The Circuits of London

This is an article by Social Media Sec Hannah Nicklin on the ‘Circuits of London’ – all the main circuits you might race on in our league, with key info and transport links, hopefully to make it easy for you to plan how you can get to one of our races… 

If you’re a London based cyclist and interested in giving racing a go, your first race will most likely be a ‘crit’ or ‘criterium’ race – a short race on a closed and often specially-designed circuit. There is a wealth of great circuits in and around the London area, but as a first timer you might have questions about how to get there with your bike, and what to expect when you arrive… That’s hopefully where this article comes in!

Rules of thumb: Travel 

(This is on the basis that you don’t have a car – I’m assuming if you have a car you know how to drive somewhere).

Now, a lot of people will be comfortable carrying their race stuff on their back and just riding to a circuit, but if you’re someone who likes to ride on super-fresh legs, or doesn’t want to deal with the stress of London traffic, you can limit your cycling time by using London’s largely decent public transport. Here are some pointers:

TRAINS: In general, bikes are allowed on the Overground, DLR and the TFL train services in off peak hours. Off peak is usually described as Mon-Fri between 10am and 4pm and after 7pm, and all weekends (check your train service provider for their exact policies). A lot of evening races start at 7pm, so if you want to do a race and you need to travel on a train (i.e. you might to Cyclopark) you’ll need to be on a train that leaves it’s originating London station before 4pm (i.e. if I catch a train at Bromley South to Cyclopark, it’s only Off Peak if it left Victoria before 4pm). You may therefore need to take a half day off work for a work-day race.

Bicycle tfl mapUNDERGROUND: You are allowed your bike on some of the underground in off-peak hours! Not everyone knows that.  There’s a great map here which shows you all the details – read the key carefully. Also remember you can ride your bike between small gaps in connections.

TFL also has a brilliant search function under ‘edit preferences’ in the journey planner that allows you to specify that you want to ‘take my cycle on public transport  – click that when planning your journey and it won’t give you trips that you can’t take your bike on.

WATCH OUT AT THE WEEKENDS. Don’t just plan a journey theoretically on google maps on Monday and think it’ll apply on the Saturday of a race; actually look at the exact day and time on the TFL website. otherwise you might find a lovely one-change train journey has turned into several replacement bus services which will disapprove of your bike.

So, with that general advice, let’s find out a bit about…

The Circuits!

Hillingdon (West London)

Website: Link here.
Postcode: UB4 0LP
Facilities: A small but totally functional club house – toilets, changing rooms, no permanent cafe but on race days someone’s usually selling snacks, teas, and coffees (take change, no cards!) and a good sized car park (free, I think).
Lockers? Yes! Free – when you do a race you will usually be able to get a locker key when you sign on.
Main transport links: nearby train stations that are only be a short ride away include:

  • Southall OR Hayes & Harrington (trains from Paddington, about 10 min bike ride away)
  • Boston Manor (Piccadilly line, about a 20min bike ride away)
  • Greenford (Central line, about a 20 min bike ride away)
  • Syon Lane (trains from Waterloo, (via Clapham Junction) about a 25 minute bike ride, good for South Londoners)

Hillingdon is a largely flat circuit, with no really challenging corners in it, a great place for your first crit, and one of the hosts of the LWR crit/rr league. The 2017 LWR league Hillingdon race is on the 22nd April, hosted by Westerly Cycling Club, sign up here.

Redbridge Cycling Centre or ‘Hog Hill’ (North London)

Hog Hill (Redbridge) at the Women's Team Series

Website: Link here.
Postcode: IG6 3HP
Facilities:  A small but totally functional club house – changing rooms with showers and toilets, a cafe (cash only) run on race days, a good sized car park (free, I think).
Lockers? Yes! They take £1 coins which you’ll get back.
Main transport links: nearby train stations that would then only be a short ride away include:

  • Goodmayes or Chadwell Heath (trains out of Liverpool Street and Stratford, 10-15 min ride to the circuit)
  • Fairlop station (Central line, 5 min ride to the circuit)

Though it’s often called ‘Hog Hill’ after the challenging ‘Hoggenberg’ hill at the heart of the circuit, racing at Redbridge Cycling Centre doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to have to climb the hill 20 times in a race. The circuit has lots of different possible configurations that can often mean you might be doing a ‘hog without the hill’ or ‘hog with the occasional hill’ (where the hill is only done 3 or 4 times per race) or be doing the course anti-clockwise, in which case you might climb the longer ‘alpine’ zig zag part of the course, and descend the Hoggenberg. Either way it’s a course full of variety, and the hog-without and hog-with-the-occasional hill configurations are great beginner courses. The bottom of the circuit has no challenging corners, and well, you’re a cyclist! Getting used to racing on hills is something you’re going to need to do… (Also, remember everyone else is suffering too!)

Our first crit/rr race is being hosted by CC London on the ‘Hog with the Occasional Hill’ format on this Saturday (4th April) and you can sign up in advance up until the evening of Thursday 30th March! 

Cyclopark (Kent)

Cyclopark start line on a windy dayWebsite: Link Here.
Postcode: DA11 7NP
Facilities: A very well supported facility, with spacious changing rooms, showers, toilets, a large cafe and outside seating area, the cafe takes cards, and there’s also a bike shop and mechanics. Paid parking in a very spacious car park (you might get money back for parking, I’m not sure, I don’t drive!)
Lockers? Yes! They take a pound and give you the pound back afterwards.
Main transport links:

  • Gravesend or Ebbsfleet International (trains out of St. Pancras or Charing Cross. National Cycle Route 177 runs the length of Cyclopark from those two stations).
  • Meopham [pronounced mepam, in case you don’t want to be laughed at by a train man] (trains from Victoria or Bromley South, about a 10-15 minute ride away (although crossing some busy roundabouts))

Cyclopark is a brand new-feeling facility just outside of London. The circuit is quite large and very varied, you can also race there in the dark as they have floodlights, so look for winter series and evening races (held on a shortened version of the circuit) there. There’s a small climb, a long drag, and some decent challenging corners to be found, and the facilities are really nice. Join us there on the 20th May for an LWR race! It’s being hosted by Southborough CC and is part of the ‘Crits in the Park’ series. Sign up here!

Lee Valley Velopark (NE London)

Lee Valley Velopark

Website:  Link here.
Postcode: E20 3AB
Facilities: brand new for the 2012 Olympics, this venue is (perhaps unsurprisingly) incredibly well kitted out. A great cafe that takes cards, a bike shop on site, you can even hire rollers to warm up on for £5! (Though tell them you’re using them for the circuit, not the track, as they can take them to the wrong place). Changing rooms with motivational quotes graphics, lots of glossy pictures of Brad and Cav cuddling on the walls, showers, and toilets. There’s a car park, which is free for 4 hours if you’re cycling – but you’ll pay on entry and then reclaim – ask at the desk about the procedure to do that.
Lockers? Yes, and they’re these terrifying robot lockers that don’t take money. You key in a code and do some magic and then it remembers your code (which is less useful if you don’t, if you’re forgetful/nervous, make a note of both your code and your locker number (as you won’t have a key with it on!) when you lock it… Ideally write this information on something you won’t keep in the locker)
Main transport links: at the heart of the Olympic Village, you can ride in 5 minutes from:

  • Stratford/Stratford International (served by Overground, DLR, Central line, and tfl rail from among other places, St. Pancras)
  • Hackney Wick (for Overgrounds from Canonbury, which is a neat and easy change if you’re on the East London Line of the Overground)

Lee Valley is another floodlit circuit, so you’ll find great winter series and night-time racing here, and it’s another great-for-beginners course, run either clockwise or anticlockwise it has no really challenging corners, is mostly flat, and is a great new and grippy surface, good even in the wet! You can race with LWR there on the 27th of May, Hosted by Hackney Primavera, sign up here.

Crystal Palace Crits

Crystal Palace Crits, Les Filles on the front

Website: Link here. ALSO follow them on Twitter, the surface is such that is has to be cancelled if it rains, and you’ll get that info first on Twitter
Postcode: SE19 2BA
Facilities: A different beast altogether, Crystal Palace Crits is a time-honoured tradition in the Summer, where a hundred or so riders will race a very short circuit around a closed off section of Crystal Palace Park. There aren’t really facilities to speak of, just a lovely old park! Sign on is usually at Cadence – a bike shop/cafe on Anerley Hill, and you can usually follow the steady stream of riders into the park to where the race takes place. You can use the toilet in Cadence (change there, at a push), pick up any food/nutrition or drink you want, and usually everyone bunks off to the pub afterwards. It sounds a bit haphazard but it’s great fun, and a great atmosphere. Bonus: arrive early to the park to see amazing tiny kids doing their stuff on the circuit.
Lockers? Not really! Best not to turn up with anything particularly valuable, most people leave their bags in the middle of the grass verge the race route runs around. Or at Cadence, though I’m not sure they encourage that.
Main transport links:

  • Crystal Palace station (served by Victoria, London Bridge and the Overground’s East London line from Highbury & Islington)

The CP crits are an incredible experience and the best kind of baptism of cornering fire that you’re likely to find in the London area. A fast, short, brutal circuit with a long drag on one side, and shorter climb on the other – which of those you’ll meet will be determined by whether they’re running clockwise or anticlockwise on the day you race.

We’ll have a race there on the 5th of May – sign up isn’t open yet but when it is, it’ll be via Rider HQ, follow us on Facebook or Twitter to hear about it when entries go live (and sign up fast, they often sell out!)

Final top tip!

Arrive in time to change, lock your stuff away, sign on (with your BC license) AND warm up. You can sometimes warm up on the circuits but sometimes they might be running other races just before yours, so you’ll either need rollers/turbo or to go out on some local roads. Here’s a great 20 minute warm up from BC: Link here. Warm up is important because crits can often go fast from the start, you might also want to practice clipping in quickly, and even visit a track on a non-race day when it’s generally open to the public to get a feel for it. Or just do what most people do and turn up on the day and learn on the job! Whatever you choose, I promise you’ll have great fun. Sign up and enjoy!

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