For the past 20 years, Sustrans has been promoting healthy live styles and encouraging governments to build bike trails for commuters and bicycle touring throughout England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Thanks to their efforts, bicyclists can ride from the Whitehaven on the Irish Sea all the way across England , passing through the northern Lake District, climbing over the Pennines and descending along the converted railway cycle paths of County Durham to Tyneside on the North Sea.
Thanks to the efforts of Sustrans, the route takes riders along little used country lanes and dedicated bike trails built on top of abandoned railways. Some like to bike the whole 136 mile long route in 24 hours — or less! But most riders prefer to break it up into a three day journey, with overnight stops at local country inns along the way. Last year, an estimated 10,000 people completed the Sea To Sea journey.
How fit do you need to be for this biking adventure? Some of the route is through mountainous interior sections that require the rider to be in good physical condition. A lot of it depends on how much stuff you are taking along with you. If you are toting a backpack frame stuffed with a tent, sleeping bag, cooking supplies, clothing and food, a bit of training may be required before setting off, especially if the most exercise you ever get is pushing your desk chair around a cubicle.
The people at Explore Worldwide run small group tours that provide a support car to carry your baggage, a 21 speed Ridgeback Meteor hybrid bike, and spare parts in the event of a flat tire or mechanical breakdown. They also arrange for accommodations along the route and are happy to suggest restaurants to replenish yourself at after a day in the saddle.
James Adkin of Explore Worldwide made the journey last fall and says,
You burn so much energy on the bike every day that the food tastes even better than normal and you can go to town. Each morning starts with a full English breakfast, cereal and fruit but special mention has to go to the cafes that can be found all along the trail and tempt you in with superb home baked cakes and turbo charged espressos. There are lots of great pubs to visit in the evenings although you’ll probably find you are nicely tired much earlier than normal!
Explore Worldwide offers a number of biking and walking tours on several continents. Their packages are geared to the casual traveler as well as the serious adventure eager to test his or her physical capabilities. Browse their website for more information.
Photos: James Adkin/Explore Worldwide