I’ve heard mutterings of the legendary Jack Thurston, his podcast, and a few of my friends have his book, Lost Lanes: 36 Glorious Bike Rides in Southern England, but I’ve never really followed it up. I’ve always wanted to go from A to B instead, which makes for a very different ride. Turns out, his looping rides are a total dream, mindlessly traffic-free and give you loads of time to be ridiculous.
I went back to London for a weekend this winter and magically everyone was free for a bike ride. This also meant that when I went back to work in Berlin on the Monday and people asked what exactly I’d been up to in the UK, they did the “ah yes, of course” face that I’m quickly getting used to.
This ride, from Jack Thurston’s ‘Lost Lanes’ book felt super British. It’s full of thatched roofs, big fields and winding lanes, very few cars, pub fires, lots of leaves and cold breath. It starts by heading out on a train to skip the hour of London roads that aren’t really city and definitely aren’t countryside, which was lovely.
I usually love point to point rides with a specific destination and the feeling of having achieved something in that kind of way, rather than riding in circles. But this felt more like a catchup that happened to involved bikes. Joking about, enjoying cycling, snigger a lot, and mostly pub-hopping. So this is less a ride about riding, and more about how silly riding and brilliant with my friends is. Thanks Jack Thurston, for a ride without pressure around the Chiltern Hills in Bedfordshire, giving us all the more time to be stupid.
The route starts at Harpenden and is a chill 40 or so miles (68km) with a couple of sneaky inclines but nothing crazy.
Bike-wise, it was weird to switch between the fixed gear I’ve been riding in Berlin and to suddenly have gears. To freewheel, and to be able to go up the hills in a different way. I also noticed that the lack of hills in Berlin means I now barely know what a hill is or how to get up it – you win some, you lose some. I’ve realised that somewhere between fracturing my jaw this summer, changing bike and forgetting what a hill is, I’ve acquired some nerves that I didn’t have before. At least I’m still riding. That’s only going to help.
Hello lovely bike. You are definitely staying in London. Coming back and having a bike here is the best.
All it takes is London to get a little sunlight and I’m making smitten faces. Even at the station. These lots help, too.
Key note on the pubs: don’t start too early as they only open at midday.
All hills made better by Will standing on the top looking jolly AF. Also, there was a small stampede of deer across the road which was AMAZING.
My-Ha, between papping the best fire in the world.
Cynthia doing some strange foot exercises.
There was a “Tree Cathedral”. The name does it greater justice than it is. But stopping to kick leaves was lovely.
Idiot friends. Spot the creepy single eye. Photo by My-Ha.