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Chalk cliffs, leafy hollows and garlic — bikepacking the Isle of Wight

Katherine Moore

Chalk cliffs, leafy hollows and garlic — bikepacking the Isle of Wight

Mountain Biking Collection by Katherine Moore



5-5 h

/ day

77.6 mi

5,450 ft

5,475 ft

Taking a boat anywhere instantly feels like a holiday, especially if you're on a bike. A 20 minute FastCat ride from Portsmouth transports you to the glorious Isle of Wight in the English Channel, an island spanning 23 miles (37 km) at its widest point.

In October, I was invited to spend a couple of days bikepacking by Visit Isle of Wight, led by local guide Tim Wiggins. The circular road route around the island is popular with cyclists, and having ridden it myself a few years ago I can confirm that the 68 mile (109 km) route is gorgeous, but this time I was very intrigued to find out what lay in store when we ventured off the tarmac.

Tim had planned two days of riding for us, with a luxury overnight stay at Tapnell Farm in one of their amazing Safari Tents, as camping at this time of year could be a bit risky! From the pier at Ryde, we crossed the island to the Needles on the first day, taking in farmland and wooded tracks across the island's interior, before returning to the ferry port the next day via a different route further south, which included some delightful cycle trails.

Take on this scenic route if you enjoy really varied landscapes and terrain, from tackling steep, leafy hollows to wide open chalk bridleways with views of the cliffs and English Channel, quiet cycleways through nature reserves and gorgeous villages. One of the other things that really struck me about the island is their appreciation for local produce, so there's plenty of delicious, island-farmed food on offer if you know where to look!

As there are some pretty chunky gravel trails along this route, I’d recommend either a gravel bike with tyres wider than 40mm, or a lightweight mountain bike.

Travel to the island is easier than you might think: I took a train to Portsmouth Harbour, from which it's only a few steps down the platform onto the FastCat passenger ferry which takes you to Ryde in just 20 minutes. There's great bike storage facilities on this ferry too and you can even sit on the top deck in good weather to enjoy views of the approaching island, passing seabirds and mighty tankers on your short journey.

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Bikepacking the Isle of Wight

77.6 mi

5,475 ft

5,475 ft

Last updated: May 5, 2023

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Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

    Stage 1: Ryde to The Needles — Bikepacking the Isle of Wight

    38.9 mi
    7.1 mph
    2,925 ft
    2,725 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    Sitting on the top deck of the FastCat, you can see the looming shore of the Isle of Wight as you cross the channel, heading for the appropriately named town of Ryde. It’s a wonderful way to start any ride, especially with the long wooden pier ride ahead of you to properly reach dry land.


    Take a little

    by Katherine Moore

  • 05:12
    38.7 mi
    7.4 mph
    2,550 ft
    2,750 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    Heading back across the interior of the island from west to east, the second day of this bikepacking tour is a little easier, allowing plenty of time to get the ferry home and sample several of the island’s culinary delights along the way too.


    Start with some fabulous gravel and grass tracks, which start

    by Katherine Moore

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
  • Distance
    77.6 mi
  • Duration
    10:40 h
  • Elevation
    5,450 ft5,475 ft

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