One minute you’re accelerating on the change of a green light to get ahead of the iconic burly red buses. The next gazing across lush green parkland, dotted with herds of deer. Pockets of serenity that help soothe the soul. London is high-octane and vibrant, she’s always up for fun and mischief and there’s a cycling culture to match. We spent 48 hours exploring and discovering the Big Smoke on two wheels.
When you touch down onto the tarmac you kind of hope that your form of two wheeled transport is sorted and in the bag, or a bike box at least. Our forward planning hadn’t quite been as seamless as a changing of the guards, but it’s always good to have challenges right from the start. Serendipity can be a thing of beauty, and can sometimes be delivered in the shape of one of Passoni’s finest titanium bikes. Slightly prosecco fuelled conversations at the Ashmei and Passoni pop-up store launch, and London weekend plans are forming.
Making Friends on the Streets of London
There’s a London stereotype that people don’t talk to each other, it’s a slight misnomer, there’s of course rules to be abided by. Yes, it’s unlikely you’ll find yourself fall into a deep philosophical conversation with strangers during commute times on the tube. This is London’s time to disconnect from everyone. There’s mostly a lack of mobile signal, so it’s reading books, listening to music or just generally staring into space. This is the day’s quiet time. It’s London’s moment of silence that only people who don’t live there find awkward.
Head out to a bar, coffee shop or morning ride around the many parks and it’s a different vibe. Two wheels can take you from day to night and with them they break down barriers. An early morning session around Regents Park leaves your lungs burning and legs screaming but you instantly feel amongst friends. Groups form, everyone pulls their weight taking turns on the front until the pace becomes too much, or the lure of coffee and a croissant draws you into one of the many great cafes. Bonds made over breakfast that strengthen week after week, lap after lap.
Entering Roehampton Gate into Richmond Park teleports you from concrete conglomerate to bucolic beauty. Francis Cade a Richmond regular joins the ride armed with his trusty camera. An up-and-coming London based vlogger, we don’t get far before there’s hollas at him from fellow two wheelers.
Two Wheeled Freedom
Freedom is often considered synonymous with the bicycle, and with London nothing rings truer. There’s no mode of transport parallel at getting you across the hustle and bustle of the city. Unlike the rabbit warren of the underground you get to take in your surroundings, stopping as and when you please. From markets stacked high with rainbow fruits and vegetables, impromptu street parties to photo opportunities with the Queen’s finest footmen.
If you want to venture out of London, then Box Hill is a regular pilgrimage for many cyclists. With a steady gradient and a couple of hairpins it’s one to open the legs up on. There’s no “secret racing” here, everyone is up for giving it the best they’ve got.
Sightseeing is in the Beauty of the Beholder
There’s a ride for all. Seeing the sites comes in many guises; the London skyline glimmers even on a dull day, from the sky puncturing highs of the Shard to timeless elegance of St Paul’s Cathedral. Secret tunnels under the Thames to towering bridges over it, there’s always time to stop and take it in. It’s something many a Londoner is guilty of not doing.
Like the constant tidal change of the River Thames, London very rarely stops. Sometimes it’s torrent like, intense and electrifying. Like a life support machine fuelled on Red Bull. When you leave there’s a hangover and not just from the alcohol but from an overstimulation of the senses. It leaves you slightly breathless, but with a treasure trove of tales to take away with you.
Places to stay:
Best Places to go to get connected:
Rides to do:
- Surrey – Box-Hil
- Regents Park Laps
- Richmond Park
- Chiltern loop
This article is from GRAN FONDO issue #008
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Words: Photos: Robin Schmitt