The joys of towpaths and parks

Normally, when it comes to going on a long cycle ride, I always think of getting the road bike out. It's light, fast and I can zip along the roads emulating the stars of the Tour de France. The only problem is, I don't really emulate the stars of the Tour de France at all. Firstly, they're a lot fitter than me. Secondly, when we see them riding, they're on traffic free roads. They don't have to dodge 4x4's or huge lorries or people turning left without indicating. Thirdly, their rides seem to start at ski stations or medieval walled towns, rather than Tolworth.

This discrepancy nagged me one day. Why was I trawling through dull suburbia for twenty miles just to get to the start of a scenic route? Was there an easier way to enjoy cycling - the trees, the twisting lanes, the challenging hills, the exhilarating descents - without all that hassle? I thought back on what I'd done when I was younger. How had I enjoyed cycling then? I remember that I'd really enjoyed cycling on the tracks on the park and common near my house. Not as dramatic but just as fun. I therefore decided to find a route on my doorstep that had those elements. Here it is:

I tested it out and it was brilliant. All that time I'd spent travelling to Dorking to cycle there had been great, but I'd missed out on having a different but no less enjoyable ride in the part of London I lived in. South West London has several huge parks and a long stretch of the Thames. It's an ideal place to get away from the traffic and charge along towpaths and tracks. My single speed bike with its narrow tires did hamper things a bit. A bike with thicker tires and gears would make things even more fun.

I wonder if I can afford a cyclocross bike?...