Five best bike rides in Plymouth

With exhilarating mountain bike trails, dramatic views from the open roads of Dartmoor and traffic-free cycle paths all on its doorstep, Plymouth is a great place to explore on two wheels. To help students make the most of it Plymouth University has an active cycling club, which organises rides for different cycling disciplines and abilities. Social events include cycling-themed nights out and riding challenges across Plymouth, while the club also attends races in the local area and across the country. Take a tour as some of its members share five of Plymouth’s best cycling hotspots.

Meet the students:

  • 2nd year, BA (Hons) Music Production

    Liam Jessup

    2nd year, BA (Hons) Music Production
  • 4th year, BSc (Hons) Environmental Science

    Katie Moore

    4th year, BSc (Hons) Environmental Science
  • 2nd year, BSc (Hons) Geology

    Josh Vere

    2nd year, BSc (Hons) Geology
  • 3rd year, BEng (Hons) Mechanical Engineering

    Michael Lewis 

    3rd year, BEng (Hons) Mechanical Engineering
  • 3rd year, BSc (Hons) Physiotherapy

    Lucy Walker

    3rd year, BSc (Hons) Physiotherapy

Dartmoor   

The ability to head off-campus and roam the expansive countryside that surrounds the city in almost every direction makes cycling the perfect activity to go alongside your studies. Few destinations fit the bill better than Dartmoor National Park. It’s not for the faint-hearted – if you’re not cycling uphill, you’re cycling down – but your effort is rewarded with super views. It’s around 45 minutes’ cycling from Plymouth, so outings of the University's cycling club to Dartmoor are arranged at weekends, when there’s more time, says Michael. A cyclist since he was 15, Michael stopped for a few years, but was bitten by the bug again at university. “The cycling club here is a better fit for me than clubs at home – everyone is the same age, with similar interests and schedules. It was very welcoming when I joined.”

Cann Woods 

It’s been a while since Josh has headed out on the roads in Dartmoor. “I started out in road cycling but I did my first jump on a mountain bike and the adrenaline was addictive,” he says. The jumps have kept on coming, many of them in Cann Woods, a hotspot for Plymouth mountain bikers that’s accessible from the city via the Plymbridge Woods cycle path. It offers challenging trails for riders of all skill levels. It’s where Liam learnt to mountain bike and despite progressing fast in the sport he still enjoys heading up there. “I’d give it 2 out of 5 for difficulty but 5 out of 5 for location. We can ride up here from the University without needing a car.”

Plymbridge Woods 

Whether it’s as a jumping-off point to explore hidden trails or simply to ride along, this ten-mile traffic-free cycle path is popular with roadies and mountain bikers. Beginning in the north east of the city, it follows the path of an old rail track, climbing through woodland before opening up into gorgeous countryside. Katie loves exploring the off-road trails that spring from it – her only wish is that she had more girls to ride with. “Cycling has been a fantastic way to spend my free time at university," she says. "It’s really important for girls to get involved too, so they know it’s not totally a man’s sport.” Lucy, a road rider, agrees – there are just two other roadie girls in the club: “I’d say to other girls who are thinking about it – there’s nothing to be scared of. The more of you that come along the more likely you’ll want to continue.”

Drake’s Trail 

Another dedicated cycle route, Drake’s Trail has 21 miles of largely off-road tarmac linking Plymouth with the nearby town of Tavistock. It shares ground with the Plymbridge trail, picking up where it ends in Clearbrook and continuing all the way to Tavistock. Given the town’s location on the western edge of Dartmoor, the Cycling Club uses it as a more relaxed way to open or close a big ride in the National Park, and it’s an excellent facility for beginners looking to get started in a (mostly) car-free environment. It begins in the city and you can pick it up on the Barbican waterfront, which is where Michael and his Club friends meet for a (half-price) coffee at Rockets and Rascals, a bicycle café that sponsors the cycling club and the place to be for cyclists, before or after a ride. “The atmosphere is nice and the coffee’s great. Oh, and did I mention the discount on bike maintenance and kit for being in the club?” he says.

The Hoe 

Whatever club you decide to join at university, for many the social aspect is as important as the activity. “It introduces you to a new set of people who have exactly the same interest as you, that’s the number one thing,” says Josh. It’s the same for Liam, who hadn’t done any cycling until university. “I was walking past the Societies Fair in the Students’ Union, where I was working,” he says. “It seemed like a good fit and I quickly fell in love with it.” Josh and Liam became fast friends through biking, with a group of eight that ride everywhere together. Whether it’s loading up their cars and hitting the purpose-built biking centre of Gawton Gravity Hub, planning summer biking holidays in the Alps, or spending an evening jumping off benches at The Hoe – biking is the glue that holds them together.

Where to buy and hire bikes in Plymouth

Rockets and Rascals  

A trendy hub in the Barbican, offering bikes to buy and hire, a workshop and excellent cake and coffee. And, the latter’s heavily discounted if you’re a club member.  

The Dogs Wheels Bike Ship  

No bikes, but lots of components and accessories for all types of cyclist. Also offers maintenance services.  

The Bike Cellar  

Bikes, parts, clothing and repairs for roadies, mountain bikers and urban cyclists.