What To Take

WHAT BIKE?

The answer is: almost any bike, including that fast improving e-bike, which has opened the roads to almost all. But read on first.

"What bike?" is the single most frequently asked question on the C2C website. The route is made up of quiet lanes, traffic-free sections and full-on, off-road mountain biking terrain. The off-road tough bits, such as out of Keswick along the old Coach Road, or up to the summit of Hartside, are always optional, so there’s a perfectly good alternative for a road or touring bike.

The traffic-free sections, often along old railway tracks, are nearly all on tarmac and cinder. The latter can get muddy in bad weather but there’s always a road option if you wish – so long as you can read a map or have a GPS.

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TOURING BIKE

Much like a road bike, except sturdier and capable of carrying panniers. They come with drop handlebars and mudguards so you don’t get (quite so) covered in mud. The wheels are wider and stronger and the tyres less inclined to puncture, though you may wish to avoid the rougher sections as pushing a fully laden tourer is a pain in the back.

The touring bike will also have a wider spread of gears than a road bike, which is very handy on the hillier sections. AVOID Whinlatter off-road, Keswick Coach Road, Hartside off-road, Garrgill off-road, Rookhope grouse moor. Otherwise AOK.

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ROAD BIKE

Great for roads as skinny wheels make for fast riding. But they are not so good on traffic-free, and hopeless for off-road. They are not designed to carry panniers, the double front chain ring means they are hard to take up steep inclines and they are more prone to punctures and buckled front wheels. Also, you get much muddier, as no self-respecting road bike would sport mudguards.

Having said that, you can blast across the C2C on a road bike and if time is of the essence then simply get some good all-season tyres (Continental Grand Prix 4 Seasons came out top in a recent road test, closely followed by Michelin Pro Optimum) and an OS map, and simply take road options if you don’t fancy the alternative.

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MOUNTAIN BIKE

Great, up to a point. Great for those stunning bits of off-road (Keswick, Rookhope etc), but are they worth the hassle? I am inclined to say no, as the fat wheels make for much harder work.

They have smaller wheels, much higher rolling resistance and are awkward to put panniers on. But if that’s all you’ve got, then go for it: you can always swap the huge knobbly tyres for smooth ones.

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HYBRID

A cross between a tourer and a mountain bike, these are ideal for the C2C, Reivers and Hadrian’s Cycleway routes. However my vote would be for a tourer. Every time.

WHAT GEAR?

TROUSERS

Lycra with gel pads are probably best. But you can also get baggy shorts with padding. Not everyone likes (or suits) lycra so there are options worth looking at online. You can wear ordinary shorts, but you would be well advised to get a padded liner to wear underneath, unless your posterior is seriously saddle hardy.

TOPS

It is important that your body can breathe and that the sweat you will quickly generate should be able to wick. This is why a merino wool or polyester base layer is so much better than cotton, which will leave you wet and probably cold. The weather can change pretty rapidly at any time of the year, so it’s a good idea to have a medium layer – for instance, fleece. Then you will need a reflective, light-weight weather-proof outer garment for those inevitable moments when the needle plunges and the heavens open.

Remember: brightly coloured, reflective tops are best. Not all drivers are as alert as cyclists!

GLOVES

Fingerless are good more moderate conditions. Gloves also protect the hands from chafing and offer padded protection if you fall.

HELMETS

A must, though not legally enforceable. Get one as light as possible, so you are hardly aware you are wearing it. You can spend a fortune, but you don’t need to.

SHOES

SPD pedals and trainers which clip in make for the most efficient pedalling power. They make arguably more sense than road bike cleats as you can also walk quite normally in them. Then, of course, there are the old-fashioned toe-clips or "rat-catchers."