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England

Sunday, 12 June 2016
Attempting a tour around the M25

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Poppies in Kent


Yesterday I attempted something I have not done before: to do a full circuit by bicycle on the outside of the M25 orbital motorway, a 117 mile (188 km) motorway that almost encircles Greater London, England, in the United Kingdom. It took quite a bit of research to plot a route, because I am not familiar with most of the roads, and I found myself adjusting the planned route two or three times a week for the past two months. I found some other people’s advice, and routes, but none of them stuck entirely outside of the M25. They had been aiming to more or less follow the route of the motorway and dipped in and out of the area enclosed by the M25.  The final route I decided to follow stood at about 245 km, but was entirely outside the M25.

I left home at about 6 am, wondering how far I would get. I wasn’t so worried about the distance, but I knew that more experienced riders had given up due to to various types of challenges, mainly with the route and weather. I really enjoyed the ride, although I had a few challenges and had to abandon after 160 km. 

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Daisies were prolific along the route

The first section from South East Surrey, across Kent to the Gravesend Ferry was largely familiar territory. It was overcast and the weather was cool. There was little traffic, and I tried to set a gentle pace. I know from previous events that I am bad at pacing, and it helps me to tag along with other riders. In Gravesend a man befriended me and gave me a lot of information about the area, mostly to do with boats and ships and things. I sensed that he needed the conversation to be one sided, and so I didn’t share my knowledge of Pocahontas with him. Then it was over the ferry to Tilbury docks.

After a few navigational difficulties I made it through Ockendon (technically part of London, although situated outside the M25). Just North of Ockendon, I stopped for a late breakfast and to strip off a layer of clothing. Then it was on to Epping, Waltham Abbey (a quick lunch break) and round to Potters Bar. At Potters Bar I encountered the worst driving of the ride.  I had already had to adjust my route thrice, due to private roads, gravel roads, or non-existent roads, all of which had slowed me down considerably.

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What I reckoned was the half-way mark - looking down on a section of the M25

The next stretch to London Colney proved the most challenging. I took a chance by sticking to my route when it led me onto a private road. I was cheered to see that the road was being used by quite a few others, but then was disappointed to see it was blocked by a quarry that was being dug where it used to pass.  Having found a detour, it started to rain. Eyeing a McDonalds, I stopped to put on a raincoat, drink a hot chocolate and check my route using the free wifi.

It was very busy around here, and the next section of my route was going to take me along the North Orbital, a busy double carriageway with four lanes of thundering motor traffic. It was raining. So some improvisation was again called for.  I made my way past St Albans, and on through Kings Langley using cycle paths: some on the side of the road and others taking circuitous routes from A to B via X, Y & Z.  I practically had to crawl, and will need to make a better route plan for this section of the trip next time. 

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Crossing the M1

The rain stopped, the sun came out and I was off via Little Chalfont, Chalfont and Gerrards Cross. It was getting late in the afternoon, but I started seeing signs for Slough and my spirits were picking up. I might be the first person whose spirits picked up on seeing a road sign for Slough?  The route was lumpy here, but I was expecting it, and I knew it would flatten out soon.  Then on a steep section exiting Fulmer, I heard a click and a rubbing sound. Something was wrong with the derailleur. I tried fiddling a bit, but there was nothing to be done, so I phoned a taxi to pick me up and take me to the station to get the train home.  I had completed 166 km of the ride, so I was two-thirds of the way round.  All in all it was a good experience, and I learned some things. I’ll be looking forward to attempting it again later this year (with some slight route changes).

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The 2D profile of the route I took

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The 3D profile of the route I took

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The map of the route I took

Update (13/06/2016):
The derailleur is fine; a spoke broke and the wheel went untrue. It is being repaired by the local bike shop, and I hope to be going again by this weekend.

All mapping and visualisations created via Veloviewer.

Posted by bigblue on 12/06/2016 at 05:37 PM
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Saturday, 21 May 2016
An important message?

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Found hanging from a tree in Chertsey earlier this week.

Posted by bigblue on 21/05/2016 at 08:50 AM
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Monday, 16 May 2016
Important Clarifications

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The road has been there a long time, with speed humps (plural). And for a long time the surface of the road has posed more dangers to road users than the speed humps (plural). However the sign is new, and it’s good to see that so much thought went into the sign, including its important clarifications.

Posted by bigblue on 16/05/2016 at 03:04 PM
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Sunday, 15 May 2016
The Woldingham Down

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As sunset approaches this evening, with the birds trilling and with a sweet scent of wildflowers in the air.

Posted by bigblue on 15/05/2016 at 06:15 PM
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Monday, 02 May 2016
Wightlink Ferry

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The Wightlink Ferry comes into Fishbourne as I leave it on this misty morning.

Posted by bigblue on 02/05/2016 at 10:40 AM
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Saturday, 30 April 2016
Sunset

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The sun sets as I leave the mainland and head out onto the Solent.

Posted by bigblue on 30/04/2016 at 08:05 PM
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Wednesday, 20 April 2016
Girlfriend in a Conga

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Merchandise at last week’s Mexrrissey concert.

Posted by bigblue on 20/04/2016 at 10:24 PM
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Wednesday, 16 March 2016
General Advice

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As seen in London recently.

Posted by bigblue on 16/03/2016 at 04:32 PM
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