Explore early Victorian London by bicycle

Back in 2007, Russian historian Sergey Nikitin founded the Velonotte International – a series of nocturnal bicycle tours of the world’s greatest cities, exploring their unique cultures and histories.

The event’s London incarnation – the Velonotte Albertina – was held for the first time last year. The second edition is just around the corner, so if you’re a keen cyclist and a history buff into the bargain it should prove the perfect way to spend a balmy summer night in the capital.

After touring the streets, landmarks and public places of east London in 2012, this year’s Velonotte Albertina will shift attentions westwards to spots like Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster. It’ll be exploring the legacy of the early Victorian age, a period that left indelible marks in the capital’s urban character; cyclists will learn about revolutionary marvels like the Crystal Palace, the London Underground and other inspirational feats of 19th century innovation.

The tour’s educational content is delivered via a live broadcast on Resonance FM 104.4, so participants will need to equip themselves with headphones and a portable radio in order to listen to the commentary.

While the exact route has not yet been unveiled, about 20 miles are expected to be covered. The bike ride will terminate in Kensal Green Cemetery and the successful finish will be commemorated with a song – a new musical setting of the GK Chesterton poem Rolling English Road, written in 1913 and celebrating its centenary this year.

To provide a complementary Victorian atmosphere, cyclists are invited to come in fancy dress and the Velonotte London website includes a list of suggestions – all recognisable personages from the period, including Prince Albert, Florence Nightingale, Charles Dickens and Karl Marx.

Participants will congregate at 11:30pm on Saturday (June 22nd), with the tour commencing at midnight and expected to wrap up by 5am. It starts near Buckingham Palace, so the meeting place won’t be too far a distance from most central London hotels and landmarks.

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