General health and safety
For your own safety please wear appropriate protective clothing, including a helmet. High visibility clothing would also be useful as you will be cycling on shared roads / bridleways and with the Lake District's changeable climate visibility can be reduced quickly! Plenty of food and drink, a first aid kit, and a good map may also prove invaluable. Check your bike before you set off and make sure you have a full repair kit on board.
Routes and terrain
Where can you ride?
In England we have two main trail networks - footpaths and bridleways. These are clearly marked on all Ordnance Survey maps and in Cumbria you will often see clear signposting on the trails themselves. Cyclists have free right of access on Bridleways, although they should give way to walkers and horse riders. You should not cycle on footpaths.
Are all bridleways good for biking?
No they are not. These are historic rights of way but do not assume they can all be ridden - some have severe gradients, large rocks, deep mud or are simply not there at all! If you do not know a trail is Ok to ride seek local advice, a guidebook or route download for more information.
What terrain should I expect?
Assuming you keep to the best trails, of which there are many, you'll be riding on lots of stone, rock, slate and hardpack. The National Trust have been upgrading some routes to make them smoother, but a great many routes are rough, varied and challenging.
What type of mountain bike should I bring?
You can enjoy this region on any true mountain bike provided that it is in good working order and the frame, forks, tyres and wheels can handle the tough terrain. If you visit in winter then a bike with disc brakes is advisable as you get far better stopping power in wet or icy conditions.
How should I prepare my bike?
Big tyres are popular with local riders, usually 2.25 to 2.35 inch width to give grip and avoid pinch punctures on the rocks. Big descents can mean lots of brake pad usage, so check for wear and replace older pads before you visit. Make sure your bike is in good general working order and all the important nuts, bolts and bearings are tightened correctly.
What safety kit should I carry?
If you have an accident in an exposed location you will need to stay warm, and have something to eat and drink while you wait for rescue. Use a dry bag to carry a wooly hat, foil blanket or bag, and possibly a small emergency shelter and some spare warm clothes (depending upon conditions). A whistle to call for help (6 short blows then 1 minute wait) and mobile phone are also very useful. A first aid kit is always useful, but be sure you know what's inside and how to use it.
Who should I inform about my ride?
Always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back, perhaps your guesthouse owner, or even a friend at home. Agree with them that they will try to reach you if they do not hear from you and will then call emergency services to report you missing. Do not forget to call them as you will put rescuers at risk for no reason.
How dangerous is the biking here?
Mountain biking is a thrilling sport, but it is very safe if you use the right equipment, look after your bike and your gear, and ride within your own limits. However, bad weather, equipment failure or over-confidence can always cause danger so make sure you are as well prepared as possible before heading into the mountains.
Routes and terrain
Where is the best cycling?
Cumbria has a huge diversity of road cycling and this website should give you a flavour for each area. For more detailed advice on a region you could get hold of the do-in-a-day ride guide for that area, or look at an Ordnance Survey map and see what the terrain is like.
How safe are the roads?
Cumbria has many backroads which are ideal for cycling, while some major roads are also quiet and enjoyable. However, certain routes are popular with local traffic and some A-roads are narrow and winding, making them more hazardous than alternative routes. If you are planning your own rides with a map then seek local advice if you want a relatively traffic free journey.
What should I do about food and drink?
If you are using an OS map or guidebook you should be able to locate pubs in villages - ideal for breaks or lunch stops. There are many superb country cafes too, right across the county, which can be incorporated into your rides.
What type of bike should I bring?
Almost any bike (in good condition) can handle the gentler lanes of the Eden Valley or Solway Coast. Usually a bike with some gears is better as there are always some hills to cover. If you intend to ride in The Lakes or Pennines then a bike with a triple chainset at the front is almost essential if you want to cycle up everything!
What spares should I carry?
Its always a good idea to go out with a puncture repair kit, spare inner tube, pump and tyre levers in case you get a puncture. In particular you need to be careful when hawthorn hedges are being trimmed. Cumbria has plenty of good bike shops so you should be able to get any supplies you need here, or any repair work.