Stumbled across this whilst cycling

Miles going by

At first it was a happy accident, a few wrong turns on my first cycle to work, and I stumbled across Oxford Circus. For the first time as a London resident and not a tourist. It was a mistake I was glad to make.

Three months after moving to London, my bike was stolen. I bought a second hand bike near Finsbury Park and didn’t plan a route home. I stopped to ask for directions, ended up the wrong way, got rained on. I couldn’t of been happier.

After two hours, I eventually arrived home near Tower Bridge. My knowledge of London, greatly expanded.

I started to more actively seek out these discoveries. I’d slow down on my route to observe more, I’d purposefully ride a different route back, choosing to go only in the general direction of home.

Down little alleys and back roads, it’s amazing what you’ll find.

I’ve even used the CycleStreets route planner in the past, playing mind games, trying to memorise the route in my mind before setting off. Right on to Ashland Pl, Moxon Street, left on Marylebone High Street. Inevitably, I’d get lost after 10 or so turns. Which was the plan all along.

I’ve come across some of my favourite spots in London whilst lost. Quiet parks nobody uses, interesting looking little cafes and pubs that I bring my friends to later.

I couldn’t do this in any city. London’s seemingly unplanned road network is conducive to a meandering route. After the Great Fire in 1666 levelled much of the capital, Wren submitted designs for a more sensible, grid-like road system. Fortunately, they were rejected.

I crave the feeling of discovery, serendipity and wonderment. Those moments where I stumble across interesting graffiti on a side street in Shoreditch, or a road with nobody around and a shortcut I’ll be using all the time – they give me comfort, as I make London my own, by getting to know its little quirks and secrets.

What have you stumbled across on your bike rides?

Please wait here until you are useful

London sunset from the bridge

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19 Responses to Stumbled across this whilst cycling

  1. Barry 07/11/2013 at 8:59 am #

    Nice post Andreas. Kinda jealous of you. Riding, discovering and being surprised in one of the greatest cities I’ve been to….

  2. Toria 07/11/2013 at 10:24 am #

    I do something similar, but out in SW London and to the Surrey Hills. I’ll plan a route on Google, use the street view option to get an idea of the general junction layouts and road types…then I’ll head out and hope for the best.

  3. Vincent 07/11/2013 at 3:51 pm #

    > I’ve come across some of my favourite spots in London whilst lost. Quiet parks nobody uses, interesting looking little cafes and pubs that I bring my friends to later.

    Please upload waypoints :-)

  4. Jude 07/11/2013 at 5:45 pm #

    Buckingham Palace! I was on my way to meet up with some former colleagues down in Vauxhall for after work drinks, and took a wrong turning somewhere near Victoria and shortly thereafter found myself pedalling past the palace. Like most people, I think, who live in London for a long time I’ve kind of taken the big sights somewhat for granted – I used to cycle past Big Ben every day and could never understand tourists’ fascination with it – but this time, probably because I wasn’t expecting to see it, I appreciated it a bit more. If nothing else, it made me think of all my friends around the world who would probably go green with envy if I said, ‘Yeah, I cycled past Buckingham Palace on the way to the pub this evening…’

  5. jr 08/11/2013 at 2:09 pm #

    my favourite oddity is Regents Park as I ride past the Zoo. it’s surreal to look through the gates at a couple of Giraffes and Zebra’s on the way to work, and the screeching of birds or monkeys or whatever – love it

  6. nilling 08/11/2013 at 2:51 pm #

    Lovely post Andreas! It’s the sights and smells of just being outside that you don’t get whilst in a car or on public transport. Happy exploring!

  7. Gary W 08/11/2013 at 3:29 pm #

    Great post Andreas,

    I mistaken thought that I was the only person that did this. I’ve found many nice pubs or boutique shops cycling around aimlessly in a general direction about London. I quite often cycle across Tower Bridge, and feel like a tourist every single time.

  8. Dave 08/11/2013 at 6:51 pm #

    What I find amazing is that nobody actually lives in London. When I get lost and ask directions from a shop keeper, dog walkers, mums with buggies etc, the standard answer is “sorry I am not from around here” Where are they living?

  9. G SIM 08/11/2013 at 10:04 pm #

    For the past 6 months I’ve been going places in London and then riding every road. One square mile equates usually to about a 30km ride. There are about 145 sq miles within the north and south circular. There is so much to see out there, it’s mind-blowing. A London cyclist will never be bored!

  10. Francis Chu 09/11/2013 at 9:58 am #

    Thank you Andrea. This is one of the best article about cycling I’ve read!
    A few of us, all previous colleagues from Philips Design, started 3 years ago to meet on every Sunday morning to cycle around aimlessly, to explore the city (Singapore) we are living in. Later we called it LoveCyclingSG. It is now a very active group on Facebook- to spread the love of cycling :) https://www.facebook.com/groups/lovecyclingsg/

  11. humancyclist 09/11/2013 at 6:12 pm #

    Once a month or so I try to do something similar. Just get on the bike and follow my fancy. London feels so small as a result, densely packed with eye-popping, heart-stopping sights and moments. There needs to be a word for the cycling equivalent of the flanneur. Bikeur. There you go! This is to all you bikeurs out there.

  12. BrixtonJane 09/11/2013 at 11:40 pm #

    I love taking a random journey every now and then. I share a veg plot with a neighbour who also happens be a (very nervous) cyclist and last year, in an attempt to improve her confidence, I took her for a road ride up to London Bridge… on the way back we followed the cycle route round the back of Elephant & Castle (she really wasn’t up to doing the main road!) and we came across a bunch of city allotments where they were having an open day. We stopped, had a chat with various allotment holders, had a drink and a cake from the little stall run by the residents and then headed home. I now regularly cycle home from the Southbank via there, just to check out what they are up to and to get a few tips on improving my courgette crop!

    • rosegrows 15/11/2013 at 1:05 pm #

      yes always getting a seat, always able to stop and pause whether for shelter, for breath, or to follow your nose – an uncontainable freedom of the city, easy to share.

  13. Dermot e2 10/11/2013 at 6:12 pm #

    I took a wrong turn on Spaniards Road in Hampstead once and happened upon the Hampstead Pergola which is a hidden gem and somewhere I probably would never have visited had I not been out for a ride.

    http://wikitravel.org/en/File:Hampstead_Heath_The_Pergola.jpg

    • Andreas 11/11/2013 at 11:06 pm #

      Had the same experience stumbling in to this! Love it :)

  14. James N 11/11/2013 at 1:00 pm #

    I got lost in the wilds of the New Forest last weekend. Saturday wet cold and very very muddy.
    Sunday bright sunshine with the trees a beautiful autumn mix of colours. What more could I have wished for.

    I live 11 miles north of London and what I have just read makes me want to jump on the bike and get lost. Quite a fascinating idea.
    I suggest we lobby our MP’s to get one day a month free of all motorized traffic in our cities. So we can all explore.
    Ok I’m off to contact Boris then my MP.

  15. barton 11/11/2013 at 6:43 pm #

    This is my favorite way to explore when I am traveling, though not always by bike. After my initial visit to the capital, I have taken – on subsequent visits – the opportunity to explore via underground. I get on the nearest line to my hotel, take it to the end (well, the end of the zone I have a ticket for) and simply wander back.

    I have found the BEST pubs this way (where the locals actually talk to strangers and buy a girl a drink), great ethnic dining spots and great boutiques. I’ve also been closely followed through neighborhoods by women in full burqas w/ eye obscuring veils, letting me know I didn’t belong, and escorted through a tough estate by an old Afro-Caribbean grandmother who had the BEST stories about life in post-war London (I met her after I stopped to help her pick up her shopping that had fallen out of a broken bag, she thought I was too nice to be walking in broad daylight through the area – I honestly felt completely safe).

  16. Marcus 13/11/2013 at 10:04 pm #

    How delightful to see that so many cyclist like to just cycle and explore.
    As others here I too have thought I am pretty alone in the hobby to explore new pathes and just try to find out where this small quite road leads too in this fantastic city.
    I don’t consider myself lost while I do that, just on a way to a destination that is not entirely clear yet.

    A side effect of this is that after a while you discover a network of small streets that lead you to where you want to go in a relaxed manner away from heavy traffic and (over) ambitious cyclists.

    A very beautiful path is along the southbank at night. After 10-11pm or so the number of tourists is quite low and relaxed cycling is possible. The view and the light are impressive again and again.
    When I cross magnificent Tower Bridge (I sense a pattern here) to get home I always have the biggest smile on my face.

  17. anon 18/11/2013 at 9:29 pm #

    For the times you don’t want to get lost, the cyclestreets android app has a primitive voice gps (“liveride”).
    It makes the “quiet route”s doable..

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