Finding a route in Sheffield by bicycle to any place, even just the local shops can be daunting I know. The city is not renown for its cycle lanes or flat roads; so finding a safe and easy route to ride, when you are starting out, is the thing that puts people off.
But don't worry, there are lots of ways to discover new cycling routes around Sheffield that suit you and there are lots of people and technology to help you.
First and foremost you should get hold of the Sheffield cycle map. Its available online here at the Councils website: http://buff.ly/1Cue5KN
Its only available as a PDF so can be difficult to use if you are on your bike using a smart phone. You could print off the bits you need and keep them in your pocket. Alternatively the council do produce folded copies of the map and these should be available at all good bicycle shops and the Tourist Information.
If you are using a smart phone to create a route then Google maps now has cycle lane information included. By selecting cycling from the view options a network of green lines will appear on the map, these indicate the off road cycle lanes or lanes adjacent roads. You can also select an option for cycling in the Google directions. http://buff.ly/1Cue5KO
There are a number of Apps that have also been created specifically to help you plan your cycle routes. Naming them all here would be impossible but there are a few which stand out:
CycleStreets (http://buff.ly/1Cue8GB) is an app that has been developed off the back of a comprehensive website although not perfect it does allow the user to download the entire UK map on their database so that it can be used offline which is great if you are travelling in and out of reception areas.
BikeHub (http://buff.ly/1Cue5KQ) has been created as a joint venture between a number of cycling organisations and industry leaders and gives a comprehensive route plan but needs to be online to work. It gives all important elevation information too.
Remember Sheffield is hilly and avoiding steep inclines will make your ride less arduous, if you know the route you can identify steep hills but be warned that incline appear steeper when cycling up them rather than driving. Some of the steep inclines in Sheffield exist in Crookes, Walkley and Broomhill but there are steep roads throughout Sheffield that's why the Tour de France finished here. On the other hand you may want to really test yourself and get fit quick so why not throw in some short steep incline.
Talking to cyclists is another good way to plan your route. Russell's Bicycle Shed will put you a route together for free taking in to account any desires you have for avoiding hills or busy roads. Ask other people who you work with who cycle, which routes are best for you.
There are some key cycle routes in Sheffield that you may have already have heard of or even travelled. The Five Weirs Walk is by far the most famous but there is the Penistone Road Cycle Path and the Sheaf Valley Trail. If you do use these routes for all or part of your journey you need to be aware that signage is not great, the paths are not cleared very frequently and so debris can accumulate which increases the risk of punctures. There are also lots of crossings to negotiate on some of these routes which could slow you down.
You also need to know what to do with your bicycle when you arrive. If you are riding to work do they have a secure bicycle store; where is it located and do you need a key to access it? If you are in managed workspace, it is likely that there will be somewhere to keep your bike. If you are off to the local shops, are there bicycle stands to lock your bicycle to? If there isn't, ask your local Councillor to get them added. In the meantime, you'll have to lock your bike to a piece of street furniture but making sure you don't obstruct the footpath or road.
So now you've got a bike, you've planned your route taking in to account the terrain, the cycle lanes, the traffic and cycle parking at the other end. You may now want some cycle training or advice about riding on the road...
See Part 3 Tomorrow