Leave the city and take a ride on the wild side

Leave the city and take a ride on the wild side

TAKING to the road on a Sunday morning is the staple of many amateur bike riders – but your experience doesn’t have to be restricted to pedalling up Swain’s Lane and pretending you’re tackling the Alps or swinging round loop after loop of Regent’s Park.

The Green Belt is only a few miles up the road, and the counties bordering north London offer plenty of scope for weekend runs out of the cityscape and onto quiet lanes.

Dave Hood is a keen cyclist who puts in miles each weekend, starting from his Highgate base.

One ride is a challenge to tackle a series of hills in Northaw, near Potters Bar.

“The Cock of the North is a bit of a classic,” Mr Hood said.

“It’s a 75km route out of town that takes you over the Three Sisters hills. They are three descents and climbs that can be done in either direction. It gets you along the country lanes before looping back home.”

For beginners or people who want some company for their expeditions, Dave recommends finding one of north London’s many cycling clubs, which have plenty of well- mapped circuits that allow you to find a level you are comfortable with.

He said: “The Finsbury Park Cycling Club have their reliability ride, a longer route that takes you deeper into the country- side and allows you to spend a good amount of time in the lanes.” Starting at the Potters Bar Cricket Club, the 100km journey takes the rider through an area known as Little Switzerland. Other highlights include a journey into the world of the Garden Cities – Hitchin and Welwyn are included – and the return journey comes back via Knebworth.

“The Knebworth route takes you past Spokes – a rural bike cafe and workshop that does amazing coffee and cake,” Mr Hood said. “They also have a log burner for those cold winter days.”

For those who have the time to put some distance into the wheels, Mr Hood has plotted courses that head further west, including into Bucking- hamshire. He said: “A nice route gets you out to the edge of the Chilterns and up Dunstable Downs and Ivinghoe Beacon.”

The Beacon is found in the Ashridge estate, owned by the National Trust, and after a climb offers rewarding views.

For Mr Hood, having such countryside routes on his doorstep is inspiring – but London also offers challenges he enjoys returning to.

He added: “If you’re bored with doing laps around Regent’s Park you can head to Swain’s Lane, which provides a challenging climb. There’s even the Urban Hill Climb competition in September.”


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