shamley Green, with their half-timbered brick cottages, flower-basket real-ale pubs and village green cricket grounds, make cycle touring a delight.
The North Downs separate its flat northern half, bordering London, from hillier southern half. At weekends Surrey’s country lanes blur with the colours of cycling club tops, and during the week there’s quite a commuter tide of well-heeled and well-cleated bikes, too.
The iconic Box Hill, just north of Dorking, is the county’s great climb – it featured in the 2012 London Olympics. It may ‘only’ average 5% and reach a mere 129m (420 feet), but its lovely setting and fine views make it a club and leisure staple.
The best cycling stretch of the Thames path (part of NCN4) is the Surrey leg, running 14 miles or so between Hampton Court and Egham; being almost all off-road, it’s ideal for families. Among the many parklands and nature reserves set up for family rides are Ashtead Common, Blackheath Common, Epsom Common, Guildford Riverside Park and many more.
NCN4 runs through the lovely quiet lanes of Windsor Great Park, bordering Berkshire. Just south of Guildford, NCN223 is a pleasant railpath, and in the town centre, the Wey towpath is very good.
Just over the border in West Sussex, Gatwick Airport is a more convenient option than Heathrow for those flying with their bikes: there are plenty of trains, and a marked cycle route from London (NCN20 and 21, some bumpy off-road sections though). For tourers, the 110-mile Surrey Cycleway loop gives you the best of the county.
Cycling groups and clubs in Surrey
East Surrey CTC (Croydon)
Small sociable group in Croydon with regular Sunday rides
West Surrey CTC
Social group with longer distance rides during the week and at weekends
Surrey Cycling Club
Bordon & Whitehill Community Cycling Club (Farnham)
Top Banana Sports (Godalming)
Farnham U3A Cycle Club (Farnham)
The Source Community Cycle Club (Aldershot)
Ash Velo Community Cycle Club (Ash)
TAG Farnborough Airport Ltd (Farnborough)
Farnborough Fastners Community Cycle Club (Farnborough)
Pedal Smart Bike Club (Aldershot)
North Camp Spokes & Spanners (Aldershot)
Farnborough & Camberley Cycling Club (Franborough)
Enigma Cycling (Surrey)
Pedalling Pandas (Surrey)
Winston Churchill School Bike Club (Woking)
Woking Cycling Club (Woking)
Woking Cycle Users Group (Woking)
North West Surrey Short Stay School Bike Club (Woking)
Phoenix Triathlon Club (Guildford)
G-Bug – Guildford Cycling Campaign (Guildford)
South Western Road Club (Cobham)
Road rides of all kinds across SW London, Surrey and Sussex
Horsley U3A Cycling Group (Horsley)
Range of rides from easy to challenging for the over-50s
Good Shepherd Cycling Club (Surrey)
Dorking Cycling Club (Dorking)
Road races, time trials, hill climbs, sportives, and campaigning for better cycling
Reigate & Banstead Cycle Forum (Reigate)
Bikefit Surrey (Surrey)
Fun, social and relaxed led rides of 1 to 2 hours in SE Surrey – busy mums or dads welcome
Anerley Bicycle Club (Anerley)
Three regular weekly rides around Surrey
Oxted Cycling Club (Oxted)
Redhill Cycling Club (Redhill)
Off-road, touring, club runs, track racing, time trials, road racing and ultra distance
Banstead Belles (Banstead)
Cogs (Cycle Trails Old Girls) (Surrey)
Dittons Velo (Esher)
Welcoming club with rides for all adult cyclists around Elmbridge and beyond
Base Road Club (Surrey)
Ensono UK (Staines)
Cheam and Morden (Surrey)
FSI L2P (Epsom)
Wednesday Night Riders (Farnham)
Alice Holt (Surrey)
Alice Holt Cycling For All (Surrey)
Surrey Police Cycling Club (Guildford)
Guildford Bike Project (Guildford)
100 Climbs Challenge (Guildford)
Footbiking UK (Surrey)
Cranleigh Cycling Club (Cranleigh)
Bikes Revived (Dorking)
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.