Bike ride: York to Selby, Yorkshire

From the southern boundaries of York and a huge sculpture of the Sun, this cycleway takes you on a journey across the solar system at 10 times the speed of light

Sports, cyclists on cycle path York, England

The Cycle the Solar System trail from York to Selby takes you through a scale model of the solar system, at a ratio of 575,872,239 to one. Taking this unimaginable scale into account, it means cyclists typically move along the trail at 10 times the speed of light. 

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“Every time you travel on the track you will become a little younger!” say optimists at LetsRide.co.uk. Journey “faster than the speed of light” as you pedal between planets, doing as much or as little as the youngest legs on your team can muster.

Cyclists pass a model of the planet Saturn
Pedal at 1.16mph along the trail to reach the “speed of light”/Credit: Alamy

What is the Cycle the Solar System trail?

Construction on the cycle route began in 1985, two years after the old East Coast Main Line railway was diverted to accommodate the creation of Selby Coalfield. The National Cycle Network charity Sustrans paid £1 for the unused trackbed, and the resulting path became one of its first traffic-free routes. 

In 1998, National Cycle Route 65 was created and the 6.4-mile York to Selby cycle track was integrated into this challenging 133-mile trail. The solar system model was added in 1999, transforming the York to Selby section into a fun, educational experience.

How to Cycle the Solar System

Cycle the Solar System begins in York, where you’ll find a scale model of the Sun, soon followed by Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. See York Minster and the Millennium Bridge in the city. Head south, through the racecourse at Knavesmire to see a model of Jupiter at Bishopthorpe; here you can grab refreshments at Brunswick Organic Nursery, a good place to stop for younger families. 

Those with plenty of energy can continue south to see Saturn near Naburn Station café and the Fisher of Dreams sculpture on Naburn bridge, then Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto at Escrick. Stop at a pub in Riccall for refreshments.

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“Every 100 metres along the track corresponds to more than 57 million kilometres in space,” say experts at the University of York who created the solar system trail. “A single stride will take you about 500,000 kilometres!” This is a great ride for families because it’s flat, traffic-free, and you can hire a bicycle in York.