Cycling in West Yorkshire
Canals that snake alongside valley floors through mill towns, roads that leap over gritty moors, railtrails, the vast conurbation of Leeds-Bradford, and England’s longest downhill: West Yorkshire is a full-on cycling mix.
Never mind London’s Cycle Superhighways: the vibrant economic capital of Yorkshire, Leeds, is linked to Bradford by a 14-mile one of its own. It's a mostly segregated commuter route that’s OK in the Leeds half, variable in the other. Leeds has a few decent leisure and commuting routes, and some nice parks, but a lot of its busy suburbs challenge the everyday cyclist.
A quieter way between Leeds and Bradford is the fine towpath along the Leeds-Liverpool canal, NCN66. You branch off at Shipley to follow a partially off-road path (NCN66) into Bradford centre, with its fabulous Centenary Square. But if you carry on from Leeds past Shipley the waterside route continues, passing through ‘model mill town’ Saltaire (fun to explore by bike) to Keighley as NCN696 via the dramatic Five Rise Locks at Bingley, all of it family-friendly. (The canal towpath continues, ultimately, to Liverpool.)
From Bradford to Dewsbury, NCN66/69 is a largely off-road railtrail (again fine for kids) popular with locals, and more off-road stretches take you to Huddersfield; while from Brighouse, NCN66 goes – again, almost all car-free and kid-friendly by a canal – to alternative-chic Hebden Bridge and upcoming Todmorden. From there to Littleborough, the Rochdale Canal towpath is one of Britain’s most spectacular, a family treat on a mostly OK surface.
Down into Hebden Bridge from the south is Cragg Vale, England’s longest continuous downhill (965ft in 5.5 miles, all freewheel). The moorland roads north of Hebden there to Burnley, or Haworth and Brontë country, are thrilling for tourists and road cyclists; Ilkley and Otley meanwhile are famous road-cycling strongholds. There are lots of mountain biking possibilities on the many bridleways round here, too.
East of Haworth is stunning Cullingworth viaduct, on an isolated railtrail (NCN69). Another family railtrail runs from Wetherby to Spofforth. At the other extreme, north of Halifax, cobbled, vertiginous Shibden Wall is a candidate for England’s toughest road-racer’s climb.
Cycling groups and clubs in West Yorkshire
Huddersfield & District CTC (Huddersfield)
(Non-racing) rides for all abilities, as well as social activities
Calderdale CTC (Calderdale)
Streetbikes CiC (Spen Valley)
Family and women-only rides and activities, maintenance courses, bike recycling
Holme Valley Wheelers (Holmfirth)
Track, time trials, road racing, cyclocross and mountain biking, club runs and leisure rides
Queens Sports Club (Halifax)
Cannonball Events (Todmorden)
Drighlington Bicycle Club (Drighlington)
Coastbusters (West Yorkshire)
Otley Cycle Club (Otley)
Halifax Imperial Wheelers (Halifax)
Offers time trialling, roller racing, pub crawling, road racing, social riding and more
Ilkley Cycling Club (Ilkley)
Open to all with the aim of encouraging cycling from recreational across all disciplines
Barnardos Bikes Keighley (Keighley)
Yorkshire Singletrack MTBR (Shipley)
Bradford Cycling Campaign (Bradford)
Campaigning organisation also offering local events aimed at encouraging cycling for everyone
Onna Bike (Bradford)
Wetherby Wheelers (Wetherby)
Road club offering rides several times a week plus an evening time trials league through the summer
Boston Spa Cycling Club (Boston Spa)
Fearnville Friendly Cycle Club (Leeds)
Girlbikevan Riders (West Yorkshire)
GirlBikeVan wants to see more ladies riding at fun social rides and mountain biking events
Valley Striders CC (Leeds)
Club for new and experienced cyclists offering social rides through to endurance training
Leeds Cycling Campaign (Leeds)
Campaigning group aiming to make Leeds a much better place for cycling
Wheels 4 Fun (Leeds)
For adults with physical disability, and set up by volunteers involved with Leeds Cycling Campaign
Pedallers Arms (Leeds)
Learn how to repair your bike with CTC-advanced-mechanic-trained volunteers on hand to help
Yorkshire Road Club (Leeds)
The club caters for competitive and recreational road riders
Reverse the Cycle (Leeds)
Seacroft Wheelers (West Yorkshire)
Social rides and events promoting cycling in West Yorkshire
SingletrAction (West and North Yorkshire)
Volunteers dedicated to trail design, construction and advocacy for MTB riders
East Bradford Cycling Club (Bradford)
Rides and GoRide coaching sessions aimed at young riders; also events for adults
The Bikery (Bradford)
Refurbishes bikes for sale, maintenance courses, volunteering opportunities and workshop
Condor Road Club (West Yorks)
Road cycling club in the Calder Valley with members from Brighouse through to Hebden Bridge
The Jo Cox Way Ride (Batley)
Bike ride from Jo Cox's constituency to the Houses of Parliament
3RT Cycling Team (West Yorks)
3RT races race around the country on track and road. It also has a social side and a junior section
Ravensthorpe CC (Mirfield)
Members compete in a variety of cycling events
Roberttown Community Cycling Club (Roberttown)
Aims to attract local people to enjoy the benefits of social cycling
Huddersfield Star Wheelers (Huddersfield)
Knottingley Velo (Knottingley, West Yorkshire)
Offers club, mtb, racing rides and training
Featherstone Road Club (West Yorkshire)
General club riding with some road racing and time trialling
Pontefract Cycling Club (Pontefract)
Elmsall Road Club (South Elmsall)
Thornhill Lees Community Centre (West Yorkshire)
Yorkshire Cycling Federation (Yorkshire)
Tandem Trekkers (West Yorkshire)
Experience Community Cic (Huddersfield)
Tour de Swits (Huddersfield)
Cycle Recycle (Hebden Bridge)
Cycle Queensbury (Queensbury)
Bingley Belles (Bingley)
Yarnbury to Yarnbury (West Yorkshire)
Chellow Heights SEN School (West Yorkshire)
Capital of Cycling (Bradford)
Bradford Cycling Club Cic (Bradford)
Hop On (Yorkshire) Ltd (Bradford)
Bolton Road Cycling Club (Bradford)
Bradford University Cycling Club (Bradford)
Cycling 4 All (Bradford)
Cycle Re Cycle (Bradford)
Manningham/Heaton Cycling Club - Mary Magdalene Cic (Bradford)
Leeds City College Group (Leeds)
Cycle Pathway Cic (Leeds)
Met Engineers Ltd (Leeds)
Jacobs UK Ltd (Leeds)
Leeds Bike Mill (Leeds)
Wakefield College (Wakefield)
Wheels to Recovery (Wakefield)
Pontefract Family Centre (Pontefract)
Fun on Wheels (West Yorkshire)
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.