Long Road to London

Yesterday I thought I'd take my new bike out for a spin - then I thought about going on a long bike ride. Path to LondonThen I decided to attempt to cycle into central London from home, and finally I decided to do this on the old bike as I didn't want to do anything too ambitious on the new bike until I've broken it in a bit more.

So it was, that I set out on a ride from home (on the Surrey/Hampshire border) to Central London.

I planned a route with the aid of the Surrey Cycling Maps and the Transport for London cycling maps. Both sets of maps are free. Unfortunately there was something about them which made going from one set of maps to the other tricky for me - I'd love it if the maps were downloadable as jpg so I could use them in OziExplorer - or better still, if the data were handed over to google to allow cycle routes to be planned as easily as road routes!

I worked out a rough route on the paper maps, then used the mapmyride website to store the route electronically. This was then downloaded to my Garmin GPS 60. This is not an expensive device, but it is good enough for my purposes.

Essentially, I can download a route to it, and it will tell me which way to head in order to reach the next waypoint. It doesn't know about roads, buildings, cliffs and the like - and so the directions are only as good as the route that it has been fed.

Thus it was that I set off.

I had a later start than I hoped for - and was slower than hoped for as I stopped to go to the supermarket for some sustenance (I had forgotten breakfast too!). Getting to Woking took longer than usual, but I was soon in new territory, going past Woking and was at my first major landmark. The psychological barrier of the M25.

Crossing the M25

It was really great getting to this point under my own steam - for me it is the boundary of London (it isn't really, but nothing else is that obvious).

I cycled on, through Addlestone, and onward.

Hampton Court provided my next stop. It's a lovely place to go through, open grassland (and a road, admittedly) - with deer.

The deer were quite used to the cars, and so were not too phased by someone on a bicycle. They were quite bold (for deer) - though never totally unwary.

Deer at Hampton Court

I crossed the River Thames several times. Having crossed near Hampton Court, I went south of the river again at Teddington Lock. Nice place.

I had chosen to go through Richmond Park as well. This is a lovely place to go through - the paths are smooth, traffic-free and there are herds of deer. The deer are different to Hampton Court - and again, they are relatively used to people. This was a much larger group, and they formed a protective ring around their youngsters.

As I watched and waited, they all moved across the road - that was good to see, it had echoes of 'mass migration' about it, but in miniature!

From Richmond, I carried on into central London, thanks to the cycle maps I had very few busy roads to travel. I arrived at Buckingham Palace, and being a Sunday the mall was closed to cars, so I had a lovely cycle down toward wesminster. There was traffic over Westminster Bridge, and then I was at Waterloo, some 69km after I set out.

I made it to London!

It was my longest cycle by far so far. I may have cycled further 'back in the day' - but then, I never kept track of this sort of thing when younger (I did get lost many times though - though the only time I had to be rescued was when I went for a walk, and I went so far the soles of my shoes caved in!)

My normal commute is about 18km each way, so this represented nearly a fourfold increase on my longest ride (or doubling of my daily ride). I did arrive at Waterloo wondering if I shouldn't just cycle back home - but felt like this was asking for trouble... however, I think I could have done it. Maybe another day.

My high spot at the end of the ride was cycling down the mall - that was my 'finish'. Getting to Waterloo was anti-climactic. I'd just done a big ride, and I wanted a finish line - dammit, I wanted a medal for finishing! If I'd have known that Waterloo would've felt like 'the way home after finishing' instead of 'finishing', I'd have done a lap of honour on the Mall!

Anyhow, that was my big ride - about 43 miles. Not bad, I could have gone further, but I was being careful, I didn't know how I'd react the next day. As it is, I've a bit of soreness in my thighs, and that's about it. I did a few stretches on the train to try and prevent leg muscles cramping up.

Key Details: Date: 2008-06-29 Distance: 69.8 km. Speed: 19.24 / 47.33 km/hr (avg/max) Duration: 03:37 (ride time, stopping for the M25, level crossings, deer and supermarkets not included)