I fly into London 17 May from NZ. Will put my bike together and head west a couple of days later. Have about 5 weeks to zip around UK and Ireland. My questions:
Ideally would like to leave bike box and a few bits and pieces with host in central London so I can return there to prepare for trip back home. Is this asking a bit much?
Second thing. Navigation. Particularly out of London. Looks like an absolute maze of roads. Is it it viable to follow Sustrans 4? Is it clearly marked / easy enough to follow? Should I just follow the Thames? A bit of a meander but would expect some kind of obvious path to follow by the river? Would appreciate your ideas and thoughts.
PS. I am quite low-tech.
I'd love to help you out but I'll be leaving London early May to go on my own cycle touring trip. Shouldn't be too hard to find a warmshowers or Couchsurfing host to hold onto your bike box. Failing that if you stay in a hostel for the first night many will hold onto excess luggage (although there may be a cost - best to shop around).
As for following the sustrans routes, they really vary with quality of signposting. If you're really low tech grab a road map when you arrive. Otherwise I can recommend an offline maps app called Maps.Me which is great. Just download the desired regions when you have WiFi. Doesn't use a lot of battery if you're only checking it here and there to make sure you're on track.
Also there's a friendly cycle club in London called 'London Clarion Cycle Club', you could find them on Facebook and ask any questions. They've been cycling around here longer than me.
Hope that helps a bit.
Those are all really great pointers, thanks Lauren! Much appreciated. All the best with your tour!
What a great tip. Have downloaded all the maps I need. Great resource. Thanks Lauren.
London is less daunting than it might be if you pick the right route, and there are a good number of signs for cycle routes and a long cycleway hading towards Houses of Parliament. Sustrans NCN 4 does in fact follow the Thames for quite a substantial length in Greater London, before cutting a corner to Windsor Castle and then into the countryside. It is well waymarked too and you'll see most of the 'sights' in the central city and Richmond Park and Hampton Court Palace on the way out. However this does mean it takes a rather circuitous route around meanders, plus having ridden it on a wet day the hours of gravel and puddles don't make for either a perfectly smooth ride nor any great speed. Probably much nicer in the dry though and it's tranquil and pretty wide.
Outside London the route sticks mostly to canal towpaths. If you are going as far out as Bristol I would definitely recomend the section through old railway tunnels and a skyline view of Bath then more former railway to Bristol (with steam trains alongside you at one section).
Lauren suggests one good map app - I use a free OpenStreetMap one called rMaps on my phone, which shows all NCN routes on the layer 'Open Cycle Map' as well as local routes, cycle parking and hire, and pubs.
NB the prevailing wind in the UK is from the west - it can be noticed in coastal areas!
Hey, thanks Simon.
Really appreciate you sharing your knowledge. All sounds really positive for what I am planning, except for maybe the wind warning! I will have a tinker with rMaps too.
Hi Patrick - I'm a Yank (Boston, Mass.), but have cycled between Heathrow and London several times. I may well be right behind you, as my wife and I are headed directly west out of Heathrow on May 26, likely toward Lands End, before going on to Bath, Wales, and then Ireland. First, my experience is that the Sustrans routes are poorly signed in places. While they're good routes, you may spend a lot of time retracing steps to find some well-hidden signs unless you use GPX tracks. My favored app is Osmand on my Android phone - it has a higher learning curve than Maps.Me, but has tremendous flexibility and great features for cycle touring. Second, while it's easy enough to follow the M4 and A4 out of London via cycletracks, they're not exactly scenic. You might instead take the Heathrow Express train out of the city (expensive but legal), or the Underground (cheap but illegal). I've biked from Hyde Park to Brentford via local streets, and then along the lovely Grand Union Canal (https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/enjoy-the-waterways/canal-and-river-network/grand-union-canal) to Heathrow or on to Slough. Let's talk more if you think your route might intersect ours!
Great you are travelling with the better half. Unless it has hooves and a mane, mine is just not interested...
Thanks for the tips. Will look into each of them.
Yes, let's stay in touch. May be able to meet up for a Guiness somewhere along the way!