Variations on a Theme: Mix up your rides

Variations on a Theme: Mix up your rides

Another Sunday, another ride. Off goes your alarm and you rise, Bill Murray-esque from your bed, to hit the same old roads. Here we go again: the same scenery, the same potholes, even the same brownie in the same café. How did it come to this?

The good news is it doesn’t have to be this way. Yes, breaking the relentless cycle of monotony requires effort. But with a bit of thought you can escape your recurrent Groundhog Sundays and create something a bit different.

How? Just like every good student bar crawl, a bike ride needs one thing: a theme. Fear not, this doesn’t mean turning up for your weekly brownie dressed like a reject from Moulin Rouge. Instead, get creative with your route planning. Find a reason for your ride using your chosen theme as a basis and there you have it – a sense of adventure, the one thing that’s been missing from your Sunday.

Having a theme means you’ll approach your riding with renewed vigour. And maybe even try something new in the café.
Here at Restrap we bring you some juicy ideas to inspire your creative route plans, and include some of our favourite themed rides to try out:

River Riding

Check out any map and you’ll notice sinewy blue lines crisscrossing the way. We rarely give a thought to rivers when out riding, unless it’s finding a way to cross them, but how about using the route of a river as your own, tracing its course from source to sea?

If the mileage is too great, cut it short. Find the river’s source and follow it to a given point. This has the advantage of being a ready-made route where the decisions are made for you. Many rivers start life in remote areas, giving you an excuse to pack your bags and head out to the wilderness. As if you needed an excuse, all rivers run down hill, so the elevation tends to be quite gentle.

Other routes:
Following the River Esk from Great Ayton station to the sea
Ettrick Water – from Selkirk to Pawhope Bothy

Be a Historian

So you failed GCSE History. You can’t remember who was who in the First World War and think the War of the Roses was some kind of long-running gardeners’ feud.

Now’s the time to change. Look around your local area – it will be full of Old Things like castles, abbeys and ruins.  Why not link them up into one great big history-based adventure trail? Using historical artefacts as way markers has an element of the scavenger hunt about it, taking you along new routes and letting you tick them off as you can go. You might even learn something!

Other routes:
Castles of the Cairngorms – Corgarff Castle to Kingussie via Castle Roy & Ruthven Barracks
Stone circles of Pembrokeshire (St David’s Head, Carreg Samson, Carreg Coetan, Pentre Ifan, Gros Fawr)

Funny Names

The UK is peppered with quite frankly ridiculous place names and instantly Instagrammable street signs: from the somewhat blunt “Twatt” in Orkney, the rather uninviting “Dull” in Highland Scotland, to Yorkshire’s own “Shitlingthorpe” and the famously absurd “Wetwang”. 

We’ve put together an epic tour of the more puerile places of Cornwall to please your inner child, taking in Shag Rock, Greensplat, Brown Willy, Booby Bay, Lusty Glaze Beach, Cocks, Jolly’s Bottom, Water Ma Trout, Devil’s Frying Pan:

If you’ve less time on your hands, why not use something closer to home as a theme? You could choose to link together places with animals, plants, or colours in their name, such as this route local to us at Restrap that starts in Harehills and ends in Beeston, passing through Hawksworth, Cowling, Oxenhope, Hartshead and Batley:


Secondary to a theme, a good ride needs to be firmly centered around food. And what better way to do so than to visit the home of your area’s most esteemed dishes?

Whether you’re into Cheddar cheese, Bakewell pudding, or Melton Mowbray pork pies, chances are there is somewhere within your reach you can target to sample the real deal.  You could factor your lunch stop around the town in question, or head out on the train to start somewhere new and delicious. 

Or for something short and sweet (or savoury?) why not try the Tour de Greggs:


It’s not all mud and lycra, you know. The more discerning cyclist may like to include a bit of culture in their rides. You don’t need to go clopping around the Tate in your cleats; there are plenty of outdoor art installations you can head to on your bike. Many of these are hidden within woods, moorland and beaches, giving you the chance to create little loops of discovery to get there.

Other routes:
Outdoor Art of Lancashire (the Ringing Singing Tree, Burnley – the Atom, Wycolloer – Pendle Sculpture Trail)
Liverpool to Crosby Beach (for Antony Gormley’s Another Place)


We’ve had a history lesson, but how about chasing down some geographical features? Each area will be packed with its own unique topography – whether it’s hills to climb, lakes to swim, or even named rocks for a bit of a scramble.

Link these together and you have one glorious Sunday of discovery, with perhaps some extra activity thrown in for good measure.

Komoot is great for finding the gravel roads and bridleways that go deep into the countryside, so you can explore these features even more readily than ever.

Other routes:
Rocks of the Peak District (Madwoman’s Stones, Druid’s Stone, Ringing Roger, Nether Tor, Upper Tor, Pym Chair, Noe Stool)
The Lake District Swim Tour (Windermere, Esthwaite, Coniston, River Brathay, Elterwater, Grasmere, Rydal Water):

So there you have it - six succulent ideas to reanimate your riding. Go forth and create!

Next time your Sunday alarm sounds it could be to a different tune, enticing you out for a themed ride that will get your creativity going. Let us know what you’ve looped together in your area to inspire you.


Photo credit:

Rupert Hartley (@ruperthartleyphoto), Gary Eisenhower, Szymon Nieborak (@delayedpleasure), Toby Willis (@tobychillis)