In big cities like London, local knowledge can be invaluable to getting you in and out of town with minimal hassle. But even in your home city, riding a different direction – south, say, if you live on the north side of town – can be a completely different proposition. So the Strava UK team decided to use Strava Local to explore – on a ride that took some of them into unfamiliar territory – to experience their city from a new perspective.
After meeting for coffee at a London Top Stop, Pretorius Bikes, we headed out into the leafy lanes of Essex, which are for many east Londoners a familiar escape from the metropolis, and handy training ground.
The idea was to pass through leafy Epping Forest and out through the rolling countryside to the Blue Egg, a farm shop and cafe that is definitely worthy of Top Stop status… it’s a mecca for cyclists from across the county, and, if you’re up for a 160km ‘bun run’ from London, then you could do worse than aim for a nourishing sausage sandwich or slice of cake at there as a halfway stop.
But though the destination might be well known, some of the roads there are not. We decided to follow the River Lee out of town, along a path that in the dry is totally passable on road bikes and much more pleasant than some of the traffic-filled alternatives. The Lee Valley cuts deep into London, and in between the different branches of the river are a multitude of quiet tracks, abandoned roads and bike paths that will whisk you out of the city.
From there, we took on Mott Street, one of the only proper hills in the area, and site of more than one local club’s hill climb race, and struck out north along quiet lanes, following the route of the famous Dunwich Dynamo ride. The Dynamo is an unsupported night ride from London to the east coast of Suffolk, 200km away, but the route is so picturesque it seems a shame only to do it in the dark.
The Dynamo passes within a kilometre of the Blue Egg (which is shut late at night, though many of the local pubs and cafés open specially), but we cycled right past it to loop through Finchingfield, one of the prettiest villages in Essex, before making a pit stop.
After ordering enough food to sink a battleship, we took a look at the cycling memorabilia donated to the cafe by local legends including Mark Cavendish and Alex Dowsett.
Slightly slower and heavier, but much refreshed, we turned round for the return leg. Again, we mixed our route, picking farm tracks and small lanes over main roads, but also following some of the route taken by the Tour de France when it last visited the UK, in 2014. Stage 3 was a flat, short day from Cambridge to London, which probably left little impression on the minds of the peloton; but Strava Pros including Laurens Ten Dam, Niki Terpstra and David Lopez left an indelible mark on local leaderboards that day.
Spurred on, we rode fast into London, before once again diverting on to the canal, through the historic Hackney Marshes and around the Olympic Park for a well deserved beer and pizza at local favourite Crate Brewery. You can check out the route we took via my activity here.
Need some help finding a route in a city you don’t know, or some inspiration in one you do? Strava Local pages can help, and the Strava Route Builder and Heat Maps can help you create a ride to suit your needs wherever you are in the world.
Photos: George Marshall