The Isle of Wight – also known as Bicycle Island - is one of the best places in the world to cycle. Here are 10 reasons why you should head for the UK’s cycling capital, located just four miles off the South Coast…
10 reasons to cycle the Isle of Wight
1. It’s easily accessible – and just 2.5 hours from London. Ferries will take you to the Island from Portsmouth, Southampton and Lymington. Bikes go free when you buy a foot passenger ticket.
2. Lonely Planet has described the Isle of Wight as a “cycling paradise” and one of the Top 10 destinations that “should be on every cvclist’s wishlist”. As well as the varied terrain, they praised the Island for attracting young and trendy Londoners with its “gastropubs, slick hotels and a calendar full of festivals”.
3. There are over 200 miles of cycle routes criss-crossing the Island ranging from flat, car-free paths to tough off-road territory. Half the Island is an area of outstanding natural beauty and you can cycle along the coast, through ancient woodlands, and across the Downs, taking in the spectacular views.
4. There are great routes for families, including the Red Squirrel Trail, a car-free route that follows a disused railway line for 23 miles (37km), along the glorious coast and through woodland, farmland and estuaries. Watch out for the famous furry residents – many of the Island’s red squirrels live around here.
5. The ultimate challenge is the Chalk Ridge Extreme, where you can test your fitness on the toughest hills on the Island on a 53 mile (85km) route that’s a pure adrenaline rush! It’s super steep (height gain – 1503m) and covers terrain including mud and slippery chalk. You’ll pass historic Carisbrooke Castle, the mysterious Mottistone Longstone, and get incredible views of the world-famous Needles.
6. You can pedal all the way round the Island, on the Taste Round the Island Cycle Route, stopping off at gourmet locations along the way. This is a 62 mile (100km) scenic extravaganza with some serious hills that will ensure that you earn your cream tea (the total ascent is a staggering 1375m). Hint: the hills are slightly easier if you head clockwise. Blitz it in a day or take your time and stay a while, checking into bike-friendly B&Bs along the way. Some of the accommodation providers offer secure bike storage.
7. There are exciting new routes for 2017 including ‘In search of Jimi’, a 2 hour cycle which follows in the footsteps of Jimi Hendrix who played his last major gig at the iconic Isle of Wight Festival in 1970. You’ll see a statue of Jimi which is a great spot for selfies. Other adventures to try include ‘Christmas Tree, Yachts, Forest and Her Majesty's Guests’ and ‘Glorious Appuldurcombe gate and low flying planes’.
8. It’s easy to rent bikes of all shapes and sizes, as well as all the gear. Options include mountain bikes, road bikes, hybrids, children’s cycles, tandems, and leg-saving electric bikes. You can arrange for someone to meet you with your hired bikes when you step off the ferry or get them delivered to your accommodation.
9. You can hire someone to take your luggage for you from the ferry terminal to your accommodation. You could also get your bags taken from one B&B to the next – so you can cycle without being weighed down. Just keep your credit card for a gourmet lunch and go! There are also bike-carrying buses if you need to rest your legs for a while, and limited spaces for cycles on the historic Island line train that takes you from the pier head at Ryde to the seaside resort of Shanklin.
10. Islanders are cycling crazy and organise events throughout the year that are based around biking. One of the highlights is the annual Randonnee – a family event, on open roads, that takes you around the Island’s most jaw-droppingly beautiful spots. There’s a choice of a 55km or 100km route, heading clockwise around the Island. Around 3,000 cyclists take part every year.
Also, don’t miss the Isle of Wight Cycle Fest (Saturday 23 September – Sunday 1 October 2017) where you can take your pick from over 70 rides and events for all abilities, ranging from junior racing to the mighty 7 Hills MTB challenge. It’s aimed at families, as much as the serious cyclists, and concludes with a cycle themed party.
You can download routes, and find out more about Bicycle Island at visitisleofwight.co.uk, Visit Isle of Wight’s official Tourist Board website for the Island.
In association with Visit Isle of Wight