March edition of Bath Magazine ran an article on cycling in Bath called “Weekend Warriors”. I feel the article placed cycling in Bath as a primarily male sporting activity. This really is a disservice to people that cycle in the city and those who fancy giving it a go. I’m not saying it’s an inherently bad article, but I do feel like it missed it’s target audience. This is the article I wish they had run.
From the keen person looking for a sporting challenge to the group of friends cycling out to a pub for a drink, to the car commuter sitting in a traffic queue trying to get into the city, cycling in Bath has a surprising amount to offer. Some of it is literally on your doorstep where as some of it requires a little bit more searching. With spring around the corner this really is an ideal time to try cycling in our beautiful city.
When looking at cycling in the city of Bath, it’s very important to recognise that cycling, just like using your feet covers a huge breadth of activities. Just because I walk somewhere does not imply I run marathons, so just because I cycle to work does not imply I like dressing up in lycra and racing around country lanes at the weekend.
This article will look at cycling as a sport, as a leisure activity, and as utility cycling, also known as the fastest way to travel around the city of Bath in rush hour.
The road sport scene in Bath is massive and is open to all ages and sexes. The various cycling clubs: Velo Club Walcot, Bath CC, Salt and Sham, Timsbury, and Somer Valley have weekly group rides split by capability.
If you’ve been cycling on your own or with a friend and want to learn how to ride in a group, but unsure if you can keep up, these clubs have easy groups (12 mph average) specifically for you. For those wanting a faster pace, you are very well catered for with the ‘top’ groups averaging 19 mph+. However if you can’t keep up, you will get dropped. The clubs also work together to arrange sportives, hill races, cyclocross events and circuit training/races up at Odd Down.
The clubs are inclusive, with high numbers of women involved and are a great way to make new friends. Some of the smaller clubs may not run a regular ‘easy’ group but talk to them and ask them when they do and get involved.
So get your bike serviced, your lycra cleaned, check your helmet, and ride out to your local meeting point and join 400+ cyclists going out for a 3ish hour rides with a couple of cake stops on the way every Sunday (and even Saturdays).
For the younger generation, Sulis Scorpions run sessions up at Odd Down Racing circuit on a Saturday and will train you up to be the next Wiggo or Trott.
The MTB scene is slightly less well organised with only one regular Wednesday night ride. Many people involved in the MTB scene ride with clubs at the weekend so there is less MTB club rides at the weekend. There is one unofficial club in Bath known as the Folly Fliers who hunt out trails in or around Bath. Bath unfortunately isn’t as well served as Bristol with places like Ashton Court but there are places to be found. You just need to get involved in the right groups.
For those into BMX racing, there is always the BMX track next to the Odd down circuit. It’s mostly informal but there are events held up there by the Bath BMX club.
I must admit I’m very much a connoisseur of cake, bacon butties, cheesy chips, and lashings of cider and coffee. I’ve made it my mission to explore pubs and cafes mostly on the Two Tunnels circuit, the Bristol to Bath path and the canal route out to Bradford and Avon. For me, cycling at weekends and the evenings is about enjoying the company of friends, the beauty of the countryside and the pure joy of riding with the wind blowing through my paltry hair. For those people like myself Bath is quite simply phenomenal for leisure cycling.
When I have friends come to stay, I hand them a bike and take them on the Two Tunnels circuit detouring via Bradford on Avon if they can handle it. Most weekends you can find me riding the comfortably flat Bath to Bristol path out to Warmley for a bacon sandwich, a great cup of coffee and a chance to see the Steam trains going along the line, while chewing the cud with friends. Yes, there are hills in Bath, but they really are an inconsequential when you can ride all the way to Devizes on traffic free flat canal paths should you want a leisurely, if slightly bumpy, 70 mile round trip 😉
Cycle Bath runs a open calendar where anyone can add a ride. Other organisations offer slow rides as well http://www.goskyride.com/ and there are some that are women only.
If you are visiting Bath or new to the area, you might not have a bike with you. I may have mentioned that it really is worth riding the Two Tunnels circuit. People come from all over the world to see it. You can rent yourself a Next Bike from a station next to the railway station or pop over to Green Park Station bike shop allow you to rent a MTB bike for the day. For those people coming from out of town with their own bikes, park yourself on Brassmill Lane or even Newbridge Park and Ride and get yourself onto the River Path. It’s worth the effort.
When it comes to utility cycling, I can only go off my own experience. I live on Bear flat. I leave my house at 6:45am and 7 minutes later I am on Platform 1 ready to catch my train. You can ride from Odd Down Park and Ride to the city centre in around 10 minutes. You can ride from Newbridge area of Bath on the west to the A46 on the east in under 25 minutes. Try doing that in a car in rush hour.
The bicycle saves you so much time, and lets be honest here, getting into the city centre is a free wheeling dream in the morning, whereas riding home at night is a free gym session. Cycling into the city of Bath will make you smile in the morning, and sweat on the way home but you will be healthier and happier for it.
Let’s talk about something that anyone living in Bath is all too aware of. It’s rather hilly. In fact it can completely put you off the idea of cycling, but just like cars advance in technology so have bicycles.
As somebody that commutes by train with a fold up bike, getting into town is the easy bit. Getting back up the hill is slightly less fun. However on the nights I just cannot be bothered to attempt getting up to Bearflat, I can take the folded up bike on the bus or in the boot of a taxi.
However there is a better way…
Electric bikes these days are amazingly versatile. There are many types out there, some able to pull cars along, many with ranges of up to 80 miles. With a top speed of 15mph, they can get you from the city centre to Odd Down Park and Ride in 15 minutes.
If you need a bike where you push a button and it takes you up the hill or are more interested in one that helps you pedal there is a bike for you and many can be had for starting from £600 but you do get what you pay for. Good bikes with high quality electric motors are worth paying out for, particularly with the hills in Bath! You should be budgeting £1000-£2000 for such a bike.
Remember some bikes come with throttles so if your legs give out, the bike does all the work.
Please check out our I Want To Ride section and all the pages underneath. It is a huge repository of information and cake stops.