Friday 8 August 2014

110 Miles, Minus 14 Miles, Hurricane Bertha & The Hybrid Hero

OK, I know I have gone on about it and to be honest, I needed an easy post this week as things have been hectic. So, over the next few days, this post will be updated with a little coverage of the weekend of cycling happening in London.

Those in London on Saturday (tomorrow) will be able to enjoy the Prudential RideLondon FreeCycle which will see a 10 mile traffic free route through the centre of the city. It will be great fun and a wonderful way to see the sights. 

It will be on many roads which normally operate as urban trunk roads and will give many people the only chance they get this year to feel like a first class citizen when it comes to cycling.

There will be commentary about legacy and all of the usual waffle. This event is a fun bit of leisure, not day to day transport and so enjoy it for what it is. This year, it will be me, Ranty Junior and my father who has recently got back on a bike (my folder!) for the first time in decades and I hope he enjoys it - it was good fun last year. I will probably dust off the #space4cycling posters for the bike again for a bit of a protest!

What will be apparent to many is that getting to and from the route will still be on horrible roads. Last year, Ranty Junior and drove to River Road at Barking and came into Town on CS3. Partly because I am riding 100 miles on Sunday and partly because Pater is only recently back in the saddle it will be the train in and back.

And yes, Sunday. Last night (Thursday), I blasted over to the Excel Centre in Docklands to complete my registration for the London Surrey 100 which is quite simply a ride from London to Surrey and back again - more here. When I finally found my way into the place with a fellow lost rider, registration took no time at all. Interestingly, there are some reasonable off road routes in the area, but they seem to be stuck in a 20 year time warp with awful maintenance and variable signage (another post perhaps). Still, looking forward to the ride, even though the forecast isn't too clever and I am a little intimidated about the whole thing!

Makes a change from having trucks flying around!
Saturday 9th August - FreeCycle
The three of us got up to The City by train for a 9am start to try and avoid the crowds. After a chilly start, we got going and then stopped at the Green Park Festival Zone where Ranty Junior had a bit of a race on the British Cycling mountain bike circuit. We then wandered over to the Lea Valley VeloPark tent where he had a go on the Watt Bikes for a sprint (I was saving my legs of course). We then stuck our heads into the London Cycling Campaign tent where there was a track stand competition (1' 30" when we were there - didn't even attempt to beat that!).

Aw, even the smallest got out on two wheels in complete safety.
And then, back onto the route heading along The Mall with its usual congestion to keep Trafalgar Square open and then things got going again for a gentle ride back to The City where we had lunch and watched people go by. Then, we picked our way back to get the train home. 

A great morning out and if I wasn't riding tomorrow, we could have gotten another lap in. I now have a few hours before bed to decide what I am going to take tomorrow as the forecast is interesting to say the least, plus I need to make sure I have enough provisions!

Approaching Westminster Bridge - is the protected cycle track on
its was yet Boris? If not, just leave it like this!

Parliament Square - normally traffic hell. Cycling bliss today.

Ranty Junior takes the flag!

Relaxation in the Green Park Festival Zone.

Rush hour as it should be - The Queen's driveway.

Cycling in The City.

Battle of the sound systems.

Plenty of bikes of different shapes and pretty much every hire bike
could be seen on the route.

At the start.
Sunday 10th August - London Surrey 100

The day of the big ride started with rain and news early in the morning that the remnants of Hurricane Berther were about to hit the UK and specifically the ride. The organisers rightly called before the start, so Box and Leith Hills were out of the route which knocked off 14 miles. I was a little disappointed, but as the day unfolded, not altogether unhappy!

My wave was due to leave at 8.20am and after being dropped off (yes by car) at Stratford Town Centre, I rode with lots of others to the start. After hanging round in the drizzle, we finally rolled up to the start line and I felt a little under dressed sitting on my armchair of a hybrid (Specialized Crossroads if you need to know) as I was surrounded by road bikes (although quite a few of us were not "chiseled whippets").

Hurricane Bertha hitting the crowd at Richmond Park.
And then we were off into a mad hour or so blasting through London. Starting on the wrong side of the A12 we headed south to the river and turned west, taking in the Limehouse Tunnel (which is normally off limits to riding bikes!) We continued off through The City and out west on the A4 before crossing the river and heading into Richmond Park. By now, Bertha was ramping up and with rain stinging our skin, we came to a grinding halt. After some time, we moved off with small rivers running along the road edge.

Floody Hell!
Eventually, we emerged from the park and continued off into Surrey. The weather continued to beat down on us and just when we thought it would clear, down the rain came again. We did miss out the two big hills, but the Surrey Hills still had some summits to beat and yes, I did walk on a couple of occasions (as did people on their road bikes). I tried to make up time on the downhill sections and being sat atop my hybrid with its (relatively) chunky grooved tyres, I would an awful lot more stable than some of the other people I saw - I just had to avoid the cat's eyes and manhole covers otherwise I would have been off. People were cheering us on in pockets as we went through the towns and villages and that was a real boost.

Lots of puddles.
The A24 section saw sunshine and the wind drop (it had felt like a headwind all day so far). The road was newly surfaced and I upped my pace. Towards the end of Surrey (I cannot remember where) I did flag a bit and so after a brief stop for food I felt better and pushed on. I should say that my aim was to keep stops to a minimum as I find my legs seize after to long a stop (the training definitely paid off in terms of how my body works on a long ride). Seeing the signs back to London was a boost and apart from another quick downpour, the sun was out at last.

A quick stop.
Heading back through the towns on the edge of London there were more and more people out on the street watching us pass by giving us plenty of encouragement - it is quite amazing how a crowd can push you along. Many times I had to pull to the side of the road to get a high-five from kids watching and I think the interaction with the riders made their days - it certainly made mine!

Of of a sudden, we were over the half-rebuilt Putney Bridge and there were some of the contractors staff on it (working I guess) and they shouted encouragement (thanks FM Conway). And then CS8 appeared - its blue paint giving a smooth riding surface (and actually nice to use in the absence of traffic). Somewhere along this section, there was a small crowd at a pub watching the ride and one guy shouted encouragement to "The Hero on a Hybrid" - not sure if he was drunk or taking the mickey or both. I gave a wave anyway!

Punctures galore (but not with my tyres - heh!)
At 5km to go, the end was in sight and I pushed on apace. Parliament Square was packed with tourists who didn't seem to understand what the fuss was about and then to Trafalgar Square which was the last turn into The Mall. The riders were really strung out and I couldn't believe the roar they gave each one as we passed. A couple of snaps and then a sprint to the end to collect my medal.

I didn't hang around long afterwards, eager to get home to my family who couldn't get to London, although they followed my progress online (as we had transponders on our bikes triggered every so often at key places). The route back to The City was business as usual through the traffic and on getting back to my home station, the smell of the local curry house was too much and Britain's favourite dish was my reward.

The open road.
Final Thoughts
Build it and they will come. Well, for two days, a huge amount of road closures were "built" and thousands of people got onto their bikes to experience traffic-free riding and make no mistake, there were all type of people on all types of bike. The London - Surrey event was not a taste of everyday cycling, but there was quite a cross-section of the population on the ride and the closed conditions made the event possible.

Nearly there!
But, as I write this, the closures are gone and London (and Surrey!) returns to "normal" life. For travelling, the cars will dominate the routes I rode over the weekend once more and cycling (and walking for that matter) will be back at the margins. It is said every time there are events like this that people want to be out travelling actively - why do the decision makers struggle with this? Perhaps the medals should go to the people travelling by bike every day despite the conditions!

On The Queen's driveway a second time this weekend.

Below is a page I updated during my training and I place here so I don't lose it!

This is a temporary page providing (very) occasional updates on my progress training for the RideLondon-Surrey 100 which is taking place on 10th August.

I am no competitive cyclist, but in 2012, I rode the London to Brighton for the British Heart Foundation. I did it because of a school reunion the year before where a group of us (slightly drunkenly) agreed to enter as a team.

The ride was one of the best days I have ever had in the saddle and I have blogged about it here. My father ran the London Marathon in the early eighties which is my inspiration for doing something physically difficult. As my knees are on the creaky side, running is not for me and so this summer, my personal challenge is the London to Surrey 100.

I have decided that people are getting a little sponsored out and as this ride was primarily a personal challenge.

So, perhaps I can inspire you instead. I am not a sports cyclist, just someone who travels by bike, often for short journeys (not 100 milers!). To help campaign for the day to day utility cycling infrastructure we desperately need, perhaps you could join your local cycling campaign (such as the London Cycling CampaignNewcastle Cycling Campaign and the many others across the UK. You could also join the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain and perhaps give them a donation.

22nd March 2014
A 46 mile slog to Clapham and back, taking in CS2, CS7 and CS3 with breakfast at Borough Market.

24th April 2014
A short 22 mile pootle around my area taking photos of infrastructure, getting pannier rack put on my new bike and a fry-up. Hmm, need to get some long rides in soon!

27th April 2014
Dropped Ranty Junior at his St. George's Day parade for scouts and picked him up after a short ride. He did 5 miles, I did 14.

17th May 2014
28 miles today along CS3 and back with Ranty Junior via the #Space4Cycling #BigRide London. He had a bike with bigger wheels than me!

22nd May 2014
38 miles from work to the #StopKillingCyclists protest at the Elephant & Castle and home again after.

21st June 2014
Longest run for me ever at 58 miles taking in the edge of Barnes and going through lots of riverside. CS2, CS8, CS7 and CS3 today as well as part of NCN4 (which has truly awful signage). Breakfast at Borough Market as usual!

13th July 2014
A sedate 33 miles today on the Chelmsford Cycle Swarm with Ranty Junior. Not as long as I would have liked, but plenty of hill training and we managed a respectable 9 mph average. Yes, I know I need to go faster in August.

26th July 2014
70 miles today through 17 London Boroughs and only a very short stop mid-way for a quick (but light) breakfast. I have been reading the training suggestions coming from the Ride London organisers and so this ride, I was drinking sports drinks for hydration and I must admit, they worked far better than water on such a long (for me) ride.

I did take a couple of photos of interesting things along the way, but tried not to as I was interested in the time. Got bogged down along the Thames path in the Greenwich area and I cannot recommend it for anything other than a slow leisure ride. This and a few diversions during the day because of poor (or no) signage conspired to slow my progress. 

7 hours in the saddle had me a little slower than I would have liked, but the Thames path, diversions and traffic signals makes it hard to be accurate.

So, two weeks to rest (with some cycling) and then the big event on Sunday 10th August. A bit nervous, but really looking forward to it!

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