Gravel Rides Around London #1: Cambridge to London

Gravel Rides Around London #1: Cambridge to London

93.2 KM (57.8 Miles) | 953 Metres (3,127 Feet)

This is the first, in what I hope will be a short series of rides you can do on your gravel bike in the vicinity of London. The first couple are going to be point-to-point rides which means that you will need to do one leg by train if you want to get back to where you started.

I’m going to start with Cambridge to London. The genesis of this ride dates back from the 1990s and a ride I found in mountain bike magazine. But that route has been changed and adapted substantially to what it is today.

I say “gravel” rides, but in truth this particular ride could be done on a mountain bike, suiting a hard-tail, or even a road bike with sufficiently thick tyres. I would suggest a minimum of 30mm tyres, and ideally at a time when the weather has been good so that you’re not caught in any mud.

But before anything else, here’s a video I shot last time I did the ride, which takes you through the route:

Cambridge to London Gravel Route

I’ve also published the GPX route on Komoot. See the embedded outline below:

UPDATE: Here’s a link to it on Strava too.

If you click through, you should be able to download the route and send it to your bike computer. Or download the Komoot app and add it to your phone if you want to navigate that way.

Note that Komoot often seems to underestimate altitude gain, so use the climbing figures I’ve given at the top of this entry.

This is a ride I like to do by starting in Cambridge and then heading back to London. Note that when I say “London”, I mean a station at the northern borders of London, because there aren’t really any gravel routes into the capital beyond where I stop. You’re back onto regular London streets.

Getting to Cambridge is pretty easy by train, with regular departures from King’s Cross (the quickest from there are non-stop to Cambridge), St Pancras (with trains running through Thameslink and therefore passing through stations like London Bridge as well), or Liverpool Street if you’re coming from east London.

You can take bikes on all of these trains without prior reservation, with a couple of provisos. Monday-Friday trains leaving London during evening peak 1600-1900 (although you’ll be riding through the night if you leave it that late), or trains to Cambridge from stations north of it timed to arrive between 0745-0845 Mondays-Fridays. At weekends and Bank Holidays you’ll be fine. But do check train operators’ websites.

The route starts right outside the station, and then follows one of Cambridge’s many cycle paths for the first few kilometres. The route is designed to maximise the amount of off-road riding, at the same time using only smaller roads. Komoot reckons that just over 50% of the route is off-road to some extent which feels about right.

This makes a nice all-day trip, although obviously your own speed and fitness will determine that. It took me about 7 hours including stops to ride last time I did it, which was on a good day. Remember that riding off-road is significantly slower (and harder) than road-riding.

There are a few “bailout” points along the route if everything becomes a bit hard. The first is at Watton-at-Stone where there’s a station just a few hundred metres off the route which usually has two trains an hour back into London. But the route also passes close to Hertford (which has two stations – Hertford North and Hertford East) and Cuffley close to the end.

It actually finishes at Gordon Hill station in Enfield from where you can catch a train back to Finsbury Park (bikes can’t be carried on the train beyond Drayton Park so change there for trains onwards to King’s Cross or St Pancras and beyond). Alternatively, Enfield Town station is close by for trains into Liverpool Street.

If you do want to ride further, Enfield does have a lovely cycle route that runs as far as Palmer’s Green – C20. However it stops abruptly at the border of Haringey, where you’re turfed onto the road where Green Lanes meets the North Circular. Check out TFL’s site for more.

The video above mentions a few places along the way where you can stop for food. Note that particularly in the first part of the route, there are few shops along the way, so make sure you carry some provisions for emergencies. There are branches of M&S Food and Sainsbury’s Local by Cambridge Station.

I hope this is a useful ride. Let me know if you do it!