Alpine passes and blossoming meadows are a luxury that not all of us have access to – especially not when working the Monday to Friday grind. Fortunately, when it comes to road riding, the humble territory to the North and Northeast of London have some serious steez. Quiet lanes, rolling hills, optimistically coloured fields, and expansive views that are almost beyond belief; here’s where your rhythm is easy to come by, with gentle inclines meeting you head-on with a gregarious smile – it might just be the wind that catches you out.
If you’ve ever thought about how your work-life balance should be sacrosanct, these quiet, winding lanes of north and northeast London should confirm that you’re getting somewhere close to equilibrium. Out past the M25 (or earlier if you’re heading through Epping Forest), there’s natural beauty in spades so that you can recharge on this rich network of riding routes.
Riding from one tranquil hamlet to the next is like meandering through the centuries, with Norman Keeps, centuries-old windmills, and medieval barns. The places you’re most likely to have heard of will be the timber-clad market town of Waltham Abbey and the frequently overlooked Colchester, but the lure of these rides is really down to the twisty lanes that go between them, dotted with tucked-away villages and beautiful green fields. Sounds too good to be true, right? The antidote to the rushed laps of Richmond or Regents Park that are forced upon many riders in central London, this collection proves precisely why it’s worth the effort to get out the city – either by train or simply by riding out on the quietest roads possible.
While the discourse of the London cycling scene usually revolves around safety and the contentious act of running red lights, it’s well worth reiterating just what a beautiful canvas is spread across the London basin and beyond. There’s the good stuff in droves, and Essex and Hertfordshire have it all: from quaint villages that merit a postcard back to London; winding, quiet lanes that wouldn’t be out of place in a late spring Ardennes Classic; and productive farmland that translates into rich and delectable wares at the many farm stores and cafes – of which the most notable is the Blue Egg in Great Bardfield, a real cyclists’ institution. If you’re really lucky, the UK might put on its best weather for your ride.
Why we love this route: Non-stop London views and fast hills for raising your heart beat and escaping the traffic. Always begin with a decent espresso from Rapha because there are plenty of rolling roads of North London that await you on this punchy route. Despite its proximity to the centre, this one…
Hertford has beautiful lanes for you to scope out and enjoy rather than endure. This is something that'll hit you from the moment you exit Knebworth train station (around 45 minutes from Kings Cross). It's a recreational route that follows little lanes and cuts a slightly mad scrawl across the map before…
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Just next to Stanstead airport, you might not expect to be in the midst of glorious, rural Britain – and that's exactly what makes it so great for riding. Surely the fact that the Tour de France passed through this area in 2014 speaks volumes?
For a road rider, these lanes are a pristine paradise with…
You might be knackered at the thought of having to take a train out of the city, but the lure of the little lanes and the vitamin D-rich air should easily win you over. It's a superb circular route from Braintree station that takes you on a whistle-stop tour of cute villages, rarely used roads, and gives…
You might live in the country's capital but sometimes it's nice to pay due deserves to a city that's famous for being the UK's oldest town on record: Colchester. And while it might not immediately conjure up images of rural beauty, this route will certainly make sure it does in future. As it's just…
The lovely, long ride starts in the Leyton Marsh car park besides the River Lea in a rare-for-London rugged, marshy landscape. While it's all about little lanes and fresh country air, there's still enough in this ride to shake you awake at times!
It makes use of Waltham Forest’s new cycle lanes, keeping…
A route that goes East is almost always flat, which is why this one has really upped the distance to make the most of your day out in Essex. Even with its potentially fear-inducing length, the route is predominantly flat (as mentioned), taking in all the quietest lanes and quaintest villages (which…
Starting and finishing at Hub Velo - Dalston's hippest bike shop – this 43 miles (70 kilometer) route does its best to avoid the inevitable barrage of traffic to exit and re-enter the city limits. It's a ride that's really characterised by achingly cute Essex villages, small lanes, and grand houses…
Exploring outer London's industrial estuary landscape, this route unfolds from Billericay, with quiet roads that do eventually get a little busier as you head towards Tilbury.
Once you're through Tilbury just hop on a quick foot passenger ferry for a slight detour to Gravesend. When you've refuelled…
Road Cycling Collection by Café du Cycliste
Road Cycling Collection by Mark Beaumont
Hiking Collection by Davide Inverardi
Hiking Collection by Region Hall-Wattens