Riding a 40 mile canal route around Birmingham

A classic loop via Aston and Catherine de Barnes 
on the Birmingham & Worcester and Stratford Canals 

Looking for a dead flat route in the hottest days of the heatwave, Red Kite’s Nic chose a classic 40-mile canal loop around Birmingham.

Taking in the whole range of Brum locations from the industrial landscapes of the city centre to green and leafy Warwickshire, it was exactly the kind of quiet, scenic ride he wanted.  

“I started early to avoid the heat, leaving home around 6.30 am. I knew the day was going to be an absolute scorcher, so I planned to take it easy. Being beside the canal felt slightly cooler and there were good places to stop and take in the views. 

I set out from Bournville where I live and got on the canal by the station, then headed to the city centre via the University.

I then rode north towards Spaghetti Junction, turning right just before it to Aston Science Park where a mural proved a good backdrop for a shot of my Crockett gravel bike.

The terrain was mostly good, particularly close to the city centre were the tow paths have been resurfaced.

Things get a little bit rougher the further you get from the city centre and I know it gets a bit muddy in the winter. Nothing my Crockett couldn’t cope with though! 

 At one point you go through a long crescent shaped tunnel for about 2 minutes. It’s pitch black and quite entertaining, though not as extreme as the Netherton tunnel in the Black Country where you feel like you’re riding into a bottomless pit!

It’s amazing what you can see at that time in the morning. I always spot herons along the canal but the kingfishers only tend to put in an appearance when it’s raining.  

I stopped to cool down by the locks in Knowle – better going down than up!  – and enjoyed some fantastic views across the Warwickshire countryside.

There were two or three nice pubs by the tow paths  which would make for great lunch stops if you were riding with a group. 

I took some flapjack bars to keep myself fuelled and two bottles of water as it was so hot. A Hi 5 isotonic tablet in one and Torq energy in the other. 

I’d class this as Zone 2 – an easy ride. A good recovery ride. There weren’t any really challenging bits, except for the odd bridge with steps along the side. You do have to have your wits about you. You might have to get off your bike at a steep bridge like the one at Kingswood Junction.

It’s best to ride this on a hybrid, gravel or cross-country MTB. You need to have a touring style tyre with a minimum of 35 mm tread. 

You can find the route by following Nic Vipond on Strava Premium or check out the Komoot app for similar options.

If you want to increase the distance, you can add on an extra section towards Warwick from the Kingswood Junction.