Friday, 18 August 2017

Early London to Cambridge

Last Wednesday I joined Jenny, Dr John and later on Simon for an early morning sojourn from London to Cambridge. This was to be a recee for the proper ride that it set to take place this Sunday. Jenny kindly invited me to join her for the test run.

The start was certainly bright and early. I normally have little problems getting up at an ungodly hour but when my iPhone alarm sounded at 04:15 in the a.m. pressing snooze was probably not a good idea. When it sounded off again to tell me to get up I found it very hard.

There was no public transport that would get me the start at a suitable time so I had to drive part the way and then cycle about 6 miles. I enjoyed this as the streets were empty and progress was good, apart from some traffic signals that seemed to take ages.

Making it to the swinging birdcage outside King's Cross station I saw that Jenny and Dr John were already there. We were soon off in the general direction of Cambridge but would be meeting Simon at Broxbourne.

Jenny and Simon had kindly provided the GPX of the route and felt it a good opportunity to test out the 'Wahoo Elemnt' which I have been testing out for a couple of weeks. I will write another blog post about it but I can say that I can actually use it successfully to navigate somewhere without wanting to tear my hair out as often is the case with the Garmin 820. It is quite brilliant and I could have quite happily navigated us to Cambridge using it.

At Finsbury Park we stopped at the 'golden arches' so that Dr John cold powder his nose. I took a photo of the Arsenal shop.

The early start was a very good idea as the traffic was very light and we made good progress.  Reaching Enfield, Jenny alerted us to, Forty Hall a Grade I listed manor house that is currently a museum. Of course nothing was open but it was a lovely building set in picturesque grounds.

Before long we arrived at Broxbourne as large stone cubes spelt out the words...Broxbourne. I have to report that they must have been at the very start of the boundary of Broxbourne as we pedalled quite a bit before meeting up with Broxbourne.

As we entered the town centre of Waltham where market traders were busy setting up I spied what I thought was one of the Eleanor Crosses. There is one very similar outside Charring Cross station so wanting to see if it was we searched for an information plaque. Sure enough it was.

The Elenor Crosses were a collection of twelve monuments that mark the nightly resting place of her body along the route from Lincoln to London. They were build between 1291 and 1294.

By this point the traffic started to ease off even more and the urban was giving way to the British countryside. We met Simon at the railway station and then sought out a suitable location where we could have a tea or coffee.

A hybrid Mandarin duck?

We found an establishment not too far from the station where a bacon roll and latte was consumed with a certain amount of enthusiasm. With that done we set off again for Cambridge.

A helicopter peloton

We passed lots of little villages many of which had some pretty old buildings. There were also plenty of thatched cottages and it was generally picture postcard stuff.

On a stretch of quiet road Simon had a spectacular front wheel blowout with a gaping tear on the wall of his Kojak tyre. I gave him a tyre boot which did the trick and Dr John provided a CO2 cartridge. I have always carried a tyre boot since David P had something similar happen to him on a overnight ride to Brighton. Until that time I had np clue as to what a tyre boot was.

Oh dear!

With the wheel back on we resumed out journey, enjoying some beautiful countryside. As I reported my navigation was going well thanks to the fact that the Wahoo Elemnt just seemed to do what it was meant to do without any fuss and just worked. I therefore made up my mind that I would do the route again in the near future - also getting up at the same ungodly hour!

The miles ticked by, mainly as the company was so good. London to Cambridge in the past has not been something I have overly warmed to. This has been down to the route which was a great deal more demanding for some reason. Simon's route was a beauty and those participating in the official ride on Sunday were certainly in for a treat.

As we reached the cycle path with its coloured strips, memories of past rides that were not as enjoyable were all but erased by good ones from this trip took their place.

Simon's route had another treat as we cycled around Cambridge viewing its many architectural gems. Tourist were out in force as were hundreds of cyclists.

We said our goodbyes to Simon who actually had to return to work later that afternoon, while Jenny, Dr John and I looked for a place to eat. We soon found a pub where we were fed and watered. Looking at train times back to London I discovered that if we managed to get the next train, it would get into London much faster than the later trains. The only snag was that it left in less than 20 minutes.

With a route plotted into the Elemnt, almost instantaneously it had plotted the route. Leading the way I was determined to get that train. If I had of been using the Garmin 820 - which I had brought with me to record the ride - we would have missed the train. We got to Cambridge station, bought tickets and boarded our train.

At King's Cross Dr John and I said goodbye to Jenny and we pressed on toward Euston - again navigated on much quieter roads by the Elemnt.

This really was a lovely ride with some great company. As I have already written I very much want to do the ride again but next time on big wheels.

Many thanks to Jenny, Simon and Dr John for making it such an enjoyable day out.

Link to map and ride data

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Brompton World Championships 2017 - Good Luck

For those of you who have gained a place at the Brompton World Championships in a few days from now, the very best of luck!

The last time I took part was back in 2015; the first time it was held in London. The location is as brilliant as the atmosphere. Whether you are there to win, poodle around or go for the most stylist rider you are bound to have a great time.

A few pointers from a veteran of the BWC:

  • Check your bike over the day/night before
  • If you are able take off anything unnecessary - rack, mudguards. (Marginal gains and all that)
  • Consider fitting Kojak tyres
  • Make sure that you are at one with your bike in terms of unfolding
  • Consider fitting SPD pedals
  • Fuel up well in advance of the race
  • Pedal hard!
  • Enjoy yourself!!
Best of luck and have a great time whether you are racing or watching. 

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Rapha Nocturne London 2017

Today was a day to remember for lots of reasons and the fact it was the 'Rapha Nocturne' and I was participating, certainly played a big part. This would be Nocturne #7 for your truly.

Setting off in good time in my full Orange Nocturne outfit and Orange Brompton through busy Saturday afternoon London streets certainly required a thickness of skin I can tell you! I had a couple of marriage proposals, a few people shouting out that I was gorgeous, that they loved the outfit, that I had brightened their day to people risking life and limb to take a selfie with me or ask...why?!

I had agreed to meet my friend and veteran of many a Nocturne Mark - King of the Hill near Barbican but I heard the familiar voice of Mark before I got there. We found  a suitable watering hole, sat down and chewed the fat for while.

As we weere sitting down a Penny Farthing rolled dow the street, closely followed by a chap on a riding his road bike with one hand while the other held on to a set of bike rollers! Only in London; only at the Nocturne!

Setting off before 16:00 and our registration we stopped to take a photo of our bikes in front of some sort of neon light. It looked pretty good.

On our way I saw 'Kai Wong' from DigitalRev and now doing his own thing. I was so happy to see him - as i love his videos - that I could not hide my enthusiasm. He was understandably a little taken aback by me in my Orangeness but we shook hands and I wished him well as did he with the race ahead. It later struck me that he may of thought I was being let out for the day as some sort of care in the community excursion!

Registration was quick and before we knew it were in Guildhall in the riders area. It was there that I saw my partner in crime Andrew who had sensibly come out to play. It was good to see him.

When registering we were given a 'Condor Cycles' bag containing a few bits and a water bottle. I made a mental note to use this bag every time I go shopping at Tesco until it falls apart.

Mark had brought mean of his fabled 'Beet It' shots. This was consumed almost exactly one hour before the race - as per the instructions.

With my Titanium Brompton sold I was down to one bike which was of course my trusty P-type. I put on some Kojak tyres and removed the mudguards - as that it what makes all the difference right - but kept everything else as normal.

With a riders wristband came the perk of a free Rapha espresso. Making our way to this I spied a JTL Condor trailer with Ed Clancy's Condor road bike. It dod look rather special!

Waiting in the queue for our espresso a DJ was pudding out all manner of sick beats to use common parlance.

The coffee machine was rather special as was emblazoned with the Rapha moniker everywhere. With our espresso in our hand we headed back to the the rider area and never did an espresso taste so good.

Joe from Brompton was sporting his two speed with an outrageous chainring. He would be quick on this for sure!

Andrew looked good in his usual yellow and black stripes and the pair of use were even interviewed on camera. I suspect the footage will go on the cutting room floor but it was nice to have about 2 minutes of fame.

It was great to meet lots of other Brompton riders, some of which were readers of this humble blog, although there has not been a great deal for a while.

Our time had come and the call was made for us to assemble. Mark looked nervous. I did not. There is of course a good reason for this. Mark is a contender and has placed very well in all the races he had entered. I have found myself respectfully placed in the lower down the batting order.

Drawing a number from a bag this signalled where ones bike would be placed own the grid. Looking for the corresponding number bikes then had to be folded and left while participants retreated to a suitable distance.

A gentleman should never run but I do make an exception for a sporting activity so when the countdown reached the point we ran like people possessed, I joined in and my gait - in SDP shoes - could be best described as mincing.

The race was certainly full on. I didn't get a wonderful start but knew that I would be able to make up a few places. The race was scheduled for 10 laps and I had to curb my enthusiasm in going too fast for the first couple of laps.

A few of the straights were brutal in terms of a strong headwind but I was carried along by a very enthusiastic crowd who gave me lots of encouragement as I cycled round as fast as I could. For some strange reason they seems to know that I was Mr Orange and shouted out lots of encouragement.

I don't know what lap if was but I saw a rider ahead who was roughly the same speed I was and wanted to cycle at. I decided to tail him and for several laps I did just that. The Terry Thomas in me came out on the last corner into the home straight as I overtook him and cycled furiously to the start/finish line about 200 metres away.

As we returned to the rider area the winners were announced and appeared on a big screen. Joe from Brompton placed second which was excellent.

Once recovered we headed out of the rider area to meet up with some familiar faces. We saw James, Alasdair, Chun-Han, Roger, Sam, Alex and the ever smiling Chris. It was lovely to see them all. Having to get back I said my goodbyes and as so often Andrew and I headed off. Hopefully there will be more adventures for the two of us in the very near future. Watch this space.

This Nocturne was perhaps my favourite of all the ones I have participated in. I really enjoyed it. Many thanks to the organisers for putting on a great event. I certainly want to be back next year!! Perhaps I should start the training now?