Finding off-road bike routes that start and finish in London is not easy, search online and with a few exceptions, most of the results will be the same old predictable stuff, River Thames/Lee/Wandle, perhaps with a tour of Epping Forest thrown in for good measure. Whilst these are great routes, there are many more interesting options for committed gravel riders, but until now they have remained Hidden Tracks.
It started as a lockdown project, discovering, mapping and riding more of the thin web of bridle and byways that surround London, sharing these experiences with fellow cycling friends. Their often gushing praise, support and appreciation have led directly to the set up of this online GPX library of off-road bike routes.
So about myself, I’m a keen mountain bike and cyclocross rider, with a passion for maps. A challenge for me is finding a way from London to somewhere, a largely off-road route, linking those scraps of surviving old bridleways together to form a coherent ride that gets cyclists out into the countryside for a day.
I love those long rides with some tricky sections that require decent levels of fitness and bike handling skill but that’s not the case for everyone, so, to give a clue of what to expect I’ve graded the routes like ski runs.
Easy green routes are largely flat, shorter distances on well-maintained paths, they are suitable for pretty much all cyclists and most bikes, from the everyday ordinary to the more specialist gravel wonder beasts.
Blue rides are a little trickier, designed to be approachable for most cyclists who have at the least a hybrid bike. At 25 to 30 miles long with a few hills, they make perfect days out for the average rider or a belting morning for the fitter, more experienced enthusiast.
The more challenging Red and Black expert rides are plotted with the more serious off-road rider in mind, the rides are longer and will encounter more tricky trails requiring a degree of bike handling skills and fitness, best ridden on a Gravel, CX or mountain bike.
Must mention mud, it's part and parcel of the off-road experience, for loads of reasons some trails can be ridden easily all year round while others become a hateful muddy old slog. All the routes listed have a Mudometer rating, which is required reading before you set off….
And of course, all the routes have those useful essential things listed, for the nerds, total climb and percentage of the route that’s off-road, for the rest of us, some interesting places to look at along the way and some suggested pubs or cafes to stop at.
The selection of routes is growing by the week, in time I’m targeting to have London surrounded with a network of accessible tried and tested gravel routes and mountain bike trails.
Keep an eye on our social media for the latest addition to the collection and try a route soon.