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

Wales’s third largest city is just 12 miles from its capital, Cardiff, yet has its own distinct identity and cycling opportunities – most of them recreational

Wales’s third largest city is just 12 miles from its capital, Cardiff, yet has its own distinct identity and cycling opportunities – most of them recreational

Newport was established on the banks of the River Usk just south of the old Roman town of Caerleon, which had an older port of its own. It’s better known today as being the first settlement of any size you pass through after you cross either of the bridges over the Severn Estuary, which the Usk flows into. The M4 runs right past the city, making Newport one of the best-connected places in Wales.

During the Industrial Revolution, Newport was the largest coal exporter in Wales, thanks to its docks and the proximity of the coalfields of the South Wales Valleys. The Miners’ Federation of Great Britain, which later became the National Union of Mineworkers, was formed in Newport in 1889. Yet it wasn’t just a coal town. Newport had iron and steel manufacturing, engineering and a cattle market. The iconic Newport Transporter Bridge still stands, though the docks have been partly filled in and the steelworks no longer manufactures steel.

Newport seen from Transporter Bridge by Richard Szwejkowski

Newport seen from Transporter Bridge by Richard Szwejkowski

The construction of the first Severn Bridge and the M4 motorway in the 1960s kept Newport on the map. Unlike in many British cities, manufacturing remains important. There’s been a microprocessor factory here since the 1980s, and Airbus is one of its other big employers.

For cyclists, it’s a mixed picture. Urban cycling provision isn’t as well developed as in nearby Cardiff, but Newport has excellent recreational routes and mountain bike trails on its doorstep.


The best type of bike for cycling in Newport

Newport is relatively sheltered for Wales, so at least the rain is less likely to hit you horizontally. But rain it will. Mudguards are a commuting essential, even if you’re using a mountain bike or road bike as your do-it-all machine.

In terms of topography, Newport has some fair-sized hills – notably Graig Ddiffaith (109 metres). Yet it’s mostly low lying so there isn’t the same pressure to use an e-bike for urban journeys as there is in, say, Sheffield or Bradford. You will want a range of gears, and the further you intend to head inland into the hills the greater the range you’ll need.

A gravel bike would be one good choice, enabling you to switch from weekday commutes on tarmac to weekend trips along the Monmouth and Brecon Canal or unsurfaced forest roads. While any model that suits your budget would suffice, the Surly Preamble Drop Bar (RRP £1,399) is a sturdy and practical option. It’s made from chromoly steel and comes with fittings for mudguards and racks. In the UK it’s supplied with a simple 1x9 Microshift drivetrain and Avid BB7 brakes, which are among the best mechanical disc brakes available.

Surly Preamble Drop Bar

Surly Preamble Drop Bar


If you want to take advantage of the excellent singletrack trails nearby, however, you’ll need a mountain bike. Finding the right compromise is difficult: the best trail mountain bike won’t be the best commuting mountain bike – and vice-versa. The Trek Marlin 8 Gen 3 (RRP £1,025) can do both pretty well. It has mounts for a rear rack and a kickstand and can be fitted with mudguards. Yet it also has an effective and easily adjustable air-sprung suspension fork and a dropper seatpost for trail centre fun. On blue- or red-graded trails, it’s ample.

Trek Marlin 8 Gen 3

Trek Marlin 8 Gen 3

Newport's transport network

A lot of traffic is funnelled around and through Newport by the M4 and a couple of big A-roads, the A48 and the A4042. That makes the city’s smaller roads a bit less busy for cyclists. This is just as well because the actual cycling infrastructure is patchy. There’s a great pedestrian/cyclist bridge over the Usk, the Newport City footbridge, and Sustrans NCN 47 is a useful traffic-free cycle track that runs up the west bank of the river. But there’s a dearth of arterial cycle tracks to get commuters into or out of the city centre.

Newport has good rail connections west to Cardiff, Swansea and Fishguard and east, via Bristol and the Great Western Main Line, to London Paddington. It’s also on the Welsh Marches Line to Shrewsbury and Crewe. Train operators are Great Western Railway (at least two bikes per train, reservations recommended), Transport for Wales (usually at least two bikes per train, mostly first come, first served) and CrossCountry trains to and from Cardiff (usually two reservable spaces, one available first come, first served).

Bus services in Newport are mostly run by Newport Bus, whose vehicles carry folding bikes only – and only at the driver’s discretion. Cardiff Bus services have the same policy. Stagecoach South Wales also runs buses in and around Newport. Folding bikes are carried “if it can fit in the luggage pen and you can lift it in and out yourself”.


Local rides in Newport

There are lots of traffic-free cycle tracks in the South Wales Valleys. One of the most accessible from Newport is Sustrans NCN 49, which runs along the Monmouth and Brecon Canal towpath to Pontypool, 11 miles away – although you can continue further. Another good one is NCN 47, which follows the same canal north west to the outskirts of Cwmcarn (below).

For sporting cyclists wanting to stay away from the traffic, Newport is home to the Geraint Thomas National Velodrome of Wales, which has an indoor wooden track and an outdoor cycle speedway track.

Newport Velodrome by Matt Hallett

Newport Velodrome by Matt Hallett

For road cyclists, Abergavenny is a good target for a café stop mid-way through a 50-mile ride. You can get there on small lanes, mostly following NCN 42, or on the traffic-free towpath of the Monmouth and Brecon Canal if your bike has suitable (not too skinny) tyres. The old Severn Bridge at Chepstow is another good destination. You can reach it via NCN 4 on quiet lanes, then cross over to Aust in England on the bridge’s shared-use path, which is segregated from the road. If you want to expand your horizons further, consider joining a local cycling club such as VC Newport.

Mountain bikers have some fantastic trails nearby. Cwmcarn Forest, less than 10 miles away, has two red-graded trails, Cafall and the Twrch Trail, and one extreme trail, Y Mynydd Downhill. Bike Park Wales is about 25 miles from Newport and has trails for everyone from novices to experts. There are more than 40 trails in total, plus a café, a bike shop and an uplift service.


Bike shops in Newport

Newport has a couple of Cyclescheme retailers, both highly rated and a handful of others close by.

The South Wales Bicycle Company is five minutes from the city centre on Caerleon Road. The shop typically has 175 bikes in stock, from brands including KTM, Look, Merida and Orbea. Cyclescheme customer comment: “Really good, friendly shop, lots of advice and assistance given. Perfect shopping experience.”

Leisure Lakes Bikes has a branch out at High Cross, just off junction 27 of the M4.

Its bike brands include Brompton, Cannondale, Cube, Specialized, Trek, Van Nicholas, Whyte and Yeti. Customer comment: “Very pleased and put at ease. Despite my knowledge being at a minimum they were very patient, lenient, helpful and professional.”

Don Skene Cycles is in Rumney on the outskirts of Cardiff. It’s a family shop that’s been in business since 1952 and stocks more than 400 bikes. Bike brands include  Giant, Nukeproof, Santa Cruz, Specialized and Whyte. Customer comment: “Brilliant customer service, very helpful, in and out in less than 20 minutes.”


Keeping your bike secure in Newport

Good news for bike security: Newport is in the bottom fifth for bike thefts by postcode areas of England and Wales. Newport’s postcode does include a lot of rural areas, however, and the levels of theft in the city itself are higher so commuters can’t afford 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-private’ locations 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.