Offroad FAQ

What is off-road?

This is mountain biking, which is more than just not riding on roads. While we might use a few canal towpaths, these are really linking paths rather than the main part of the ride. Our main playgrounds are the west Chilterns and the east Berkshire Downs, which are a mix of woodland and open countryside. Trails can be anything from the wide byways of the Ridgeway to narrower singletrack bridleways.

Our rides

We cycle on Wednesday evenings and Sundays all through year:

On Wednesdays evenings we leave from the Fountain at 19.30 and ride out through the countryside to a pub. In summertime the pubs are further away from Reading, requiring anything up to a ten mile ride back to the centre of town. In the winter the destinations are in the centre of town, so the ride is loop out and back to a Reading pub.

Due to greater popularity in summer, we have two rides: a long and a short. The short ride tends to be about 15 miles and arrives at the pub around 21.15-30. The long ride runs at a faster pace, and covers more ground – up to about 20 miles to the pub arriving around 21.30-45. In winter the ride usually arrives around 21.15-30. Punctures and mechanical problems permitting.

On Wednesday the ride leader will take you to the pub, but you are responsible for getting yourself home. Generally there will be people leaving at different times who you can hook up with.

You need good off-road lights for the Wednesday evening rides – traditional £15 road LEDs are insufficient to see through the dark in the woods. Options are helmet mounted or handlebar mounted (or both!). Prices vary enormously – from Chinese models on Ebay to niche British manufacturers.

On Sundays the main ride leaves normally leaves at 10am from the Fountain and we ride out to a country pub for lunch, usually arriving between 13.00-30. The return leg is off-road and led by the ride leader. In the summer destinations can be further out compared to winter, and so sometimes the ride may not return to Reading until late afternoon or even early evening (check with the ride leader if this is a concern).

Occasionally we also have short Sunday rides. These still ride out to a pub, but at a gentler pace compared to the main ride and covering less distance. If you are new to off-road riding they are a good way to see how you find it.

On Fridays, we’ve started running rides in the day time. These are generally run at a more laid back pace, and generally head to cafes. The destination tends to decided close to the ride day, so keep an eye on the website for the plan.

Finally around once a month, there are morning rides leaving at 9am returning to Reading before lunch. These are brisk rides and don’t stop at a pub. These are a good way of getting a blast on the bike without being out all day.

Where do you meet?

Cycling UK Reading ride start points

How far do you ride?

There are distances on the website, but these are approximate and will depend on the leader. Our rides are more time dependent than distance.

What speed do you ride at?

This varies. An average speed of 10mph is good for a group ride off-road. Our speed is more often affected by the trail conditions and group size than anything. The nature of off-road riding in a group means that the rides can sometimes be a bit start stop both to ensure we don’t lose people at junctions.

What are train- and car-assist rides?

Here we use the train or car to start the ride in a different area, such as Swinley Forest or the Surrey Hills. These are clearly highlighted on the Runs List, with instructions for train times etc.

Weekends away?

Approximately every 6-7 weeks we have an away weekend, usually coinciding with a bank holiday. These are to classic outdoor destinations such as the Peak District, Quantocks, Wales etc. We camp or stay in bunkhouse depending on the time of year. We normally do day rides starting and finishing where we’re staying. See where we go on our weekends away here.

Do you go bike packing?

Yes. Some of our weekends away through the year are bikepacking. In recent years, we’ve bike packed from Weymouth back to Reading, completed a loop of the Cotswolds, followed the North Downs into Kent, and rode out to Ivinghoe.

Is my bike good enough?

As a minimum entry level mountain bikes sufficient for off-road start around £300-400. Prices below this generally lack off-road tyres, suitable gears and brakes, or are just not robust enough. The more you pay, the better equipped and lighter the bike, although cost-benefit is debatably more marginal at the high end. Unfortunately the frame clearances, brakes, gears and narrow wheels mean that a hybrid isn’t suitable for mountain biking.

What kind of mountain bike?

Riding in the Chilterns and Berkshire Downs is cross country, so an XC hard tail or short travel full suss is fine. At muddier times of year, riding a hard tail reduces maintenance costs.

Can I bring my gravel bike?

Definitely, you’ll be very welcome. We also have some dedicated gravel rides on the runs list too, mainly in spring, summer and autumn. 

Can I bring my e-mountain bike?

Definitely, you’ll be very welcome. We don’t have a dedicated e-bike rides, but it won’t be a problem if you’re riding one on our offroad rides.

What tyres?

A famous mountain bike question. In the depths of winter a mud-specific tyre makes a difference (most manufacturers produce one; well known models are Medusa, Storm and Mud-X). Otherwise an all-rounder works well. On the ride, feel free to ask about the advantages and disadvantages of tubeless tyres.

What should I bring on my first ride with you?

completed guest rider form if you’re not a Cycling UK member
spare inner tube
puncture repair kit
ride snacks/drink
money for the pub
bike lock for the pub
tools if you have them
waterproof top
lights (Wednesdays and winter Sundays)

It’s raining, will you still be riding?

Yes. The rain will probably stop too. We might get the pub a bit earlier though. Don’t forget your rear mud guard!

It’s snowing, will you still be riding?

Yes. Fresh powder is great on a bike!

Do you race?

Not usually, unless we’re late for the pub. We’ve entered Bristol Bike Fest for the last six years, but that’s the only race we participate in as a club. A few of our riders enter the local XC races.

Finally, we never leave anyone behind.

If you’ve any further questions: please contact Ian Doyle, offroad liaison: