What makes the Isle of Man one of Britain’s best cycling spots?

Ask any cycling expert why the Isle of Man has produced so many branded cyclists and you will inevitably hear everything about its harsh terrain and climate. It’s true that this island’s position in the Irish Sea means windswept coastal roads and temperamental weather, but there are also miles of stunning countryside for visitors to feast their eyes on when they are in. move on two wheels.

Mark Cavendish aka the Manx Missile, the Isle of Man’s most famous cyclist, considers it one of his favorite places to ride a bike. For a small island that is home to around 85,000 people and where nowhere is more than an hour’s drive away, there is a surprisingly wide range of cycling options. In the north of the island, the flat country lanes spill over onto the sand dunes, while in the south there is a real mix of difficult climbs, fast descents and quiet single track tracks. According to Cavendish, there are around 300 miles of bike trails, not to mention mountain biking and gravel trails, including a trail that runs along an old railway line connecting the towns of Douglas and Peel.

For a taste of the rolling hills, roads and varied landscapes on offer, a circular route around the south of the island is a must, says Richard Fletcher, founder of Isle of Man Cycle Tours. Departing from the capital, Douglas, there are two popular options for pre-departure refueling and bike hire, if needed: Bikestyle, a bike / cafe shop located in an aesthetically pleasing old market hall, and Cycle360, a one-stop-shop for cycling, fitness and socializing.

As you head west, you have the option of passing through the South Barrule Plantation, where a steady climb, framed by tall pines, heather groves and drystone walls, opens onto Round Table Road, a point culminating with views stretching out towards Peel on the west coast. A quick and winding descent (not for the faint of heart) will bring cyclists to the quaint fishing village of Port St Mary, where the Sugarloaf Cafe offers a welcome stop for lunch. In addition to soups and sandwiches, the large scones are a special highlight. From there it’s a pleasant and peaceful winding road to The Sound, a headland in the far south.

The island, a self-sustaining dependency of the British Crown, is famous for a lot, but the marine life in its surrounding waters is one of its best natural features. Dolphins, seals and basking sharks can all be spotted at sea. There can’t be many more scenic places to savor a golden flapjack and coffee beside your bike, while you spot seals floating around. in the waves or sunbathe on the rocks. Once you’ve soaked up the views and refueled, walk up the path you came by, then continue to Port Erin before turning east and looping back to Douglas.

It is the Isle of Man’s compact size, varied terrain and tight-knit cycling community that have all been major assets for UK national road racing champion and team rider Ineos Ben Swift, who has lived on the island for over a decade. “I would say it’s like the Peak District but in a much more confined space,” he says. “The climbs are sometimes a bit longer, but you’re never really far from anything, which is great.

A whole island loop is another great option, whether for experienced road cyclists who want to cover the miles in one long ride, or for those who prefer cycling or a more leisurely approach over a few days with some scenic stops. offs along the way. The Isle of Man Lighthouse Challenge is a popular way to experience it, says Richard Fletcher. The sportsman tours the island, visiting a number of its lighthouses and offering views of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland along the way.

Ending the day by pedaling along Marine Drive (a Drops-Le Col Anna Christian team favorite) with the setting sun casting a golden glow on your shoulder, is an unforgettable experience. A section of the coastal road is closed to cars, but open to pedestrians and cyclists, creating a serene stretch for pedaling.

It would be a shame, on the island, not to taste the rich offer of Manx seafood; roll in for a table at the Little Fish Cafe which faces the marina on the North Quay in Douglas. For dinner, reservation is essential, but for visitors who manage to find a seat, it’s worth checking out the daily specials on the board, which can include tempura squid, chili crab claws, coconut and cilantro, and grilled cod fillet. Cyclists can order a Barrule cocktail (named after the island’s forest plantation) to sprinkle it down and savor their day of exploring this bike-crazy island.

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