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Isis Cyclists and coronavirus

On 23rd March, as an informal sub-group of Oxford Cycling UK, Isis Cyclists cancelled all rides until further notice, following advice from Cycling UK’s headquarters. Instead, we have published a selection of routes on this website, so that people can continue to go for rides independently. Subsequent changes to Governmnent guidance have made it possible to cycle informally in small groups; for details, please refer to Cycling UK’s Coronavirus Q&A page.


In normal times, we say:

Welcome to Isis Cyclists, an informal member group of Oxford Cycling UK. We publish details of our rides month by month, and you’ll find the current month’s rides below this introduction. The rides are posted here shortly after the publication of our email newsletter, which is normally published on the last Tuesday of the previous month. If you’d like to receive the email version of the newsletter as well, please write to the editor through the Contact Us page.

We aim to start each ride promptly, and so we encourage people to meet 15 minutes before the advertised start time in order to welcome new riders, catch up with familiar faces and sign the riders’ list. We don’t publish the ride leaders’ contact details on this site, but if you have any queries about a particular ride, please get in touch through the Contact Us page at least a couple of days beforehand.

If you’re new to cycling with a large number of other people, you may find our Tips for Cycling in a Group and Meet the Ride Leaders pages helpful.

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Isis Cyclists and Oxford Cycling UK are part of Cycling UK.

I want to be motivational and inspirational for everybody: my big aim is more women on bicycles.” – Marianne Vos

September 2020

Ellen writes…

Welcome to the Isis Cyclists September 2020 newsletter! I hope that you are all well and have been able to get out and about this past month, despite the weather. It seems to me that it’s either been ridiculously hot or cold, wet, and windy! 

Restarting group rides: not for the foreseeable future

Hopes that we would soon be able to restart our programme of group rides received a setback with the re-imposition of strict restrictions on gatherings, announced on 9th September. This is a big disappointment, particularly as we planned to focus initially on short and steady rides, which many of you have missed during the lockdown.

We are keeping the Bike Buddies group going for people to get together informally in groups of six or fewer, and various buddies enjoyed a great selection of medium and long rides during August. The routes on our website have been a great success and we are hoping to add some more soon, particularly for shorter distances. They have proved a fantastic springboard to adventure! You can see what the Bike Buddies have been up to in August in our latest Isis in Isolation album. You may notice that a few have ventured well beyond Oxfordshire!

Resurfacing work on part of the Sustrans route in Abingdon

Some welcome resurfacing work will start soon on the Sustrans route between Abingdon and Oxford, from Abbey Meadows, Abingdon through Barton Fields towards Radley Lakes. For several years this section has been a rough ride, so improvements can’t come soon enough. I understand that the track will be both widened and resurfaced. Apparently they will be using “flexipave”, the same surface that was used recently to upgrade the Peep-O-Day lane section (south of Abingdon). Here, there were issues with pedestrians and cyclists breaking through the barriers to use the track before the surface had settled properly. This meant that repairs had to be made that shouldn’t have been necessary, and which sucked in resources that could have been used for other cycling projects. So we have been asked to obey closures as they are for our own benefit. The best current estimate is that Abbey Meadows/Barton Fields section of track will be shut from September 7th to November 18th. There will be a diversion signed via Audlett Drive.

I’ve heard rumours that the Canal and River Trust has applied for money to continue its resurfacing work on the Oxford Canal northwards from Wolvercote. It would be wonderful if this comes to fruition. The section completed this spring is wonderful and has really enhanced the canal towpath cycling experience.

Happy cycling!

August 2020

Ellen writes…

Hello Everybody,

Well, here we are, (nearly) in August, and I’m afraid that I still can’t give you any news about when we are likely to be able to start organised group rides again. Just to reiterate; we are an informal members’ group of the national cycling organisation, Cycling UK. We can’t restart our rides programme until told by Cycling UK that we can do so. I know this will be particularly frustrating to those of you who enjoy our shorter rides.

Informal rides through the BikeBuddies WhatsApp group

Those of us who have been riding throughout lockdown have been busy organising ourselves into groups of six maximum and riding together, often several times in a week, which has been wonderful: see our Isis in Isolation photo album for July 2020.

These rides are generally a minimum of 15 miles in length and have no leader or sweeper as official Isis Cyclists rides do. Obviously, there is a plan and somebody knows where the ride is going, but ultimately everyone is responsible for themselves.

If you would like to join a ride on this basis, then email info@isiscyclists.org.uk with your name and phone number so that you can be signed up to the Bike Buddies WhatsApp group. If you would like to ride but worry that these rides will be too fast, etc. please still sign up.

There are plenty of shorter routes on our website and if you put out a plea for a bike buddy on the group then you will probably still find some. If the route is short, then nobody will expect to ride fast. I normally go on a town-based 10-mile ride on my Brompton on days when I work, so you may find I respond!

Cafés and tea rooms that have reopened

Many cafes are now open, and you can usually get a takeout if you don’t want to sit inside. Here is a list of venues and their opening hours, compiled by Oxfordshire Cycling UK’s midweek group.

County Council bid for funding for active travelling schemes

Finally, I’m sure that, whether you have been on two feet or two wheels, you will have enjoyed the better air quality and quieter roads that lockdown has brought. The County Council is currently preparing a funding bid for 2.4 million pounds from central government for tranche 2 of funding for active travel schemes. They received only half of what they bid for in the first tranche because they were not sufficiently ambitious, and we and other cycling/walking/environmental organisations in the county don’t want this to happen again. So we are asking for people to write to their County Councillor. The more emails they receive the better, and the more you can personalise your letter the better too.

Those of you living in E. Oxford may also like to politely enquire if/when the low-traffic neighbourhoods in Cowley will be implemented (which was part of tranche 1). Cyclox have helpfully produced a template email: for this, and more information please send an email to info@isiscyclists.org.uk.

I think that we’ve all seen an increase in motorised traffic in and around town lately and the worry is that this will only increase as people return to work and don’t want to take public transport. Thanks to all those of you who have responded to this plea via Cyclox or other cycling/walking organisations that you belong to. Together we can (and hopefully will) make a difference.

Happy Cycling!

July 2020

Ellen writes…

Welcome to this edition of the Isis Cyclists Newsletter. Things have eased somewhat during June, and small groups of riders have been organising themselves to ride together via the Bike Buddies WhatsApp group. A maximum of six riders can now ride together as long as social distancing is followed. The much anticipated changes to social distancing are unlikely to greatly affect our group riding because it seems that 2m will still be the advised “inter-personal separation” in most circumstances that we encounter whilst riding. What we expect to change is the opening of pubs, restaurants and cafes. Food will be served on the premises. However, we don’t really know how this will work yet, how much pre-booking will be required and to what extent things will vary from one establishment to the next.

There’s no sign yet that we can start organising formal rides again. It will be good to see how catering works out by trying it individually and in small groups over the next few weeks. My feeling is that whenever we start up again, things will not be the same as they were in the “old days.” We have always worked hard to keep Isis rides as informal as possible to allow last-minute decisions to join and to avoid booking. However, the new world we will be emerging into will probably require more prior commitment. Anyway, we will see how things unfold.

I have been riding throughout lockdown and one thing I’ve noticed is that having a proper sit-down café break makes a ride much less tiring. It allows your body to refuel and to recuperate. So I think that, if we have to have more “do it yourself” refreshment breaks when we restart formal rides, we will need to moderate distances slightly to compensate. Hopefully we will have fully worked out new ways of doing things before the weather deteriorates. However, I have been trying to think of places where we could plan al fresco refreshment stops undercover. If you know of any public areas that are covered, perhaps in your local park,  please let us know. As we start up and head into autumn this knowledge will be very useful.

Here is a link to Isis in semi-isolation June 2020 where you can see what some of us have been up to this month.

Enjoy your riding and stay healthy in July!

June 2020

The reality might be a bit more complex, but there’s no doubt about it – getting out and about on your bike is good for your health, pandemic or no pandemic!

Ellen writes…

Welcome to another “compact” lockdown version of the Isis Cyclists Newsletter for June 2020. First and foremost, I hope that you, your family and friends are all well and that you are starting to be able to get a little bit of normality back in your life. As you will have seen, the rules on exercise have loosened quite a bit recently with groups of up to six people from different households being able to exercise, together providing the usual 2m social distancing guidance is followed. For more complete details, see the links at the top of this page. So, although this still means that Isis Cyclists can’t organise group rides, small groups are allowed to ride informally together. The Bike Buddies WhatsApp group is and has been used to organise such rides, so if you want to sign up for it, then let me know via the contact us page on the website, giving your name and mobile phone number. I should stress that these are private rides agreed between participating riders and are not organised by Isis Cyclists.

Sarah with one of her doors of the day

Talking of Bike Buddies, May has seen us enjoying a “door of the day” competition/quiz. Sarah Twine spent the month photographing college doors and each day we had to guess which college had the “door of the day”. It was surprising and illuminating in equal measure. It was surprising how hard some were to guess! Most doors were fairly pompous, as might be expected, and a few involved a lot of bling. We decided that the prettiest door belongs to Hertford College. Why not check it out when you’re passing and see if you agree? Huge thanks to Sarah for doing this. It might seem a small thing, but actually all these things add up to help us keep sane while our lives are on hold and we are very grateful. We’ve also been sharing photos of the rides we’ve been on and you can see what your fellow Isis Cyclists have been doing in the Isis in Isolation – May 2020 photo album.

I realise, with a bit of a shock, that this is the 95th edition of the Isis Cyclists Newsletter that I’ve written since 2012! My 100th edition is not that far off, and I am keeping my fingers (and everything else) crossed that it will be an ordinary run of the mill edition, one with a ride programme (remember them?). At the moment, it’s very hard to predict what will happen. Will we have a steady relaxation of restriction until we can get going again or will it be in fits and starts? Whatever happens, Isis rides may well be able to start up before cafés etc. return to normal, so we may need to go through a phase of carrying our own refreshments or getting take-aways and stopping somewhere with plenty of space outside. Inclement weather will be a challenge! One thing that we do want to do when we start up again is to have a big celebration picnic!

All the best for a fabulous and healthy June!

The tranquil Thames near Culham