One of the best ways to be healthy and get out and about in the countryside is by bicycle. It’s green, healthy and fun!
There are a wealth of charming villages, scenes, byways and sites to be discovered and enjoyed. You can use a wide variety of planned cycle routes or by careful planning and research you can create your own cycling routes, many of which will get you off-road and away from the traffic or make use of quiet country lanes and dedicated cycle lanes.
The Countryside Access Team works with other council departments, agencies, local cyclists clubs and forums to help improve cycling facilities through use of our bridleways, green lanes and sites to benefit cyclists of all ages and abilities.
So, get on your bike, explore, get fit, get healthy and have fun!
Cycling is also a great activity for all the family and can make for an enjoyable way to get out and keep everyone fit and healthy! By keeping to cycle-specific routes and off-road routes everyone can travel at their own pace in a safe, quiet and comfortable way.
Some places where you can spend the day cycling with the family and away from roads and traffic include:
The Forest Centre and Millennium Country Park at Marston Moretaine which has 8km of surfaced paths and bicycles can be hired if you do not have one. See the Forest of Marston Vale website for more information.
Sustrans National Route 6 runs through Central Bedfordshire from Harpenden through Luton and Dunstable to Leighton Buzzard and has long off-road sections.
Sustrans National Route 51 runs off-road from Sandy through Bedford and then mainly on quiet roads through Cranfield to Milton Keynes. Maps and further guidance are available from the Sustrans website.
Jubilee Cycle Ride; a cycle ride (PDF 2.4MB) has been developed amongst the rolling hills of the Greensand Ridge. This cycle route takes you through the villages of:
Circular Road Cycle Rides;
An 'on road' cycle route has been developed around Old Warden - Cardington and Cople (PDF 1.7MB). This 25km circular cycle ride will take you along part of the Greensand Ridge and near the popular attractions of the Swiss Garden.
Woburn Wander (PDF 1.2MB) - Another on-road route. Enjoy this 30km cycle ride in the countryside surrounding Woburn. Well worth a ride and plenty of refreshment stops to enjoy along the way.
The Shannon Trail (PDF 6.2MB) - Take a ride along the 35 km circular cycle ride along the quiet lanes and roads of East Bedfordshire and around the villages of Potton, Gamlingay, Steeple, Morden and Wrestlingworth.
The Thatcher's Way (PDF 4.5MB) - Enjoy the 38km circular cycle route along quiet roads and cycle paths around the beautiful villages east of Bedfordshire. There are many wonderful refreshment stops along the way, to make your ride extra special.
The Ampthill - Bedford Loop (PDF 2.1MB) - Cycle along the quiet roads from the attractive Georgian market town of Ampthill, along the Greensand Ridge and through the county town of Bedford. Give this 46 km ride a go and enjoy the ride.
The Countryside Access Team have developed six new circular cycling routes to help get you out and about on your bike!
There is a mix of on- and off-road cycling and will use mainly surfaced tracks and quiet lanes and vary from 10 to 16 miles in length. These routes are aimed at keen and competent cyclists.
The routes are in the following areas:
Sandy cycling route (PDF 1.8MB) and Sandy description of the route (PDF 440KB)
Old Warden cycling route (PDF 880KB) and Old Warden description of the route (PDF 445KB)
Clophill cycling route (PDF 806KB) and Clophill description of the route (PDF 431KB)
Barton-le-Clay cycling route (PDF 879KB) and Barton-le-Clay description of the route (PDF 446KB)
Whipsnade cycling route (PDF 953KB) and Whipsnade description of the route (PDF 453KB)
Leighton Buzzard cycling map (PDF 1MB) and Leighton Buzzard description of the route (PDF 621KB)
Central Bedfordshire is a great place for getting off the roads and onto quieter cycle lane and off-road routes across country and can be the best way of discovering your own favourite ride and getting some peace and quiet!
Central Bedfordshire Council has developed 6 new on/off road cycle routes to explore and discover the countryside on.
Sustrans have a network of cycle lanes, many off-road and linking many towns and villages. Examples include:
Visit the Sustrans website for routes, places to go and tips on cycling in general.
By using maps you can also make your own off-road cycle routes, maybe taking in your favourite village, view or pub! But remember that only bridleways can be ridden – please do not ride your bike on footpaths and always be courteous to other path users such as pedestrians and horse riders.
You will need a suitable bike such as a mountain bike or a hybrid bike. These have sturdy frames, knobbly off-road tyres and, often some form of suspension to make the riding more comfortable! Our six new routes below will be great for exploring with these style of bikes.
Mountain biking has something for everyone and, depending on your taste, these consist of: downhill, four cross, cross-country and trailquest.
They all require fitness, a degree of confidence and good bike control at all times.
Cross Country – the only mountain biking Olympic sport.
Riders in this discipline need to have brilliant bike handling skills to manoeuvre over trees, branches, rocks and water. They must also be extremely fit as the event is very challenging and requires real endurance.
A race usually takes place on a marked lap of one to three miles in length. There is climbing, descending, single-track (narrow paths) and technical sections (over difficult terrain). The number of laps you race depends on how much experience you have and less experienced riders can tackle fewer laps.
Elite level riders race for up to two and a half hours on lightweight, fast ‘hardtail’ bikes (usually with only front suspension).
Downhill – the ultimate test of nerve and bike control.
Basically this is about who is the fastest from top to bottom of a steep incline.
It involves knife-edge skills - late braking, fast cornering, and riding right to the edge of your ability. Riders race individually against the clock hurtling down a steep course over a series of jumps and drop-offs. The difference between first and second at the finish can be a matter of seconds. It's a long, rocky road to the bottom so the bikes used in downhilling have front and rear suspension and are usually well built and solid, but light. Riders wear some degree of body armour.
Four cross or 4X mountain biking - competing on a specially designed highly-challenging course.
Races last between 25 seconds and one minute and are usually fast and frenzied.
The courses include a mix of natural and man-made obstacles covering a steep descent. The difficulty of getting over these obstacles at high-speed whilst being jostled by three other competitors mean there can be plenty of crashes. The 4X competition starts with a limited number of riders competing in knock-out rounds.
These rounds are decided by a series of heats called 'Motos' with riders competing three times before moving on to quarters, semis and the final. The final consists of the last four riders left in the competition.
Trailquest – combining cross country with orienteering.
This discipline combines cross country mountain biking with orienteering and competitors must search for specific locations in forests or bridleways and clip special cards as evidence of their visit. Each location has a specific points value, so competitors score points by visiting as many locations as possible. The extra challenge comes with using maps and compasses to find these ‘control points’.
Events can vary between two to seven hours, however, it is not actually a race against time, so it's all about collecting as many points as possible.
Trailquest can be a solo or team event (with two riders making up a team).