There’s more to a weekend of cycling than just the main event! Several Wheelers had entered the Ride London & Surrey 100, so I am sure that between them they can put together a full report of the big ride itself. A weekend of cycling covers many other activities over the three days or so. My account covers what I got up to on the Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
My journey up was mainly by train, as was the case with Jo. My initial ride was to Penryn station and the local train to Truro, for my first experience of a longer journey to Paddington on one of Great Western’s new Hitachi intercity trains. I have had a couple of trips between Redruth and Truro and early experiences were hardly favourable. The Standard Class seats are hard and unforgiving and there is a constant under-floor rumbling. The cycling accommodation is somewhat limited although the up-side is that it is within the train and does not involve the mad scamper at your destination to retrieve you bike!
The train arrived and I parked my bike – hung up by the front wheel (rather like in the Cross-Country ‘Voyagers’). I found my nearby seat and was promptly instructed by the Guard to go and join First Class – one of the privileges of being a former employee, at Guard’s discretion. This became a very pleasant journey, with better seats and the usual ‘freebies’ that go with it. All was well and better than expected; although still not up to the standard of travel on the previous HSTs.
I arrived in Paddington on time and collected my bike and proceeded up the platform to Paddington’s famous ‘Lawn’. Then it was down a couple of stairways and along subways to the Circle Line and eastbound around to Tower Hill. There’s no problem accessing the Underground, although bikes are only allowed on the ‘surface stock’ trains on the Circle, District and Metropolitan. They are not allowed on the Tube lines such as the Bakerloo and Northern. At Tower Hill I wheeled the bike around to the adjacent Tower Gateway station to join the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) for the run to Prince Regent station and Excel.
Here I was to register for Ride London and to look round the Cycle Show – or was it the Evans Cycles Show? They seemed to dominate the show – sorry Dean, I guess you are not related? Whilst here I met Paula & Tom and briefly Jan. Registration done I headed back into town and to my accommodation for the nights ahead – YHA St Pancras. (You only have to have once been a youth to be a member. And in Richard’s case they gave him the benefit of the doubt. Ed) This is almost opposite Kings Cross station and the majestic former Midland Hotel.
As I was staying quite a way from the start, I decided on Saturday to recce the route to Stratford. At first I thought I was playing ‘Bicycle Monopoly’ – passing along Pentonville Road and Whitechapel Road! This took me onto one of London’s Cycle Superhighways – this one led straight through to Stratford and the Olympic Park. It took about 50 minutes, but it was worth it and avoided much of the traffic. Any negative thoughts and dire warnings about cycling in London were disappearing fast! I was so reassured that I went out again to explore; this time heading West along Euston Road then deep into London streets that were not at all familiar to me. After a while when I felt sure that I was ‘lost’ I happened on another Cycle Superhighway, which led me through a maze of side streets and alleyways and finally deposited me again at Kings Cross – job done!
As I had an early start on Sunday, an early night seemed sensible; so after a meal and a couple of bottles of Wadsworth6X, I retired. The intended good night’s sleep was not to be: at about 10 four Germans turned up and were noisy until about 1am. I managed about 1½ hour’s sleep – not ideal before around 110 miles of cycling on Sunday!
I was up around 4am ready to depart for Stratford around 5am. Heading out again along Pentonville Road I realised that half of London was on their bikes and going the same way! I was at the ‘loading’ point well before time and plenty of cycling chat before my ‘wave’ headed to he start. We were off promptly at 7.30. The route out through London via Richmond Park was very nice – of course the closed roads made riding much better! One of the things I noticed soon was the bad standard of riding by a few – mainly by ‘experienced’ riders who should have known better! Dangerous overtaking and weaving about. There was one idiot with no hands on bars and playing with his ‘phone; another with a tablet fixed to his bars – concentration on the job there was not! Soon we were heading into the Surrey Hills and the looming Leith Hill – compared with the following Box Hill I would say that Leith Hill was more to endure, possibly? Box Hill was fne, although I gather Tania among others was diverted from this due to an accident. As there were just a handful of Wheelers on the ride amongst many thousands of cyclists; trying to spot one en-route would be like finding a needle in a haystack. Well, I did briefly see Paula, although I cannot recall just where!
Many more accidents and resulting hold-ups were to follow. I am sure the local ambulance services were kept very busy. Obviously some people were hurt – one hopes not to seriously; but seeing the previously-mentioned standards of riding I was not surprised. One idiot’s irresponsibility leads sadly to another cyclist’s misfortune! The many hold-ups led to a lot of stop/start periods, although at times this became stop/stop! Timing went out of the window! At least I did not experience the dreaded ‘cut-off’. As the day moved on (and so did we) the crowds were out in the various villages and towns. One thing I really appreciated were the many drink and feed stations all along the route; I don’t think I have drunk so much water in a day – it was hot though!
Eventually we were heading back towards London and I realised that there were only about 10 miles to go – or so I was told. Funny how some ten miles further on they were still saying ‘just 10 miles to go’! Soon we were along by the Thames and then the Houses of Parliament. We turned left into Whitehall and then along The Mall to the finish in front of Buckingham Palace. I was a little disappointed that the Lady of The House was not there to wave to me! Didn’t they tell her? Suddenly it was all over. Time to make an escape and head for the nearest Underground station – Victoria; but not before meeting up with Ian and his little brother (his words not mine!).
I returned to the YH to collect my belongings and for some grub and a couple more very welcome bottles of 6X. It was back onto the Circle Line to Paddington. Although the Night Riviera doesn’t leave until nearly midnight, you can board the train at 10.30. Here I met up with Jo and we ‘parked’ our bikes and found our respective ‘rooms’, before heading to the lounge bar on the train. The Night Rivera is now a really superb travelling experience; the rooms/cabins are nicely restored – quiet and comfortable – and the adjoining lounge bar is quite magnificent – comfortable armchairs and a bar. The perfect start to a journey. The cycle storage is at the other end of the train, but is accessible through the train – so no mad dash up the platform. By comparison to this, the Hitachi train is far inferior!
All in all this was a great cycling weekend, roll on 2020 – ballot permitting! R753
Note: The DLR cycle policy states that unfolded cycles are not allowed at peak times – Monday-Friday 07:30 to 9:30 and 16:00 to 19:00.