A Guide to Cycling in Oxford: Bike Hire, Cycling Routes + Where to Lock Your Bike

One of the most popular cities for cycling in the UK, there are few, if any, places better in the country than Oxford to take the bike out for a spin.

But what is it about Oxford that makes it such a great city to cycle? Let’s find out:

Oxford Cycling Statistics

Well, firstly, for a UK city, it has a fairly modest population of just 155,000, so is not subject to the same pitfalls from a cycling perspective as places like London, Manchester or Liverpool in terms of cycling infrastructure, inadequate pedestrianisation or simply levels of traffic.

For example, look at a study published by Toothpick showing the percentage of people in each UK city who cycle at least once a week, for any amount of time. Oxford scored a perfect 10/10, based on annual survey data from the Department for Transport.

This was not solely based on how healthy people are in Oxford, but also how easy it is to cycle – whether there are enough safe cycle paths, how much traffic there is, and so on.

And when you look at more figures, it’s not hard to see why. In August 2018, statistics revealed by the Department for Transport found that the proportion of Oxford residents who regularly was found to be 36.6 per cent – roughly three times the national average of 12.

This is partly due to the efforts of Oxford Cycle City, an initiative set up in 2012 to enhance the cycling experience in the area, which has resulted in breakthroughs like adding signs in Headington directing cyclists towards cycle-friendly routes, cycle training for inexperienced cyclists; and the removal of barriers on the cycling network.

There are still improvements to be made, too, with Oxford City Council planning to spend £200,000 on improving the city’s cycling infrastructure, while more than £8,000 has been pledged to convert parts of Oxford into a ‘mini-Holland’ – a country where there are more bikes than people.

Cycle Paths in Oxford

This Ordnance Survey map shows you the best cycling routes in Oxford lasting no more than two hours or extending longer than 40 kilometres:

Unsurprisingly, Oxford has plenty of great cycle routes far and wide. First off, you have the picturesque Cherwell Valley cycle path, clocking in at about 28 km, which takes in railways, rivers and canals before circling the valley itself, as well as nearby towns like Kidlington, Woodstock and Kirtlington among others.

Not from there, either, you have the route that takes in Boars Hill which should take you about 90 minutes and allows you to see Oxford from the finest vantage points.

Or why not join National Cycle Route 51 in Oxford and embark on the 25 km route to Bicester? The ride takes in the village of Kidlington, before continuing on quiet, traffic-free roads as well as lovely views of the River Cherwell and the countryside.

Oxford Bike Hire

A number of business have signed up to the Oxford Dockless Hire Bikes scheme, so if you arrive in the city without your own pair of wheels, then fear not.

Donkey Republic offer black Dutch Gazelle bikes with seven speed hub gears, which make it easy to navigate the whole city – even the canal tow-path. They are the only hire bikes allowed to use the railway station bike racks, and are also available from local hotels. They cost no more than £6 for up to 2 hours, or £12 to hire for a day. You can rent them on your phone, too; just find it at the pick-up location, unlock with the app, and you’ll be on your way.

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Also available are Mobike hire bikes; bright silver models with orange wheels. They boast ‘puncture-proof’ tyres and a single-speed shaft-drive, rather than a traditional chain. They too are simple to use, even if the riding position with straight handlebars may be a little unusual at first. They cost a £1 returnable deposit fee, plus 50p for every half-hour of riding. Again, they can also be hired straight from their app on your mobile phone.

Oxford also offers Pony Bikes, a scheme which originated in the city, too. These models Their bikes are bright turquoise, with single-speed gears, puncture-proof tyres and a mobile phone holder. Most of them also come with LED lights. They are lightweight and offer a comfortable riding position, though the lack of front LED lights on half of them means some may not be much use after dark. Also available to rent through their app, they cost 50p for each half-hour of cycling.

And finally, Brompton Bike Hire also has its own base in Oxford, with its own bike dock located near the city’s railway station.

Bike Shops in Oxford

If you’re looking for a great independent bike shop in Oxford, be sure to visit Bike Zone, right in the heart of the city just off Cornmarket, the main shopping street. They offer a great range of electric bikes, but also hybrid, mountain, road and children’s bikes and more, and also provide a ‘click and collect’ service, so you can order online and pick up at the shop later.

But suppose your budget can’t really stretch to a new model, and if you’re more in the market for a second hand bike in Oxford, then head to Stuart’s Bikes, based just outside Witney which take in all sorts of used bikes, give them a full service, and then supply them all over the city (head over to Bikesoup.com too, a great used bike website with about 2,500 on their market).

Or if it’s a bike service in Oxford you’re after, your best bet is Beeline Bicycles, not too far from the Oxford Botanic Garden. As well as selling a variety of bicycles, accessories and clothing themselves, their Cytech-qualified mechanics offer almost any service, from a simple repair to a full build. You can book in advance or just head straight in, with bike issues usually resolved within 24 hours.

Where To Lock Your Bike in Oxford

As superb a city as Oxford is in which to cycle, it also has an issue with bike theft; the third-highest rate per head in the UK, in fact, after Cambridge and London. So, if you’re cycling through the city and need to stop for a while, be particularly vigilant.

Westgate Cycle Hub offers a members-only parking facility with extra security and access control, while Oxford Backpackers Hostel, a two-minute walk from the railway station, has a bike shed on site for its residents, located at the front of the building on the ground floor.

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In addition, there is a large bike stand by the train station where bikes can be locked and kept safe overnight.

As long as you make sure your bike is safe, you’ll surely find there aren’t many places better in Britain to go cycling than Oxford.

More Discerning Cyclist City Guides

Matthew Chandler

Matthew Chandler

Matthew is a freelance sports journalist from Warrington, England. A keen cyclist, he is a regular contributor to Discerning Cyclist, as well as FourFourTwo, Click Liverpool and Royal Blue Mersey. See Matthew's Muck Rack profile

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