‘The weirdest ride I’ve ever done’ - What it’s like to ride through London’s super sewer

Heather Glass
(Image credit: Thames Tideway)

A group of cyclists have undertaken “the weirdest ride” a lifetime to ride through London’s super sewer ahead of its opening in 2025.

The super-sewer, official title Thames Tideway Tunnel, is 25km long and between 40 and 66 metres underground.

The cyclists were all staff of the Thames Tideway Tunnel project who were given the chance to ride the tunnel for charity.

The project set up a raffle for six tickets to the ride of a lifetime and raised £1,535.

The group rode from Battersea, the lowest point on the tunnel, up to Blackfriars and back again.

Heather Glass, regulation manager for Thames Tideway, said: “ I've been on the project for seven years. But it was my first time down in the tunnel.”

Glass explains she’s ridden her bike all over the world from Laos and Bangkok to Kenya and New Zealand but the Tideway was a unique and unusual experience.

“It’s definitely the weirdest ride I've done. It's really quite something, we were lowered down on a man rider, which is a cage that hangs from a crane, to the bottom of the shaft, where the bikes were waiting for us. Then we set off.

The view down the tunnel

(Image credit: Thames Tideway)

“It's not super-challenging. You need to ride a little way away from the bottom of the sewer because there is a little bit of just water that collects there. And every now and then you have to cycle a little bit up the side of the tunnel to avoid a bit of infrastructure but it's not like being in a velodrome - you're not on the side at a 45 degree angle.”

As a cyclist well versed in UK roads she said she appreciated the smooth concrete of the tunnel’s interior with “not too much rolling resistance”.

Glass said it wasn’t claustrophobic in the tunnel, it’s bigger than your average tube train tunnel, but it did include some odd noises. “You could hear the tube trains going overhead somebody said they’re about 10 metres away. Interestingly, you could hear the Victoria line, you could hear the Bakerloo line but you couldn't hear the Jubilee line. So I guess because it's newer.”

Further bike rides along the tunnel are not on the schedule - they have to be worked around the ongoing construction work - so Glass and her companions are set to remain the only ones to ever do it. “I feel really privileged to have been able to be one of the few people to do it,” she said.

It does raise the question of who was the fastest? “We couldn't race unfortunately because the bit of tunnel that you can cycle along is quite narrow. So I think overtaking would have been a bad idea.”

There is also, we can confirm, no signal for your GPS 50m below ground, so no Strava QOM to be had.

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Having trained as a journalist at Cardiff University I spent eight years working as a business journalist covering everything from social care, to construction to the legal profession and riding my bike at the weekends and evenings. When a friend told me Cycling Weekly was looking for a news editor, I didn't give myself much chance of landing the role, but I did and joined the publication in 2016. Since then I've covered Tours de France, World Championships, hour records, spring classics and races in the Middle East. On top of that, since becoming features editor in 2017 I've also been lucky enough to get myself sent to ride my bike for magazine pieces in Portugal and across the UK. They've all been fun but I have an enduring passion for covering the national track championships. It might not be the most glamorous but it's got a real community feeling to it.