London-Wales-London by Audax UK

Ride level Experienced cyclist
Distance 253 mi / 407 km
Type of bicycle Road bike
Traffic free
Circular route
Audaxing at speed! (Photo credit: Matt Scholes)

Audax UK — the national organisation for non-competitive long-distance cycle rides — reveals the route of one of its favourite rides: the slightly tongue-in-cheek labelled 'London-Wales-London'.

Don’t tell anyone but 400km is a lot easier than it sounds with this lanesy route from Chalfont St Peter, to Chepstow and back via Malmesbury and Lambourne, Henley and home. The route is gently rolling with only a couple of tough climbs to keep you awake but there are plenty of places to rest and some stunning views in the Chilterns and Cotswolds.

It’s a course that can be done in one day as part of an audax or broken into a few stages with stopovers in Winchcombe, Tewkesbury, Chepstow or Malmesbury — you decide what works for you.

Starting in Chalfont St Peter (the name London-Wales-London is actually a gentle dig at events with 'Paris’ in their name that start way outside the French capital!) the route takes you through one of the gaps in the Chilterns and across to Woodstock. There are some main road sections on this part of the ride which audaxers normally tackle early on a Saturday morning but quieter roads are easily substituted. After Woodstock the ride works its way into the Cotswolds where a few gentle climbs are rewarded with stunning views (assuming you stop to look behind you!).

Gradually, along back roads the ride takes you to Tewkesbury and then a run down to Chepstow for a brief visit to Wales. Before we reach Wales, the route opens up the Severn Estuary — on a clear day only the most focused riders don’t stop and gawp. Don't forget to take your camera on this ride! The exit from Wales is via the cycle path on the old Severn Bridge; another a treat when the wind isn’t blowing. If you want to cut the ride short, Bristol and its rail connections is a short detour from here.

Along quiet lanes we work our way over Ingatestone Common to the beautiful historic town of Malmesbury and then onto Royal Wotton Bassett. We cross and recross the M4 at various points on the way to Lambourne, where the route swings back in towards the Chilterns to the Thames at Goring, Henley and Marlow and then back to the start. As a night ride, this portion is magical with little traffic and peaceful miles through woods and open country.

There are some sharpish climbs such as Yat Rock and at the Somerset Monument but most of them are not too long for tourers who want to get off and push.

As a route, London-Wales-London combines a simple route from the south-east to the Welsh Boarders with a chance to ride through some of the best cycling terrain in the south. For a tourer, it can provide a brilliant jumping off point for exploring the Wye Valley and beyond. For the rider looking for a challenge, it comes with great bragging rights back at work on Monday morning.

The detail of the route has been developed and refined by volunteers over many years and the organisers of London-Wales-London ask that anyone who wants to use it considers making a donation to their favourite charity as a token toll.

About Audax UK

Every weekend, up and down the country, Audax rides varying from 50km to 600km and more are organised by volunteers. Riders get a simple route sheet, sometimes a GPX and always a cracking course. Audax events are strictly non-competitive, the challenge lies in getting around within the maximum and minimum times and the spirit matters as much as the distance. Audaxers are very sociable; for many, the attraction is as much in meeting like-minded riders on the road, as the chance to see new parts of the countryside. There are no gold times, no goody bags for finishers or pretending to ride a stage of the Tour; just cake and companionship.

The Audax UK website lists rides; entry is inexpensive and Cycling UK members get to enter at the same price as members of Audax UK.