There are several challenging cycle rides within Tyne and Wear and also County Durham.

It is possible to link most of the destinations in a circular 77 mile (mostly off-road) ride from Sunderland, taking in South Shields, North Shields, Newcastle, Consett and Durham City.

Circular route:

Start at Sunderland City Centre and follow Two Rivers Cycleway northwards across Wearmouth Bridge. Follow the coastal route through Roker, Seaburn, Whitburn and Marsden as far as Shields Ferry. Cross the River Tyne on the half-hourly service to North Shields.

Follow Route 72 along the north bank of the Tyne and take a welcome break at Newcastle Quayside. Continue west on this route as far as Scotswood Bridge. Cross the bridge and join Route 14. A gentle incline up the Derwent Walk gives a pleasant ride through Rowlands Gill and on to Consett.

At a crossroads of cycle routes named Lydgetts Junction, take the Lanchester Valley route to Durham City. Take care when passing through the centre of Durham and follow the National Cycle Network route 20 signs to Sunderland. Don't be fooled, because the Durham to Sunderland section has some of the steepest inclines. It passes through Sherburn, Pittington, Hetton le Hole and Warden Law. One of the easier sections is towards the end from Doxford Park to Sunderland city centre.

Allow a whole day to complete this route, and make sure that your bike has been suitably maintained.

Direct routes:

Sunderland to North Tyneside: Coastal route northwards to South Shields. It is possible to continue across the River Tyne on the Shields Ferry and ride along the coast at Tynemouth towards Whitley Bay. Enjoy a well-earned break at Seaton Sluice and then ride to Blyth if you feel able.

Sunderland to Newcastle: Join the quiet Follingsby Lane near to the A19/A1290 intersection north of Nissan. Follow the lane westwards through the Follingsby Industrial Estate to the A195. Head northwards as far as the Black Bull PH at Wardley. Turn left, staying on a footpath which becomes the purpose-built East Gateshead Cycleway running parallel to the A184 Felling Bypass. Take care when crossing the road near Heworth Metro. Follow the cycleways, turning right at a suitable crossing point after Gateshead Stadium. The route takes you down to the Gateshead Quays area and the impressive Millennium Bridge. Cross the bridge into Newcastle and ride the length of the Quayside.

Sunderland to Seaham: Coastal route from southbound from Ryhope. Avoid the double bend on the road into Seaham by taking an off road route behind Seaham Hall and skirt around East Shore Village on purpose built cycleways. Enjoy the sea-front at Seaham and ride as far as Nose's Point where historic reference to the Mining Industry and the landscape can be found.

Sunderland to Durham: A local section of the Walney to Wearside (W2W) National Cycle Network route 20. The route is a tough challenge because of the number of hills. It passes through Silksworth, Doxford Park, Warden Law, Hetton-le-Hole, Pittington and Sherburn. At the Durham end of the ride, there is an interesting path alongside the winding River Wear.

Sunderland to Chester le Street: Follow the original C2C route from Sunderland University Metro Station, off-road through Millfield and Pallion. From European Way join a cycleway alongside the Metro line to South Hylton. Continue westwards enjoying views of Penshaw Monument and Washington. At Cox Green, drop down towards the River Wear, and cross it into James Steel Park. Follow the C2C route 7 which is well signposted through Washington. This route can be used to access Chester-le-Street by turning onto a purpose built cycle lane alongside the A167 at Durham Road near Birtley. The picturesque riverside can be reached easily from the town centre, and has about three miles of suitable cycleways.

Sunderland to Consett: Follow the Coast to coast cycleway (C2C or Sea to sea route) out of Sunderland on the north bank of the River Wear from Southwick. Pass through the Enterprise Park and travel westwards through Washington on a marked route. The Consett route passes through Beamish, Stanley and Annfield Plain. Explore the countryside and many interesting features. There are testing gradients and the journey home should be more enjoyable.