Where to Ride London

NICK WOODFORD, has just written a new cycling guide to the capital and we asked him to tell us about his favourite rides.

Prepare to fall in love with London in a whole new way — from the seat of your bike.

Geographically, London is like a colourful urban patchwork quilt. There is no true centre - instead it is an amalgamation of towns and neighbourhoods each with their own distinct characteristics. For this reason, many Londoners struggle to leave their borough or neighbourhood, save going to work or an event. However, London is everywhere and there is no better way to explore it than by bike. Bicycles allow you to access more places in less time. No longer stuck in traffic or fighting against elbows and armpits on a crowded train but able to whiz along as free as the breeze - and with the Mayor’s new Cycle hire scheme and superhighways it is even easier.

Below I have listed five of my favourite routes that, as a Londoner, will help piece together the islands of geography centred around tube stations while for those visiting the city these rides will allow you to do so much more than scratch the surface. Where to Ride London will take you out to the lesser known, but just as worthwhile outer communities that make the city so unique. London is so complex and spread out that conventional sightseeing can never do it justice.

Ride 1 - Sunday in the city

At the weekend the financial district becomes an eerie ghost town. By contrast, colourful markets spring to life on the city’s fringes. Pedal through Columbia Road flower market and down Brick Lane to pass murals of stencil graffiti and tasty food stalls. Once through the madding crowds, swing back into the city weaving along deserted medieval streets in the shadow of mighty glass skyscrapers.

Ride 2 – The Three London Parks

Pedal through the lungs of the capital and appreciate the changing seasons from the blankets of yellow and white daffodils that line The Mall in spring to the large amber horse chestnut leaves that cover wide avenues in autumn. Take in the greenery of Hyde Park, Regents Park and St James Park as well as Buckingham Palace and London Zoo before looping back through the streets of Mayfair.

Ride 3 - Regents Canal East

Starting at the wacky Wapping Project, this route meanders along the banks of the Thames, sucking in river views before joining the Regents Canal at Limehouse. The towpath leads northwards passing anglers, walkers and houseboats through Victoria Park. Sample the food stalls at Broadway market before continuing to Wenlock Basin; from here Islington’s famous Georgian terraces lead you back to Angel.

Ride 4 - Richmond Park

Richmond Park is almost three times as large as New York City's Central Park. This ride follows the Tamsin Cycle Trail around the edge of the urban wilderness dropping southwards along the western perimeter before returning up along the eastern edge. The 11.8km loop weaves through the grassland, ferns and mighty oaks that are home to the Royal hunting park’s roaming deer.

Ride 5 - Parkland Walk

Parkland Walk is a 7.2km, linear, greenway stretching along the track bed of the disused 'Northern Heights' railway. This great family ride runs gently downhill from Alexandra Park to Highgate Wood in the north and from Highgate Station to Finsbury Park in the south passing through Crouch End and Highgate along the way. It is a traffic free oasis of trees and wildlife, a world away from the surrounding hubbub of North London.

Where to Ride London

Nick’s guide has 50 routes around the capital. Each ride is graded from one to five stars in difficulty. One star rides are flat, short, and easily achievable by a beginner on the most basic of bicycles. The rides range in length from around 5km to 35kms and kids' rides range from 800m to 3.2kms. Every ride features a detailed full colour map and a profile showing hills. The ride difficulty rating is based on distance, climbing and riding surface. A ride log provides directions and the 'about' section has interesting facts on the area and tips about where to eat and drink, as well as side trips and how to get there. Where to Ride London also includes information on public transport including cycle specific Underground and rail maps and accompanying regulations, as well as the positions of the docking stations of the new Barclays Cycle Hire scheme.

Where to Ride London is out in September through Cordee books (price £14.95)

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