Cycling though Docklands

I recently got talked into going to Portugal for a rather activity-packed weekend, including a full day of mountain biking down the coast. Which sounded lovely, except for the fact I’d only cycled once in the last decade. So I figured I should get a little practice in to see if my legs had it in them. I figured if I could do it in London traffic (I’ve never cycled in a city before) then a coastal road on the Algarve should be no problem.

It all started out easily enough with a gentle cycle along the Regent’s Canal down to the river at Limehouse. It’s a lovey part of town, away from the traffic and getting to head through Victoria Park. From there, we headed through Canary Wharf and down the Isle of Dogs. It’s a very odd place, with the gleaming office blocks looking like they’ve landed from somewhere across the Atlantic, right next door to run-down council estates and boarded-up pubs.

After heading under the river via the Greenwich foot tunnel, I hit my first hill in Greenwich Park, which was a bit of a struggle, so we stopped for lunch in Blackheath. We were going to head back after that, but for some stupid reason I suggested we instead cross the river using the Woolwich Free Ferry instead and go back that way. I normally have quite a good sense of London geography. This time however, I got it a bit wrong – it pretty much doubled the overall length of our journey, which considering I hadn’t cycled for so long wasn’t a great idea.

Still, it was worth it for getting to see some of London’s more out-of-the-way sites:

Thames Barrier

Thames Barrier

including London’s very own slightly-less-impressive equivalent of the view from the Staten Island ferry:

Canary Wharf & the Dome, viewed from the Woolwich Free Ferry

Canary Wharf & the Dome, viewed from the Woolwich Free Ferry

and probably the largest remaining unconverted docklands warehouse, Spillers Millennium Mills. It’s absolutely huge, and would make lovely flats – except for the fact that it’s about 100 metres from the runway of London City Airport.

Millennium Mills, seen across Royal Victoria Dock

Millennium Mills, seen across Royal Victoria Dock

After all that, the cycle back was knackering, especially with the 30mph winds making every hill more of a struggle, and the surroundings of the East India dock road and Poplar being rather less than inspiring. By the time we made it home, 28 miles later, I was ready to collapse. Not bad going though for my first ride in years, and I was amazed to find my legs were fine the next day, so I knew I’d be OK for Portugal.


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