Research has shown that cycling to work or school can increase levels of alertness and concentration compared to driving. The fresh air and exercise also help to release endorphins which boost your energy levels and give you that happy feeling!
The benefits of riding a bike
There has never been a better time to start cycling; the Tees Valley has over 707km (around 440 miles) of dedicated cycle routes. With paths along major roads, in town centres and off-road leisure parks, there are cycle opportunities for work, leisure and pleasure.
Cycling saves money
Cycling is one of the cheapest ways to get around. Compared to driving, the cost of a bike and general maintenance is minimal. By cycling short distances instead of driving or taking the bus, you will not only save money on transport costs, but you can also save money on your gym membership.
You could even learn to maintain your bike yourself. The Active Travel Hubs across the Tees Valley all offer access to free or low-cost Dr Bike sessions and basic cycle maintenance.
Stay fit and healthy, and feel younger
Cycling is a fantastic way to improve your health and get fit. Did you know that regular adult cyclists have fitness levels equivalent to people ten years younger and greater life expectancy?
Research shows that regular cycle trips help to:
- Lower stress levels
- Build physical strength
- Control weight and reduce the risk of Type 2 Diabetes
- Reduce the risk of heart disease by up to 50 per cent
Exercising every day also makes sleeping easier which brings a whole range of health benefits too.
It's good for the planet
Cycling doesn’t produce any air or noise pollution, making it one of the greenest forms of transport.
By replacing short motorised journeys with your bike, you are helping to create a greener, cleaner environment for the local community.
Go at your own pace
When you’re cycling, you are in control of where you go and how fast you get there.
Cycling gives you a sense of freedom and independence that you don’t get with many other forms of transport so you can sit back and relax at a leisurely pace or travel as fast as your legs can carry you.
Research has shown that cycling to work or school can increase levels of alertness and concentration compared to driving. The fresh air and exercise also help to release endorphins which boost your energy levels and give you that happy feeling!
Get to know your home town
Cycling is a great way to explore your local area. By getting out and about, you create more opportunities to meet your neighbours and build community ties.
Fun and freedom
The thrill of learning to ride a bike is something that only happens once, but the thrill of the adventure and travelling under your own steam never goes away.
Cycling is something that you can do alone, as a family or in larger groups so why not give it a go? Whether it’s a five-minute ride to the shops or a five-mile circuit through the countryside, there is a cycling option for everyone.
Bikeability for your school or club
Bikeability is a cycle training programme for everyone. Delivered according to three levels it is, very much like cycling proficiency, for today’s busier roads.
On and off-road training can be provided by a local provider to your school, club or individuals. If you’d like your school to offer this please contact them and ask them to get in touch with a local Bikeability provider.
To arrange Bikeability training for your club, group or family you can find a provider here.
We’ve put together a few tips for you to teach your child to ride:
You've got the bike, the stabilisers are off, so let's get pedalling! Here are a few steps to independent cycling to help you along.
1. Get the balance right
If your child isn’t comfortable with pedals yet, try taking them off altogether and use the bike as a balance bike to build confidence. Alternatively, you might wish to start off with a balance bike. Some brands start off as a balance bike and convert into a pedal bike once your child is ready.
2. One, two, three, wheeee!
Encourage your child to do three big pushes, one foot at a time, and then lift their legs off the ground. Show them how to do it if that makes it easier for them to understand what you’re asking them to do.
3. Hold and run
Once they’re happy to try the bike with pedals, ask them to push off along the ground and then place their feet on the pedals while you hold on to the back of their clothing.
This way, you’re helping them to balance the bike, rather than doing all the work for them. As they improve, you can release your grip and gradually remove your hand as they progress.
4. Don’t push the push-start
You may have to help your child start off each time they stop until they learn the push start technique with the pedal in the correct position. Or your child may like to scoot with their feet for a few paces before they lift their feet onto the pedals – this is fine too, the main thing is that they’re getting going and enjoying it.
5. Practice makes perfect
Get out there as much as you can. Just half an hour of practice can make all the difference, and the more you do it, the more confident your child will become.
6. Let the fun begin!
Keep it fun and light-hearted. Make a game of it if you can, perhaps racing them to a certain point or asking them to weave in between items on the ground to improve control and balance. Perhaps you could ask a friend to join you.
7. Lead by example
Cycling is great fun and not just something children do. If you have a bike yourself, use it! Show them how much fun it is and start making it part of family life. If you'd like to learn to ride yourself take a look below to find a trainer near you.
8. Learn from the experts
There are lots more resources out there to help you and your family get out on two wheels.
The Sustrans website is another great website with a load of advice. They also have a great video on teaching your child to ride.
9. Have fun!
Learning to ride is not just for kids. As an adult you might be thinking of learning to ride, or improving your confidence.
If so there are a number of routes open to you in the Tees Valley, including local cycle training providers and confidence rides (one to one and group).
If you would like to have some training, including bicycle maintenance courses you can contact your local Tees Valley cycling and walking Hub in:
- Darlington (Bike Stop)
- Middlesbrough (Middlesbrough Cycle Centre)
- Redcar & Cleveland
- Stockton-on-Tees (The Hub Stockton)
about cycle confidence courses, beginner rides or look on the Bikeability website for details of cycle training near you. [external site]
If you can't find what you need please do get in touch with us.
You don’t have to be a super-fit Lycra lover to start cycling. All you need is a bike and a sense of adventure. Cycling is a great way to travel and it helps you keep fit. Read our top tips below to help you get started.
1. Try the bike before you buy
Before you make the investment, we recommend that you rent a bike or borrow one from a friend or family member. Start off small by riding to the shops or the park. It may take a few goes before you get going but you will begin to relax and enjoy the experience. The more you practice, the more your confidence will grow and the further you will want to explore.
2. Choose the right bike
It’s important that you buy a bike that’s right for you. Consider the size, budget and the type of cycling you will be doing. Seek advice from a specialist cycle shop and try out different bikes to see how they feel. The more you spend on a bike the better it is likely to be – and the longer it is likely to last.
If you’re planning on using your bike every day you will need something more durable and should view the purchase as an investment. Think how much money you could save on bus fares, petrol and train tickets.
3. Plan your route
Before you set off on a bike ride, take some time to plan your route. If you’re just starting out, it’s best to stick to purpose-built cycle paths or quiet roads rather than busy main roads, planning will help you map out the safest and quietest route for your trip.
For help planning your route, visit our cycling routes and maps page
4. Demonstrate caution and confidence
Cycling requires both confidence and caution; by caution, we mean not taking unnecessary risks and using common sense. Below are some simple tips on how to stay safe when cycling:
- If setting out on your own, let someone know where you’re going and when you will be back. If possible, take a mobile phone with you.
- Always be aware of what is happening around you; try and anticipate what other road users and pedestrians might do.
- When cycling on the road, allow yourself enough space between the pavement and the road. When you’re turning, learn to look over your shoulder and signal appropriately with your arm.
Confidence rides and beginner group cycling are sometimes arranged by the Hubs in the Tees Valley. If you would like to sign-up for one of these please contact your local Hub.
5. Be visible
You should always make yourself visible to other road users and pedestrians. Wear bright, reflective clothing if you can and don't ride at night without any lights. If you want to be heard as well as seen, a bell is a great way to signal pedestrians and other cyclists.
6. Be prepared
Whether you’re going for a short ride to your friend’s house or an off-road trek through the woods, it always pays to be prepared:
- Take suitable waterproof clothing to allow for any changes in the weather
- Carry drinks and snacks to keep you hydrated and energised
- Take a puncture repair kit with you – just in case
Here are some top tips for staying safe on a bicycle.
7. Learn how to maintain your own bike
A basic cycle maintenance course could be just the thing to improve your confidence and save you even more money on travel!
- The ‘M-check’ a technique for quickly checking your bike safety
- How to deal with a puncture including patching and replacing your inner tube
- Adjusting your gears and your brakes for a smoother ride
- How to tell when your brake pads, bearings and other parts need replacing
- General bicycle care and cleaning
These courses are run across the Tees Valley by the cycle hubs on a regular basis. If you would be interested in booking a place you can get in touch with your nearest support Hub for dates on upcoming courses [external site].
Some of the Hubs also provide free Dr Bike sessions where you can either drop your bike off and collect it later.
They can also arrange a specific event for staff at your workplace.
If you are interested in getting your bike checked over or cheap servicing please get in touch with them, they are happy to help.
The Hub in Stockton has some great ‘How to’ bicycle maintenance articles to help you along. [external site]
Cycling in the Tees Valley
There are more than 707 km (around 440 miles) of dedicated cycle routes throughout the Tees Valley. Whether it’s a quiet ride in the park with your family or a safe commute to avoid rush hour traffic, there is a cycle route to suit you. Alternatively, contact your local Active Travel Hub and speak to one of the experts on hand to help you cycle more in your area.
Tees Valley Cycle Maps
If you are interested seeing how the major cycle routes (National Cycle Network routes, managed by Sustrans) in the Tees Valley and nationally join up, our colleagues at Enjoy Tees Valley have published this handy map. National Cycle Network routes in the Tees Valley
Here's more information on cycling in Darlington, including an overview of the cycle routes and where to cycle and park your bike in the town centre.
A cycling map for the town centre, surrounding area and parking
Details on "where to cycle in Darlington town centre" and how to cycle safely in town are also included.
Parking your bike in Darlington is simple as 1,2,3! Take a look at the Darlington town centre cycle parking map.
Circular cycling routes
- Cycling route 1: Brinkburn Local Nature Reserve and West Park [pdf]
- Cycling route 2: Cemetery Lane to Nunnery Lane [pdf]
- Cycling route 3: River Skerne to Red Hall [pdf]
- Cycling route 4: Whinfield [pdf]
- Cycling route 5: Firthmoor and Skerne Park [pdf]
- Cycling route 6: Firthmoor and Lingfield [pdf]
- Cycling route 7: South Park, Mowden and Hummersknott [pdf]
- Cycling route 8: Rockwell, Faverdale and Town Centre [pdf]
- Cycling route 9: Middleton St George [pdf]
- Cycling route 10: Walworth [pdf]
There are seven radial routes that will take you around Darlington. These are safe cycling routes that have signs along them guiding your way.
Each route has a colour associated with it on the diagram below.
These routes use off-road cycle paths or quiet residential streets. They are as follows:
- Green: Westpark route
- Yellow: Mowden route
- Grey: Hummersknott route
- Black: Blackwell route
- Red: Haughton route
- Blue: Morton Park route
- Purple: Harrowgate Hill route
Download the Hartlepool Walking and Cycling map here.
This map, which includes rights of way and additional visitor information, is also suitable for walking. You can get a hard copy of it from:
Self-guided circular cycle routes in Middlesbrough include:
- Marton West Loop (5 miles) [pdf]
- Coulby Newham, Acklam and Easterside (9 miles) [pdf]
- Pallister Park to Stewart Park (2 miles) [pdf]
- Newham Grange to Hemlington Lake (1.25 miles) [pdf]
- Stewart Park – Newham Grange (1.5 miles) [pdf]
- Hemlington Lake (3.5 miles) [pdf]
- Riverside Loop (6 miles) [pdf]
- East Middlesbrough loop (4 miles [pdf]
More on cycling in Middlesbrough [external link].
Redcar & Cleveland
A hard copy of the Redcar & Cleveland rural map along with the town centre cycle and walking map can be obtained from the walking and cycle hub.
Take a look at the MyRedcar mapping system for local cycle routes.
You can download the Stockton Walking and Cycling map here, for traffic-free and advisory routes around the area.
You can also visit the Stockton-on-Tees council website for more maps and self-guided cycle routes. [external link]
Self-guided circular cycle routes in Stockton [external link] include:
- Billingham and Wolviston
- Hardwick, Roseworth & Thorpe Thewles
- The Ingleby Way
- Portrack Loop
- West Stockton Wanderer
- Riverside Rambler
- Central Stockton Loop
Stockton Council have produced a booklet on walking and cycling in Stockton-on-Tees
A hard copy of a fold-out map for cycling in the borough can also be obtained from the Stockton Active Travel Hub. You will also find details of cycle proficiency training as well as details on an alternative route to the A19 which has a cycling ban.
We all know that cycling is great for us as individuals, but it's also a fantastic family activity too. Getting out with the children give us a chance to bond with shared experiences and, let's face it, we all feel like a big kid when we're on a bike!
We've selected a number of routes from around the Tees Valley that particularly good for families. They are mostly on cycle routes segregated from the roads or on quieter streets, with plenty of opportunities to stop, rest and play. Take a picnic and enjoy the ride!
If you’re feeling adventurous and want to explore what other cycle routes the UK has to offer, we have selected a few useful links to help you plan your next trip:
As you get more into cycling you might decide that you would like to try group cycling.
You might want to:
- Get fitter
- Lose weight
- Make friends
Research has shown that exercising in group is better for your mental health [external link].
It is not just about the physical effort you are putting in, the friendship and support you get within a group is what makes it so enjoyable and easier to achieve your goals.
Even so, joining a cycling club can be a daunting prospect.
We have put together some details for you as well as some mobile apps that help track your progress.
Whether you are a complete beginner, or have been cycling a while, there are group rides in the Tees Valley that will suit you.
There are lots of different types of group or club riding.
Clubs might be formal local, regional or even national arrangements or simply a group of like-minded people who want to ride in a similar way, in a local area.
If you are looking at joining a club but the distances and speeds are putting you off, you might want to start with shorter beginner group rides and confidence sessions, as offered by the Hub in Stockton and Bike Stop in Darlington [external links].
Contact your local Hub to see what is on offer from them in terms of on the road confidence training or group rides. They also provide excellent advice on where to cycle in your area.
Here are a few ideas for online cycling apps that can track your miles, monitor your health and show you were there are routes in your area.
There are many more apps for you to choose from and we welcome your comments and reviews or recommendations for other apps.
Here are a few ideas to get started:
Before you buy a bicycle
Size my Bike [external link] A calculator to help determine what size bicycle would be best for you.
Before you leave home
St John Ambulance First Aid for Cyclists [external link] We hope you never need this but strongly advise for having it before you leave the house.
BBC Weather [external link] It helps to know the weather before you set out in order to plan accordingly.
Bike Repair [external link] 95 Tips and 58 repair guides - save money and do it yourself!
Measure your ride
Strava [external link] Track you running and cycling with GPS, join challenges, share photos from your activities, and follow friends.
Cyclemeter [external link] A comprehensive tool that uses GPS to measure the distance of your cycle rides and continually records your time, location, distance, elevation, and speed.
Map My Ride [external link] Shows you where you've been, how long it took you and how fast you cycled.
Coach my Ride [external link] A cycle training app to help improve your performance if you are wanting more of a challenge.
Cycle Streets [external link] A cycle journey planner for cyclists, by cyclists. Plan routes from A to B anywhere in the UK, with a choice of three routing modes to suit a range of cyclists from beginner to regular commuter.
Google Maps [external link] Did you know that Google maps will now show cyclists the flattest route - while not yet perfect it still helps to know where the hills will be en route.
For a good cause and one just for fun!
My Virtual Mission [external link] Use this app to create your own cycle ride for charity.
Once you are ready to move on, our pick of local clubs:
Darlington cycle club
Darlington Cycling Club offers a number of shorter (from 15 miles) cycle rides that include a coffee and cake stop along the way.
As with many entry level group rides, no one is left behind and no lycra is necessary. You can also find them on Facebook.
Hartlepool cycle clubs
Hartlepool Cycling Club
Hartlepool Cycling Club has a very long history (from 1883!) and would probably appeal to the more serious rider.
In the main they are road riders and have regular Saturday and Sunday rides as well as taking part in local competitions.
Website: http://hartlepool-cycleclub.org [External link]
Manilla Cycling is a fairly new club who are mainly road riders but have a commitment to youth coaching.
They run training sessions for young people within the grounds of Hartlepool College of Further Education (hence its traffic free).
“Sessions are for children who are already able to ride a bike without stabilisers. The sessions will include techniques such as bike handling, braking, cornering, group riding, mounting & dismounting, gear selection, leading & following and fun competitive games & races. All sessions are ran by Level 2 British Cycling Coaches who are also first aid trained. All coaches have also completed safeguarding qualifications and are DBS checked. Before attending the first session all participants must complete a signed consent form”.
Find out more on their website: http://www.manillacycling.co.uk/
North East BMX Club
Summerhill-based North East BMX Club provide an excellent club resource for the Hartlepool area.
The club has a competition standard BMX track and provides coaching for all ages in BMX riding. They also take part in BMX competitions and even organise regional events at Summerhill.
If you are interested in the club is Steve Noble firstname.lastname@example.org
Stockton-On-Tees cycle clubs
Stockton Wheelers offer three levels of ride, including:
- A short-length ride with breaks along the way
- Specific rides for women
- Kids racing and youth coaching
- Find Stockton Wheelers Cycling Club on Facebook
British Cycling club finder
British Cycling has a great club finder that enables you to find clubs near you. Their sister site ‘Lets Ride’ enables you to find or set up a less formal arrangement between cyclists in your area.
Specialist clubs for riders with disabilities
For cyclists with disabilities who would like to join a specialist group, Gateway Wheelers can provide specially adapted bikes, support and run rides in Houghton-le-Spring and Darlington.
Choosing to cycle as an alternative to driving is a great way to keep fit and help the environment. But, with the number of cars on our roads increasing, it’s important to be aware of basic road safety to keep you and other road users safe.
The 'do's for cycle safety:
1. Be aware
You will encounter a lot of different things when you are cycling. Stay alert and keep your eyes peeled for fellow road users including drivers, pedestrians, other bikes and larger vehicles.
Anticipate what other road users and pedestrians might do. Watch out for people crossing the road or getting off the bus as well as for parked cars – doors have a habit of being thrown open.
2. Have confidence
You have as much right to be on the road as drivers. Be confident, avoid the gutter and take up the best position on the road. Try to keep at least 50cm from the kerb. This helps you avoid puncture causing debris and obstacles like drain covers.
British Cycling has a great video illustrating the ideal cycling position for commuting [external link].
3. Show drivers what you plan to do
Always look and signal before you move away, stop or turn. Riding confidently and decisively, using clear hand signalling communicates to drivers what you intend to do. If you are new to cycling or it’s been a while, why not start off on quieter roads or off-road in a park or cycle path in order to build up your confidence and practice single-handed riding to signal.
If you would like to have some training you can contact the Tees Valley cycling and walking Hubs about cycle confidence courses and beginner rides. Or look on the Bikeability website for details of cycle training near you. [external site]
4. Be visible
Wear bright clothing during the day and reflective clothing in low light and at night. If you are wearing a backpack consider getting one that is bright (for during the day) as well as reflective or has reflective strips.
Always use lights between sunset and sunrise, remember it’s the law. Lights are fairly inexpensive and can be found at any local bike shop or from the Hubs listed above.
5. Follow road rules
If you would like to remind yourself of these you can take a look at the Highway Code rules for cyclists [external link].
6. Plan your route in advance
Use tools like CycleStreets [external site] and the journey planner on our site make it easy to plan your route by bike.
Each of the local authority areas in the Tees Valley has a printed cycling map, available for free. Contact your nearest cycling Hub to get hold of a copy.
7. Secure your bike
Keep your bike safe by using a bicycle lock and registering your bike with the Bike Register [external site], a free, police-approved scheme to help you protect it against thieves.
Free and secure cycle parking is available in Darlington town centre, Middlesbrough Cycle Centre [external site] and The Hub Stockton [external site]. Bike Stop [external site] in Darlington also offers secure parking for a small annual fee.
8. Protect your head
Wearing a helmet is not a legal requirement. Wearing a helmet could however save you from a head injury, it can also increase your visibility in traffic. A helmet makes some new cyclists feel safer and more confident.
9. Show consideration
Acknowledging a courtesy from a driver, pedestrian or another cyclist makes for a more enjoyable journey.
Some things to avoid when riding a bike:
- Jumping red lights
- Riding on pavements
- Riding the wrong way in one-way streets (unless signs say that cyclists are permitted to do so)
- Riding across pedestrian crossings
- Riding when under the influence of drink or drugs
If you’re ready to get out on the road with your bike you might like to familiarise yourself with cycling road signs. For the most common ones, visit the Cyclescheme website: Cycling signs and road markings [external link]. We recommend learning the Highway Code rules for cyclists (59-82) [exernal link] as well.
For more tips on staying safe whilst cycling click through to The Bike Storage Company website [external link] where they have an excellent page on Bike Safety in the UK, or to RoSPA where you'll find tips on sharing the road [external link].