Cycling and Mountain Biking


A group of mountain bikers near the summit of Helvellyn

The humble bicycle has come a long way since its first inception in 1885. Today you can use a road bike, a racing bike, a mountain bike, a stunt bike, or even an electric powered bike.

In the Lake District, cycling generally takes two forms: Leisurely cycling along a trail or quiet country road, and mountain biking, which uses a specially designed bike to combat steep ascents and descents over rough terrain. Furthermore, according to readers of Cycling Plus, the Lake District has the UK’s best bike ride – the Broughton Wheelers Lakes Loop.

What Cycling and Mountain Biking Involves

For a leisurely cycle along a trail or road, you can simply get on your bike and start peddling. If you are using trails, such as bridleways, check in advance that they are suitable for cycling, as some may involve terrain that is too rough for a typical road bike. Mountain biking offers more of a challenge and a good level of fitness is required. You will need all of your strength to cycle your bike up the fells, and you are guaranteed a bumpy ride as you navigate your way around boulders, over exposed tree roots and through boggy grassland.

What to Wear and Bring

Unless you are planning to take up cycling on a daily basis, you don’t need to invest in expensive, technical cycling clothing. For dry weather, light weight trousers / shorts and a t-shirt will suffice. In wet weather, you will need a light weight, breathable waterproof jacket, and gloves to keep your hands dry. In colder weather, it’s a good idea to bring layers, so that you can add or remove as necessary.

There is an on-going debate about whether the use of helmets on bikes should be compulsory, however, research has indicated that hospital admissions for cyclists have fallen in line with the increase in numbers of cyclists wearing helmets, suggesting that helmets do offer some level of protection. You may find that if you are cycling with an activity company, or using a bike hire shop, the use of a helmet will be compulsory.

If you are mountain biking, elbow and knee pads will help protect important joints in your body should you fall. In addition, you should carry a map, mobile phone, and refreshments.

Where to Rent a Bicycle in the Lake District

You are spoilt for choice when it comes to cycling in the Lake District. If you have your own bike, bring it along and check out the numerous routes that are available. You can find information on various routes at GPS Cycle and Walking Routes. For mountain biking, both Whinlatter Forest and Grizedale Forest have clearly marked trails with varying levels of difficulty.

If you don’t have your own bike, then why not hire one for the day? There are a number of bike hire shops in Cumbria.

Lakeland Mountain Guides

The Lakeland Mountain Guides offer an array of mountain bike tours with an experienced mountain bike guide, including skill coaching, half day tours and full day tours. And, for those totally new to mountain biking, they offer an intro course to help you get started.


Windermere Canoe Kayak

Hiring out adult hybrid bikes, adult mountain bikes, children’s mountain bikes, tag-a-longs where an adult tows a child, and bike trailers towing up to two toddlers. The company offers bike hire in two different Windermere locations, as outlined below.

  • Address 1: The Boathouse, Ferry Nab, Bowness-on-Windermere, LA23 3JH
  • Address 2: 9 Church Street, Windermere, LA23 1AQ
  • Tel: 01539444451 (Boathouse), 01539443151 (Church Street)


Family-run bike shop with mountain & road bikes available for hire, clothing & equipment, as well as a repair service.


Lake District Bike Hire

Adult and children’s bikes are available to hire with delivery available throughout the south Lake District area. Hire includes a rucksack packed with maps, locks, and other useful kit.


Coniston Boating Centre

There are plenty of routes available around Coniston and the centre can help you pick one suited to your needs.



Mountain bike hire at Whinlatter Forest Park, where there are three graded trails for you to try.


Guided Cycling Tours in the Lake District

A number of activity companies offer guided cycling and mountain biking sessions. Nationally, British Cycling and Team Sky, Tour De France winners, have teamed up to host regular, free, guided cycling sessions across the country. You can see if there are any planned events in the Lake District here.

Alternatively, check out the sessions offered by these activity companies:

West Lakes Adventure

Bespoke mountain biking sessions are offered with an instructor who will tailor your session to meet your needs.


River Deep Mountain High

Sessions cover trail biking and mountain biking in the southern Lake District with half and full day sessions available.


Keswick Adventure Centre

A typical session will include part of the coast to coast cycle route, with the possibility of including some tough up and down hill sections.


Newlands Adventure Centre

You will be provided with a bike and some tuition in the Newlands grounds, then taken on a route that will match your ability and requirements. Rides may include some thrilling mountain ascents, or an indulgent stop at a local tea room.