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Best and worst counties for cycling

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As per the thread title, which are the best counties in the UK for cycling (road, gravel and mountain biking)? Mainly looking at leisure rides rather than commuting.

During lockdown I have found cycling to be an enjoyable alternative to the hills and have spent a lot of time exploring my local area in more detail than I ever would have otherwise.

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 Escher 22 May 2020
In reply to Kalna_kaza:

This is probably cheating but the North Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cumbria overlap near Lancaster is amazing. There's a now defunct sportive called Le Terrier that goes through the Forest of Bowland, 100 miles and 12500 feet of ascent and many participants ask if it was a road closed event as there's so little traffic.

There are loads of bridleways of varying difficulty as well as the excellent rocky stuff in Grizedale and throughout the Lakes, and the centres at Whinlatter and Gisburn all very accessible. For a bit of everything and quiet roads I don't think there's anywhere better as you can get to all of it in around an hour from Lancaster.

I hesitated to say Lancashire as further south and west towards Blackburn etc sometimes requires going through big towns between hills, whereas further North you can do hundreds of miles and just stay on country roads. 

Post edited at 14:23
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In reply to Kalna_kaza:

Spain

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 Run_Ross_Run 22 May 2020
In reply to Kalna_kaza:

Powys, Neath and Port Talbot, Swansea, Rhonda Cynon Taff, Carmarthenshire. 

Perfect mix of challenging road routes, mtb routes, gravel routes, bridleways and cycle paths (dedicated and none).

Sustrans map just shows a wealth of them. 

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 felt 23 May 2020
In reply to Kalna_kaza:

For the style of road biking I like, rolling hills, some flat, the very occasional 1 in 6, rather than endless steep ups and downs, together with a wide choice of obscure little lanes, I'd rank the counties I know best in this order: E Hants, S Cumbria, N Devon.

S Cumbria leads the way in terms of the absence of vergeside litter, with E Hants easily the worst.

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 wilkesley 23 May 2020
In reply to Kalna_kaza:

South Cheshire, North Shropshire, Welsh border. There are a few main roads which take most of the traffic and lots of quiet country lanes. There are even a few hills.

Post edited at 13:01
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In reply to Kalna_kaza:

I think the worst is probably Devon, unless you have an E-bike. It's all steep hills, too steep for most to ride up and too steep to really enjoy going down. Whoever planned the roads, if anyone did, had no idea about engineering the roads to minimise climbing or more particularly steepness. Witness Porlock and Countisbury - bull at a gate principle. In most other parts of even the UK (which is generally not up to continental standards in terms of road engineering) those roads would have lots of zig-zags and be much more rideable, something more like the Penrith-Alston (Hartside) road. 

As for good cycling areas - there are just so many to choose from. My favourites are the areas with quiet roads, areas just off the tourist map. SW Scotland, Northumberland and Mid-Wales offer some wonderful rides. Many parts of the Pennines are good too, but you need to keep away from the big towns in the West Riding.

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 Dave B 23 May 2020
In reply to Rog Wilko:

Porlock is in Somerset. The border is about half way between Porlock and Lynmouth.

Still a bugger of a hill.

East Kent has some lovely quiet roads criss crossing some hills. I've spent a few hours hardly seeing anyone or on the bike.. Especially recently. However, it's busier at the coastal areas and heading west is not n much fun. 

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 Fredt 23 May 2020
In reply to Kalna_kaza:

Definitely the worst place for road biking is Lincolnshire. I was bored out my mind after 30 minutes, -dead straight roads and no hills. Couldn't wait to get back to the Peak.

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 gazhbo 23 May 2020
In reply to Rog Wilko:

But you don’t have to cycle up Porlock or Contisbury to go for a ride around Somerset/Devon.  There are plenty of good routes around there that would avoid them.  On a bike I’m sure you can go up the toll road which is less steep.

If 25% gradients are your thing then Devon and Somerset would be the best counties to ride in! 
 
I reckon basically anywhere other than Norfolk or London.

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In reply to gazhbo:

> But you don’t have to cycle up Porlock or Contisbury to go for a ride around Somerset/Devon.  There are plenty of good routes around there that would avoid them.  On a bike I’m sure you can go up the toll road which is less steep.

> If 25% gradients are your thing then Devon and Somerset would be the best counties to ride in! 

> I reckon basically anywhere other than Norfolk or London.

I knew someone would mention Norfolk ☺ We holiday around Cromer and that area of the North Norfolk coast is, I think, great (I have the Strines and Peak on my doorstep so the bar is high). Quiet, definitely not flat (it's rolling thanks to glacial dumping), usually good road surfaces, and loads of little village link ups. 

Someone else has already mentioned the worst county (Lincolnshire). 

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 gazhbo 23 May 2020
In reply to Stuart (aka brt):

To be fair I’ve never even been to Norfolk, let alone cycled there!  I’m prepared to be proved wrong.

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 webbo 23 May 2020
In reply to Fredt:

> Definitely the worst place for road biking is Lincolnshire. I was bored out my mind after 30 minutes, -dead straight roads and no hills. Couldn't wait to get back to the Peak.

Have you ridden round the Market Rasen/ Louth area. I.e the Lincolnshire Wolds it isn’t the Peak District but there some decent hills.

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 Toccata 23 May 2020
In reply to Kalna_kaza:

Dumfries and Galloway, hands down, by miles. From coast to mountain top magnificent, quiet roads, best MTB riding for all levels.

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In reply to gazhbo:

> To be fair I’ve never even been to Norfolk, let alone cycled there!  I’m prepared to be proved wrong.

It's not a recommendation, so please don't travel far! ☺ 

My job takes me around and about and apart from being stuck in cities (or on orbital roads) if the roads are quiet I don't think there is much that is "the worst". 

There are facets of certain landscapes that bore me, such as interminable hedges that you can't see over - boring. Super flat and endlessly straight roads - zzz. 

One of the best surprises was Glasgow and the Campsie Fells. Then I read that Robert Millar trained around there as a kid. 

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In reply to gazhbo:

I went to Somerset last year. The cycling was amazing. Porlock Hill followed by Exmoor Forest followed by Dunkery Beacon. The hills were challenging to say the least. I live in the Cotswolds and love the cycling round here. Hill after hill after hill, hard hills, or flatish if you want. I've cycled in Lincolnshire as well, the Wolds were OK and the wind definitely made it more challenging.  Boring it was not. South and Central Wales is my favourite area though. The Elan Valley is fantastic and the area around the Brecon Beacons and the Black Mountain are magnificent. 

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 ali_colquhoun 23 May 2020
In reply to Kalna_kaza:

My tuppence worth: Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire. One of the best gravel places in the country, MTB everywhere and the road cycling is utterly epic, forest, Wye Valley and up into the greater ranges of wales all too easy. You could come here on holiday for months on end and ride something different everyday. 

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 artif 23 May 2020
In reply to Kalna_kaza:

Best has to be Cornwall with Devon a close second, road riding if I had too, is pretty good but off road amazing. Peak District is average IMO.

Norfolk and Suffolk have to be the most mind numbingly dull places to ride. Spent quite a bit of time in both, but ended leaving the bike at home. Closely followed by Romney marsh in Kent. 

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 mondite 23 May 2020
In reply to artif:

> Norfolk and Suffolk have to be the most mind numbingly dull places to ride.

I assume you were mostly in the part of Suffolk bordering Norfolk? Some of the area bordering Essex isnt bad. Offroad limited but some nice on road stuff in the constable country part.

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 artif 23 May 2020
In reply to mondite:

Kings Lynn and near Ipswich spent months in both areas, still spending the weekdays near Ipswich. I've travelled around the areas quite a bit to find something interesting to ride, ended up with a single speed just to pretend the "hills" were hills. 

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 GrahamD 24 May 2020
In reply to Kalna_kaza:

The longer I live here, the more I'm appreciating where we are in South Cambs, right on the Essex border and close to the Herts and Suffolk borders.  Ok there are no real hills, or technical mountain biking or post card views BUT there is a massive network of quiet lanes, good pubs, pretty villages and decent bridle ways and because it isn't tourist central, these roads are really quiet outside school run and work time.  Plus it's the driest part of the country. 

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In reply to gazhbo:

I lived in Somerset (WsM) when a teenager who couldn't get enough cycling, time trialling and hard, hard days with mates. In my dotage my views are different, but even 60 years ago I preferred the long steady climbs rather than the continuous frustrating up,down,up,down etc that I associate with much of Devon. 

Shame on me for not remembering how far west Somerset stretched!

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In reply to gazhbo:

Some years ago a group of us (my dad, brother and brother-in-law actually) rode the Peddars Way in Norfolk up to Wells-Next-The Sea, it was a cracking ride even though I am a mountainbike and love hills.

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 Mr Fuller 24 May 2020
In reply to Kalna_kaza:

Basically everywhere has some brilliant riding if you know where to look. My favourites:

Lincolnshire. Among the quietest roads in the country, thousands of little lanes, tonnes of bridleways, and as someone says above, it's got plenty of hills in the north: I can easily do 1000 m of climbing in 100km ride and some hills top 20%. 'Lincolnshire is flat' is nonsense - it's the second biggest county in the country and there's a lot more to it than the Fens in the south. 

West Yorkshire. Best cycling communities and clubs in the country, the most riders, plenty of iconic hills, the most strong riders, riding of all types, the legendary Leeds chaingang, the best cafes and cycle culture. The Dales is the best riding in the country and if I had to live in one place for riding only it would be Ilkley. Not a lot of flat riding though and you'll never get on a Strava leaderboard!

Cheshire/Tameside. From near me in Stockport the variety is the best of anywhere I've lived. I can do 100km rides on deserted Cheshire lanes with 300m ascent, I can ride to the Peak, round the Goyt Valley with its quiet lanes and vertical hills, Saddleworth's huge deserted hills, or ride the monster hills round Macclesfield. 

Cleveland. The riding in the Moors is phenomenal. It's beautiful, bleak, barren, one day and alive with colour and with the best sunsets the next. Very quiet roads but fewer routes than some other places and not much flat riding.

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 Siward 24 May 2020
In reply to Mr Fuller:

Derbyshire, but not the too steep Peak, rather the lovely undulating country to the West of Derby itself. Idyllic on a sunny day. 

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 tripehound 24 May 2020
In reply to Kalna_kaza:

Co Durham has some great wood and moorland rides on old railway lines and byways. 

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 Jim Hamilton 24 May 2020
In reply to artif:

> Best has to be Cornwall

That's my worst! for road.  Relentless steep up and down, narrow twisty sunken lanes inviting head on.  Although probably my poor route choice.  

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 Sean Kelly 24 May 2020
In reply to Kalna_kaza:

Well in Devon we have the choice of the flattish Exe Estuary trail, the Granite Way, the Tiverton Canal obviously flat, Dartmoor is ok once on top with fabulous views, and now with the e-bike  the country lanes are lovely with sparse traffic. Just back from a 90 min run. So 3 different bikes for whatever I fancy.

Post edited at 13:42
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 artif 24 May 2020
In reply to Jim Hamilton:

Exactly, perfect conditions, even the road riding gives you a buzz (nearly). Steep techy downhills with a 300 foot sea cliff a shoulder width away are my idea of bliss. But I did grow up 🤔 there, so I might be biased.

Coffee shops, pub crawls and lycra uniforms are for the stiffbacks. 

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 motty89 15:16 Mon

Having cycled around most of the UK my favourite area would have to be mid Wales. Amazing scenery, good road surfaces and barely any traffic. Has everything (except dry weather...) 

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 plyometrics 16:42 Mon
In reply to Kalna_kaza:

Can’t claim to be a well travelled cyclist, but I love riding where I live in the South Lakes, specifically the myriad quiet back roads which are supreme; particularly at this time of year.   

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In reply to Kalna_kaza:

I think that we are fortunate to have such variety within a small country and, with judicious study of a map, some lovely routes on minor roads can be planned. Even between me in Coventry and the edge of Birmingham there are some pleasant surprises!

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 TeeBee 10:57 Tue
In reply to gazhbo:

>  I reckon basically anywhere other than Norfolk or London.

Traffic aside, London still has its moments. Obviously not in a 'green and pleasant land' kind of way, but there are views to be had (Highgate, Crystal Palace, crossing the river at night) and stretches that are always a thrill. The recent lack of cars makes areas like the City and Whitehall an eerie pleasure to ride through.

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 Sam W 11:17 Tue
In reply to Kalna_kaza:

Lots of great suggestions so far, but I would put South Shropshire on the list for variety, scenery and quiet roads. Climbs of 4 miles and longer if you want, the brutal inclines of the Long Mynd or head a little south into Herefordshire for endless gently rolling terrain.

There's also great mountain biking options from official trail centres to hidden woodland single-track through rides to the Welsh coast and back (which can be done with minimal tarmac).

Devon gets a free mentions above, my formative years of cycling were in South Devon and it would be fair to say it toughens you up.   Back lanes nearly all involve punishing, short, sharp hills, the main roads are busy, particularly on sunny days. Has it's moments, but wouldn't make it on my prior of favourite places to ride

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 Yanis Nayu 12:52 Tue
In reply to Kalna_kaza:

I think I’ve cycled in more countries than counties!

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In reply to Jim Hamilton:

> That's my worst! for road.  Relentless steep up and down, narrow twisty sunken lanes inviting head on.  Although probably my poor route choice.  

As a resident I would have to agree, the scary roads and the scarier inattentive drivers most of the year.

A shout out for North Notts, rolling countryside, quiet open B roads I used to love it when I lived there.

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In reply to blackmountainbiker:

I rode to Weybourne from my home in Essex last year, was a great ride. 

I have ridden a lot in Norfolk (road cycling) and I'm not a massive fan but there are loads of lovely villages. Main issue for me is the amount of crap on the roads from farm vehicles and the endless hedgerows which mean you're riding along a country lane which could have amazing views but you're in a tunnel of hedges.

I live in rural Essex (Not far from Mark Cavendish and Alex Dowsett so it can't be that bad lol) and I think it's fantastic for road cycling. Believe or or not, there are hills if you want them , Epping Forest for example, and hundreds upon hundreds of miles of endless empty B roads in lovely countryside eg Constable country. I pedal all over it,anything from 150 to 300km a week this time of year and i'm not bored yet. So that's a thumbs up from me

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 mondite 14:01 Tue
In reply to artif:

> Kings Lynn and near Ipswich spent months in both areas, still spending the weekdays near Ipswich.

Head down the A12 towards Colchester and then out to the villages in the stour valley, Nayland wouldnt be a bad starting point. There are not massive hills but got plenty of minor roads which can be used to bounce up and down the sides to get in a reasonable amount of hill work.

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In reply to Jim Hamilton:

> Relentless steep up and down, narrow twisty sunken lanes inviting head on. 

Yes!

> Although probably my poor route choice.  

Not really, in my experience. Either busy roads or narrow twisty stuff with Cornish hedges that you can't melt into or see through, and a head-on round the next corner. After a few close shaves, I switched entirely to running.

Many seem to enjoy cycling in Cornwall, all the same.

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 abr1966 15:16 Tue
In reply to Mr Fuller:

> Cheshire/Tameside. From near me in Stockport the variety is the best of anywhere I've lived. I can do 100km rides on deserted Cheshire lanes with 300m ascent, I can ride to the Peak, round the Goyt Valley with its quiet lanes and vertical hills, Saddleworth's huge deserted hills, or ride the monster hills round Macclesfield. 

I live right by the Goyt valley.....its a bugger of a place to live for riding!! Steep, fast lanes, mad drivers....although I admit that early in the morning it can be lovely! The roads are especially bad at the moment....rode up the steep way to Pyms Chair last night after the crowds had gone....always a tough climb!

Ive started putting the bike in the car and driving down to Macc....the lanes out towards Holmes Chapel, Sandbach, Whitchurch and so on are great and quite lumpy in parts....I always enjoyed riding them but now I do a lot more knowing I haven't got to ride home from Macc to Kettleshume....

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 wilkesley 15:44 Tue
In reply to Sam W:

A few years ago we had a holiday near Axminster. Some good hills, but the back lanes tend to have huge potholes and large amounts of big stones scattered at random over the road. Combined with narrowness, which means you have to swerve into a bank at the side of the road to avoid being squashed, greatly reduced my enjoyment on my road bike.

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 Tim Davies 20:22 Tue
In reply to Kalna_kaza:

The old county of Clwyd must get a mention. Lots of hills but once you’re up you can roll along at 2-300m. Quiet roads, fantastic views across to Snowdonia but without the traffic. Just avoid the busy valley roads and get lost in the hills. Friends who come across from Cheshire and Yorkshire rate it highly 

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