North London Bike Tour: Giro d'North Four

Written by: Tom Williams

The lycra is optional. Coffee however, isn’t.

On Friday 28th May, 197 cyclists descended on Sardinia to compete in the 100th edition of the Giro d’Italia. For those of you that don’t have wardrobes filled with lycra you might never of heard of it, so think Tour d’France but in Italy.  

Still drawing a blank?

How about 21 days of riding a bike over 2,100 miles and the biggest, steepest hills that Italy has to offer? All for the right to wear the Maglia Rosa or pink jersey, which I will tell you now is a pretty big deal.

So to celebrate this event, North Four headed out on a little Italian tour of North London to pay homage to this great race and encourage you to get out on a bike and explore.

The lycra is optional. Coffee however, isn’t. Most cycling fans you will meet love their traditions and strongest amongst these is a strong cup of coffee before the start of a good ride. So our little adventure had to start with a proper cup of coffee. For that we headed out to Vittorio’s Deli on Stroud Green Road.

Vittorio’s is well stocked with authentic Italian food at pretty reasonable prices and has large selection of fresh food for you to enjoy on the spot.

But we are here for the coffee, and just the coffee because Crouch Hill is around the corner and you really don’t want the extra weight before you ride up it. Thankfully the coffee is pretty damn good.

I recommend a straight espresso, highly concentrated rocket fuel, to get those legs moving. While cycling jerseys do have a bunch of extra pockets on the back, I advise you to come back instead of filling them with all the delicious food on offer.

One of the highlights of the Giro, or any bike race for that matter, tends to be the climbs. The Stelvio for example, nearly 6,000ft of climbing and a punishing gradient of 7.4%. Not enough?

How about the Blockhaus, 6,500ft of climbing at a double digit flirting gradient of 9.5%. Thankfully, or disappointingly, North London has a lack of mountain passes to feature in this ride. It does make up for it with some short punchy climbs that anyone should be able to make it over.

You are out there pedalling, you better let the world know how well you are flying along.

We headed for Crouch Hill and it’s whopping 100ft of climbing at a second thought inducing 6.4% gradient. After making it over the top with the appropriate celebratory hand gestures/prayers of thanks for your survival we bombed down the other side of the hill at a safe and sensible speed before looping around and heading to Finsbury Park for some more relaxed and less stressful riding.

Be careful not to drop your photographer here, as he will make you climb the hill again so he can get the shots he wants.

We opted for the Margherita and we opted well.

Speaking of shots: no real bike ride can be ridden in the modern world without it being documented somehow in the digital world on some form of social media. More serious cyclists tend to track their rides on Strava and compete on the virtual leaderboards (I got 32nd for Crouch Hill. Thanks for asking. #stravabrag) But the real social media good vibes live on Instagram. You are out there pedalling, you better let the world know how well you are flying along. So be on the lookout for that perfect Instagram shot while enjoying the park.

Anything interesting to carefully lean your bike against is a great start. We went for the classic tree though colourful walls, interesting fences or even just carefully hidden stick all make great leaning spots.

To make sure you bike looks it’s absolute best in your photos, leave the pedals at 9 and 3 so they are parallel to the ground with the chain on the biggest front ring so it’s nice and straight. How you deal with looking like an idiot while you do this is up to you.

Remember you’re doing it for the likes and push through. After the social media photo session and a few laps of the park it’s probably best to start thinking about lunch. Considering we are on an Italian theme, what better way to replace those spent carbs and treat yourself for your hard work than a slice or two of pizza?

You will have to take our word for it that this pizza is worth any hills you may have climbed.

The Giro is now on it’s 100th edition, steeped in the history of Italy, so ideally our pizza stop should match the Giro’s pedigree. Luckily there is such a place in Stoke Newington – L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele.

The Condurro family have been making pizza for five generations since 1870 and have perfected their craft. Staying faithful to tradition they serve just two types of pizza. The Marinara and Margherita, we opted for the Margherita and we opted well.

Fired in a pizza oven brought over from Naples and made with flour from Italy the crust will soon help you feel your legs again and give you the go to carry on. That’s all before you take into account the restorative powers of massive amounts of melted cheese.

You will have to take our word for it that this pizza is worth any hills you may have climbed.

We went to extreme lengths to make sure we could bring it with us for the rest of the ride.

With a full stomach and restored legs we hopped back on our bikes and carried on pedalling. Winding through quieter and surprisingly bike friendly back streets, we headed towards Camden and the finish line of our little tour: Marine Ices.

It’s an Italian tour, you can’t not have gelato. They do all other kinds of desserts too. The waffles are a real highlight, especially with the white chocolate sauce. But they have been serving Camden since 1931 with over 40 different flavour of gelato and we do have to stay on theme. There really wasn’t a better way to finish the ride.

Gelato fit for a Giro champion or just the first one to make it to the shop in an impromptu race. Either way, hold it high and proud.

Getting out there and cycling at all is a win in my book.

Still not full? Find our Food Tour of North London for more Italian themed eating on the go.

Photos by Mike Barry.

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