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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 14:21 Fri
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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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 11:41 Sat
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 13:01 Sat
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 14:44 Sat
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 15:54 Sat
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 16:21 Sat
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 16:48 Sat
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 16:50 Sat
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 17:44 Sat
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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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 22:28 Sat
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 22:32 Sat
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 22:57 Sat
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 09:40 Sun
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 10:46 Sun
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 11:03 Sun
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 11:33 Sun
In reply to Kalna_kaza:

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

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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 13:42 Sun
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 13:42 Sun
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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