London 2012 left a legacy of award-winning sports structures and the capital’s largest modern expanse of parkland. For cyclists, the star attraction has to be the velodrome and Lee Valley Velo Park. But winner of even more design awards is the London Aquatics Centre, while football fans now converge on the Olympic Stadium which has been converted to the home of West Ham United. The ride also encompasses Fish Island, Victoria Park and Hackney Marshes. Surrounding the venues is parkland, with the River Lea flowing through the middle. Largely off-road, the ride is suitable for kids, with only a very short road section.
START: Stratford stations.
LENGTH: 14km (9 miles).
TIME: 2 hours.
TYPE OF RIDE: Easy; mostly off-road, a few stretches of busy road.
RAIL STATIONS: Stratford International, Hackney Wick, Stratford Regional Underground stations: Stratford, Stratford DLR, Pudding Mill Lane DLR.
A rare London masterwork of the late Egyptian-British architect Zaha Hadid, the centre was built for the Olympics. It looks like a giant manta ray which could swim off at any moment. Expressionist architects of the 1920s aspired to buildings like Hadid’s but building technology of the time was not up to the task; Hadid’s work turns imagination into reality. She recounted that she wanted the exterior to reflect the activity inside. There’s plenty of bike parking outside.
VELODROME & VELOPARK
Cyclists visiting the park will undoubtedly gravitate towards the extraordinary Velodrome designed by Hopkins Architects. In a presentation to the Islington branch of LCC (ICAG), one of the architects explained how the team, most of whom were cyclists, wanted to illustrate the speed and elliptical movement of the riders inside on the exterior of the building. The very first drawings show simply a mass of oval circles. Discussion with Sir Chris Hoy motivated the architects to populate the sharper ends of the oval with spectator seating so that the crowd noise carried right around the track. During the Olympics anyone lucky enough to be there was overwhelmed by the noise which drove riders to break multiple records and ended up with Team GB bagging numerous medals.
Visitors can see the Siberian pine track at any time (free) except when events are taking place. It’s worth getting tickets for events to enjoy the unique atmosphere. Park your bike outside or circumnavigate the Velodrome to see the road, off-road and BMX circuits too. You can book to ride on the track yourself (cycle hire is provided), or the road circuit, mountain bike and BMX tracks.
ARCELOR MITTAL ORBIT
British sculptor Sir Anish Kapoor and George Balmond of Arups engineers designed the 114m work which is the largest piece of public art in the UK. Kapoor’s and Balmond’s design was the winner of a competition and draws on inspiration from the Eiffel Tower and Vladimir Tatlin’s constructivist works. You can go up to the top (£10) for great views of London.
Once the site of Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis-Hill’s triumphs, the Olympic Stadium has been converted into a football ground for West Ham United. Retractable seats have been incorporated so that the venue can still host athletics events, while the interior capacity has been reduced from 100,000 to 60,000. The exterior of the stadium is also very different to how it appeared at the Olympics; it now has a sparkling hi-tech ‘digital skin’. At the north end of the stadium you’ll soon see the Champions Statue of West Ham’s World Cup winning legends.
Once an industrial site, the Victorian warehouses on Fish Island are now surrounded by two canals and a motorway, and house dozens of artist studios. You can see some of their work at Stour Space which is also a pleasant café with a canal terrace (9am to 5pm daily). Now in the midst of redevelopment, the walls on Fish Island often feature giant graffiti by some of London’s best known street artists. The streets themselves are named after fish (Stour, Dace, Roach etc) giving the ‘island’ its name. A landmark on the ride is the Victorian chimney in Roach Road which links by a cycling and footbridge to the Olympic Park. Across the canal in Hackney Wick there is a choice of great pizza at Crate in White Post Lane and Natura Pizzeria in Felstead Street, as well vintage bikes galore at Skinny Eric’s bike shop (Felstead Street).
Voted London’s most popular people’s park, ‘Vicky Park’ has two delightful lakes with the popular Pavilion Café on the banks of the western-most lake. On the island in the centre of the lake 2012 money was used to construct a Victorian pagoda and bridge that were never built when the park was created in 1845 because cash was short. Two pubs, the Royal Inn and the People’s Park Tavern back onto the park.
This ride is an abridged version of one of 40 plus London rides in the highly recommended London Cycling Guide written by Tom Bogdanowicz, in association with LCC, and published by Fox Chapel.
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