The Oyster Wheel – circumnavigating London on a hybrid bike

Do you want to circumnavigate the capital on a bike? Perhaps you’ve thought about doing a cycle tour but are worried about successive days in the saddle? Well here is a tour challenge that average cyclists can achieve, on a day-trip basis and on a standard hybrid bike. I know because I planned and rode it myself last summer.

The Oyster Wheel is:

  • A loop of eight rides together creating a complete circuit of London, with each day starting and finishing at an Oyster station – the Oyster Loop
  • Eight rides back from those same stations to Tower Bridge – the Oyster Spokes.

The Oyster Wheel is eight Oyster rail/tube stations in a loop, connected together by a mixture of national and regional cycle routes, bridleways, with minor roads to fill in gaps. I wanted a predominantly off/quiet road route, accessible each day by public transport using an Oyster card, with about 4 hours cycling each day so I could enjoy the views and sights at a leisurely pace.

In outline the 8 individual days are as follows:

  1. Tattenham Corner to Hampton Court, via Ranmore Common, the National Trust at Hatchlands, Pyrford’s Norman church and the Thames Path;
  2. Hampton Court to Uxbridge, via the Shepperton Ferry, Laleham, Runnymede where the Magna Carta was signed, the Air Forces memorial, Windsor Great Park and Eton;
  3. Uxbridge to Rye House, via the Grand Union Canal, St. Albans, the Alban Way and the Lea Valley Navigation;
  4. Rye House to Rainham, via Epping and Hainault Forests and the Ingrebourne Valley;
  5. Rainham to Dartford, via Rainham Marshes, the Langdon Hills, the Coalhouse and Tilbury Forts and the ferry to Gravesend;
  6. Dartford to Knockholt, via the Medway Valley, Pilgrims Way and the Darent Valley;
  7. Knockholt to Caterham, via the National Trust village of Chiddingstone, Hever Castle, and the viewpoints of Tilburstow Hill and Gravelly Hill;
  8. Caterham to Tattenham Corner, via Horley, Betchworth and Brockham, before finishing with an ascent of Box Hill.

Four months later, I had completed it, and on the way had discovered some of the most beautiful scenery, cafes and viewpoints that London and its surroundings have to offer.

I decided that I would like to give others the opportunity either to attempt the route, or use it as the basis for their own tours. Hence I have detailed the route on my website, and also written a series of blogs which describe how each day was put together and my experiences.

When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking. – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I hope you can enjoy this as much as I did.

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Tim Boden

Download a guidebook with maps and descriptions for all of Tim’s routes and the moving story behind their creation on his Oyster Wheel website. “There must be a London orbital ride I thought,  …. [there wasn’t]…. , so I decided to create one myself.” 

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