Easy Riders

Strap on your helmets for a family spring ride

That's riders as in stabilisers of course, the things that stop the kids' bikes from wobbling. With spring upon us it is again time to venture out to the shed and oil and grease the family's wheels.

So here are six easy (honest) rides to get you back pedalling, or forward even. And the friendly pubs along these waterside ways can provide a light lunch or a savoury sarnie. Better dig out the stretchy Lycra shorts and prise them on.

The Shropshire Canal
Norbury, Staffordshire
An uncomplicated ride along quiet and gently undulating country lanes from Norbury to the village of Gnosall Heath, where you can refresh at the canalside Navigation Inn. The return is alongside the Shropshire Union Canal, built between 1830 and 1835 under the direction of Thomas Telford. The canal is today busy with colourful leisure boats. At Norbury Junction the waterway meets the disused Newport arm of the canal. Here the Junction Inn offers fabulous views and a range of food from baguettes and burgers to grills and home-made pies.

Cotswold Water Park
Somerford Keynes, Gloucestershire
The park encompasses some 14,000 acres (5,670 ha), and the route wends through a landscape of lakes, causeways and small islands. Wetland fringes attract both resident and migratory birds, and areas are set aside for water sports and fishing. Our route starts and ends at the man-made beach of Keynes Country Park, near the Bakers Arms in Somerford Keynes. The former village bakery has gardens ideal for alfresco dining, and discreet children's play areas and heated terraces add to its appeal. Licensee Sam Tate takes his food seriously and, with his French staff, delivers a balanced, imaginative selection of meals.

AA World Travel Library, Robin Hood's Bay

Ravenscar to Robin Hood's Bay
Ravenscar, North Yorkshire
The former railway line between Whitby and Scarborough can now be followed on two wheels, 20 miles one way. This shorter ride picks out probably the finest section, looping around Robin Hood's Bay. It is a little confusing that the name of the bay and the much-photographed village are the same, but the ride gives great views of the former and a chance to visit the latter. The coastal fishing village was once the haunt of smugglers. Near the seafront is the Laurel Inn, a small, traditional pub with beams and an open fire. The bar is decorated with old photographs and an international collection of lager bottles, and the menu offers wholesome sandwiches and soups.

Regent's Canal
Central London
This ride uses the towpath of the Regent's Canal, which was opened in 1820 to link the Grand Junction Canal's Paddington Arm with the River Thames. It takes you from the maritime character of London's Docklands to the urban sophistication of Islington, and is an ideal route for cyclists to skirt the centre of London, free from traffic. The Grapes in Narrow Street is near the start. The best cask-conditioned ales are offered in the atmospheric bar downstairs, while the tiny upstairs restaurant serves the freshest fish. Sandwiches and salads are always available. Near the end of the ride in St Peter's Street, the Duke of Cambridge was the first organic pub in the UK, opened in 1998. The blackboard menu changes daily and all the wines are organic.

The Camel Trail
Bodmin, Cornwall
The pretty, wooded route follows the disused Bodmin to Wadebridge railway line beside the River Camel. You can extend the ride by passing through the town and rejoining the Camel Trail along the beautiful Camel estuary to Padstow. On the return to Bodmin there are refreshments at the Borough Arms in Dunmere. It was built in the 1850s for train crews taking china clay from the moors down to the port at Padstow. Today walkers, cyclists and horseriders drop in for snacks and the home-made blackboard specials.

AA World Travel Library, St Michael's Mount

Marazion to Penzance
Marazion, Cornwall
Here's another super Cornish ride. The level, easy, there-and-back route goes along the edge of Mount's Bay. With just a short road stretch at the start and finish, it is ideal for families with young children. The ride runs along the back of the huge expanse of sandy beaches and has spectacular views of St Michael's Mount. The Godolphin Arms in Marazion shares the views across the bay. In fact the sea splashes the windows in the winter, and you can catch sight of seals, dolphins and fishing boats. There is a traditional bar with local ales, a terrace and an informal restaurant. Not surprisingly, seafood figures prominently among the daily specials.

AA 50 Cycles to Country Pubs


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