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With the New Year traditionally seen as a chance for a fresh start, you may be determined to spend your free time in new and exciting ways in 2018. Maybe you want to focus on fitness or seeing more of the country. Maybe you just want to have more fun. Whatever your motivation, cycling is a pastime that achieves all of these ambitions.

Or it does if you do it right. Cycling is a hugely rewarding hobby, an unbeatable combination of exercise, sightseeing and travel. It can take you all over the UK, burning calories and building muscle as you go. But to get the most out of it you have to be prepared. Here’s what you need to know…

Getting the gear

If you’re planning to do a lot more cycling it might be worth investing in a new bike. You can get some excellent bargains online, but a cycle retailer can be a great source of advice and information. It’s important to invest in the right bike for your size. An expert can help adjust your bike (old or new) to more precisely fit your riding style.

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You’ll also need a helmet, lights, lock and cycle clothing. If you’re looking to cycle a considerable distance or take up the sport more seriously, you might consider investing in some specialist cycling clothing like a high vis vest, cycling shorts or tights and eyewear. For shorter distances, or if you’re just going for a fun day out with the family, comfortable (non-baggy) shorts or trousers that don’t chafe and closed, comfortable footwear like trainers will be just fine.

If you’re planning on cycling any distance, most experts would advise taking the essentials you’d need to change a tyre in case of a puncture. Make sure you carry a tyre lever, a multi-tool and a puncture repair kit in your saddlebag and know how to use them - this guide from Halfords should help you get to grips with the job.

Have bike, will travel

Many rides will start from your house. However, if you want to use cycling as a way of seeing the country, you need to know how to travel further afield with your bike in tow.

One way is to fit a bike carrier to your car. There are three basic kinds to choose from: roof, rear and tow bar-mounted. The most suitable might depend on your car and the number of bikes to be carried, but a good auto accessory store will be able to advise on the best one for you.

Alternatively, many train companies now encourage cyclists to bring bikes on board, though there may be restrictions at busy times. PlusBike from National Rail gives cyclists all the information they need, including information on parking bikes at stations and taking them onto trains.

In addition, you can use this page to find out about the bicycle policies of every train company. Many ask that you reserve a space for your bike at least 24 hours in advance.

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The open road

Once you’re kitted out, the only remaining question is where to go. That’s entirely up to you - bicycles can go almost anywhere - but if you give yourself a weekend there are plenty of routes that combine the exhilaration of the open road with some more leisurely sightseeing.

The UK boasts a wealth of good cycling routes for all levels of experience and proficiency. When looking for accommodation for your getaway, it’s worth considering Premier Inn. All hotels are bike friendly, and with over 750 locations, you’re never too far away from some great cycle routes. For example, why not try one of the following scenic trails?

  • The Monsal Trail, Derbyshire - Taking in some of the Peak District’s most spectacular scenery and a few converted railway tunnels for added excitement, this 8.5-mile traffic-free trail is a glorious cycle. Stay at Premier Inn in either Buxton or Matlock.
  • Trough of Bowland, Lancashire - With quiet roads and some tough hills to climb, this scenic spot boasts plenty of cycling trails to choose from depending on how much of a challenge you’re after. Stay at Premier Inn Lancaster or Preston North.
  • The New Forest, Hampshire - With plenty of flat, off-road tracks and ancient woodland and villages to explore, the New Forest is a wonderful cycling destination for families. Stay at Premier Inn Lymington.
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At Premier Inn, clean bikes are allowed in rooms and team members are well-prepped for guests with bikes. Start your day with one of Premier Inn’s big and tasty breakfasts - whether you opt for the Full Premier Inn Breakfast from £8.99 or the Continental Breakfast from £6.99 - and the kids can eat for free. And after a hard day’s cycling, you can enjoy a hot power shower and a great night’s sleep in one of Premier Inn’s super-comfy king size Hypnos beds.

So what are you waiting for? Make 2018 the year that pedal power takes you to places you’ve never been before.

For more cycling tips, route ideas and a chance to win a Halfords cycling bundle worth over £1,500, visit Premier Inn’s cycle hub.