Sunday 10 April 2022

Regent's Park, London - my favourite training ground

There are few well-known haunts for London-based cyclists with Richmond Park and Box Hill being among the top places. 

One other place that's up there for leisure cycling and training rides, particularly for club riders is Regent's Park. I have known for a long time that people cycle around there, but I didn't realise quite just how much. I had always perceived it as a place where North London-based riders have to resort to when doing their chain gangs given that we cyclists down South have the Kent country lanes at our disposal.  

In fact, cycling clubs based South of the River are now organising rides in this Royal Park based between Baker Street and Primrose Hill. Dulwich Paragon go there, and I have seen riders from Peckham Cycling Club too. Maybe folks who work in Central London find it easier to meet there after work rather than racing 10 miles down to Elmers End, Beckenham through the rush hour traffic to make the 7pm start. 

Working from home at my base in Crystal Palace, maybe I would find the Kent chain gang more practical than traipsing up to Central London. But in fact, no. I am happy to cycle to Regent's Park and do some laps there. 

Dirty Wknd cycling group training laps at Regent's Park [photo: Dirty Wknd]

The thing is, whether I turn up at Regent's Park in the early morning or early evening there are always groups of riders doing laps. Various groups ride around the Outer Circle at different speeds. Some of the groups are official club runs such as the ones organised by Dulwich Paragon or Dirty Wknd (pictured). Though there are many informal groups.

So it's just a case of latching on to whichever group matches my pace, and I am straight away into a training mode.

I like how these groups just tend to form organically. There's no one specifically organising who goes into which group. It's just a case of a couple of folks riding around and then others catch on, and as the group proceeds along the roads they pick of more riders. When we come to a stop at the different traffic lights one group joins with another group and the mass gets a bit bigger - though not too big, as some people may leave the group to form their own slower or faster group. Others may call it a day and peel off at one of the many exits of Regent's Park. 

Of course in all of this, and as with all group rides there is an etiquette to follow.  Folks aren't keen on half-wheeling another rider, changing direction without looking first, or braking suddenly. It's all about smooth riding. Also pointing to the riders behind any hazards such as cars pulling out, slower riders to over take, pot holes, pedestrians, or lights turning red are all things that make for a good ride. And yes, folks do observe the traffic lights. With Royal Parks police monitoring the park I don't think riders particularly want to pay an unexpected charge for their training ride!

One lap of the Outer Circle is just under three miles, and I usually do three or four and then go home. You might wonder why I bother given that the rider to and from Regent's Park is about 24 miles for me - more than twice as much as the training ride itself! But I must say, it is worth it because for that time I am pushing myself in a group ride and in a controlled environment. Riding around Regent's Park is quite well accepted by park users and the motorists, so there tends to be a harmonious relationship as well between road users - which is not always the case on country roads! 

The other thing for me too, is that after riding my laps of Regent's Park I feel tired like I have had a proper work-out, but I also feel a real buzz on my ride home through London. I feel high, and I also feel blessed that I can do such a work-out in central London and then ride home via some of the most famous monuments and landmarks in the world.

As I get fitter I do plan to do more laps, and I will probably set off earlier now that the mornings are lighter. Even if I get there at 6am I am sure I will find riders circling Regent's Park.

My Regents Park ride on Strava

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