Road cycling in West Dorset

Stunning scenery, tranquil country lanes and terrain to suit all abilities combine to make Dorset a wonderful location for cycling.

Dorset is without doubt the county that has it all. It’s where you come to discover a perfect nook of south west England. With its stunning beaches, like the famous 18 mile beach that stretches from West Bay to Portland and the magnificent countryside of Thomas Hardy's Wessex, the area is one of outstanding natural beauty.

The wild and undulating landscape is what makes the area fantastic for cycling both on and off road. Long winding climbs and short sharp gradients make the riding both interesting and challenging and with views that take your breath away - West Dorset is a cyclists Mecca.

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There are several very good reasons that make Dorset an ideal location for cycling and the reason we started On the Rivet, the first being the Jurassic coastline stretching for 88 miles from Christchurch to Lyme Regis, and offering spectacular sea views and vistas equal to any Alpine landscape.
 
Lyme Regis
Lyme RegisIt’s a rollercoaster profile with gradients to test your climbing and descending skills, with a frequency you might not have expected. However, there's as much gentle rolling terrain for the intermediate cyclist as there are challenging climbs for the more hardcore amongst you.

Relative to its size, Dorset has a small population with half of its inhabitants living in the seaside towns of Bournemouth and Poole.  This means that if you explore further inland by bike and particularly to the west of the county, away from the more heavily populated parts and into ‘Hardy’s Wessex’, you’ll enjoy the luxury of peace and quiet.

Many hours can be wiled away in the tranquil traffic-free country lanes. This part of Dorset is where most of the hills are located, and whilst relatively low in altitude, the profile of a ride in this area will rarely be flat, if ever.


A typical day

At On the Rivet, we would typically spend between 10am and 4pm in the saddle covering anything from 40-70 miles depending on the level of the group.
Heading out of Bridport
Heading out of BridportA favourite loop (40 miles) among guests is from the market town of Bridport making its way to the furthest point of Winterborne Abbas.

This route takes us away from Bridport via Allington and then works its way to the tranquil villages of Loders, then Uploders. After a steady start to loosen the legs we reach the savage climb of Eggerdon Hill. Riders manage this with varying degrees of success, some choosing the support vehicle for the particularly steep part which reaches a max gradient of 18%.

Cyclists are rewarded with breathtaking views of the coast and country, followed by a spectacular lengthy stretch along the Roman Road where drafting in the peloton is par for the course. After arriving at Winterbourne Abbas, the climbing starts again to Hardy's Monument. The climb begins gently although there is a sting in the tail as it ramps up when you need it least.

LunchOften, we find chance to stop for lunch at the green at Littlebredy, a beautiful country spot where the house team await us with a fantastic lunch all prepared with delicious ingredients carefully put together with a cyclist's body in mind - protein, slow release carbs, and natural sugars for energy. 

Once refuelled, we head for the pretty villages and the twists and turns of the Bride Valley. We head back towards Bridport via Litton Cheney where we hit one last climb, and it’s a stinker - White Way.  Whilst relatively short, it is pretty punishing on tired legs, reaching almost 21% at its most severe.

The route then takes us down into Bridport for a well earned rest and perhaps a large G&T in the hot tub! 

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If you are a Strava user, it’s worth checking out some of the many fantastic segments Dorset has to offer. Here are a few to look out for:

Category 4 segments

Abbotsbury Hill  - average of 9% for 1 mile topping out at 17% in some places with an elevation gain of 452ft

Bishop’s Rd climb - average of 8.6% for 1 mile with a max gradient of 17.9% and an elevation gain of 474ft

Portisham Hill Climb - average of 10.5% for 0.6 mile with an elevation gain of 346ft
 
The White Way climb
White Way climbWhite Way climb - average of 13% for 0.6 mile with a max gradient of 20.9% and elevation gain of 415ft

Mutton Street - average of 6% over 1.3 miles with max gradient of 17% and an elevation gain of 415ft

Mont White Sheet - average of 19% for 0.1 mile with a max gradient of 23.6% and elevation of 123ft

Hardys Monument - average of 5% for 1 mile with a max gradient of 15% and an elevation of 302ft

Category 3 segments

The Full Eggardon Hill climb - average of 7% for 1.7 miles with a max gradient of 18% and an elevation of 627ft

Powerstock to Eggardon climb - average of 5% for 2.4 miles with max gradient of 23.2% and an elevation of 629ft

The terrain of West Dorset is suited to competent cyclists with a fair degree of fitness as a minimum.  Cyclists taking on Sportives, Etapes, triathlons, Ironman and crit racing will find the area a great training ground.

And for the less competitive amongst you there are plenty of long flats and winding lanes through quiet villages to keep you occupied for hours.
 
Hardy's Monument
Amazing views from Hardy's Monument

TOP 5 EXPERIENCES

1. Cycling from Weymouth to Portland

This takes in the dramatic route known as Road to the Heights. This combines great climbing with a great view back at West Dorset taking in Chesil Beach, Portland Mariner and the Jurassic Coastline.

2. Cycling from West Bay, the home of ‘Broadchurch’, to Sherborne via Beaminster

You can chose three climbing options out of Beaminster from the fairly comfortable Tunnel Road to the brutal White Sheet (see Strava). Sweeping gentle roads take you through Sutton Bingham, taking in the reservoir before reaching Olivers Cafe in the beautiful historic town of Sherborne for delicious homemade cakes and freshly brewed coffee.

3. A visit to Bridport

Well worth an explore, with its eclectic blend of shops, restaurants and bars, the incredible Vintage Quarter and Electric Palace for world class entertainment. Bridport has a charming market twice a week too.

4. Cycling from Raymonds Hill to Marshwood

Fast, fresh tarmac and the bright green leafy Beech tunnelled canopy is beautiful (see photo in the gallery), particularly when the dappled light filters through - its quite magical.

5. The route from Bridport via Hardy's monument

Full details in the main review above - great views and brilliant climbs.

WHEN TO VISIT

Best times to go:

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The best time to cycle in our opinion is from March through to October for road cycling and perhaps earlier for MTB. 

We do recommend avoiding the school holidays however as the roads can be quite busy at this time.  We purposely avoid running our retreats at these times and benefit from peaceful and tranquil country lanes.
 

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