Policy seeks to support cycling as a form of sustainable and active travel, yet, cycling levels in the UK remain low and evidence about interventions mixed. Data from a qualitative sociological study is used here to explore the difference that cultural meanings make to cycling practices in four different English urban areas. Specifically, we discuss differences between places with established cycling cultures and those with newer cycling cultures. Drawing on concepts from practice theory we discuss the role that cultures of cycling play within the four places, and suggest how the meanings of cycling, including its association with other social identities, are connected to the materials and competences seen as necessary for cycling. Our research highlights the embedding of transport in local as well as national cultures, and the associated need for policy-makers to take culture seriously in considering how to shift transport practices.