Cycling hints and tips
Hundreds of miles of canal towpaths, lakeside tracks and riverside walkways are available for leisurely cycling.
Where can I cycle?
We’ve got a number of recommended cycle routes. These take in waterside towpaths, quiet country lanes and other cycle paths. Use the search facility on the cycling homepage to find a route near you.
You can also take to the towpath and see where it leads you. While the majority of our waterways are open to cyclists, please keep an eye out for ‘no cycling’ signs along the way. Not all towpaths are open for cycling, either because of the width or surface, or because cycles would cause a real danger to other users.
The towpath surfaces vary considerably, from asphalt and tarmac to grass or stony ground, and you're likely to find a mixture of these on any waterway. Most towpaths in rural areas are not suitable for racing bikes with thin tyres.
Remember that the standard speed on the waterways, for boaters and walkers, is just 4mph. Anglers also use our towpaths and sometimes have expensive, fragile equipment.
Follow these hints and tips for a trouble-free cycle ride.
- Avoid cycling where your tyres would damage the path or verges (e.g. when they are wet or soft).
- Give way to others on the towpath and warn them of your approach. A polite 'hello' and 'thank you' mean a lot.
- Watch out for anglers' tackle and give them time to move it before you try to pass.
- Never race one another or perform speed trials. If you need to get somewhere quickly, use a road.
- We recommend you obtain third party liability insurance and equip your bike with a bell or equivalent.
You should always take care when cycling by the water, particularly near
locks and other areas of deep water.
- Access paths can be steep and slippery. Join or leave the towpath with care.
- You must get off and push your cycle beneath low or blind bridges, and where the path is very narrow.
- We recommend that you do not cycle towpaths after dark, but if you do, please use front and rear lights. Look out for mooring ropes and pegs where boats are tied up.
- Thorny hedge trimmings can cause a puncture at some times of year, particularly spring. When cycling in rural areas, always take a spare inner tube or puncture repair kit, and consider plastic-reinforced tyres.