Cyclescheme is the UK's most popular cycle to work benefit, creating more cyclists than any other provider.

The county town of Leicestershire is a cosmopolitan city that’s taking an unusually proactive attitude toward cycle promotion.

Back in 2012, Leicester hit the headlines when the skeleton of King Richard III was dug up from beneath one of its car parks. Less attention was paid to the tarmac that the city council was painting green, reallocating from drivers to cyclists, and laying down for cycle tracks both then and since. Leicester isnt known as a cycling city but its quietly laying the foundations to become one. 

The East Midlands city is one of the oldest in England, dating back to Roman times and beyond. The War of the Roses was only one of the conflicts its been embroiled in. The Vikings took it from the Anglo-Saxons. The Royalists sacked it in the English Civil War. In the First World War, its factories switched production to Howitzer shells. In the Second, on the other hand, it attracted few bombs given its strong industrial base. 

And it was an industrious place. In 1936, Leicester was the second richest city in Europe. That wealth was built on textile and footwear manufacturing, as well as heavy industries like steel. Walkers Crisps, recently advertised by son-of-Leicester Gary Lineker, have been produced here since the 19th century.  

Leicester suffered industrial decline in the 1970s and 80s like other British cities. Yet some textile manufacturing remains, alongside service industries and retail. Its still a vibrant, growing city, with one of the most cosmopolitan populations in the UK. Urban busyness and a large number of one-way streets make the city awkward to negotiate by car. Its easier to get around by bike and getting better. 

The best type of bike for cycling in Leicester 

Leicester sits in gently undulating countryside. There are hills, notably in Charnwood Forest to the northwest, but this isnt the Peak District. The local landmark of Beacon Hill is only 248 metres above sea level and about 60 above the land immediately around it. While youll want some lower gears for cycling in the Leicester area, an e-bike isnt a must-buy.  

The off-road riding here is undemanding. A mountain bike with wide, heavily treaded tyres and suspension will be overkill; its debatable whether you even need a gravel bike. A hybrid, tourer, or road bike with tyres at least 32mm wide should tackle most of the unsealed tracks you encounter. 

If you want to maximise your weekend riding fun on the local lanes, an endurance road bike with fittings for mudguards and a rack would be a good choice. It can then do double duty as a weekday commuter. The Cannondale Synapse 3 (RRP £1,100) is such a bike, ticking all the boxes and coming in a wide range of sizes. 

Cannondale Synapse 3

Cannondale Synapse 3

If you want a city bike first and foremost but also want to enjoy countryside rambles, a fully-equipped but not-too-heavy hybrid would work better. The Specialized Sirrus 2.0 EQ (RRP £999) comes with dynamo lighting, mudguards, a rear rack, and good brakes and gears for the price, yet is sprightly enough for longer rides too.  

Leicesters transport network 

Leicesters cycle network isn’t just signposted on quieter roads, as the citys cycle maps show. As well as cycle lanes, some of them contraflow ones on one-way streets, there are traffic-free cycle tracks, especially in the valley of the River Soar and through the citys parks. SustransNCN Route 6 runs north-south through Leicester, NCN 63 east-west, and NCN 48 heads northeast. Large parts of all three are traffic free. 

You dont need your own bike to cycle in Leicester. It has the largest e-bike sharing scheme in the UK, Santander Cycles Leicester. There are 500 e-bikes available from 50 locations. Hiring one on a pay-as-you-go basis costs £1.20 for a journey of up to 20 minutes, then 10p per minute thereafter. For regular use, monthly or annual membership works out cheaper. You can also hire an e-bike in Leicester for up to six months through the Wheels to Work scheme. That costs£45 per month.  

Leicester is well connected by rail. East Midlands Railway runs intercity services to London St Pancras (where you can change to Eurostar to reach Europe) as well as regional services to towns and cities across the Midlands, the North, and the East of England. Most EMR trains carry two bikes; reservations are recommended and are essential for London-bound trains. CrossCountry trains also stop at Leicester. Most services have two reservable bike spaces and one available on a first-come, first-served basis.  

Bus services in Leicester are primarily run by Arriva Midlands (folding bikes only, preferably bagged), Centrebus (folders only, if space is available), and First Leicester (ditto). 

Local rides in Leicester 

Traffic-free cycling is available from the city centre. You can head north from Abbey Park and through Watermead Country Park on NCNs 6 and 48, perhaps turning back at the Hope & Anchor pub on the edge of Syston. Or you can head south on NCN 6, an old railway path at this point, as far as Glen Parva or the River Sence. Leicester also has a cycle circuit where cycle training takes place in a traffic-free environment. 

NCN Route 6 by Karl

NCN Route 6 by Karl

If youre prepared to travel a little, the 13-mile Cloud Trail between Worthington and Derby is ideal for family cyclists. Part of NCN 6, it follows a disused railway and canal towpaths into the heart of the city. Rutland Water is another good day out. Theres a traffic-free cycle track around the reservoir, which splits easily into eight, 15 or 23-mile sections. Bike hire is available on-site.  

Rutland Water by Mark Rowland

Rutland Water by Mark Rowland

Theres plenty of nice and not-too-challenging road cycling on Leicesters doorstep. How about a route around Charnwood or a loop through Market Harborough? Or join one of the many local clubs in Leicester and see where they can take you. 

Aside from rail trails and canal towpaths, the off-road riding around Leicester is limited. However, there is a 4km blue-grade mountain bike in nearby Coalville, around the old spoil heap of Snibston Colliery Park. Theres a skills area and café here, too. The National Forest is also nearby. It has some non-technical forest tracks for families to enjoy such as the 5km Conkers Circuit 

Bike shops in Leicester 

There are more than a dozen Cyclescheme retailers in and around Leicester so you shouldnt have any trouble finding the bike you want. Here are three shops that are highly rated by Cyclescheme customers.  

Julies Cycles on Clarendon Park Road is a family-owned shop whose brands include Cannondale, Forme, Genesis, Giant, Orbea, Ridgeback, Tern, Trek, and Whyte. Click and collect and home delivery are available. Customer comment: Excellent service and knowledge. Spent time finding out my needs to find the right bike. 

The Leicester branch of Rutland Cycling is just outside the ring road at Everards Meadows. Its one of nine Rutland Cycling stores, and theres a big online presence as well. Brands include Brompton, Cannondale, Frog, Giant, Liv, Raleigh, Specialized, and Whyte. Customer comment: Fantastic customer service, it was pleasure to do business there! 5 stars. 

EbikeCentres in the city centre specialises in electric bikes, as youd expect from the name. Theres a cycle lane outside the front door and you can take test rides. Brands include but are not limited to, Ezego, Freego, Gepida, Mission, and Wisper. Customer comment: Excellent service, extremely courteous, and very knowledgeable staff. 

Keeping your bike secure in Leicester 

Bike theft is quite high in Leicester. Despite a smaller proportion of cycling residents, a bike is about as likely to be stolen here as in York. Thefts have been rising recently, too. The hotspots for theft are the city centre and nearby Loughborough, which has a university that specialises in sports studies and thus even more cycling students than usual.  

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.