Cycling in Warwickshire
The best approach to Shakespeare is by bike – almost literally, thanks to the Stratford Greenway, part of NCN5. The family-friendly railpath runs 5 well-surfaced miles northeast up to Stratford-on-Avon from the north Cotswolds. It brings you right into Bard country, past the famous Royal Shakespeare Theatre and across the River Avon.
NCN5 continues northwest out of the town along a canal towpath, and it forms part of the 163-mile West Midlands Cycle Route that runs from Oxford to Derby and gives you a glimpse of all the best of Warwickshire’s countryside – a good option for the seasoned tourer.
Warwickshire is no great place for mountain biking, but some level off-road that needs a mountain bike can be had on the canal towpaths of the Grand Union and the Stratford Canal between Solihull, Stratford and Warwick; the surfaces vary, but at least the standard of pubs is generally better.
Grand Leamington Spa is a good place to visit by bike, and the Offchurch Greenway east of the town gives some fine views across South Warwickshire on the brief mile or two railtrail. Part of the Lias Line (NCN41), it takes you past Draycote Water Park near Rugby – a good family destination with its round-reservoir bike paths. Kingsbury Water Park is another child-friendly place, with bike hire and miles of surfaced paths around the lakes.
The four miles of car-free Kenilworth Greenway (NCN 523) links to the University of Warwick. Warwick itself, with its grand castle, is a decent cycle destination, and the independent tourer can enjoy passing through fine Warwickshire villages such as Armacote, Luddlington or Welford-on-Avon.
Cycling groups and clubs in Warwickshire
Nuneaton CTC Cycle Club (Nuneaton)
Welcomes all leisure cyclists
Warwick University Bicycle User Group (Warwick University)
Coventry Road Club (Coventry)
All aspects of cycling from touring to racing with active club run programme
CTC Coventry (Coventry)
Nuneaton Triathlon Club (Nuneaton)
Offers triathlon coaches from level 1–3, as well as members who assist the coaching teams
Rugby Racing Cycling Club (Rugby)
From riding for pleasure to competing in local and national competitions
Leamington C&AC (Leamington)
Caters for all abilities from time trialing, triathlon and road racing, to leisure riding and sportives
Kenilworth Cycleways (Kenilworth)
Warwick District Cycleways (Warwick)
Volunteer group campaigning for better cycle provision in Kenilworth, Leamington Spa and Warwick
Wellesbourne Wheelers (Wellesbourne)
Offers weekly and weekend rides
Fusiliers Cycling Club (Nuneaton)
CTC Rugby (Rugby)
Action 21 (Leamington)
Warwickshire Road Club (Warwickshire)
Heart of England Cycling Club (Warwickshire)
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.