Birmingham boasts an enviable network of off-road routes that are ideal for commuting or family-friendly weekend biking.
View Sandwell Valley & Birmingham Canal cycle route in a larger map
This seven-mile route follows blue signs for National Cycle Network route 5 from Sandwell Valley Country Park through quiet roads and along the Birmingham Canal to Centenary Square.
There are barriers along the towpath where you may have to lift your front wheel to snake through, making it more difficult for tandems and tagalong bikes.
Start at the cafe on the edge of Forge Mill Lake (B71 3SZ) and follow the blue signs, taking you over Park Lane and past Swan Pool onto a quiet road.
Turn right, over the M5 and into St John’s Close before turning left into Europa Avenue and following it left under the Expressway.
Signs will point you left into Beeches Road and right on to a walking and cycling shared-use path along Birmingham Road, then left onto Roebuck Lane, back under the M5 and right, down a shared use path to Roebuck Lane and down a steep ramp to the Birmingham Canal towpath.
Look backwards to see the Smethwick Galton Bridge, a beautiful Victoria cast iron structure.
Follow the towpath for about 3.5 miles, past a Victorian pumping station to the city centre.
When you get to the NIA and the canal bears left follow the path round the NIA and there’s a wheeling ramp at the side of a set of steps, bringing you up to King Edward’s Road where you can turn right along Cambridge Street.
You’ll come to a roundabout where turning right will bring you towards a barrier in front of Centenary Square and the new Birmingham Library.
View Cole Valley cycle route in a larger map
This is a new £600,000, shared-use, off-road route running through the Cole Valley and you can follow the blue signs for National Cycle Network route 53 pointing you all the way from one end to the other.
This three-mile (six-mile return) flat route runs through a wild open space with lots of ecology including some unusual species, and it’s easily accessible to more than 9,000 homes on its doorstep.
Starting from Stechford Railway Station the route along Station Road isn’t pleasant for beginner cyclists but it’s only a short distance to the entry to the cycle path on the opposite side of the road, where Station Road meets Bromford Lane, so you can easily walk your bike to the start of the route.
Alternatively, if you start at the other end of the route there is car parking at Babb’s Mill Lake, off Fordbridge Road. As soon as you leave Station Road and Stechford Lane you’ll find yourself in a green urban oasis. Follow the path and cross over Cole Hall Lane at a toucan crossing and over Packington Avenue, using the pedestrian refuge.
From here the route will take you all the way to Babb’s Mill lake where you’ll find benches and plenty of places to sit and rest by the water.
View Rea Valley cycle route in a larger map
This six-mile route follows blue signs for National Cycle Network route 5 along the River Rea and Birmingham and Worcester Canal.
Start at Cannon Hill Park, passing the mac, the boating lake and the children’s play area.
Continuing south the path takes you through trees, along a stream, through Pebble Mill Playing Fields and joins Kitchener Road.
Turn immediately left along Cecil Road, crossing Dogpool Lane at the end.
A short stretch of tree-lined path brings you to another toucan crossing over Cartland Road, before carrying on to a right turn over a bridge into Hazelwell Playing Fields.
Here you can turn left and continue to follow the Rea Valley route or follow Hazelwell Road, taking the zebra crossing over Pershore Road onto Mary Vale Road, which brings you to Bournville station. Continuing along the Rea Valley route instead you’ll pass over Fordhouse Lane to a residential estate where you’ll veer left up Beilby Road and Dacer Close to a cutting on to the canal towpath.
Turn left and follow the path to the junction with the Stratford Canal.
At this fork, bearing off right will bring you through playing fields, over Pershore Road South and through Kings Norton Park to Kings Norton local nature reserve and the Wychall reservoir.
The path brings you on to Middlemore Road, crossing West Heath Road onto Station Road, which leads to Northfield Station.
Here you can either hop on a train or turn round and head back to Cannon Hill.
View Circular Canal cycle route in a larger map
This six-mile route starts from Digbeth and follows blue signs along the Grand Union Canal through Nechells to Spaghetti Junction before looping back along the Birmingham to Fazeley Canal, through Aston and back to Digbeth.
Be advised that there are barriers along the canal where you may have to lift your front wheel to snake through, making it more difficult for tandems and tagalong bikes.
The cycle route starts in Fazeley Street, Digbeth, but if you’re making your way by train or want a local landmark, start from Moor Street Station.
When you leave the station, turn right and walk with your bike towards Hotel La Tour.
Immediately in front of the hotel veer right, towards the new Eastside Park (where you can stop for drinks and snacks on your return), and when you reach Park Street, either cross with care or carry on left along the pavement and cross Park Street at the zebra crossing to Eastside before turning right to make your way back up Park Street and taking a left onto Fazeley Street.After passing Andover Street you’ll find a slope on your left where you can cycle down to the towpath of the Digbeth Branch Canal.
You’ll come to a canal junction straight away. Go over the bridge and turn left to pass under the same bridge and onto the towpath. You’ll see the garden of Edible Eastside across the water followed soon after by Warwick Bar and The Bond.
Pass under the railway viaduct, built in 1848 ( but never finished), and at the canal junction take the downward ramp slowly, turning sharply left under the iron bridge and bringing you onto the towpath of the Grand Union Canal.
Follow the towpath down five slopes, under a series of bridges, along the Heartlands Parkway and past Star City until you find yourself at the foot of Spaghetti Junction’s maze of concrete columns.
Under the M6 there are three possible paths to take but don’t cycle over any bridges. Instead turn left (signed for Rocky Lane), taking you onto the towpath of the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal.
Follow this for almost two miles back towards the city centre. There are a series of little bridges and this journey takes you very gradually back uphill so there are several locks with small slopes to cycle up (or get off and push).
At Aston Junction there is a choice of routes. To head back to Digbeth don’t take the bridge, instead follow the path (and the canal) round to the left, bringing you back onto the Digbeth Branch Canal.
You’ll cycle under a series of bridges before passing through the long and narrow Ashtead Tunnel under Jennens Road (slow down or get off and push) and the curvy Curzon Tunnel, bringing you back to Fazeley Road.
View Newhall Valley cycle route in a larger map
This 8.5-mile round route starts at the edge of Sutton Park and follows blue signs for National Cycle Network route 534, winding through Sutton’s quieter roads to the stunning Newhall Valley, and looping around Pype Hayes Park before returning. You can park at the Wyndley Gate start point or take a train to Sutton Coldfield.
Start at Sutton Park’s Wyndley Gate entrance or car park and follow the signs for National Cycle Network route 534 in front of Wyndley Pool.
The route bears left through the grassed area between the swimming pool and the trees. At the nearby Wyndley Leisure Centre there’s a Bike North Birmingham bike hire point.
At the end of the car park turn right and the route is signed up a gradual hill to a crossing over Clifton Road (you don’t have to dismount because there’s a toucan crossing for both pedestrians and cyclists).
Turn right up Manor Road and where the road becomes one-way you turn off to the right onto a shared use path, crossing Brassington Avenue at the toucan crossing and follow the shared use path before crossing at the bottom of South Parade.
Use the zebra crossing to cross Upper Holland Road and turn left into shared-use path along Upper Holland Road taking you to a right turn around the corner of Ebrook Road onto more shared use path.
After Town Junior School follow the blue signs pointing you down an off-road route opposite, taking you from Ebrook Road into the Newhall Valley Country Park.
Part way through the country park you’ll take a toucan crossing over Wylde Green Road and find yourself in a really beautiful area.
If you haven’t been there before it’s a real surprise because it’s just like leaving the city and being out in the countryside.
You have no view of the surrounding housing so you really feel like you’re out in the sticks.
You pass the Newhall Mill (and tea room), which is open on the second Sunday of every month (tomorrow) and once you’ve crossed Wylde Green Road you follow the route through Plantsbrook to Penns Lane.
Just before you reach Penns Lane, there’s a driveway on the left taking you up to the Ramada Jarvis which is a nice place to stop for a cuppa. The hotel is bike friendly and works with Bike North Birmingham so has good cycle parking.
Cross Penns Lane at the toucan crossing and just afterwards the route forks.
If you turn right it takes you to a big new childrens play area in Pype Hayes Park. If you keep left you leave the park and turn right up a gradual hill along a shared-use pathway on Eachelhurst Road before signs bring you back into the park.
Follow the route around the park either way you choose, allowing you a play on the swings before you ride back again.