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Transport has been key part of this East Midlands city’s economy since the railways arrived. Cycling hasn’t been wholly overlooked, either

Many of Britains industrial towns and cities have followed the same trajectory: 18th century inventiveness; Victorian heyday; post-war decline. Derby is different. It was an early and important player in the industrial revolution, successfully harnessing water power for silk and cotton mills. But manufacturing is still important to the city today. Rolls-Royce is here, making aero-engines. Alstom builds rolling stock for the railways. Car manufacturer Toyota has its British HQ in Derby.  

Derby Silk Mill museum by-The-Roaming-Picture-Taker,-FlickrCC.

Transport manufacturing has succeeded here in part because Derbys transport links are good. It became a rail interchange and engineering centre second only to Crewe, where Rolls-Royce had another factory. Its near the middle of England (and not far from todays M1). Yet it was lightly touched by the bombs of WWII, unlike Coventry 50 miles or so to the south.   


Theres a statue of Bonnie Prince Charlie in the city because Derby is as far as he and his Jacobite Rebellion got in his attempt to seize the crown in 1745.

Bonnie Prince Charlie

There are also plenty of ram sculptures in Derby. Its the citys traditional emblem, with its roots in a folk song, and its the nickname for Derby County FC: the Rams. Another statue commemorates the partnership between Brian Clough and Peter Taylor that brought the football club league championship glory in 1972.  

Derby Ram

More recent history has left its mark on the transport infrastructure of the city. Theres a Lara Croft Way in honour of the Tomb Raider computer game series, which began life in Derby. And theres better cycling infrastructure than youd expect because from 2005 Derby was one of Cycling Englands original Cycling Towns, which brought in additional investment. 


The best type of bike for cycling in Derby 

While Derbyshire gets increasingly hilly as you head north into the Peak District through its foothills, Derby itself is low lying. The city centre is right by the River Derwent, and even at the outskirts the gradients are rolling rather than imposing. Any bike with a reasonable gear range will cope fine. As ever in the UK, mudguard compatibility is vital. It can and does rain every month of the year in Derby and its too far south to benefit from the rain shadow of the Pennines.  

Theres a limited amount of interesting off-road riding in the Derby area. What it does have is easy access to some splendid country lanes, including those in the Peak District during a longer day out. Soits worth having a bike thats capable for leisure rides as well as everyday commuting. A sportier, lighter weight hybrid is one option, an endurance road bike another. 

The Giant Fastroad AR3 (RRP £999) is a sports hybrid or flat-bar road bike. It has an aluminium frame, a carbon fork, a 2x8 Shimano Claris drivetrain, and hydraulic disc brakes. Its 40mm tubeless tyres will tackle riverside paths as well as tarmac. It doesnt come with mudguards or a pannier rack but can be fitted with both.  

Giant Fastroad AR3

The Kinesis R2 (RRP £1,680) looks like a typical disc-brake road bike but comes with bigger (32mm) tyres for all-day comfort and fittings for mudguards and a rear rack. It has an aluminium frame, a full carbon fork, 2x10 Shimano Tiagra gearing, and hydraulic disc brakes. It tips the scales at about 10kg.  

Kinesis R2

Derbys transport network 

It may have largely escaped German bombs but Derby didnt avoid brutalist post-war planning. A multi-lane inner ring road smashed its way around the city centre in 1968. This does at least draw traffic away from smaller roads, and Derbys cycling network is extensive enough that you can avoid this and other big roads. 

As Cycle Derbys downloadable active travel map shows, there are enough quieter backstreets to link up the traffic-free sections the best of which are beside the River Derwent and through Derbys several parks. The citys interactive cycle map wasnt working at time of writing so a phone app would be more useful for navigation. Citymapper (Android or iPhone) and (iPhone only, Android coming) are both good.  

Derbys rail services are run by East Midlands Railway, which operates trains south to London St Pancras and east/west to Nottingham and Crewe, and CrossCountry, which has routes all over the UK. East Midlands services carry two bikes per train, with reservations recommended, although EMR Connect peak hour services to/from London dont carry bikes apart from folders. CrossCountry trains usually have two reservable spaces and one available on a first come, first served basis. 

Buses in Derby are operated by Arriva Midlands (folders only, ideally carried in a suitable carrying bag or holdall) and Trent Barton. Bicycles are specifically not carried on Trent Barton buses, although you may get aboard with a bagged compact folder like a Brompton. 


Local rides in Derby 

One of the most accessible family rides from Derby is the The Cloud Trail, which starts in the city centre and runs for just over 13 miles to Worthington. Its flat, well surfaced and almost entirely traffic free. Most of the route is a repurposed railway path, with other sections by the River Derwent and the Trent and Mersey Canal. The Trent Viaduct is a highlight.  

The Cloud Trail

Further afield, starting in Cromford (16 miles north), the High Peak Trail is another splendid rail-trail that takes you across the tops of the Peak District hills. You can avoid a steep climb at the start by beginning at Middleton Top instead of Cromford.  

There are good road rides in every direction from Derby. One of the more challenging ones for fitter cyclists is the 39-mile Southern Peaks loop, which starts and finishes in Matlock (20 miles north) and takes in 10 of the best Peak District climbs. You can find other good rides online but a better way to discover new routes is with a local cycling club. CTC Derby and Burton is good for steadier-paced rides, while Derby Mercury will suit sportier riders. If you fancy a go a track cycling, meanwhile, Derby has its own velodrome, the Derby Arena. 

Derby has a BMX track at Alvaston Park but theres not much else on its doorstep in terms of off-road riding. If youre prepared to travel, Sherwood Pines is about 35 miles away and Cannock Chase is a similar distance in the opposite direction. There are also some short, family-friendly off-road trails in the National Forest (less than 20 miles away). 

Bike shops in Derby 

Derby has quite a few bike shops. Here are three of the most highly rated by Cyclescheme customers.   

The Bike Shop is a large, three-storey shop with around 400 bikes on display. Brands include Diamondback, Frog, Giant, GT, Liv, Raleigh, Tifosi, Trek, Volt and Wisper. Customer comment: Absolutely fabulous shop so much stock and very, very helpful staff, best buying experience in any shop in a long time. 

Cyclo Monster began life as an online retailer in 2011 but a couple of years later the owners opened a large shop in Spondon. Bike brands stocked include Cube, Focus, Frog, Haibike, Kalkhoff and Scott and State. Customer comment: A really good range of bikes. Phil really knew what he was talking about and it was great to try them out on the road. Thanks,Cyclo Monster. 

Hawk Cycles was founded in 1968 and, along with its Cycle King co-brand, now has stores across the Midlands, London, and the South East. The wide range of bike brands available includes AMCargo, Bickerton, Dawes, Forme, GT, Mission, Raleigh, Tifosi and Wisper. Customer comment: Brilliant service. Thanks to all the team at Hawks.  


Keeping your bike secure in Derby 

By post code area, Derby has average levels of bike theft for England and Wales. Itssimilar to places like Harrogate and Crewe not terrible but nothing to be complacent about. As usual, theft levels are higher nearer the city centre than in outlying areas.  

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.