I’m shocked to find that three months have passed since I swapped on bike ride to work for another. On my last pedal up the ever-chaotic Holloway Road I thought that I should probably write about both rides, so here I go.
From outer north London, 020 8 land (any fule no not to write 0208), it is south, south, south to Old Street. The route crossed the North Circular and the isolated oddness of Strawberry Vale, a huge and strange estate that’s cut off by the A406 on one side and Islington & St Pancras Cemetery on the other. It’s best to keep riding, up and over East Finchley, then up Far Highgate bank past Wellington SIdings and on to Highgate Wood.
The downhill stretch of the ride is exhilarating, with views of distant St Paul’s from the relative safety of the Archway Road bus lane. Coming in the opposite direction tough boys and girls ride up and over Highgate Hill, avoiding the crunch of traffic at Jackson’s Lane and testing stamina, achilles tendons and fitness. But Holloway Road is unavoidable, a mash of blind t-junctions, buses and trucks and endless waits at busy junctions. It is a wonder anyone gets on a bike to do this but we do, every day. Once round the roundabout at Highbury Corner New North Road is something of a raceway, where you start to pick up fixie riders heading west from Hackney and beyond. City Road, and journeys end, and glad tidings for not dying en route. 8 miles. 40 minutes.
From outer north London it is a gently curving south-westerly ride to White City. While there are many better places to ride to, the ride itself is lots of fun. The backstreets of Finchley Church End lead to Regents Park Road and Henley’s Corner. Once past Golders Green the ride starts to feel unusual for someone used to riding into and out of the centre, passing unfamiliar places with new views of London. Wembley’s arch looms omnipresently further west. Sunsets around Child’s Hill and off to the A41 are breathtaking.
From Finchley Road Fortune Green Road runs fast downhill, with enough kick to make the return leg a leg-stretch. One of London’s oddest places awaits, West Hampstead’s jumble of stations, pedestrians and queuing traffic. It is the one part of the new ride that feels like the old one. Past here and further downhill, West End Lane snakes with antiquity towards Kilburn, once home to a priorty. West End Lane curves off almost unnoticed from the main flow of traffic to the High Road, and after a dog leg a long, straight line leads on past Queens Park and through Brondesbury to Kensal Rise.
Where am I now? I’m not sure. The friendly spirits of the West London Cemetery – my grandmother and Isambard Kingdom Brunel ensure safe passage to Scrub’s Lane and the last coast to journeys end, livened up by a tasty junction and a crossing beneath the Westway, where we hold on for tomorrow as the song goes. White City and journeys end and, usually, less thought to risks en route, more thoughts of other things. 11 miles. 45 minutes.