From the Peak District to John O’Groats, nearly 1,300 kilometres of off-road ups and downs, forest trails and canal paths await two-wheeled adventurers in the UK.
The newly launched Great North Trail creates a continuous route linking England and Scotland in a bid to open up the countryside to cyclists.
Passing through the Peak District, the Yorkshire Dales and Kielder Forest in England, up to Loch Lomond, the Trossachs National Park and Loch Ness in Scotland, the route takes in some of the UK’s best-known beauty spots.
In Scotland, cyclists can branch towards Cape Wrath, the most north-westerly part of the UK, or John O’Groats on the northeast tip.
The majority of the route is on off-road cycle paths, forest trails and minor roads with little traffic. It is designed to be an adventure mountain biking route, mainly on unsurfaced trails.
But while some of the more rugged moorland and windswept, exposed inclines may be the preserve of more experienced riders, tamer routes along canal paths and disused railway tracks will allow families to get out and about.
According to promotion body Cycling UK, around a quarter of people who use the UK’s national trails do so on bikes. It believes opening up the trails to cyclists will bring health and economic benefits.
Off-road cyclists and mountain bikers spend almost double the amount walkers do when they visit the countryside, it says, while its research shows many cyclists feel riding is important to their mental health.
The links between exercise and mental wellbeing are well recognised. In the case of biking, numerous studies also underline the positive effects of the outdoors on mental health. It also brings people together and helps build connections – also known to help the mind.
The physical benefits of regular exercise are also numerous, including improving heart health and reducing the incidence of diseases such as diabetes.
Recognising these benefits, along with the upsides for the planet, governments around the world are keen to promote cycling. But many people in the UK remain concerned about the safety of cycling on roads, and the volume of people willing to switch to a bike rather than a car for shorter journeys has declined.
This said, UK cyclists have been performing well on the global sporting stage in recent years, and 12% of the adult population cycles at least once a week.
There has also been an uptick in the number of miles UK cyclists are clocking up, with an average of 60 miles cycled per person per year, according to 2017 government statistics.