As promised, the Londoner is taking off his gloves, or rather puts on his riding gloves and, equipped with his Brompton Bike, will take you on a more challenging tour of London. No more changing of the guard at Buckingham, Big Ben, Madame Tussauds or The Big Red Bus. Join the Londoner for a circular ride that starts at King’s Cross, continues along the Canal, Little Venice and Hyde Park on CS3. Then, back through the City and Bloomsbury – estimated distance: 20K (about 12.5 miles),
And we’re off…
Brompton ? What’s all the fuss about?
So if you can’t read Hebrew or have yet to read our London sharing bike review post , you’re unlikely to have heard about the Brompton Bike Hire scheme.
For those who do not know what they are (OMG): Brompton is THE pioneer-manufacturer of Folding Bicycle, a design which sets a goal of allowing the bike to be folded comfortably, and to be carried practically everywhere (during rush hour it is not possible to take regular bicycles on the London Tube).
The bicycle was originally produced at a workshop in Kensington in the late 1970s by Andrew Ritchie, a genius bike-inventor who practically heard from everyone that it’ll never catch. Well, luckily eccentric geniuses like Andrew don’t take no for an answer, and as the years went by and the bike improved, people began to jump on board.
“Seek and thou shall find”.
Over the years, Brompton has become a real cult, with dozens of Facebook groups, and tens of thousands of enthusiasts who exchange photos, experiences and ride extreme tracks, on these small 16-inch wheels.
As part of the marketing efforts of the current CEO Will Butler-Adams, Brompton has begun to rent out bike at an annual subscription fee, plus hire fee of £ 3.5-6.5 per day. One of the most popular lockers is in King’s Cross, where our route begins.
Granary Square and Camden Town
Granary Square and the Coal Drops Yard have become two of the most buzzing points of interest in London. We frequently come here with the kids, for design week, wet and playful fountain-time on hot days and for dining. This is also the home of Central Saint Martin School of Art and Design, which makes the place hip & full of youngsters.
And to our business: the ramp leading to the bank of Regent Canal is behind the Lighterman pub near the floating second-hand bookstore “Word on Water”, which believe it or not, is actually a boat that permanently parks here.
The bank-side pedestrian/bike joint lane here is challenging, and the Londoner is careful not to ram into the dozens of people who are walking idly. He is overtaking them from the right, careful not to end up in the green Canal water. The small Brompton wheels are shifted by every notch in the curb, not easy for those who are used to large mountain bikes which respond quickly and accurately.
Here is the place to mention the most important Brompton accessory – the bell!
This is the place also to mention that at some point you will have to get off the bike and walk through the Camden Lock market. This is the most hellish bit of the ride, in the Londoner’s opinion – as people who are queuing for a souvlaki wrap, will not make way. It’s only gonna get better from here though 😉
Regent Canal and Little Venice
The canal route is probably the nicest stretch of this entire course, with other riders, and boats passing along the road.
On the way you can try and spot the animals of the London Zoo (ZSL), and the courtyards of the extravagant houses inside Regent Park. The route ends in Maida-Vale and you will need to continue riding on a Quiet Road.
The QRs are mainly side roads marked for cyclists, which are designed to steer the pedallers to quieter paths.
The ride in Little Venice continues on Bloomfield Road, with a spectacular vista point of the Paddington Basin, from Westbourne Terrace Road Bridge.
At the hectic interchange of Westbourne Bridge the Londoner decides to get off the bike and use the pedestrian bridge. The cars coming off the Marylebone Flyover drive here at crazy speed, and there’s no real reason to cross the roundabout among them.
Getting back onto the tarmac at Westbourne Terrace is easy and at the end of the street, Cycle Superhighway 3 is reached.
the Cycle Superhighways Scheme is an initiative to interweave the British capital with dedicated cycling routes which are separated from the road by curbs, elevation or a physical barrier. In other places where there are no CS’s, there are common lanes for cars and riders (not just “quiet roads”) whereas the experience is not so pleasant, and requires constant concentration when riding through traffic.
CS3 is a route that crosses Hyde Park / Kensington Gardens and continues to Tower Bridge as it runs along the northern bank.
The Londoner takes CS3 up to Hyde Park Corner as it passes north of Buckingham Palace on the way to the City, through St James’s Park.
The ride through Hyde Park will reveal some of London’s known landmark such as the Serpentine Gallery, the Serpentine River and Kensington Palace. Anyone who visited London in the far past would not believe how these designated road integrated well within the huge park.
Cycling on Constitution Hill and the Mall is also done on a dedicated bike route. St James’s Park is just south of us. It is a place to stop and give the old riding trousers a stretch, or to wake up sleeping cheeks, as soon the route will pass through the ferocious City, which will require our utmost concentration.
The City and Bloomsbury
The ‘entrance’ to The City from where we are, goes through Strand, which is a major urban artery connecting Trafalgar Square (the one with the pigeons) and the Royal Courts of Justice. Although this is a common path for bicycle, the alertness of the Londoner, as mentioned, is at its peak. This is the kingdom of the red double deckers, the clueless Uber drivers, the bitter Black Cab drivers, or the pedestrians who cross the street without distinction. An accident is a shoestring away, at any given time.
Aldwych leads to Kingsway, which becomes Southhampton Row, which crosses High Holborn. Pheeew. Although this is an uphill climb, the road is wide and at some point the segregated cycling lane makes a comeback. The Londoner is breathing once again. This is the westernmost part of the City of London, and if you take this route on a weekday during rush hours, you’ll be surprised by the number of cyclists in suits.
From here we arrive at Russel Square and the Dickensian Bloomsbury district.
The Londoner pedals up to Gordon Square and turns right, past Tavistock Square. This is the “literary area” of London where the Bloomsbury Group lived during 1920s. They were a group of British writers who, exchanged liberal ideas, including Virginia Woolf, whose home was at 46 Gordon Square. You’ll find here Charles Dickens’, who described the gloomy neighborhood of of Bloomsbury better than anyone, residence at the old Tavistock House, as well as Oscar Wilde at 31 Russell Square, both lived in the 19th century.
The ride up to Greys Inn Road takes us back to Kings Cross, and here again it’s important to be careful. Euston Road is a major artery, and it’s advisable to get off the bike, give yourself a pat on the back and cross the road to Kings Cross Station by foot.
The Londoner buys cupcakes in one of the Lola’s Cupcakes carts at the station for the kids (although his greediness may overcome him later 😉 ).
Bike Parking in London
A word about bicycle parking in London … Not everyone has a Brompton, and not everyone is excited about the idea of pedaling with small 16-inch wheels. (Since joining the Cycle to Work Scheme the Londoner had received whistles from colleagues as though he is riding a clown bike… haters). The solutions available in London, allow anyone who pedals to remote countryside stations, to leave his bicycle in designated bays in major rail-stations, when getting into London. In Paddington, there is a bicycle parking bay on the platform for subscribers and now also one for walk-ins. Both carry a fee and a lock is needed. The advantage of parking in central areas with security-guard presence is apparent, and the chance of theft (even if still exists) is not great.
At Euston station, this is achieved under the monitoring security cameras, where bikes are parked on double-storied ramps. It seems that for the most part – this solution works.
The Londoner promises to keep pedaling, hey there are at least another six CSs to visit!
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