She needs to cycle or she goes crazy
May 8, 2006 4:45 PM   Subscribe

London and bicycling centuries. Do the Brits not do any vigorous, hardy cycling for fun, like in the states?

My girlfriend and I are going to London for 9 days. She bicycles centuries (100 miles) here in California, and would like to in London, but I have been absolutely unable to find anything approaching such a thing anywhere in England, much less London. Everything I've found is either recreational cycling or competitive (races, where people are timed). It's not at all like LA, where there are bike clubs that ride every Saturday or Sunday for 40-50 miles. Is there any similar such cycling in London? Where a visitor could meet other cyclists and join their weekly ride?
posted by joaniemcchicken to Travel & Transportation around London, England (11 answers total)
 
I am not british, but I've been over there and I've been in the cycling industry for 20 years. IIRC there are very strict road-use policies inforce in the U.K. which make pretty much any large group ride short of an individual time trial practically impossible to hold.

if you've not been there, when you arrive one look at their road conditions will quickly dissuade you from any idea that cycling would be a pleasant or even safe experience. they don't do road shoulders.

now those who do live in London and thereabouts please feel free to shoot me down. like I said I don't live there, that was just my take from casual observance and hearsay of those who do live there.
posted by lonefrontranger at 5:08 PM on May 8, 2006


Cycling in England is, as you say, largely built around competitive (or semi-competitive) clubs, and London isn't the best place for them: the traditional home of English cycling is in the north, which is why Manchester got the national velodrome and training centre. That said, the CTC lists plenty of London groups, and the Central London group -- which does most of its riding out of town -- has everything from gentle spins to √Čtape du Tour-grade rides.
posted by holgate at 5:10 PM on May 8, 2006


alas you're too late to join the biggie, the British Heart Foundation's London - Brighton ride, but from the site it seem they have a few others (if you're over soon try this century with a 10,000ft climb).
posted by patricio at 5:51 PM on May 8, 2006


Or, call or email a bike shop in advance and see what they suggest in the local area: Cycle Surgery or a London branch of Evans will probably be able to help you out.
posted by patricio at 6:02 PM on May 8, 2006


Audax UK - the long-distance cycling organization.
London Cycling Campaign - member organized rides.
CTC forums - folks there will soon help you find UK rides.
another cycling forum, and cycling plus forum - also useful and generally friendly places for finding out what's going on in the UK.

Long-distance, leisure and commuting cycling is alive and very active all over the UK. In fact, I'd say it's going through something of a mini-renaissance.

very strict road-use policies inforce in the U.K. which make pretty much any large group ride short of an individual time trial practically impossible to hold

This only applies to mass-start road racing, not non-competitive events.

when you arrive one look at their road conditions will quickly dissuade you from any idea that cycling would be a pleasant or even safe experience

So ill-informed, short of writing a book, I don't know where to begin.

It's not at all like LA, where there are bike clubs that ride every Saturday or Sunday for 40-50 miles

See above. There's a huge amount going on for all tastes and abilities. E-mail a few clubs or groups before you leave and I wouldn't be surprised if you got lots of invitations to hook up for rides.
posted by normy at 7:15 PM on May 8, 2006


This might be kind of close to what you're hinting at with "competitive racing", but I'd still ping the regional audax/randonneur clubs and see if you can get route sheets for their 200K permanents. (where 200km = 125 miles)

In case you aren't familiar with randonneuring/audax riding -- it's essentially amateur endurance cycling. Folks train up every year to qualify for 1200km super-randonnees like Paris-Brest-Paris or Boston-Montreal-Boston, and in order to qualify for a super you have to complete a series of rides (known as brevets) ranging from 200km to 600km within a certain time limit.

While many randonneuring clubs have specific brevets that are used as qualifiers, they also maintain a set of routes known as permanents for riders who are looking to either get some training in or add mileage totals for club awards. Generally permanents are only open to club members because to "ride a permanent" implies that you want somebody around at certain checkpoints to verify that you are completing your ride at the prescribed intervals. If your girlfriend just wants a route sheet that will send her through interesting and challenging terrain, but doesn't want to impose on someone's hospitality, then she can probably mention that to the maintainer of the permanent, and they will probably be fine with sharing directions with her.

At the very least, most randonneurs are also avid members of their local cycling clubs and can probably point you to social rides in their area that are less aggressive and more casual.

Also, if your girlfriend really does need to ride centuries or otherwise go crazy, I'd definitely recommend that she check out randonneuring. One can argue that randonneurs are already crazy, but they at least help each other with their very specific fix.
posted by bl1nk at 7:17 PM on May 8, 2006


randonneurs are already crazy

I prefer "endearingly eccentric", myself.
posted by normy at 7:24 PM on May 8, 2006


Why not drop in to Brixton Cycles and see what's going on? A cycling-mad friend of mine recommends it highly.
posted by meehawl at 7:34 PM on May 8, 2006


I used to ride with the Central London CTC group who have rides every Sunday. They have three groups: easy, medium and hard. It normally involves a short train journey out of central London (or a ride out and then train back.
posted by Huw at 12:26 AM on May 9, 2006


lonefrontranger: there's some incredible cycling in London and around - it just requires a bit of planning and imagination.
posted by Huw at 12:27 AM on May 9, 2006 [1 favorite]


Sustrans is a UK charity which works to increase the number of bike routes throughout the UK. She should see whether any of the stuff on their site is useful to her.
posted by biffa at 7:40 AM on May 11, 2006


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