Leader: James Brander
Distance: 26 miles 41.8km
The first cyclist, Esther, met me at my front door as I was getting my bike out. We rode the short distance to Sidings Community Centre where we arranged to meet riders. Just as we were about to leave I checked my phone and saw a text from one of my work colleagues who said she was on her way. Just as well as Gio and Paul came at about 10:40am. We also had to pump up tyres before we could set off.
Gio had borrowed her younger brother’s bike but the bike was too tall. It was fine while moving but stopping was a problem. She managed to struggle down to Regents Park to meet the main ride group. All the way I was thinking we would miss them but fortunately we ran into them at the top of Regents Park Broadwalk.
The leader, James, realised the seriousness of Gio’s problem and offered to swap bikes. James was riding a neat little folding bike where everything was adjustable so the saddle was lowered and the handlebars raised to suit Gio’s height and James was happy with Gio’s brother’s bike.
So fourteen of us: James, John, Ellen, Steven, Sean, Anne-Frederique, Essenine, Chau, Jill, Esther, Clare, Gio, Paul and myself, Geoff; set off around the outer circle and down onto the towpath of the Regents Canal. This could only be a short distance as the canal goes through a tunnel under Maida Vale so we had to come off the canal at Lisson Grove, cross Edgware Road, through St Mary’s Churchyard and through the Porteus Underpass to Paddington Basin, walking our bikes over the canal footbridge we came out in the middle of St Mary’s Hospital.
After crossing busy Praed Street James found a quiet route down to Hyde Park. Unfortunately there is a lot of work going on in Hyde Park for the British Summer Time Festival events so some of the roads and paths have been restricted. We cycled east first to Speakers Corner then south down the cycleway parallel to Park Lane to Hyde Park Corner, then turned west along the south side of the park. When we reached the main north-south road through the park, it was unrecognisable because there was no motor traffic. We continued along the path leading into Kensington Gardens. At the Broadwalk we turned north and came out again on Bayswater Road.
James loves cycling in London. He took us on a little nostalgic tour around the backstreets where he used to live and work north of the Bayswater Road easing us westward around Notting Hill Gate, back across Holland Park Avenue, up the steepest (and fortunately short) hill on the ride to Holland Park where we stopped for lunch.
Holland Park has a cafe which did good business with meals, drinks and ice creams and some of us had brought our own lunches. It was good just to sit or stand still and chat to fellow cyclists, looking after each other’s bikes. James and John, as always, did a bit of maintenance on the bikes.
After a leisurely lunch we set off again southward out of the park and down to Kensington High Street. The quiet backstreet were interrupted by some seriously busy roads such as the A4, known here as the Cromwell Road, where fortunately there are toucan crossings. The next busy one was Warwich Road which we all walked along until we could cross and take a side road down to Brompton Cemetery which was a quiet oasis compared to the busy roads around it.
After crossing the Fulham Road and The Kings Road we soon came out on the riverside. Cyclist can use the pavement here.
We crossed the river at Albert Bridge and took the entrance into Battersea Park. It’s great cycling in this park because they hire bicycles of all descriptions here. There are lots of Santander bikes plus other normal bikes, tandems and small recumbant bikes which some small children were using as dodgems. We almost circumnavigated the park and stopped at a kiosk for refreshment. It was a very welcome cup of tea.
We came out of Battersea Park at the north-west corner and straight onto Chelsea Bridge. We needed to take a right turn at the northern end of the bridge but the signals and road markings there were very confusing. It was a two-stage right turn which we were able to negotiate safely.
Turning off the embankment soon after we cycled through a Peabody Estate into Pimlico and taking a zig zag route past large squares in Pimlico and Victoria we came out on Birdcage Walk at the southern side of St James’ Park. From there we headed towards and through Parliament Square and a two-stage left turn onto the Cycle Super Highway (CS3) along the Embankment.
Our progress here was much faster, having our own cycle lane, protected from the motor traffic on the Embankment. We went under Charing Cross Railway Bridge and Waterloo Bridge and just before turning left before the Temple we said goodbye to Chau and Jill who were going further east. We crossed The Strand around St Clement Danes Church and then up to Lincolns Inn Fields. Around here we said farewell to Steven and family.
It was an almost a straight northerly path from here across High Holborn and Theobalds Road until we had to skirt around Coram Fields. Here we were able to use the protected cycleways in Tavistock Place. John and Ellen left us here and shortly after we turned north to cross the Euston Road at Gordon Street and used the side roads going west and back to Regents Park through Chester Gate.
Here we coincidentally met up with fellow Camden Cyclist, George, who was exercising by cycling around the Outer Circle. James and Clare and Esther were keen to get home but those remaining and George agreed to go for a cooling pint at the Princess Pub in Primrose Hill. (It’s becoming a habit!)
Of course, before James left, Gio and he had to swap bikes back. After the drink Gio, Paul and myself took the safe route back to Sidings avoiding Swiss Cottage. My GPS said that we had done 25 miles in all. Paul & Gio still had to get back to Neasden, including a steep hill and she was already tired. It was a valiant effort for someone who had only ridden on the roads once before with me. It was a great ride for all who took part.
View the route on Google Maps.
More photos on Flickr.