London is arguably not the best place to go for a quick training ride. For most of us, the beautiful English countryside is too far for a spin after work. But there's life out there for all those hardcore machacas that want to go ease their legs after a boring day sitting in the office or running never-ending experiements in the lab.
Over the last two years I have been frecquenting two well-known places that are never too far from central and west London-based people: Regents Park and Richmond Park.
- Regents Park's outer circle makes for a 2.8 m (~4 km) of mostly flat and well paved surface. Cycled anti-clockwise, you do not have to worry about dodgy intersections, but only a few traffic lights. Highlights of the route include the zoo in the northeastern corner, the American's ambassador house (with its heavily armed British police!), the London central mosque and the poshness of the houses along Albany street. Best time of the day are either very early in the morning, or late at night. At rush hour it can get quite busy with traffic, that's when the inner circle comes in handy! Although it's a very quick 0.6 m (1 km) loop, it's quite fun to keep 30 km/h average. Best to be ridden clockwise. Some London cycling clubs have quick runs on weekdays here, when it's very quiet with only the occasional sleepy cabbie having a rest. Starting in May, it gets a little busy with people attending the open-air theatre, so watch out for walkers!
- Richmond Park is the largest of the Royal parks within London, and relatively accesible if you are coming from West London. However, the ride from central is not the most pleasent experience on two wheels, especially at rush hour after a long day at work. Alternatives exists however, and you can reach Richmond rail via tube, overground and nationalrail. It is actually a lot of fun getting on the commuter trains wearing lycra! The ride to the park from the station is an slighly uphill via Church Rd, Friar Stile Rd and Richmond Hill which will leave you well warmed up for lapping around. The views coming up Richmond Hill into the Park, on your right overlooking the Thames, are pretty awesome. The recommended lap is about 6.7 m (11 km) and can be ridden in either direction. We mostly do anticlockwise because of less intersections, although clockwise is great fun too, if a bit more demanding. If you are able to complete one lap in less than 20 min you fall into the machacas category! Again, can get busy in the evening and mostly at weekends, but I have ridden it at dusk on weekdays and the views of London together with the deer and other fellow cyclists is just too good for an after work training ride...Sometimes I wish I lived in West London! Some serious London teams have their regular rides here, so watch out for the pros!
- Quiet loop around London (taken from the Cycling-Intelligence blog). This one I have not cycled yet, but will do in the near future. It takes in some of the North London hills, as well as some canal-paths along the way.
- North London rides are also amongst my favourites, especially for hill training. Unfortunately, they involve heavy traffic and plenty of traffic lights. Only recommended in the early morning or late at night. A few examples with good inclines (kindly updated by fellow machacas on the internet):