The Ultimate Guide to Cycling in Leeds

Cycling is becoming an increasingly popular way to travel, whether up and down the rolling hills of the British countryside or along the cycling lanes of the city. It’s a fun way to get around and a great way to stay healthy, leading many to dusting off their handlebars.

In preparation for Cycle to Work Day, let’s take a look at the benefits of cycling and the best places to push your pedals in Leeds.

What is Cycle to Work Day?

Cycle to Work Day gives employees the opportunity to experience all the benefits of riding a bike. This year, the day falls on Thursday 5th August, and the theme is to encourage employees to cycle “whatever gear” they’re in.

A common misconception about cycling is you can only do it if you have all the fancy gear and lycra. However, even if you only cycle for ten minutes in your old trainers, that’s still a chance for you to get involved.

The Netherlands has a relaxed attitude towards cycling, and it is one of the most common modes of transport. There’s no fuss about gadgets among Dutch cyclists, just the basic safety gear!

Cycle to Work Day is a chance for people to explore their work’s options, enter competitions to win cycling prizes, and learn more about cycling in general.

You can check whether your work has a Cycle to Work Scheme, enter CycleScheme Love to Ride competitions, or just look into buying a bike!

What are the benefits of cycling?

Not only is cycling a good form of exercise, but it also gives you chance to travel in a new way. Here are just some of the many benefits of cycling.

Helps the environment

By choosing cycling over driving your car or getting a bus, you are helping to reduce emissions and air pollution.

The chemicals released into the air from carbon emissions impact our physical health and the planet in general. Cycling is a great way to tackle climate change issues by reducing the number of vehicles on the road. Although you may think the issue is too large to tackle, small changes like cycling on your morning commute can make a big impact to the health of our planet.

Keeps you fit

One of the most apparent benefits of cycling is its impact on your physical health. Cycling is a form of cardio exercise, which improves your general fitness level. It can improve your muscle strength, joint mobility, and improve your posture.

You don’t have to cycle five kilometres immediately;  even a short journey on your bike is beneficial. Learning to keep up with cycling is an extensive process that will take time, but you’ll build up your pedalling time as your stamina improves.

It can be good for mental health

Alongside your physical health, cycling is often good for your mental health. If you suffer from high stress levels or anxiety, going out on a bike can be a enjoyable escape and provide you with something else to focus your mind and body on for a short time.

However, mental health needs are very specific to the individual, so only do what feels right and comfortable for you. If you are dealing with poor mental health, it is beneficial to speak to your doctor to see the options available to you.

Best places to cycle in Leeds

Leeds boasts an extensive network of cycle routes and places you can go to explore the city. Below are a few of the best places to cycle in Leeds.

Ilkley Loop

The Yorkshire Dales are a beautiful sight, and there is a whopping 36-mile circular route around Ilkley for you to take in the views.

The route begins in the small town and continues up into the Dales National Park, taking you past Bolton Abbey and through the charming village of Appletreewick.

Difficulty wise, the route involves country roads, so it is more appropriate for experienced cyclists who understand the rules of the road.

Otley Chevin Circular

Start this route in the city centre and make your way along Otley Road. The trip for this route is around 22 miles, with the option to stop at Golden Acre Park.

When you’re close to Otley, you can detour to the Chevin, which has over six kilometres of bridleways to discover on your bike.

Roundhay Park

Roundhay Park is a classic cycling route. It’s a gentle cycling route, making it an excellent option for beginners.

Cycle around Waterloo lake or you follow the paths through the park. Those hoping to improve their fitness shouldn’t worry; there’s a few hills to challenge you along the way!

Try the interactive cycle map

Leeds City Council has created an interactive cycle map so you can safely plan routes. Many of the routes are directed towards the city centre, but the map can also be used for leisurely cycling.

Are there safe cycling routes safe in Leeds?

Leeds has recently introduced more cycle lanes, putting a focus on making Leeds a safe place to cycle.

There is currently a Leeds Cycling Campaign that hopes to make Leeds an even safer place to cycle by 2045. The campaign believes this could be achieved by appropriate infrastructure that is maintained to a high standard.

How can I get started with cycling?

If you already know how to ride a bike, the rest is pretty simple! Here are a few ways to get prepared before you start your new hobby.

Do your research

Doing your research is extremely important. You need to make sure you have the right bike for the rides you’re planning and understand elements such as gears, tyre pressure and riding position.

Get everything you need

Apart from the bike, you should look into some safety accessories. For example, a helmet or some high visibility clothing if you’re going to cycle at night.

It’s always a good idea to have a puncture kit and some water on hand to ensure you always return home safely and are thoroughly hydrated!

Plan where to go

Planning routes is crucial, especially if you are going to ride along city centre roads. Make sure to have a quick research before going out for your ride, even if you have an idea of where you’re going.

Be safe

Most importantly, you must be safe when cycling. You need to learn the rules of the road, how to signal as a cyclist, and investigate what protective gear you should wear.

As general advice, make sure to have a helmet, a bell to alert others of your presence and an appropriate size bike for your needs. Once you’re ready, the roads are wide open to you.