For the next instalment of our Great British Bike Rides series, we’re heading to one of the most mountainous regions of the UK, the Lake District. It’s time to throw on a compact crankset and pack the waterproofs, this is going to be a wet and windy one.
Here are our picks for three of the best bike rides on offer in the Lake District, from leisurely lake rides all the way to gruelling 100-mile sportives:
Starting off in the Lake District’s unofficial capital of Windermere, home to England’s largest and deepest lake, this ride combines a mixture of town paths, lakeside trails and ferry crossings into one incredibly enjoyable ride.
From the centre of Windermere, you’ll make your way to the shores of the lake along the many cycle paths and side streets that snake their way through the town. From here you can follow the rim of the lake for miles, but we suggest catching a ride on the Windermere car ferry to the western shore of the lake. The lakeside tracks on this side are much better and suitable for young children, making this a great ride for a big family day out.
The tracks on the western shore can be followed to the National Trust site of Wray Castle where you can let the kids loose on the outdoor play trail as you settle down for a much-needed drink at the on-site café. Head back towards Windermere the same way you came or continue to explore the western shore for a longer day trip.
With its cloud-topped crags, blanket forests and steep-sided valleys, the Lake District is a mountain biker’s playground. Whether you’re into shredding downhill trails, exploring cross-country, or simply zipping along forest tracks, the Lake District has it all.
For a combination of all three, look no further than Walna Scar, one of the finest and most enjoyable mountain bike trails in the region. Starting from Torver, the trail heads up a steep and challenging climb before barrelling down into woodland along some gnarly trails intermixed with easier fire roads.
The trail brings you out in Seathwaite before you descend again, this time to the foot of the main climb of the day – Walna Scar road. It’s a brute of a climb but well worth the journey to the top, and the descent on the other side is one of the best in the Lake District. It’s a fast and technical downhill, littered with rocks and big dirt jumps, giving you the opportunity to release your inner daredevil.
Once down the hill, it’s a short ride back to the start in Torver where you’ll complete the epic 22.3-mile route. If you’re feeling up to the challenge, then continue on towards Coniston and explore the many tracks and trails around Coniston Water and Grizedale; you certainly won’t regret it once you see the views across the lakes and Torver valley.
Widely regarded as the toughest sportive in the UK, the Fred Whitton Challenge rests comfortably at the pinnacle of amateur road cycling achievements. To complete the Fred Whitton is to almost do the impossible; with over 113 miles of gruelling, rolling roads to navigate and 3,900m of vertical ascent to haul yourself up, this sportive is not for the faint-hearted.
The sportive is ordinarily held in mid-May in an attempt to get the ‘best’ of the Lake District’s weather. It follows a similar route year-on-year, starting and finishing in the town of Grasmere, home to world-famous gingerbread and the birthplace of William Wordsworth. From here it heads right into the relative unknown, following the wet and wind-battered lanes that litter the Lake District’s countryside.
There are countless climbs on the 113-mile route, but there are a handful that stand out, probably because they’re among the top 10 toughest climbs in the whole UK. First up is Kirkstone Pass, a brutish ascent but a mere speed bump compared to the other three. Next, it’s the turn of Honister Pass, a climb that’s so ravaged by the wind it’s often impossible to even make it to the steepest gradients.
Nearing the end of the sportive, the two giants of the Lake District rear their ugly heads – Hardknott Pass and Wrynose Pass goading you as you gurn your way up their 25% ramps. Summiting on your feet, let alone two wheels, is a seemingly impossible task, but reach the summit of Wrynose you must, for the finish line lies just a descent away.
Keep an eye out for the next instalment in our Great British Bike Rides series. If you’ve got a suggestion on where we should head next, feel free to send us a message on either Twitter or Facebook. Until then, why not check out our cycle insurance packages and begin planning your cycling trip to the Lake District.