Our top 5 Tour de France-inspired long London cycle rides

Posted in cycling on July 10, 2012

The 99th Tour de France has been nicely sandwiched in between Wimbledon and the London Games, making sure that we’re not getting live sport withdrawal symptoms. If you’ve been inspired to get into the saddle by the Tour, we’ve got some great long rides around London to try including:

  • Loops to Epsom
  • Long rides in Essex
  • Easy riding from East london
  • Flat routes to Tonbridge and
  • Big climbs in Brighton

So there should be something for everyone!

London to Brighton, 59 miles. Difficulty: Hard.

At a glance: Made famous by the annual charity ride, the London to Brighton route is a long and challenging route, with a couple of monster climbs along the way.

Route: After getting out of London (15km or so.) the route really opens up and is largely spent on country roads with great views over the rolling countryside. Starting off on Clapham Common and heading towards Tooting and then on to Carshalton, as you move away from the city your surroundings soon become noticeably greener and the climbs become noticeably more difficult! After 20 miles you will come up against your first hill but with plenty of flat cycling to come you will have time to recover for the challenges that lay ahead.

After another tough climb at Turner’s Hill, miles 35 to 50 are much easier on the legs and should leave you in good shape for the infamous final hurdle; the Ditchling Beacon. A tough climb in it’s own right, let alone after having just completed nearly 50 miles of punishing road cycling, the Beacon has claimed many victims over the years. The advice from experienced London to Brightoners is to let the low gears do the hard work and to avoid the temptation of rushing up the Beacon in the vain hope of ‘getting it out of the way’. Find a speed and tempo that you are comfortable with and stick to it, know that you are very close to the end and have a nice downhill bit to look forward to.

Tour de France equivalent: Macon – Limoux – Foix, 191km, Flat(ish) to start with then an eyewatering climb (18% gradient at times!) finishing with long downhill.

Crystal Palace to Tonbridge, 28 miles, Difficulty: Medium.

At a glance: This route, starting in South East London, is a real hidden gem; usually surprising Londoners by how quickly they are enjoying views of rolling British countryside.

Route: From Crystal Palace head towards Elmer’s End and on to West Wickham (D on the map). From here, head towards Corkscrew Lane which leads you to the top of the North Downs where, on a clear day, you can see for over 30 miles. Westerham is the next port of call where speeds of up to 40 mph can be reached when coming down into the village. From there head on the B2027 towards Bough Beech Resevoir and Penshurst (Which could be a good place for a stop at the Little Brown Jug pub for a few well earned refreshments,’c’ on the map). After refuelling, continue along the same road until turning right at Leigh station and follow the road until turning left on to Hayesden Lane and follow that road all the way in to Tonbridge.

Tour de France Equivalent: Arc-et-Senans – Besancon, 41.5km, Flat with plenty of speed.

Acton to Bradfield, 55.45 miles. Difficulty: Hard.

At a glance: For the experienced rider looking for a long and challenging route.

Route: Heading out to East London, starting at West Acton station, take the Uxbridge road towards Dormer’s Wells. Then head South towards Hounslow and along towards Staines on the A30. The next stretch from Staines to Bray is particularly easy on the eye with both towns having some very nice places to stop for a bite to eat (The Fat Duck is particularly nice we’ve been told…). Heading on from Bray to Maidenhead and then through Henley  the route gets a little hilly and the roads a little rural so make sure you’ve got your map with you. Once you arrive at Bradfield and you’ve dusted yourself off there is a quick 3 mile cycle to get to Theale Railway Station from where you can head back to London.

Tour de France equivalent: Bagneres-de-Luchon – Peyragudes, 144km, A tough test at times but downhills at key points make things easier.

Central London (Tottenham Court Road) to Basildon, 33.9 miles. Difficulty: Hard. 

At a glance: For those of you who are looking to make the most of these long, warm(!) summer nights by going on a longer blast on the bike.

Route: Starting off right in centre of London and using a combination of quiet roads, bridle and cycle paths you should be able to relax and enjoy all 33.9 miles of the route. Start by heading North East towards Victoria Park and cut across towards the Olympic park and head due East towards The Chase Nature Reserve . Continue East, breezing past the M25 as you go and you will soon reach Basildon, hopefully feeling refreshed and ready to head back to the city.

Tour de France equivalent: Bonneval – Chartres, 53.5km Long, flat ride with plenty of chances to be aggressive.

Clapham to Epsom loop, 36.1 miles, Difficulty: Medium.

At a glance: If you’re looking for a slightly more challenging loop that contains a good balance of climbs and flat portions this route to Epsom racecourse could be ideal.

Route: Starting in Clapham it will be a challenging cycle out of London via Wimbledon common with plenty of uphill work. The route then takes in Kingston Vale and carries on along the A3 towards Tolworth. Having taken the A240 towards Ewell, Epsom is now within striking distance. After stopping at Epsom racecourse and taking in the great views back over London you are then faced with a nice downhill cycle back in to London. On the way back head towards Purley and then take the A23 towards Tooting Bec.

Tour de France equivalent: Rambouillet – Paris, 120k the showpiece sprint with a famous landmark waiting patiently for the winner.

If you have any of your own suggestions we’d love to hear them! Inspired to get into the saddle and want to make sure you’re technique is top notch? Add your email here and we’ll let you know as soon as our cycling instructors are live on the site.

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