In May 2013 an idea entered my head, to ride every road in London. I looked at the map. I calculated how long it would take to ride from home in Acton to the furthest reaches of London and back, and realised the scale of the M25 is too much. I got realistic and worked out that I could at a push do everything within the north and south circular. 20miles across at the most = 1 hour there, 1 hour back and 1 hour riding everything I could get my tires on. Anywhere closer and I could either do a quicker ride, or do a larger ride every road area. Enough ground can be covered in a <3 hour ride, especially after 9pm, betterlater, when most of London's 8 million are watching tv.
I don't plan routes exactly. I started doing these by just going anywhere, picking a few main roads to delineate an area and ride everything in between. Quickly realised that London has no pattern, is dense, and infinitely varied. And that it takes an hour at least for 1sq km. But sometimes, like close to the center, it can easily take an hour for just 0.5sq km. No matter what though, whether it was straight terraced houses (rare), industrial estates (they're a treat), estates (plentiful, but surprisingly pleasing to ride around at night), or absolutely anything else in between, every ride without fail has been fun, surprising, eye opening and/or rewarding in some or other way.
My 'rules' are that if I can ride down it, I go. Anything I can roll along I go on. There is definitely an element of urban cyclocross here. I ride to be as efficient and flowing as possible. Dead ends don't mean there's nothing there to see. Curb hoping is an often used skill. Pedestrians ALWAYS have right of way. Make all attempts not to startle, be courteous, say thank you. I don't want to be that prick on a bike on the pavement. Ideally, I aim to be invisible. It does feel safer to ride quickly through places I would feel vulnerable passing through on foot. There are some intimidatingly dark alleys out there late on a week night where speed is your only defense. Otherwise a little happy smile/thumbs up can help ease the vibe a bit when stumbling across whatever people are doing late at night down dark alleys. Plus speed!
The rides there and back are just done as quickly as possible.
I have done a lot of these rides now and it isn't getting boring. At all. I've found something I love, and want to share, hence this baring all. I guess I have been trying to convince myself that these rides are awesome and that there would be others out there that would think so too, and that feeling is just getting stronger.
So, if you still reading and want to join in, how would this work? Flexibility is key for which days, but about 2 per week. I usually ride on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday Wednesday or Thursday or combo of these. I only look for a place to ride just before setting off. Leave Acton after 9pm getting to start of area about 45min later. Hour of blasting about, then home by 12ish. Flexible working hours help. Getting there and back is half the fun, but I do just go as hard as possible, so if hammering it across London is not your idea of fun, then meeting somewhere in vicinity of the RER area can work. I'll therefore start posting at around 9pm on the evening of a ride.
Or of course, if you want to try youself to see if what it's like, well, I can answer any questions so you don't make all the mistakes I have repeatedly made. But it is complicated getting all the roads without duplicating, so following someone (me!) will be easier. Of course I'd be happy to follow too. I have over the years developed a heuristic based "system", basically just repeatedly making mistakes, which has resulted in a style of riding relatively efficient whilst maintaining flow and fun. I have tried fixed and geared, and fixed is better imho.
I would never have dreamed that a Hellraiser 2 quote would be appropriate, but anyways, in closing: "The mind is a labyrinth, ladies and gentlemen. A puzzle. And while the paths of the brain are clearly visible, its ways deceptively patterned, its destinations are unknown, its secrets still secrets. And, if we are honest, it is the lure of the labyrinth that draws us to our chosen field, to unlock those secrets. Others have been here before us and have left us signs, but we, as explorers of the mind, must devote our lives and energies to going further, to tread the unexplored corridors in the hope of finding ultimately...the final solution: we have to see, we have to know".
tl;dr come ride all the roads
Typical ride something like this:
Enjoyed your writeup. Don't know if I can ever make one (don't live in London, for a start), but it sounds like a hell of a lot of fun.
My planning for this week is a bit hectic but may be interested.
Keep us posted!
Thanks for the responses.
Thinking about it and the practicalities of meeting up, should anyone ever want to join me, just DM me and we can arrange (exchange no.s etc). I generally have no idea if or where I'm going till I leave the house. But Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays are pretty good bets I'll be out and about.
Last night's dérive was around Deptford High St . Some alleys with interesting vibes!
Might possibly join you . I do this sort of thing a few times a week too.
Whenever you're keen. I'm going for a ride tonight, maybe some of Crouch End to see what that's all about.
Initial goal of riding everything within N and S circular is largely completed now. I say largely, as there are loads of tiny bits here and there which remain unridden. However these are vastly outnumbered by the many places/paths I have ridden that are not roads. So my rules are that these balance things out. I'm satisfied with it! I will continue to fill in any obvious bits like Hampstead Heath which forbid cycling. Hopefully Buckingham Palace lets me fill that bit in one day too. Also, London changes. There are roads I've ridden that no longer exist. There are new developments constantly being completed which have new roads to ride which were under construction when I went there.
I'm just short of 500 RER rides, but these include a few outside my parameters, like some in West London, and some other towns an cities I've been to.
All rides have been done by bike including there and back. Except for one single ride where I got a black cab back for part of the ride as I left my pump at the site of a puncture (got another puncture miles down the road on the way home).
Mostly fixed gear, 73 to 78 GI.
I'll have to do the stats one day when I can't ride for some reason.
There would many ways of showing the scale of this project but unfortunately I am far more passionate about spending time riding than making pretty pictures, so screenshots it is.
It's been a trip.
that's astounding. I'm embedding this for the benefit of those that cba to click the links
Wow! Good work. Love the cyclo-dérive aspect of it.
Chapeau! Very impressive.
This is verging on art.
I've started with some forays into the delights of West of London (Hounslow for instance, ever been round there? Me neither!) which should keep me busy for the foreseeable future, but I found this site, and the video, which nicely explains some of the attraction:
My stats from Wandrer (uses OpenStreetMap):
0.031826% Earth complete
You've ridden 10267.3 unique Earth miles (out of 32260997 total miles).
So much to see out there.
Amazing! This is so cool, well done
Oh,Wandrer is really nice.
Took a while to process the data but it's very fun to look at:
0.021685% Earth complete
You've ridden 6995.9 unique Earth miles (out of 32260997.0 total miles).
Places you've been 10 countries
Someone called Davis Vilums was just featured on R4 this morning for doing something very similar. The hand filled in map and the animated heat map are nice. Graham, the limelight of morning radio is calling you!
Ha! But I haven't finished yet.
Davis has done it nicely. Well documented too.
Although he has a lot of catching up to do!
Some others doing these things too:
Long Beach, CA
Langley, SW of Vancouver
Palo Alto, CA
Original San Francisco - Bret came to London once and we rode together
It was an amazing read. I am happy to know that there are other people doing something similar. I know, the area that I covered wasn't as big as yours, but we had different approaches for a similar idea. My Idea was to complete A to Z superscale map that I had on my commute. You have put a lot more dedication to your project. I saw that you have encountered a lot of similar problems that I had on my way like changing the street layout of London and safety on your ride. Overall great job and you completed maps are just gorgeous. If you would like to animate the rides as I did on my blog, maybe I can help you out somehow.
Davis, nice to hear from you!
I really appreciate the effort you put into recording your project. Your dedication to the method of completing what you set out to do is also super admirable!
You've probably seen this, but looking at it again now, this lady who walked all the central streets also did a nice paper map very similar to you:
You and her make me think I could have done so much more in documenting everything. An animation might be cool to do one day. I've tried making one with a program called RunParticles which had the potential to look amazing, but because there's so much data it was hard to get smoothness and high resolution. At over 500 rides and such a large area even trying to get everything on one image isn't easy.
Of course, dealing with the data is a complex and time-consuming task. It's not easy to jump on it. The most important thing is that you have all the information stored somewhere. You can always go back to it. I used an app called QGIS that deals with the raw mapping data and this Medium article was a great help.
If one day, you are ready to play around with the GPS tracking information. Just let me know, I will help you with some guidance.
Thanks for the offer. Yes, probably my problem is I want instant results, without any patience! Also, I now don't have too much of a 'finish line'. Maybe when I've done west? Will see how it goes.
Generated a map today to see what the latest looks like. This is the progress starting to be made out west. Might not look like much, but it's a big area. Seeing whole other side of London.
This is amazing
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Congrats to Tao on winning the Giro