Following the success of British cyclists in the Tour de France and the Olympics, cycling as a sport is becoming increasingly popular in London. There are many thriving cycling clubs in the area, as well as a popular amateur racing circuit.
Road racing is the oldest form of competitive cycling, and is well known for events such as the Tour de France. Races are run on roads or on closed circuits, using lightweight, drop-handlebar bikes.
The best way to get involved in road racing is to join your local club, which can be found through the British Cycling website. Its normally a good idea to get used to riding in a group before entering races.
If you want to see how it is done, there are several professional races which visit London:
- Following on from the Olympic Road Race, the RideLondon-Surrey Classic is a one-day race which loops out into the surrey hills before finishing in central London.
- The Tour of Britain frequently visits London - check the website for this year's route
- The London Nocturne is an annual circuit race around Smithfield market, run in the dark!
- The Tour de France will be starting in the UK in 2014, with a stage finishing in London on July 7th.
Track cycling includes a range of different events - from sprints to longer endurance events such as the scratch race.
Racing is held on specially constructed banked tracks or velodromes for track bicycles, which are brakeless, single fixed-geared versions of road bikes, with ultra-light tyres and frames, and clipless pedals.
Track cycling is governed by British Cycling, which has a list of events. Herne Hill velodrome also runs introductory sessions for those starting out on the track.
From 4th March 2014, Londoners will also have access to the Olympic velodrome at the Lee Valley velodrome - where you can also book introductory sessions.
If you want to watch the pros in action, try the Revolution series - which will be coming to Lee Valley on the 14th/15th March.
Cycling makes up one-third of this rapidly growing sport, which enjoys considerable cross-over with traditional road cycling.
Triathlon is an endurance sports event, consisting of swimming, cycling and running over various distances, with events lasting from around one hour, up to eight or nine.
Cyclo-cross originates in Belgium where it is synonymous with frites, maynonnaise and beer! Races usually take place in the winter, and are multi-lap, held on short courses with obstacles requiring riders to dismount carry their bike at points. The bikes used are similar to road bikes, but with wider, treaded tyres, and cantilever or disc brakes.
Many road cycling clubs also cater for cyclo-cross, and there is a full series of races in and around London, which can be found on the British Cycling website.
Cyclo-cross bikes are also frequently used for commuting - something which has inspired LCC to organise an Urban Cyclo-cross race at the London Nocturne!
Mountain biking is cycling that makes use of non-paved or rough surfaces.It's a sport that can require endurance, bike-handling skills and self-reliance, and can be practised almost anywhere, from a back yard to a secluded mountain top.
Cross country, the most traditional form of mountain biking, involves navigation of off-road trails consisting of country back roads, fire roads or single-track - narrow trails that wind through fields, forests and hills.
Since 2006, Cross country mountain biking ('XC') has featured in the Summer Olympics. The course for the London 2012 event was at Hadleigh Farm in Essex, and is open to the public.
Any off road route that's officially a bridleway can be ridden on a bike. You can find out more about these routes through local clubs, bike shops or websites such as bikely, or ibikeride. You can also visit trail centres, such as Bedgebury which have signed routes and will usually offer bike hire.
Other types of Mountain Biking:
Downhill: Involves navigating steep and rugged downhill courses, in competition done against the clock, starting at intervals, on courses which typically take two to five minutes to complete.
Freeride: Combining different aspects of the sport, but with emphasis on airborne skills such as dirt jumping.
Trials ('North Shore'): Negotiate man-made (often made from wood) and natural obstacles without your feet touching the ground. Made famous globally by Scottish rider Danny MacAskill.
BMX cycling is currently enjoying substantial popularity rivalling its heyday in the 1980s, due in part to its inclusion at the Beijing Olympics. The two main forms are track and freestyle.
Races are fast and aggressive sprints on purpose-built, off-road, single-lap tracks, with eight riders competing shoulder to shoulder.
The number of tracks and events is increasing fast, and you can find a list of events on the British Cycling website.
You can also ride the London 2012 Olympic track at Lee Valley, which opens in March 2014.