Urban RetroBike #3 - Saturday 13th April 2013

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Retrobike Rider
OK, so it's time to dust off your steed and brave the elements for the third iteration of this popular ride round the backwaters of South East London, The Isle of Dogs, The Regents Canal, trendy Islington, The City of London, The West End and a spot of hill climbing over Crystal Palace too.

There are plenty of drop off and meeting points along the way for those coming at the ride from an oblique direction.

Dear rural RetroBiker cousins, fed up of miles of emptiness, fields of wheat, remote hilltop vistas and no kebab shops for miles in every direction?
Then let me know if this wizard caper tickles your fancy.

Why not put on your smartest clobber and join me for a RetroBike cruise around the big smoke. From a starting point in the dystopian concrete and glass metropolis that is the very heart of Croydon you will travel through a multitudinous landscape that will take your breath away with its scope and diversity (whilst at all times remaining safely within a stones throw of a kebab shop). You will discover hidden parks and woodland, forgotten rivers, canals and best of all, a foot tunnel under the River Thames known only to locals and those who can use Google.

On route you will be able to view the freshly restored Cutty Sark, The O2 Arena, Docklands, The Olympic Stadium, St. Paul's Cathedral, Trafalgar Square, The Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace. All this and Croydon too! in under 6 hours.

Starting from East Croydon station we will wend our way along the tough streets of "Sarf Londin", birthplace of music as diverse as; The Rolling Stones, David Bowie and DubStep. Soon we will leave tarmac and following the gravel paths of the South Norwood Country Park and Lakes. At this stage the horizon will be dominated by the escarpments of Crystal Palace and its twin radio masts, recognisable from the "only blow the bloody doors off" scene in "The Italian Job".

Leaving the delights of Norwood behind, we will briefly travel through the genteel suburbs of New Beckenham before picking up a cycle route that will be our highway to the Thames. This route follows the river Pool as it makes its gentle progress through the parks and recreation grounds of the Borough of Lewisham, through Catford where it joins the river Ravensbourne and on to Ladywell Fields. It is worth noting that the PurleySquire speed record for this section stands at 7 minutes and 30 seconds!
Leaving the charms of the river Ravensbourne behind at Lewisham, we will make a short on road sprint through Deptford, (stopping is not recommended), to cross the Deptford Creek and find ourselves in historic Greenwich, all ready for some light refreshments.

Duly fortified, we will venture under the River Thames using one of the 2 public foot tunnels available to reach the Isle of Dogs. Fans of TVs East Enders will know the area as "that funny kink in the river" that is used in the opening sequence. We will follow this meander eastwards along the Thames Path, from where you will be able to see the Royal Observatory at Blackheath, The Maritime Museum and The Queen's house (often used in films for scenes as a substitute for Whitehall), a little further on the O2 Arena will come into view.

Leaving the tranquility of the river behind, we will have to navigate the tough backstreets of East London towards Stratford for a view of The 2012 Olympic Stadium. This may well provide the ideal opportunity for a lunch stop in a traditional London Cafe where you may well find such culinary delights as Bubble and Squeak on the menu.

Following the perimeter of the Olympic Park we will follow the Hertford Union Canal tow path alongside Victoria Park and onto the Grand Union Canal, for the ride through to trendy Islington, home to both former property investing Socialist prime ministers and shallow hipsters alike.

Re-emerging at street level we will join the A1 Great North Road for a ride Southwards through the City of London and its financial district to St Paul's cathedral.
After catching a quick snapshot, we will be heading "Up the Strand", along the outskirts of London's theatre land, past the historic Savoy hotel on to Trafalgar Square. A short detour to see Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament is also possible if desired.

To conclude, there will be a grand RetroBike procession along the Mall to Buckingham Palace for a quick photo opportunity and cup of tea with Her Madge.

Minutes later we will be at Victoria Station, where fast trains will whisk you back to East Croydon in around 12 minutes or onward as necessary.

But for those who require more miles under their belt, or have to return to the starting point, I can offer an extended return journey.

This will pass the Oval Cricket ground and through delightful Dulwich Village, which might be another good choice for further refreshment at a friendly roadside inn. We would then scale to the very heights of Upper Sydenham, home of Logie Baird the inventor of TV, for some epic vistas of the city.
From there, we would follow a vertiginous descent at breakneck speed down through Anerley, birthplace of Thomas Crapper, inventor of the Water Closet till we find ourselves back at East Croydon station.

Additional Notes:


East Croydon station is a major transport hub. There are frequent trains from the South Coast, but many other destinations are served, some even as far away as Scotland! Parking in Croydon is scarce and expensive, if you are coming by car you may want to leave your vehicle at my place, where there is some free parking.

Tyre Choice:

The route will follow; roads, cycle paths, gravel and tow paths. Suspension bikes are unnecessary. Tyres from 1.5" - 2.0" inches wide will be ideal. Glass, nails and miscellaneous debris are common, carry a spare inner tube and a few basic tools with you. Re-enforced tyres, such as the excellent Schwalbe Marathon are to be recommended.

Road Riding:

There will be a fair few miles on some very busy streets. Lights and hi-viz clothing are to be advised, helmets according to your personal preference. On the road sections, additional vigilance for numpty drivers and pedestrians is paramount.


The route is quite flat for the majority of the journey. There may be stairs to climb at Greenwich, should the lift be out of order. You will need to be able to do this with the bike on your shoulders comfortably for about 100 steps in a confined space. The distance covered in total will be around 40 miles or nearer 60 with the optional return leg.


It is generally a good few degrees warmer in the city. Strong winds can be a problem in the vicinity of the River Thames (or after a trip to the kebab shop). I would anticipate carrying out this ride in most weathers except constant rain, which would be a bit miserable IMHO.

Time Allowance:

Realistically from 6 to 8 hours, allowing for group riding and breaks.


Retrobike Rider
Updated info

I have dropped in a cut'n'paste from the original ride, the formula has remained pretty much the same. On the more recent rides, we have added a short climb up onto Blackheath. We found that going all the way around the Olympic site added little benefit whilst it is under redevelopment, so just got to the edge before heading back towards the canal section. A number of people have done the whole loop now, including the lung busting climb over Crystal Palace, but it's worth it for the view at night.

OK so let's do a name check...

Definitely coming along:

Purley Squire - your guide and host East Croydon meet up 09:45 - 10:00 (just by the main exit for the station/tram stop)
al-onestare - East Croydon meet up 09:45 - 10:00
Secret Squirrel - Greenwich meet up 11:00 (by the bow of the Cutty Sark)

Possibly coming along:

No takers

On the list for Urban Retro #4:

Bob Cat Max - en route to The Cotswolds
godders - bailing out for a wedding
Explosif Phil - still building bikes?
warpedboy2 - now headed out West?
Wizard of Oz - still at work?


Retrobike Rider
Kona Fan
GT Fan
Gonna have to bail on this one too I'm afraid. knee is looking a little better, but only so I can break it again on the Sunday @ HoNC in the Cotswolds :roll:

Have a great time everyone - can we get loads of photos please. I'd like this event to get some good press later on in the aftermath thread. Hopefully we can drag a few more londoners out of the wood work for #4 :D

it is East Croyden station, right?


Kona Fan
Count me in. Looks like my 1.3's might be a bit too thin. Decisions, decisions...at least I can cycle over from HQ and the end location is ideal as well.


Senior Retro Guru
Count me in (subject to my physio knee visit tomorrow) but coming in from a westerly direction (paddington) so need a suggested meet point/time.

Can do my usual commuter route through to the City and then swing south or east to meet. Or I can get the train to Waterloo and head out from there.


Retrobike Rider
Paddington journey

Yes, a pleasant ride South to Victoria is possible through the roads and bridle paths of Hyde Park would be a good option 1. Then a fast train to East Croydon. If you are averse to the train option 2 would be to carry on past Victoria, till you reach the river at Vauxhall Cross and pick up the Thames Path heading East to join us at Greenwich.


Retrobike Rider
Sorry guys won't be there for this one :( still on nights .... And I will be in bristol this weekend at a wedding, have a good one and I will catch you at the next one, on a sunny and warm day in the not to distant future .... I hope !! Mick :)
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