Monday, 8 September 2014

A Birds Eye View of London

A few weeks ago I have the opportunity to gain a birds eye view of London few are fortunate enough to see. Of course I took my camera with me so I could take a few snaps.

I have seen this view a few times before but little prepares you for it. In many ways it is somewhat overwhelming and there is so much to see, so much that is familiar one doesn't know where to start? A first port of call is to pick out the many iconic London landmarks - River Thames, Gherkin, Canary Wharf, St Paul's Cathedral...the list just goes on and on.

After doing this my attention turned to spotting where my mum and dad lived and various other family members.

One of the features of London over the years is that it mixes the old and the new. It is ever changing and evidence of the new is all around.

From this vantage point I could see St Paul's Cathedral and it looked tiny. I could just make out tourists who had made their way to the outside dome and they looked like tiny ants.

Another thing I did was to trace some of my cycle routes from central London out east, past Canary Wharf and towards Greenwich. One of my favourite rides is Mark's (King of the Hill) 'Thames Triple Chaser.' This is where we traveled along, on, under and over the River Thames. I could just make out the route and in the distance could even see the Emirates Skyline over the Thames.

In the distance I would make up Alexandra Palace to the north and Crystal Palace to the south. From up here I could not believe that in the summer as part of the NightRider, I cycled from Alexandra Palace to Crystal Place and back to Alexandra Palace!

While I watching Tower Bridge, I saw tall ship sailing close and the bridge started to raise, allowing the ship to sail by. It was the first time I had ever seen this happen.

The new 'Walkie Talkie' building does look quite stunning from below and from high above its windows reflected the light in strange ways. I definitely like it which is more than I can say about The Shard. It still reminds me of one of those ghastly crystal ornaments you see in jewellers shops.

I actually look over 300 pictures while up there and could have taken much more! The one thing that struck me was the many memories of various Brompton rides and adventures which came to mind when I looked at various locations.

London is a great city and I am very pleased that I was able to experience in a different way.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Last London to Brighton Overnight for 2014??

It had been a very busy week at work and on Friday I was looking forward to another nocturnal Brompton adventure later on that evening.This particular adventure would take the form of a London to Brighton overnight.

Saying goodbye to Mrs Orange and my Orangettes I made the short journey to the top of Hyde Park near Marble Arch. Hyde Park at night, for me at least, has always been eerie, unearthly and perhaps sinister. I am no believer in ghosts or any such nonsense but it certainly has an atmosphere. Tyburn Tree was only a few yards away from the top of Hyde Park and heaven knows what has gone on under the cover of darkness over the years.

I recall as a student using it as a shortcut on my way home when in the distance I saw a chap dressed as Jack the Ripper - top hat, tails, doctors bag...large knife! When he started running towards me, I took flight. I have to say that I did show myself up ever so slightly for two reasons. First, the chap dressed as Jack the Ripper was part of a Japanese television documentary on London being filmed.  Running at full speed in a pair of country brogues and shouting out, 'bloody hell!' was not my finest hour. Second, I unashamedly let out a banshee-like wail a 12 year old girl would have been proud of. It was therefore with some urgency that I peddled towards Hyde Park Corner as the memory was still very much with me!

Yes, quite an atmosphere at night!

I had Hyde Park Corner to myself when I arrived so decided to take a few photos while I waited for others to arrive.

Our ride leader and organiser was Olaf. He is a serious cyclist, all round good egg and has been on some stunning rides in Europe. We were in safe hands. After the customary and interactive safely talk we headed off for Brighton on the stoke of midnight.

I was very pleased to be joined on this ride by Geoff, David and Anne and as always they provided excellent company. It was also great to see Mark (King of the Hill) but only briefly. He was on his way home from work and came to say hello but sadly could not join us on the ride.

The route was very similar to those we had done before and I actually remembered some of the route. The weather was great too. There was no mention of rain in any forecast and the temperature seemed to stay pretty hot for the entire ride. I had intended to wear a new PROVIZ cycling jacket but knew that it would be too hot for it. Another time.

I had opted to take my P Type with me for this ride. I have to say that I am really pleased with it. (I have possibly written this already)! Having the SON dynamo hub and lighting made it the best bike for this type of ride. Again I found the lights to be more than adequate and the bright, whitish light worked well to illuminate the road ahead. I also used my Hope Vision front light but kept it on flash mode for the entire ride. The only time I didn't was on a long and fast downhill where I needed more light out in front to see what was up ahead. Apart from that I was again very pleased with it. The rear dynamo light I also find very good but always back it up with a flashing rear light attached higher up on my saddle bag.

The stop point was Gatwick Airport at about 30 miles in. To my amazement everything was open and it was quite busy. I bought some sandwiches and a bar of chocolate and happily eat it. Anne having returned from the toilets remarked that they were excellent and that we really should see them. I wondered how good a public toilet could be and was instantly curious.

When the time came I strolled to the toilets expecting to be sorely disappointed. I was not! Sliding frosted glass doors allowed you to enter your own personal ablutions area. Toilet one end, sink and personal Dyson-type hand dryer at the other.

As public toilets go, they were magnificent. Pipped music that was jazzy and possibly Jamie Cullum only enhanced the experience. There are toilets and Gatwick Airport toilets! The only letdown was that there wasn't an attendant of some sort offering a welcome and goodbye. I suppose it was 03:30 in the a.m. and you can't have everything.

I did want to take a picture of the frosted glass sliding doors but not wanting to be arrested and be the cause of a scene, I thought better of it!

Setting off from Gatwick I didn't suffer my usual feelings of cold and if anything I could have worn just a cycling jersey for this ride.

One of the great things about these rides is meeting and having a chat with lots of different people. It is great to find out why they like cycling, what sort of rides they go on and often their reaction at seeing a Brompton on a ride like this. Mr Mac a fine gentleman who lives in Northampton, initially took the wrong train but made it in time for this ride.  

With dawn approaching, birds started to sing and other forms of wildlife - mice, voles, frogs - ventured out of the darkness.

Just before the dreaded Ditchling Beacon one of the participants wives was waiting in a car park handing out cups of coffee. This was quite lovely of her and I cannot tell you how good it tasted!!

Seeing that David and Anne were heading on to the road leading to the Beacon, I decided to head for it too. I wondered how my P Type would fare - with me on it of course? I have attempted the Beacon twice before. The first time saw me having to stop and then continue - fail. The second I managed to do - just about. Would I be able to do it this time? After last weeks very flat as a pancake ride at the Bikeathon which was as demanding as unfolding my Brompton, I was looking forward to some proper hills and something with a little more bite. 

David was off into the distance and I knew that he would easily do it. He is a quite amazing cyclist. I saw Anne motoring away confidently. I soon ran out of gears and actually found the granny 44T chainring a hinderance as I was spinning too much and not covering enough distance for my liking. (50T is going on at some point methinks).

I used the lower riding position for some of the ride and found this to be very good at shifting weight forward. It is much lower than even my S Type and I wouldn't fancy using it all the time. For this purpose it worked well. The Beacon is quite a formidable climb for a Brompton and just like last time I thought I had done it and finished but it was in fact a false summit!

Cycling on the Beacon just went up and up but I was pretty confident that I would make it. It felt easier this time round - but only as it wasn't raining. Last time it did nothing but. I had done it. Ditchling Beacon conquered. Some of the fellow riders on road bikes were mightily impressive and took the Beacon in their strides.

I celebrated my conquest of the Beacon by taking a few photos of the views and my P Type at the top. It then dawned on me that my pre-booked  train ticket back to London was 08:19 and it was 07:15. Saying goodbye to David I made a hasty exit and headed off for Brighton station.

Using my trusty Nexus 5 with Google Maps to navigate me, it stated that it would take 35 minutes. I would just about do it and have time to get my prepaid ticket from the machine - assuming I didn't get lost!

Thankfully, I made it there without too many wrong turns. My train was on time and shortly after 09:00 I arrived at Victoria.

This was a good ride and I enjoyed it greatly. Many thanks to Olaf for taking the lead on this. As I type this I feel pretty good. The legs and the rest of me for that matter feel fine. Roll on next week when I will return to Brighton for a very different ride. This could very well be the last overnight ride to Brighton this year but you never know a few brave and intrepid types might just fancy giving it a go?!

Yet again a Brompton proves itself to be a highly versatile bicycle. It is as happy doing longer distance adventures as it is on an urban commute!

Map and ride data

Monday, 1 September 2014

Bikeathon - 52 miles on a Brompton

With Saturdays brilliant ride from Windsor to central London still in my thoughts, Andrew and I didn't want the fun to end so we were both taking part in the 52 mile 'Bikeathon.' This is a charity ride specifically for leukaemia and lymphoma research.

Our start time was 08:00 but Andrew and I had agreed to meet outside Holborn tube station at 07:30. We were both wearing the red T-shirts that you can see in the pictures below and soon made our way the short distance to the start at Corum's Fields.

At the start there was a great atmosphere and recording of people who gave their reasons for doing the event were quite humbling.

As we waited at the start my legs felt fine as did the rest of me. I may have done well approaching 60 miles the day before but I felt good. Before long we were off onto the open road. We were given instructions to not jump tree lights etc.., and it was a shame to see quite a few participants do just that.

The route was lovely as was the weather. It took us from Corum's Fields near the British Museum to Canary Wharf, then out to Richmond Park and then back into central London. In fact I remarked to Andrew that it would make a very good club ride - perhaps to be done at night?

As we cycled along lots of memories from previous rides came into view. I love London. There is just something magical about it that I can rarely express to any satisfaction. So much to see and always something new in the familiar.

As we entered Canary Wharf the buildings gleamed in the morning sun. Security guards waved us on and there was generally a great reception to the cyclists in red T-shirts.

I don't think my Partner in Crime Andrew would mind me saying this but a year ago he might have struggled doing this ride, having done a long distance ride the previous day. I have to report that I was going at a fairly brisk pace and when I turned to see if Andrew was there he was.  My riding partner had been tenacious in improving all aspects of his cycling and it certainly showed on this ride.

Just before we reached Richmond Park at about 23 miles Andrew and I lost each other. Unfortunately this is sometimes inevitable on large rides with lots of people but I knew he would be okay.

Once in Richmond Park I was very much in familiar territory. I was hoping that we would be cycling up one of the steep hills as I fancied taking the scalp on an unsuspecting roadie. Sadly, our route was pretty tame and flat.

The rest point - which we had been thinking was much sooner - came at 34ish miles at Ham. I replenished my water several times and stocked up on some of the energy bars. I waited about 15 minutes for Andrew but unable to see him I headed back out to complete the rest of the ride.

This was where true to form I got lost but I was in good company as about 50 or so fellow participants were lost with me. I knew things weren't right as I started to recognise the route for our many evening rides to Box Hill. I got out my phone and used google maps to navigate the way back to where I suspected we would pick up the official route. I was joined by quite a few other riders and ended up being lead navigator for a short while. Finding the route - big sigh of relief - I pushed towards the end.

As soon as I saw central London in the distance I started to up the pace. My Garmin was telling me that my average pace was 13.5 mph which is what it stayed at until the end. My legs didn't feel tired so I pushed a little harder. Mrs Orange and the Orangettes were waiting for me at London Zoo and I was keen to join them.

With the end in sight I crossed the start / finish line at about 12:50 p.m. having done an extra two and half miles! A medal was placed around my neck and a banana thrust into my hand. I was grateful for both! Stocking up on water and taking a few photos I wasted little time and headed for my car which I had parked nearby. I drove to London Zoo where I met my family and finally got to see the new baby tigers.

Normally, I would also post a picture of the medal. It was a lovely one but I won't be keeping it. Instead I am going to give it to a work colleague who in the last 17 months was diagnosed with lymphoma, went through a lengthy bout of chomotherapy and is now in remission.