Cycling to the London 2012 Olympic games - the where, what and why of arriving at venues on 2 wheels

Earlier this week we gave you the "Cycling during the Olympics survival guide" full of tips on how to get about town on two wheels this summer.  Today, ibikelondon brings you the inside track on how to bike to the Games themselves, and how even those without tickets can still enjoy some of the best cycling events the Olympics offer - for free!

London will welcome the world with its spectacular opening ceremony tomorrow night and I for one am pretty excited.  (Good luck to the handful of readers and London cyclists who I know are performing or volunteering tomorrow!)  And the event which raises the curtain on Olympic sporting action on Saturday morning is, of course, the men's road race, and there will be plenty more on that later.  But first...

"How do I get to the Games by bike?"

One of the best kept secret of this summer's Games is the availability of free guided cycle rides to ticketed sessions at Olympic venues.  Those good people at Sustrans have been commissioned to help guide us to unfamiliar venues. Trained volunteers are on hand to meet you at a London landmark and take you to your event safely on carefully planned routes which are manageable for all abilities.  To check if there's a guided ride to match your event and to book your place "on board", check out the BikeBuddies2012 website from Sustrans.

Getting to the Olympic park under your own steam requires slightly more forward planning.  Official travel guides and Transport for London will plot out torturous routes through Bow roundabout and Stratford High Street to reach the park - not impossible but possibly mildly masochistic.  But it doesn't have to be this way...

For those coming from north London pick up the river Lea and head south to Hackney marshes, hopping over the canal at Eton Manor where a massive bike park forms part of the "transport hub" (do look out for coaches parking here!)

For those coming from east of the East End try to pick up the Beckton Greenway to Stratford where a cycle park and access gate awaits (see map below)

Click to enlarge.

As I mentioned, coming from the west or centre of London to Stratford need not necessarily involve going for a spin round the infamous Bow roundabout.  Ignore all invitations to peruse Cycle Superhighway Two along the Mile End Road and instead head towards the lovely corner of East London that is Victoria Park. (For those especially timid of the roads the Regents Canal will take you all the way to Victoria Park from central London but prepare to take it very slowly, to give two rings of your bell before passing through narrow bridges and remember that pedestrians always take absolute priority.  I hardly need mention that the canal will be extremely busy though not impossible to use.)  Once at the park a 5,000-cycle capacity guarded bike park awaits you next to the Victoria Park Live Site where big screens will relay all of the action.  It's a ten minute walk from there to Victoria Gate (aka White Horse Lane) to enter the Olympic park proper - comparable to the time you're likely to have to wait to get on a train at Stratford station - plus you get the added bonus of walking through Hackney Wick and seeing what East London looked like before the Olympics arrived(!).  The area is safe and will be populated with volunteers during the Games but you should of course exercise caution late at night (as you would in any corner of the city you are unfamiliar with after dark) and avoid cycling along the canal late at night if only because it's dark down there and you don't want to get wet.  Check out this Google map from London Cycling Campaign outlining route closures and proposing good journeys to make in the area. Remember, there are no Boris Bike stations near to the Olympic Park itself.

You can check how busy roads are going to be in your local area using this 'heat map' from Get Ahead of the Games.

Lock It Up!

All other Olympic venues will provide secure cycle parking, but as this is central London and we're a functioning, working "real" city be sure to bring your own locks and secure your beloved bicycle properly: the London standard is to use at least two good locks.  If you're heading to a non-Olympic park venue like the Olympia or Excel look out for the signs to the cycle parks on your arrival or ask a "Gamesmaker" who are distinct in their purple and red uniforms.
"But I don't have a ticket! I want to see Mark Cavendish!"

If like me you've failed to secure your front-seat Velodrome tickets, do not despair.  London is stuffed with opportunities to see lots of Olympic action for free.  Parts of the courses for the road races, time trials, marathon, triathlon, marathon swim and race walk are open to the general public.  Following Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish's incredible performance on the Champs Elysees last weekend, one of the first medals of the Games will be in their sites on Saturday when the Road Race sets off at 10AM.

Heading out past Buckingham Palace, Constitution Hill, Brompton Road, Putney Bridge, through Richmond Park, past Hampton Court and out in through the Surrey countryside for a few laps of Box Hill before heading back again to finish on the Mall around 3.35PM - it promises to be a great race.  You can download a PDF map of the course here from Cycling Weekly which has arrival times marked on it.

A quick canvas of my Twitter followers (you did know ibikelondon is on Twitter, didn't you?) revealed that most London cyclists will be staking out three vantage points for the road cycling this weekend...

Nicole Cooke in 2008

Surrey and Box Hill

Access to some parts of Box Hill is restricted to 15,000 lucky ticket holders which gives you an idea of how busy the area will be.  You'll need to stake your roadside claim early and expect there to be delays.  If you're cycling leave plenty of time to contend with road closures (check on Get Ahead of the Games) and there will be restrictions on taking bikes on trains to local stations so you might want to go a bit multi-modal and walk part of your journey.

Up on the hill itself you can pass time at the Box Hill Cycling Expo or Road Race Festival and BBC Live Site.  If you're planning to make a weekend of it you can pay on the day to camp at the Cycling Expo.

Richmond Park and Hampton Court

Richmond Park needs no introduction to the cyclists of London and as like any other day the best way to get there will be by bicycle - don't even think of coming by car!  Hampton Court bridge will see the race pass by twice but is likely to be very busy - check with your local train company if they will accept bicycles on the day.

From Buckingham Palace to Belgium House!

For those of you in central London it may be easier to see the race off from where you live.   The finish and start line on the Mall is of course a ticketed area however you can line the route in front of Buckingham Palace, along Constitution Hill and around Hyde Park Corner.  Why not pack a picnic to enjoy in Green Park while you wait for the riders to return, or download the new Olympic BBC app which will stream the event live to your smart phone whilst you're waiting around?

If you like to see your action on the big screen then head to "Belgium House", a pop up venue in Fountain Court in Temple.  Set up by the Belgium Olympic Committee to showcase the best of their culture for the duration of the Games, there will be a big screen, bar and food on offer.  There will also be a "Belgium Cycling Paradise" where London cyclists can go for a virtual bike ride of the Flemish countryside or the streets of Brussels as well as be in with the chance of winning a family cycling holiday to Belgium every day.  Entry is £5 and the House is open till 2AM each night with music and entertainment (entry to the Cycling Paradise is free).  The venue is sure to be one of the favourite haunts for the cycling community this summer and will be officially opened tomorrow afternoon by none other than road racing legend Eddy Merckx, having cycled 317 km to London from Brussels!  Check out their website for more information or follow them on Twitter for updates.

Don't Forget the Girls!

Following last week's Tour de France success of course everyone's eyes are on Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish but remember that there are TWO road cycling races this weekend!  Our Olympic ladies will run their own version of the same race course on Sunday and deserve, of course, as much support from us all.  Will double Gold medallist and former world champion Nicole Cooke snatch a medal for GB?  Why not be there to find out for yourself?  The women's race sets off from the Mall at midday, returning at approximately 3.45PM and you can view the full route and timings here.

And if all this wets your appetite for more roadside Olympic spectating opportunities don't forget there all of these other events to come;

Wednesday 1 August: Men's and Women's Road Cycling Time Trial
Tuesday 7 August: Men's Triathlon
Saturday 4 August: Women's Triathlon
Saturday 4 August: Men's 20km Race Walk
Saturday 11 August: Men's 50km Race Walk
Saturday 11 August: Women's 20km Race Walk
Sunday 5 August: Women's Marathon
Sunday 12 August: Men's Marathon

Get on your bike, have a great Games, and come on Team GB!

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Wead said...

London Olympic games 2012 schedules, sports results, dates and more info here - London Olympic Games 2012 Schedule

Unknown said...

Come on Britain

montonero said...

Would you share your experience of cycling to any of the Olympic venues (if you cycled to them)?
I've tried to do so myself and it turned out very dangerous:

I don't think you should recommend going to Olympic venues by bike, since frankly it is quite dangerous considering absence of infrastructure.

Rob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob said...

I am going to cycle to the Olympics tomorrow for an evening event. Does anyone have any ideas what to do with my lights??? They are the Knog strobe type, which is a banned item, so I can't take them in with me... don't really want to just leave them attached to bike either.... how have other people got around this??

ibikelondon said...

H Rob, if you're parking at the Olympic bike parks (Eton Manor, Victoria Park or the one in east Stratford) these are manned by attendants and are enclosed by security fences so you can leave your lights on the bike or in a saddle bag. Have a great time at the Olympics!

OllieR said...


A friend and I managed to hop over the barriers and get onto the men's olympic road race with boris bikes back at the start of the olympics.

My friend Luke got taken down by security just before buckingham palace but I managed to get down onto the Mall before facing the same fate!

I see you've got a great shot of the guys coming around that final corner... Is there any chance you've got any shots of me you could send over?

If so my email is and it would be great to hear back from you.

Thanks very much!


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