Saddle Up and Cycle

Lycra not compulsory

Cycling is having a moment. And whether you're a lapsed Chris Hoy or it's been a gazillion years since you last hopped on a bike, we've been speaking to James Connolly at Brum's cycling (and caffeine) HQ, Gorilla Coffee Café. Perfectly pairing two of our favourite things, the former triathlete's got inspiration in the form of four routes, from ten miles to the Cotswolds and back. And good coffee. Weird, right?

"Primary school was my last ride" (Brindleyplace to Bournville; 5 miles)
This ride picks up the traffic free canal network from Brindleyplace down to Cadbury World and is ideal for learners and young families. It's a route of only five miles with a hill count of zilcho. If it goes well, you can head back the same way. If one direction is peak you right now, you can procure some baked goods from Loaf, or a pint at The British Oak and hop on to the train from Bournville station right back in to New Street. Not having a bike isn't even a barrier for this one — the Brompton bike hire scheme has docks at Brindleyplace and New Street, while Cycle Chain is located next to the Sealife centre, and the beginning of this ride. Route

"I can fix punctures" (Kings Heath — Solihull — Meriden — Claverdon — Henley-in-Arden — Ullenhall — Kings Norton — Kings Heath; 50 miles)
Again you can pick the most convenient spot to begin this circular road route, remembering, if you don't live near it, there are train stations at Solihull, Kings Norton and lovely Henley-in-Arden, which also presents beer garden potential in the form ofThe Butcher's Social. It's a 50 miler with climbs, which follows the same roads you'd drive between the key locations. If you don't have a sense of direction or GPS sort of thing, this is exactly the kind of jaunt you can expect to join if you try Gorilla Coffee Cafe's Sunday Cycle Club, where you can pick between a 35 and 50 mile ride each week at 8.30am. Route

"Pain is my pleasure" (Wythall — Chipping Camden — Wythall; 70 miles)
Starting from Wythall, south Birmingham, this ride is aimed at advanced cyclists and the 15,000 of you crazies undertaking the 100 mile Velo Birmingham this September, of which we happen to be one. For a life-affirming ride, head south from Wythall towards Stratford-upon-Avon and the beatific Cotswolds. Mile 35, just outside Chipping Camden sees a terrific 650 ft hill, with a gradient of up to 12%. Your reward for this exertion comes in the form of the village's Eight Bells pub, where the calamari is worthy of a double order and the session Hooky a pint-worthy 3.5%. We won't bring up the 35 miles you're still going go need to complete to make it home. Route

Imagery: Verity Milligan (canal, rotunda), Ross Jukes (Cannon Hill Park)