As with all the best, mad ideas, this one started while on strong coffee in a great coffee shop. “I’m bored of the Surrey Hills, I’m bored of London – Brighton – London, I’m bored of just going out and back – where else can we cycle…?”
What about round the M25?
Ha-ha - how far is that then?
231km, plus another 42 km out and back to the start line! A 273 km day!
Surely, it’s going to be full of traffic lights, duel carriageways and horrible towns?
Might be – lets just do it and see…
And here is where I have to sing the praises of Strava – being able to ‘create the route’ http://bit.ly/1siAAjk that includes hills and the most popular local cycling routes, means we ended up with a route right round London, on the nearest roads to the M25 and more often than not were cycling along fairly quiet roads, through little villages and amazing scenery, both sides of the road. With only the ever present distance hum of the M25 traffic and the regular view of its overhead bright blue road signs, as a reminder of our mad challenge.
Me https://www.facebook.com/chrisjward, Pete (co-founder of the excellent Milltag Cycle Clothing) and Tim, set off from my west London home around 7.30am and headed for the nearest spot outside the M25 – the start line became self nominated as Iver in Buckinghamshire.
We headed anti-clockwise - no real reason - it just felt right! Through the reservoirs around Staines, via Cobham and up the backside of Box Hill – the highest point of the ride. Through the nice lanes and hills of Oxted and Westerham, we then turned north into the wind and up to the Dartford Tunnel.
If you haven’t been through the tunnel, under the Thames before, it’s a fun little experience. You find the ‘bike stop’ and use the provided phone, to call for a truck to come and carry you under the river. It took 5 minutes for a very friendly driver to help us, and a young kid on his daily commute to work at Decathlon, just outside Bluewater, through the tunnel and drop us straight into the traffic chaos that Bluewater has no doubt been creating since its opening.
We didn’t hold up much hope for a good lunch but out of the desert of car after car, appeared a real old fashioned 50’s garden centre – a full English, 2 omelettes and a load of cake later, we were back on the bike and heading through the surprisingly quiet and green lanes of Essex.
Little known fact, we actually cycled round North Ockendon – which is technically the only town outside the M25 which is actually inside Greater London. We cycled round the whole of Greater London, something M25 drivers cant claim to do!
How many counties did we ride through altogether?
5 – Surrey, Kent, Buckinghamshire, Essex and Hertfordshire.
Through Potters Bar and Watford was more the environment everyone would expect the whole ride to be – the traffic, lights and duel carriageways. But luckily, short lived, as we hit the A412, which despite its name, was quiet, countrified, traffic light free and we flew down through Denham and to the finish line – back at Iver!
This was a great day, a great route. Maybe, partly because our expectations had been low. We didn’t push it but still easily managed a respectable 28.2kph for the 9 hours 41 minutes that the whole 273km took.
All three Garmin’s predictably gave different climbing results, from my 2,097m to Pete’s 2,350m?!
Conclusion. This is a great ride. Please download on Strava and give it a go. If you spent a little more time creating the route, than the 5 minutes I did, you could probably cycle almost the whole route without traffic.
Also, the route would make an iconic spring classic and/or sportive for London. The only difference being you might need to go out for a detour using the Gravesend – Tillbury ferry – or close the tunnel for a few hours – this ride would be so iconic for London, surely it would be worth it!
I wish I could erase my memory and do it again, it’s that good. Might have to go clockwise round before this summers out!
PS – even after looking this up I still not know if we went ‘round’ or ‘around’ the M25?
PPS Sunday wasn’t spent recovering but leading out my 10 year old daughter, Audrey on her longest ride to date – 33 miles – down the M3 to Grandma’s – I loved the M3 just as much as the M25!
PPPS if you have any questions please get me here https://www.facebook.com/chrisjward Please note Strava created a few little anomalies on the route which sends it 200m up and back down side roads a few times - I noted them in advance so we carried on past them. I'm always up for mad ideas - cycled Ventoux 6 times in a day, whole Tour de France route with Tour de Force etc - so please join me on Facebook for idea sharing!
Chris Ward has raced, bike-packed, mountain-biked and written about cycling around the world.
He's been fortunate to have cycled to the Great Wall of China, Mount Everest, North Korea and Australia, mountain biked across the Rockies, Alps and South Africa and bike-packed across India, Bangladesh and Taiwan. He has also twice represented GB in the amateur world championships, became the oldest Briton to cycle up Mount Ventoux six times in a day, ridden almost every Grand tour climb and guided groups throughout Europe.
It was when he cycled the length of Greece and reached the Peloponnese, that he experienced his best ever time on a bike; endless glorious roads and the odd island-hop, to ancient cities, amphitheatres and a modern-day, tourist-free, holiday paradise. With his wife Helen he has set up Breakaway Greece, in order to share this cycling paradise and their simple approach to life, with others. www.breakawaygreece.com
When he's not cycling he's hanging out in coffee shops, writing books and trying to engage the world in charitable campaigns.