The Spoke November 17, 2013

I like this ride because....(Part 2)

This is Jonathan’s series, but I had begun to feel as if Part 2 might never arrive, so I’ve hi-jacked it.

Part 1 was his old ‘round-the-block’ and I came away from reading it thinking that Jonathan’s definition of block was slightly more substantial than mine, and probably Jennifer Lopez’s too. So Part 2 is my ‘round-in-quite-a-big-circle’ route, though by bikebritain definitions, it is probably still a block. I created this route because my cycling commute got cut from a 10 mile cruise through south London to a 4 mile slog through central London traffic and I wanted a way of doing more ‘incidental’ cycling. Thus, my place of work appears at the western extreme of the ride and I can use it as an extended commute or a simple loop on the weekend. It can be ridden clockwise or anti-clockwise, which present slightly different challenges. For a good, clean, ride avoiding times of heavy traffic is recommended. This being London, best aim for 3am on a Tuesday morning or when you’re a rare survivor of a deadly disease which has wiped out the rest of the population sort of like in 28 Days Later. If they had gone cycling.

Where am I?

Er, London. The route as described starts and ends at the same point in Shoreditch, east London, because that’s where I live. Shape-wise, it is more of the sort of wiggly square I served up as an infant than a circle. The length varies slightly depending on which way you attack it, thanks to some one-way systems, but is near enough to 18 miles either way. Time taken is entirely dependent on traffic; it is no surprise to lose up to half an hour making your way through commuter treacle in rush hour, or the hours near rush hour. Or the middle of the day. Or night. Somebody is always going somewhere.

The Route

Riding anti-clockwise, we’ll start on Shoreditch High Street by the station, about a half mile north of Liverpool Street station. This is the A10, and it is the A10 we will take all the way to Tottenham. Jonathan’s ride was all views and landmarks. Forget about that. It’s a gentle spin, climbing ever so slightly through Haggerston, Dalston and Stoke Newington as we slice through north London. Eventually you pass Seven Sisters station and join the route taken by thousands of football fans every other weekend towards Tottenham Hotspur’s White Hart Lane. Not a Tottenham fan? No worries, we turn off before the stadium and continue on the A10 at Bruce Grove, which is a road leading to Bruce Castle and not an Australian fast bowler from the 1980’s. Bruce Castle is derived from the House of Bruce as the land at one time belonged to the Scottish Bruce Clan, and not an Australian fast bowler from the 1980’s.

We leave the A10 at Lordship Lane, and follow that on a straight, flat stretch before turning left into Westbury Avenue. Straight over at the Turnpike Lane station crossroads, and now we’re getting close to the action. Zip down through Hornsey, and then hit Muswell Hill. You have to be exceptionally lucky to be able to hit it with any sort of momentum though, requiring a green light at the junction at the bottom and then a clear run to avoid running wide and slowing down as you bear right and hit the incline.

Muswell Hill is a mere half a mile, at about an 11% average. Now, those numbers are plenty big enough for me, but even if you’re rolling your eyes, it is worth remembering you’re sharing this space with rhythm-destroying speed bumps and buses passing close enough that you can tell what the gentleman sitting on the upper deck had for breakfast (and then pulling into a bus stop directly in front of you), and there is plenty of opportunity (six roads) for cars to make left and right turns across you into side turns  as if you weren’t there

Make it to the top, and your hardest work for the ride is done. It is a short and brutal burst. Now to pick up Muswell Hill Road and cut down between Highgate Wood and Queen’s Wood, passing Highgate Station and coming down Southwood Lane to Highgate High Street. Quick right and left, and you begin to descend Highgate West Hill, the descent really beginning as you pass St. Michael’s Church on your left. Now, the surface isn’t the best, there are more humps and, if you are doing this on a week day between 7am and 10pm, plenty of traffic. On a Sunday, it can be good fun but you still need some luck.

The meat of the descent ends at the junction by Kentish Town station, but you continue to gently drop until you reach Camden. A little foxtrot with the one-way system and you pick up the Outer Circle of Regent’s Park, where you will often see (be rapidly overtaken by) a spectacular cabal of cyclists pelting round lap after lap often in near-pelotonic number.

Dropping off the Outer Circle at its south western corner, you join the carnival that is Euston Road. Most of the time this is a frustrating weave through clogged traffic combined with a liberal sprinkling of traffic lights but, once you pass King’s Cross St. Pancras, you get an clearer run along the steady incline of Pentonville Road, then sweep down City Road, hang a left and join Great Eastern Street to cut through and finish where you started.

Taking the route clockwise is largely the same, except that you climb Highgate West Hill and descend Muswell Hill. Scaling Highgate which, from Kentish Town to the church at the top, is about a mile and a half at an average of about 8.5% but 11% in parts, comes earlier in the clockwise ride than Muswell in the other direction. It, too, can get very busy, is also on a bus route, and also has speed bumps. Descending Muswell is predictably terrifying and not as much fun as you’d like. The road isn’t in world class condition and the vehicle queue for the traffic lights starts about half way down, so cars planning to turn left move right up against the kerb and block your way, which is just great. Again, you need to be out at some pretty anti-social hours to avoid this.

Jonathan finished his piece talking of how his ride showcased a beautiful part of the world, eulogising the clean air in his lungs, and the happiness it brought him. Well, I’m not sure I can say the same. My ride takes me through some of the poorest and most neglected parts of London, probably fills my lungs with the fumes of vehicles that are often oblivious to your presence, and often leaves me fuming at the aggravation of it all. However, for my purposes, this is the best I’ve found, and I’ve become quite attached to it. Well, I like it. I don’t want to spoil the name of the series after all.

Words by Lukey

Thumbnail taken from - Traffic, Muswell Hill Broadway, 2005 by BristolIRE2007

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