On Yer Bike!

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On Yer Bike!

Torquay
Devon

If you want get closer to Devon's countryside and rugged coastline but don;t have the stamina for day long hikes, why not get on your bike? Cycling is a great way to experience Nature; it's quicker than walking and far less tiring. What's more, children and teenagers alike will jump at the thought of a cycle ride but tend to moan no end about a boring walk. Cycling doesn't have to be dangerous if you do it right. Read on for a few tips on safety and cycling around Torbay.

Always wear a protective helmet (this is especially important for children). Unless it is really hot, wear long trousers and a long sleeved top, and sensible shoes, preferably trainers. NEVER cycle in high heels. Fit your bike with lights for evening or early morning riding, and carry water, food and a repair kit if you are going on a day's tour. Test brakes and tyres before you set off.

Having decided to get your feet turning those pedals, the question now is where to cycle safely. Torbay is not like Amsterdam - there are no specially walled off cycle lanes alongside the roads - but Torbay Council has, in response to public demand, provided a partial cycle lane on the Torbay road, which runs from Torquay to Paignton. If you want the views and don't mind the hills, you can start in Ilsham Marine Drive at Brandy Cove. From there, cycle round the headland, past Daddyhole and down Parkhill Road to the harbour.

The cycle lane does not start until Torre Abbey Sands, and so the first part of the route would certainly be unsuitable for young children; and they would have to be strictly supervised along the Torbay Road, as the lane appears and disappears sporadically without warning and traffic travels fast. Past Corbyn Head and the wide sandy beach until you come to the one way system at Preston. From here take the sea route along Marine Drive and you will cycle past Preston Sands (partially obscured by an army of beach huts) and Paignton Pier, where you will see the funfair during the summer school holidays.

At the end of the promenade you have the choice of either pumping up the steep Roundham Road to the headland or taking the Dartmouth Road for Goodrington and Broadsands. I took the headland route and then turned back for the town, as the Dartmouth Road is busy with no cycle lane. The Council says it is possible to cycle to Brixton, but because of the lack of cycle lane, I would advise it only if you are an experienced cyclist. Brandy Cove to Goodrington will take you about 45 minutes.

There are at least three or four cycle shops in Torbay that hire out bikes if you don't have your own. Simply the Bike, 100-102 Belgrave Road, Torquay (tel: 01803 200 024) are open from Monday to Saturday and charge £10 per day or £35 for 6 days. Their bikes are Hyde Parks, which is a cross between a mountain and touring bike and come in three different sizes. They also hire and helmets and panniers, and if you want information on cycle routes, they will buy a map from the shop along the road and mark them out for you. Colin Lewis, 5-7 Manor Road, Paignton, (tel: 01803 553 095) charge £8 per day or £40 for 7 days with helmets an extra £2 per day. They have maps of cycle routes in Plympton and Totnes and also a map of easy routes through Dartmoor - probably the best route if you want to experience some of the best of South Devon's countryside - and also safer and more fun for young children.

Click on the box labelled CYCLING in the website www.discoverdevon.com for more information on cycle routes and to order the New Devon Cycling Guide for free. Most trains and ferries in Devon will take cycles, although there will be an extra charge. Check with the local station or harbour to find out.

For the more dedicated cyclist, or the "drinker with a cycling problem", the Teign Valley Pedal Bashers (the cyclist's version of the Hash House Harriers) has now been pedalling for 12 years. They organise twice weekly rides in South Devon and cycling holidays on the Continent, and in July this year celebrated their thousandth ride with the Devon Bash at Tavistock Rugby Club. The Bashers welcome all cyclists, young and old. They claim to be more for the amateur than the professional, and do not cycle for more than 25 miles at a time, which they aim to complete in two and a half hours.

For all that they say their routes are quite demanding, so for younger or slower riders there are short cuts. Subs are only £10 a year, or £2 every two months. Every member is expected to earn their "Bash Name" by mapping out at least one cycle tour. Bashers normally re-christen themselves with Thirties public school type nicknames, such as Pottsie, Unda Ware, Timotei, Mudsie and Manky, to name but a few. Further information from John (Pottsie) Potts on 01626 865 159, John (Unda) Ware on 01626 773 972, Shirley (Poppy) Stringfellow on 01626 773 972; Tim (Timotei) Nelson on 01392 773 972, or Doug (Manky) Flack on 01392 272 598).

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