The Round the Island Cycle Route is likely one of the most ridden Sustrans cycle routes in the UK; its beautiful scenery and interesting roads make for a fantastic bike ride. However, it you fancy something a little bit more challenging, we have the ride for you…
This is Tim Wiggins’s ‘Wight Knuckle Round the Island Route’. At 80 miles long, and with 2,000+ metres of climbing, it is a challenging ride for any cycling enthusiast.
The route starts and finishes on Ryde Esplanade, so it is easily accessible from the Wightlink’s FastCat service from Portsmouth Harbour to Ryde Pier Head.
Starting out from Ryde, the route largely follows the Round the Island cycle route to East Cowes, on the rolling roads to Wootton Bridge via the scenic Firestone Copse.
Once in Cowes, after your short trip on the chain-ferry, you begin to start climbing… first out of Cowes, then down to Gurnard seafront; then up the steep 20% climb past Gurnard Sailing Club, and out into the rolling hills towards Newtown. If you need a stopover here, the ice creams on Cowes seafront are always a great bet!
Once past Newtown, you’ll head onto the flatter roads around Shalfleet and Ningwood, and then onto the open Wellow Top Road – a section that is always tough going if you have a strong westerly wind. A highly recommended café stop is West Wight Alpacas in Wellow.
From Wellow to Yarmouth (lots of café options), and up the long climb to Totland. Here the route differs slightly from the traditional Round The Island, as it includes a great little climb up Cliff Road in Totland, and avoids the flat gravel section of cycle path between Yarmouth and Freshwater.
Once out of Totland (your legs will be thankful when you are!), you head out to Alum Bay. The old road up from the Alum Bay car park to the coastguard cottages is a substantial climb, with switchbacks and double-digit gradients; it is worth it though for the panoramic views at the end of the dead-end road.
Retrace your steps back down to Alum Bay Old Road, and head on through to Freshwater Bay, where you start the fabled Military Road. The initial climb is a kicker, but again the views are outstanding.
From Compton Bay, you head inland to Hulverstone, where there is a great pub stop option at the Sun Inn. Don’t eat too much though, as the road heads immediately uphill on a mean diversion ascending Strawberry Lane to the edges of Brighstone Forest.
It’s okay; once you’ve descended to Brighstone it is flat narrow lanes all the way to Blackgang Road Pass. Save some energy for this though, it’s a big one.
From Blackgang, you divert off the RTI route, and head down to Niton and along the old Undercliff Road – a beautiful stretch of tarmac, which is now only open to cyclists and pedestrians after a recent cliff-fall took away the majority of the road!
Watch out. Just after entering the village of St. Lawrence, you turn up the Seven Sisters Road. This is STEEP. We will let the gradient do the talking.
Through to Ventnor, and you’re in for another treat: Down Lane. A dead-end climb to the radar station, thrown in to further wear out tired legs.
After Down Lane, you re-join the Round The Island route, with only a small diversion around Newchurch. The Pointer Inn in Newchurch is a great choice for some quality pub grub.
The last big climb of the day is another dead end road up to Culver Fort. The views are spectacular though, looking back over Sandown Bay.
From here, roll down, stop at Bembridge Bakery for a late afternoon coffee, and then continue round the coast to Ryde.
This is a hard day out, but it features plentiful beautiful views and incredible roads. Enjoy a beer before catching the FastCat home.
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