Sunday, 13 May 2012

The Novice Cyclist in London Parks

As I lost my way home once again while cycling in the rain a couple of days ago I came across Downhill's Park in West Green.  Right opposite this park I noticed another, the Lordship Recreation Ground.  I couldn't explore them as the rain was getting heavier and any further detour would have disorientated my already muddled mental compass no end.

Thomas taking a break by the stream
I realised that I hadn't noticed the  number of parks in London until I started cycling.  Naturally, it is impossible to notice parks when travelling by tube and the best way to get through the ordeal of crowded London bus travel is by burying one's head in a book or newspaper and being oblivious to all around you.  But for the novice cyclist travelling at snail's pace, it's vital to be aware of one's surroundings.  So you do get to notice things that once were just a blur from the corner of your eyes.

 Anyway,  I finally determined my route home by following a bus route I recognised and once home contacted my mate Thomas to plan an expeditionary cycling trip to these parks.  Our research into Downhill's Park and the Lordship Recreation Ground turned up some interesting features, notably the Lordship Loop,  a long 'pump track' style trail covering a looped distance of 391 metres and designed as a single track experience made up of rollers, berms, step up jumps and the like for riders of all abilities. 
Island in the stream, Downhill's Park

The expedition

So we set off for West Green at about 8:00 this morning.  The journey was quite uneventful but for the inevitable misdirections from Thomas' GPS.  But with the sun shining and a moderate breeze we enjoyed a pleasant ride to our destination.

Unfortunately, there was a lot of building work at the Lordship Ground so most of the park was cordoned off. We cycled around the park trails and made our way to Downhill's Park.  It's a very well maintained park featuring, I understand, award winning flora I didn't really have a good look at.  After cycling around the park we made our way home.  This journey would have been perfect but for sudden winds that threatened blow us off our bikes.

Downhill's Park, picnic area
Another break, picnic area, Downhill's Park

My round trip this morning was 12.68 miles at an average speed of 7mph and a maximum speed of 20mph (rolling downhill, no doubt!) over 1 hour and 50 minutes.  I don't think those statistics merit my promoting myself from novice to beginner yet!

More pictures and clips at  Thomas's site:

Wednesday, 9 May 2012


I've recently taken up cycling as a healthier option to my long time hobbies of smoking, drinking and general laying about and I must admit it has been  quite a revelation.  For a middle aged man who has spent his lifetime with the devout belief that he is allergic to all forms of exercise I find myself thoroughly enjoying this indulgent pastime.

In the twelve or so weeks that I've been cycling I've experienced a range of hitherto dormant emotions as I've battled the  initial struggle to get my legs to push me along and the breathlessness that comes with a total lack of stamina.  These, coupled with biting winds, rain and my propensity to lose my bearings have made my initial steps into serious cycling quite an adventure.

Among the mishaps I've encountered are my rear wheel coming off on a high road, taking a detour that turned a 40 minute journey into a 4 hour odyssey in strong winds, rain and mud and ending up climbing hills that seemed like Everest.

I've been wet and frustrated, cold and miserable, exhausted and irritated, bruised and sometimes crest fallen. Yet always while nursing my aching limbs at the end of my cycling outings I get a feeling of triumph  and  look forward to the next adventure.

Training sessions and excursions
My great mate Thomas who introduced me to cycling has advised me to monitor my progress by keeping a log of my destinations,  distances covered and cycling speeds (average, maximum, total). This I'll be doing as soon as I figure out how to use my cycle computer.

So far, Thomas and I have been running  training sessions a few mornings a week around Finsbury Park.  The Park  provides a good setting for the novice cyclist save for some rather steep inclines around the perimeter.  There are lots of paths and flat surfaces to cycle around while the view is pleasant and the atmosphere serene  at  pre rush hour.

Our morning training sessions in Finsbury Park have often terminated with a ride around the Emirates Stadium (he's an Arsenal Fan, but then you can forgive him that.  God can't be kind to everyone!)

We've also made cycling excursions to Lea Valley en route to the Olympic Stadium, the Parkland Trail, Clissold Park in Stoke Newington and a treacherous uphill/downhill trip to Alexandra Palace. 

Details of our trips,  with pictures and video clips,  can be found on his link below.

We plan to take advantage of the small window of summer weather to take part in club and sponsored cycling rides as well as to plan and discover expeditions of our own.

Upcoming Group Rides:
  • Lee Valley Ride - Camden Cyclists - Sunday 20th May: 10:15 for 10:30 start. -