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It’s been the wool capital of the world and the curry capital of Britain. Transport cycling has an uphill struggle, however, and not only because of the hills

Bradford is the third biggest city in Yorkshire, after Leeds and Sheffield. It was named broad fordfor its location beside whats now the Bradford Beck. You cant see the stream in the city centre today because Bradford was built over the top of it during the 19th century. The city absolutely boomed during the Industrial Revolution. 

Already a centre for the wool industry, it became known as the wool capital of the world. Textile mills were everywhere. Chimneys fumed. There was coal mining, iron productionand pollution. Bradford Beck was called the filthiest river in England. It even caught alight. 

While theres still manufacturing, the city is very different today because of the post-war deindustrialisation and economic decline that affected much of the north of England. The Wool Exchange in the city centre is now a Waterstones bookshop. Yet even today the British Wool Marketing Board has its HQ in the city. And thats not the only familiar thread. Its still busy with commerce, although the last time beck was badly polluted was a plumbing problem that saw it receive wastewater from local curry houses. It turned yellow.  

Wool Exchange, Bradford- by Billy Wilson

Wool Exchange, Bradford- by Billy Wilson

Bradford is sometimes overshadowed by Leeds but has claims to fame that its neighbour lacks. It was involved in the formation of the Labour Party in the 1890s. It was the first ever UNESCO City of Film due to its role in the production and distribution of films. Its the UK City of Culture for 2025. As for cycling: lets just say that, like Leeds, theres plenty of work to be done. 

The best type of bike for cycling in Bradford 

Bradford city centre sits in a valley bottom in the foothills of the Pennines. Cycle commuting here often means a fast downhill freewheel in the morning and a tough grind uphill coming home. Look for a bike with a bottom gear ratio of less than 1:1. That is: a bike whose smallest chainring is smaller than the largest sprocket. Decent brakes are a no-brainer as well, as are mudguards even though the Pennine hills cast a rain shadow over Bradford. 

Any disc-braked hybrid with a wide gear range will suit the city. The Trek FX2 Disc Equipped (RRP £825) is a good one because it comes with commuting essentials like mudguards, a rear rack, and lights (powered by a hub dynamo), as well as hydraulic disc brakes and a 2x9 Shimano Altus drivetrain. Its available with a lower step-over frame (pictured) if you dont want to throw your leg over a top tube.  

Trek FX2 Disk Equipped

Trek FX2 Disc Equipped 

Theres a good argument for using an e-bike in Bradford to iron out its hills. The Raleigh Trace (RRP £2,199) is a nice one. It comes with commuting equipment (mudguards, rack, and lights) and has a power-assisted range of up to 50 miles, yet weighs just 16.5kg thanks to its lightweight Ebikemotion motor and battery. That makes it easier to lift up steps, onto trains, or onto a work stand for maintenance. 

Raleigh Trace

The Raleigh Trace

Bradfords transport network 

Bradford City Council provides some support for those wanting to start commuting by bike. Aside from the 14-mile cycle superhighway to Leeds, which runs beside the A647 and is mostly segregated, theres little in the way of traffic-free infrastructure in the city. The Bradford Cycle Map mostly just highlights less busy roads.  

The map is also available in printed form from tourist information centres, libraries, bike shops, and so on. Neither the paper nor digital versions are very useful for on-the-bike navigation. For satnav-style instructions, download a navigation app like Citymapper and mount your phone to your bikes handlebar or stem. 

By rail, Bradford is well connected to other northern towns and cities, as well as further afield. Its part of the West Yorkshire MetroTrain network and is served by trains from Northern, LNER, and Grand Central. Northern trains typically carry two bikes on a first-come, first-served basis. LNER trains carry two to four bikes per train; reservations are strongly advised. Grand Central trains usually carry three bikes, two in reservable spaces, one available first-come, first-served. 

Bradfords bus network is overseen by West Yorkshire Metro. The principal operators are First Bradford and Arriva Yorkshire. A compact folder (ideally bagged or covered) is the only bike youll get aboard either.  

Local rides in Bradford 

Sustrans NCN Route 66 runs north-south through Bradford, partly traffic-free. If youre heading north it’s a good way to reach Shipley, where you can join the Leeds and Liverpool Canal towpath, which is almost entirely traffic-free. The 15-mile flat, scenic section from Saltaire to Leeds is ideal for family cyclists. Its suitable for all bikes except those with skinny tyres 

If youre heading south, NCN 66 becomes the Spen Valley Greenway at Oakenshaw. This is a disused railway that runs for seven traffic-free miles to Dewsbury. As well as nice views, there are trailside sculptures to look out for along the way.  

Spen Valley Greenway, by John Seb Barber

Spen Valley Greenway, by John Seb Barber

Bradford families without bikes can borrow them from Bradford Trident Bike Library, one of the Yorkshire Bank Bike Libraries that exist across the county. Bike libraries work like conventional libraries except that your library card lets you borrow a bike for free instead of a book. 

Bradford is in a green belt area and has some excellent road cycling on its doorstep. Youre straight into moorland landscapes, with big hills and wooded valleys. Ilkley is a good destination for a road riding loop, as is Hebden Bridge. If you really want to get to know the local lanes, however, youre best off joining a local club such as East Bradford Cycling Club. 

Off-road cycling around Bradford mostly means bridleways. The Bingley Bash will give a good taste of whats available. The nearest trail centre isn’t far away: Leeds Urban Bike Park is close enough to ride to if you dont want to drive or take the train.  

Bike shops in Bradford 

Bradford has just one Cyclescheme-registered bike shop, Paul Milnes Cycles, although there are others nearby. 

Paul Milnes Cycles is rated as a five-star shop by Cyclescheme customers. Bike brands include Genesis, Merida, Ridley, Forme, and Rapide, and sales bikes are included in the scheme. Cyclescheme customer comment: Really pleased with my Bike. The process was straightforward and managed wonderfully. Will recommend to others. 

All Terrain Cycles in nearby Saltaire is another five-star-rated Cyclescheme shop. Its one of the UKs largest shops, and it stocks Giant, Cube, Trek, and Orange bikes. Customer comment: Great experience, got a bargain and had everything thoroughly explained about the bike and how best to care for it etc. 

Go Outdoors in Pudsey is a big multi-sports store with a well-stocked cycling section. Bike brands include Calibre, Compass, Forme, Jamis, Polygon and Tern. Customer comment: Friendly staff. Keen to assist and give advice. Nothing is too much trouble. Would gladly recommend. 

Keeping your bike secure in Bradford 

Bike theft in Bradford is surprisingly low for such a big city, which may reflect a relatively low level of cycling. Its in the bottom 20% by postcode areas of England and Wales, putting it on a par with Durham or Enfield. Thefts are on the rise here, however, so it pays not to be complacent. 

Always lock your bike whenever you turn your back on it, ideally with a Sold Secure Gold or Diamond-rated lock. Lock the bike through the frame to a sturdy piece of street furniture or a dedicated cycle stand. If you have a high-value bike or will be leaving it locked up for an extended period for example, overnight use two locks. 

The vast majority of bike thefts take place not on the street but in semi-privatelocations at home. That means on your property but not in the house for example, a garage, shed or garden. Lock your bike to a wall or ground anchor if it will be in one of those locations. Alternatively, park it indoors.