9 Cycling Routes to explore Chennai!

Cities are inevitably judged by the efficiency and inclusiveness of their transportation systems and networks, them being vital veins for the city’s functioning. It is, therefore, no surprise that the Transportation sector has progressed immensely over the past few decades, so much so that the pioneering two-wheeled human-powered transport system – the cycle – has little, sometimes no space on the roads any longer. To this inescapable conundrum, Chennai is no exception.

From vital transportation to fitness and recreation, cycling is a greener and cleaner option for all needs – and of late, the latter aspect has been on the rise in the city. And why not? There is a certain wonderment experienced when you get onto that saddle and pedal yourself forward – the joy of your leg muscles’ pull as forward you’re pushed; the wind in your hair and a song in your heart – there is a certain wonderment when you get onto that saddle and explore the city and all the joys it has to offer. But then, there’s a catch – inside the city, cycling is almost fatal; you’re bullied by the motorised vehicles, the unfriendly lorries and mean horn-blasting cars. To experience the joy of cycling, we are forced to escape to the outskirts, or to the really early morning hours or late nights.

Travelling is a way of experiencing new things, of exploring new places and feeling new things; it broadens the mind and makes some peace. And travelling by a cycle only makes the whole experience even more fulfilling. The trick is, it’s just fast enough to keep you moving ahead, and just slow enough to let you savour and enjoy each moment, each scene you cross – the birds on that tree, the lone pink flower in a sea of green, the smiling old shop lady who hands you bottle of water while you try to catch your breath, “Where are you cycling from? All the way from there?!” That’s something you do not, and CAN NOT, get from any motorized vehicle- bikes are too fast, cars too closed, flights too detached, and walking, well, unless you have a lot of time on your hands.

So in case you’re not already on your cycle, here are a few routes around Chennai to get you started! As a general rule, all routes mentioned here are safe for cyclists at the following timings;

04.30 am to 07.30 am
10.00 pm to 12.00 pm (Main roads only. Front and back cycle lights, helmets mandatory.)

CYCLING ROUTES
A. Beginner Routes – Below 20 km

Route 1 – Koyambedu – Anna tower park – Koyambedu

Short and easy, a route in the centre of the city – if you want to add a challenge ride up the Koyambedu flyover and cruise down. A stop at Anna tower park is great in the mornings, walk a circuit or two to stretch the muscles before getting onto the saddle again. The avenues of Anna Nagar are mostly residential streets so less traffic can be expected.

a1-anna-tower-park
Cycle to the park, and spend some time at the famous skating ring there!

Total distance 10 km. Duration (max.) 1 hour

Route 2 – Madhya Kailash – Besant nagar beach – Madhya Kailash

Who doesn’t love the beach in the mornings – the fresh breeze and gorgeous sunrise. The roads are hard and neat, speed cycling is great, especially tree-lined Besant Avenue close to Theosophical society.

a2-besant-nagar-beach-2
Watch the sunrise at Besant Nagar Beach, and relax on the beach before cycling back!

Total Distance: 10.1km. Duration (max.) 1h 30 mins

Route 3 – Madhya Kailash – Pallikarnai – Madhya Kailash

OMR is every cyclist’s dream – wide and pleasant to ride. Cycling along the Pallikarnai marsh is a beautiful sight in the morning, you can spot flocks of birds in amidst the greenery. There are small gazebos off the main road where one can sit and take in the beautiful scenery.

a3-pallikarnai-marsh-2
Spot some beautiful migratory birds at Pallikaranai, Chennai’s Freshwater Marshland.

Total distance 21 km. Duration (max.) 1h 30 min



Intermediate Routes – 20-30 km

Route 1 – Anna university – Marina beach – Anna University

Right along the main roads, it is advisable to get on the saddle real early to avoid 8 am traffic. Also, this is one of the best night-cycling routes in the city – well-lit streets and good safety for the night rider. Marina beach is a treat in itself – mornings mean beautiful sunrise and fresh air; nights mean a mid-ride ice-cream at the beach!

b1-marina-route-2
Count the arches on Napier’s Bridge on the way to Marina Beach!

Total distance 22.4 km. Duration (max.) 1 h 45 min

Route 2 – OMR to ECR loop

OMR is another great night-cycling option owing to the bright streetlights and around-the-clock police patrol. The connection from OMR to ECR at Shollinganallur junction is a great spot to cross a wide and clean Buckingham canal – you can stop at the corner of the bridge for a break from pedalling. Another add-on is a brief detour through any of the side streets on the ECR to an isolated and silent beach.

b2-omr-ecr-loop-1
Cycling down Chennai’s incredible coastline along the ECR-OMR stretch.

Total distance 29 km. Duration (max.) 2h 15 mins

Route 3– Velachery MRTS – Ottiambakkam quarry – Velachery MRTS

After Perumbakkam, the route is mostly through winding tarred village roads, so peaceful and silent in the morning hours. Ottiambakkam stone quarry is an abandoned quarry which has accumulated rain water over the years and forms a beautiful pond – swim with caution, though. You can take a brief 15-minute hike to the top and spot eagles or other birds, and experience a panoramic view of the city far beyond.

b3-ottiambakkam-2b3-ottiambakkam-3

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Riding your cycle all the way to Ottiyambakam Quarry is well worth the view in the end!

Total distance 30 km. Duration (max.) 2 hours 30 mins



Expert Routes – 30+ km

Route 1 – Porur junction – Chembarambakkam lake – Porur junction

Small winding tar roads through small towns lead to one of the biggest lakes in the city – Chembarambakkam lake. One uphill and you’re onto the small path just adjacent the large blue water mass. Great for those who love solitude and water. During the return, you can take a short fun detour to Decathlon, every sports-shoppers paradise.

c1-chembarambakkam-lake-4

c1-chembarambakkam-lake-5
Cycle around the Chembarambakkam lake’s cycle friendly perimeter

Total distance 32 km. Duration (max.) 3 hours

Route 2 – Padi flyover – Puzhal lake – Padi flyover

From Padi flyover, taking the city route in the morning is better due to less vehicles. Puzhal lake is another beautiful morning spot – during summer the lake is dry enough to walk on some parts of it, mind the sinking mud spots though. During monsoon, the lake is full and if you have the knack of it, you can ask fishermen to lend their canoes to you for a few `bucks. The National highway route back has good ups and downs to train your calves and is mostly free at all times of the day.

c2-puzhal-lake-1c2-puzhal-lake-3

Total distance 35 km. Duration (max.) 3 hours

Route 3 – Padi flyover – Sholavaram lake – Padi flyover

A little farther down from Puzhal is this out-of-the-way Sholavaram lake. When the lake is dry, its full of green grass presenting a whole other beautiful scene. Expect to be completely on your own here, very few people wander inside from the main road.

c3-sholavaram-lake-1c3-sholavaram-lake-2

Total Distance 48 km. Duration (max.) 3h 30 mins hours


* All distances measured are nearly accurate

* All ride durations are approximate and are inclusive of an average 15 mins break/stop at the destination mentioned.


[This article is by Abinaya Kalyanasundaram, Co-Founder of Saddle Addicts, a Chennai based Cycling group, in collaboration with Hashtag Urbanism. Check them out here!]

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