Sunday 31 May 2020

Cycle route: South London to Surrey and Kent lanes

As social distancing measures is getting more people to take up cycling, new cyclists are keen to find cycle routes they can ride for their leisure. With the glorious weather we have been enjoying in the UK for the last couple of months it's not surprising that people want to ride.

Here is a local cycle route from my home in South London, around the Kent and Surrey local lanes. It's a short route that can be done in under two hours - maybe one hour if you're a finely tuned athlete. I call it the "scout camp loop" because it goes past a scout camp along the way. It's a nice little route to do if you don't have a lot of time but want to feel like you've trained. I generally do it early in the morning before work, or in the late afternoon, after work.

The ride starts from near Elmers End, a common hang-out for bike riders in South London. There is a Tesco superstore nearby for any last-minute provisions or a cashpoint. Mind you, unless you are going there before 8am you may be in for a bit of a queue in these times of coronavirus.

Part 1

Apart from a fast descent at Spout Hill, the first half of this ride is mainly uphill, though nothing too steep apart from two sharp ramps. One comes early in the ride on The Glade, and the other one is on Featherbed Lane near the half-way point, just after the Scout Camp at Frylands Wood. After this ramp you are rewarded with a stopping point at The White Bear Pub. Well, actually it's not a real reward as government restrictions mean the pub is closed. However, there's a patch of grass you can sit on, or a wall you can lean against. When I went past yesterday, I saw a couple of motorbikers who had stopped and were having a mini picnic on the grass. There are benches and tables, but the owners have closed them off. Hey ho!

Part 2

On reaching the pub, which is at a crossroads it's good to know the climbing is more or less done, and there is a nice steady 4-mile descent along Layhams Lane to look forward to. Then in West Wickham there is one 8% gradient on Corkscrew Hill. It's very brief though, and over before you know it.

The last part of the ride, through Elmers End suburb would normally be a road where you see many groups of riders steaming through in a chain gang. I have been known to cheekily latch on to those groups to test myself and remind myself that I've still got it (or not as the case may be)! But nowadays groups are banned, so instead I do a mini time trial over the last couple of miles back to Elmers End Green. It's nice to open the burners - if only just to feel satisfied that I have used up more than a few calories and will deserve my dinner!

Part 3

I recommend this ride for anyone new to cycling for fitness and wanting to test themselves by riding it fast. It is also fine for those who are looking for a leisurely ride with a stopover in a country pub (once it has clearance to be reopen). The roads aren't flat, but they are not too steep and they give you a decent work-out over a short distance. It also feels good to be in rural lanes, even though you are less than 20 miles from Trafalgar Square. You won't be alone on these lanes, as many cyclists will be in this area too. Just give them a wave when you see them.

Find the route and stats here on Strava

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