With the Grand Depart of the Tour de France rolling through the heart of Leeds this summer, enthusiasm for the sport of cycling is at an all time high, with hundreds of people snapping up new bikes. In fact, bikes now outsell cars nationally: 3.6 million bikes against 2 million cars according to industry figures.
If you’re one of the few yet to take to the roads on two wheels, doing so may feel like a daunting prospect. With that in mind, Alex Nelson offers up some suggestions on the best routes to follow, the best places to buy equipment shops, clubs to join, and where to go for the all important cake and pint stops in and around the city where the 2014 Tour de France kicks off: Leeds.
Suggested cycle routes
Leeds – Liverpool Canal / Aire Valley Towpath
Probably the easiest route to find and follow in the whole of the Leeds area (and 100% traffic free to boot), the Leeds to Liverpool Canal – or Aire Valley Towpath depending on your preference – starts down by Leeds train station on Canal Wharf and winds all the way to Merseyside. Of course you don’t have to tackle the 127 mile route in its entirety; try following the canal as far as Shipley (13 miles), Bingley (16 miles) or Skipton (29 miles) and getting the train back from there. This handy guide provides every detail you could possibly think of about the route.
National cycling charity Sustrans is working to create better cycling and walking links, including the National Cycle Network – a whole series of routes that covers the entire country. Wherever you are in the UK, there’s bound to be a national cycle route near you, but Leeds happens to be in close proximity to two. Head out west on Route 66 – which actually follows the aforementioned Aire Towpath for a good distance – and you’ll eventually end up in Manchester. Go east and Kingston-upon-Hull will be your final destination. For a shorter ride, link up with local routes near Wetherby (including the beautiful Wetherby Railway Path), and continue on to Harrogate for an extra challenge. Perhaps one day this Route 66 will be as iconic as America’s equivalent?
Full information can be found here.
National Route 67 of the National Cycle Network runs from Loughborough and joins National Route 71 near Northallerton, but we’ll want to focus on the stretch between Chesterfield and Leeds that forms the main route of the central Transpennine Trail. Head south to Wakefield and back for a leisurely round trip, or continue on to Sheffield with a train ride back for something a bit more testing.
Full route map and information here.
Inner City Routes
For those looking for some quicker shorter rides – or just wanting to make their morning commutes that little bit greener – there is always the option of inner city cycling. Cycle friendly roads and paths are in abundance in Leeds city centre, so you’ll be able to come up with the best possible route between your home and place of work in no time at all. If you’re looking for suggestions though, Leeds City Council has plenty, including routes from Garforth and Middleton.
[Picture: Jon Wick / Flickr – CC]
The Pedallers’ Arms in Leeds is slightly different to your usual cycle repair shop. Their aim is to educate people on how to repair their own bikes, so go to them with a problem and they will show you how to fix it, explaining the process and guiding you through the repair so next time, you can do it all on your own! Visit their website for full information.
Pedallers’ Arms, Mabgate Green, opens Mon, Wed, Thu 4-8pm; www.pedallers-arms.org
The Restrap business was born when the founders went about designing a pedal strap strong enough to withstand the strains of cycling the West Yorkshire hills. What started in a back bedroom in Bingley has evolved into a fully fledged shop selling cycling products “made by cyclists, for cyclists”; everything from jerseys to kit bags. All of which is made to last and proudly produced in Yorkshire.
Restrap, 30-34 Aire St, www.restrap.co.uk/shop/
Anyone looking to take up cycling on a budget should turn their attentions towards Bikology, who offer a range of second hand bikes and equipment alongside brand new models. They also do custom builds and can order in bikes to meet your requirements, and are a great place for those looking for deals you may not find with the larger chain stores.
Bikology, 154 Hyde Park Road, opens 10am until 6pm, www.bikology.co.uk
After our brief dalliance with the independent cycle shops of Leeds it’s on to the chain shops. Evans have shops nationwide but the Leeds shop is handily located close to the train station, perfect for that last minute tune-up before you take to the rails on your next cross-country adventure.
Evans Cycles, 1-2 New Station Street, opens 8am until 7pm, www.evanscycles.com/stores/leeds-city-centre
And of course, the mega daddy of all bicycle repair shops, Halfords need no introduction. Though it doesn’t carry the independent charm of some of the above outlets, Halfords provides an easy first stop for riders new to their bikes and can provide assistance to any discipline of bike riding.
Halfords Leeds, Abbey Retail Park/Meadow Road, opens 9am until 8pm, www.halfords.com
Other bike shops:
Drake’s Cycles, 148-150 Harehills Lane, 0113 249 0326, www.drakescycles.co.uk
Kings of Cycling, 352 York Road, 0113 249 1986, www.kingsofcycling.co.uk
Woodrup Cycles, 345-347 Kirkstall Road, 0113 263 6212, www.woodrupcycles.com
The Bike Shop, 78-84 Cross Gates Road, 0113 232 8483, www.leedsbicycle.com
Edinburgh Bicycle Co-operative, 140 Woodland Lane, 0113 268 7463, www.edinburghbicycle.com
Cycle clubs and organisations
albaRosa Cycling Club
albaRosa is a relatively new name on the cycling club scene, having only formed in 2012. Based in Leeds, the club runs a successful race team, and 2014 will be the first year the club has competed on the Yorkshire circuit, so they are always looking for more members to join. Don’t worry if competitive cycling isn’t your thing and you’re looking for a more social experience; the club also runs regular casual rides for riders of all abilities.
Otley Cycle Club
Based roughly ten miles outside of Leeds city centre, Otley Cycle Club goes back 87 years to its founding in 1927 and is a well respected name in the Yorkshire cycling scene. Again, its Sunday rides are designed to be sociable affairs for riders of all abilities, but the club does also run a successful competitive campaign for its stronger riders.
Ilkley Cycling Club
Ilkley CC is another club with years upon years of heritage to its name. Its website proudly states “Established 1896… Re-established 2011”, and its annual ‘White Rose Classic’ event is always on the lips of local cycling enthusiasts around this time of year. With the Tour De France rushing through Yorkshire this year, expect a number of special events from all of the clubs listed here.
To find your nearest club use British Cycling’s Club Finder.
[Opposite Cafe – picture: Lou Henry / Flickr – CC]
Opposite Cafe, Leeds
Opposite cafe is a unique cafe situated just across (opposite if you will) Leeds University. With quirky graffiti and a herb garden seating area, there’s definitely a warm atmosphere to welcome any cyclist after a hard day’s riding. Park up your bike, enjoy the vibe, and grab one of Opposite’s famous chocolate brownies with your energy-rich coffee.
Opposite Cafe, 26 Blenheim Terrace, opens 9am until 5pm, www.oppositecafe.co.uk
North Street Deli, Wetherby
If you’ve opted to tackle the wonderfully scenic Wetherby Railway Path, you might want to stop off here at the end to recharge your batteries. North Street Deli offers a wide array of drinks, including non-alcholic drinks flavoured like your favourite tipples so you can enjoy a cocktail without wobbling your way home. They recommend the ‘Gin And Tonic’!
North Street Deli, 29 North Street, opens 7.30am until 3pm, www.northstreetdeli.com
Cock Pit Farm Tea Room, Otley
Situated perfectly between the cycling hubs of Otley and Ilkley, Cock Pit Farm Tea Room offers special deals in bad weather. So if a rain cloud catches you by surprise, be sure to pop in here for a slice of sponge cake while you wait it out. We almost WANT it to rain now!
Cock Pit Farm Tea Room, Cock Pit Farm, www.cockpitfarmtearooms.co.uk/Welcome.html
Betty’s Tearooms, Harrogate
On first glance this world famous tea rooms may look a little too quaint for a load of sweaty cyclists to be frequenting, but it’s actually a favourite of Otley CC, who make regular reference of their stops there in their post-ride reports. Charming and quintessentially English, a pot of tea and a slice of cake from Betty’s is sure to keep you going on the long ride home. There’s also one in York if your legs can take you that far.
Bettys, 1 Parliament Street, opens 9am until 9pm, www.bettys.co.uk
To find your nearest ‘cake stop’, try this handy Cafe Finder.
[The Rodley Barge – Picture: John Puddephatt / Flickr – CC]
While we here at WOW247 don’t condone drinking and cycling (though you can always have an orange juice), if you are tempted by a swift half along your route there are plenty of places to stop. OpenCycleMap – which is mapping’s answer to Wikipedia – doesn’t just offer detailed mapping of the National Cycle routes, it also provides cyclists information on cafes, pubs, public toilets and even bicycle parking facilities if you zoom in enough.
Here are a few of our favourite watering holes along Routes 66 and 67 to get you started:
Kirkstall Bridge Inn, Kirkstall
Just a few miles along the Aire Valley Towpath is this lovely little stopping point. Offering a full food and drink menu for a total recharge, Kirkstall Bridge Inn is home to the Kirkstall Brewery, whose pale ales and bitters are a must try.
Kirkstall Bridge Inn, Bridge Road, opens 11am until 12am, www.kirkstallbridge.co.uk
The Rodley Barge, Rodley
Pub? Check. Easily accessible from the Aire Valley Towpath? Check. Riverside beer garden? Check. You’ll be able to sup a cool half of lager as you watch canal boaters drift lazily past before picking your bike back up and continuing on your journey, a must on a sunny day.
The Rodley Barge, 184 Town Street, opens 12pm until 11pm, www.therodleybarge.wetpaint.com
Stanley Ferry, Stanley
This time heading in the other direction – along Route 67 – we come to another riverside pub in Stanley, a small village just outside of Wakefield. Look out over the marina – the point where the Aire & Calder Navigation and the River Calder cross paths – and enjoy your drink as you conserve energy for the trip home!
Stanley Ferry, Ferry Road, opens 12pm until 11pm, www.fayre-square.com/pub/stanley-ferry-stanley-wakefield
The New Inn, Walton
You’ll deserve a rest if you make it this far along Route 67, to the sleepy village of Walton where The New Inn is situated. Again, a full food and drink menu awaits you, and they also hold karaoke nights on the first Saturday of every month!
The New Inn, 144 Shay Lane, opens 12pm until 9pm, www.newinnwalton.co.uk
Things to bear in mind
Safety is paramount when you’re out riding a bike, so always wear a good quality helmet, even on dedicated cycle paths. If you’re planning to ride in the evenings or early in the mornings when the light is duller, be sure to dress in easily visible wear so other road users can spot you.
Compared to the madcap rush and busy streets of London, cycling in Leeds is relatively safe. However, always look to avoid cycling at peak times where you can, and be aware of traffic on the roads. There are of course plenty of traffic free routes across the city, and a map of these can be found here (North Leeds) and here (South Leeds).
Leeds Cycling Campaign hope to make cycling in Leeds even safer, and offer some useful advice on their website.