After a particularly hectic day at work at the end of a a quite manic week I was looking forward to this ride. I headed off back into London just after 22:00 and met Mick B not too far from Baker Street. After chewing the fat for a while we cycled down to Piccadilly Circus where we joined up with another two riders my riding partner iCrazyBee and Geoff - a veteran of many a ride.
After some photographs with tourists we made our way to The Lord Clyde Pub. One gentleman who befriended us informed us that not only did he own an original Brompton, he knew Andrew Richie personally. This of course may be true but some might say he was half cut!
The Lord Clyde provided sanctuary, a warm welcome and some rather good coffee (definitely needed for the rest of the night). One by one the riders - mad enough to embark on this almost fools errand - assembled. Shortly after 01:15 we set off. The pub was refreshingly traditional and not themed up. I half expected to see Sherlock Holmes walking in with Watson.
There were 15 of us (I think) which was a very good turnout considering the task we had set ourselves. Luckily my idea must have struck a chord with others. Originally, I thought that my partner in crime, iCrazyBee would be the only other rider mad enough to join me. We definitely share similar sense of adventure and I suspect other members of this great little club must do as well.
I must add at this point that David P a fellow rider, took my basic straw-like outline of a route and like Rumpelstiltskin, spun it into gold. If I had been leading the riders we would surely have got hopelessly lost. Many thanks to him and a note to self to buy a Garmin GPS mapping unit when funds allow!
Soon we found the River Thames and were treated to one of many stunning views. Taking photos at night, without a tripod and limited time proved to be quite demanding but at least I was able to get a few good snaps to capture the scene. Weatherise, things were mild. The sky was fairly devoid of cloud and there was only the gentlest of breezes. We seem to be very lucky on these rides.
At the Tate Modern we took the first of many group photos before heading across the River on the Millennium Bridge, which I visited a few weeks ago and blogged about.
We travelled further and a bridge caught my attention. Not due to the purple lighting but the misty quality somehow created by the heavy floodlights.
Soon we were in the City proper. Normally abandoned at this ungodly hour it remained very busy, perhaps due to the fact it was a busy weekend for office Christmas parties and what have you.
As we road along I had to take great care not to cycle too close to a long, narrow water feature. At this time of the morning it took a great deal of concentration as my front wheel at times kissed the edge!
There are many building old and new in the City but for the moment at least the star on the dressing room door has been moved to that belong to The Shard. Rising out of the darkness, it certainly makes its presence felt and could be seen at various points throughout the ride.
We got some great views of Tower Bridge and before long we were cycling over it. It was quite a sight seeing the snaking line of Bromptonians riding across it.
Once across the River we were again in the heart of the City. There continued to be a copious amount of people out and about. As we reached the Bank of England there was a steady stream of people. (In the picture below for a bonus point can you tell me which other old Etonian was at the top of this plinth)?
I just couldn't resist trying to get an arty bokeh shot of my beloved Orange Brompton. A security guard outside asked quite a few questions about the club and asked if he could join. I said that the only membership requirement was owning a Brompton Folding Bicycle that had to have some orange in it.
At the Lloyds Building we stopped for a short rest to collect out thoughts only interrupted by the enquires from passers by.
Heading east we proceeded along Brick Lane. It was here that my camera was swiftly put away. People were out in large numbers either waiting to go into clubs, coming out and going elsewhere or being thrown out of said clubs.
It would be true to say if I evaluate my background/upbringing that I have had a fairly sheltered life. Seeing a middle aged man asleep in the road, in danger of being run over at any moment made be reflect on this point. When I saw a man relieving himself, while whistling a song by Beyonce I was shocked. I mean, he didn't even know the ancient bylaw that allows one to do this in the City of London and it's surrounding area if one simply shouts out 'pain, pain, pain.'
My assertions that I have lead a sheltered life were further strengthened when I witnessed a young lady in the 25-30 age group having to get out of a taxi in order to go up to the nearest wall and sick up such volumes of fluid, I was fearful she may have been possessed by the Devil like that girl in the Exorcist film. My sheltered life theory was confirmed when (please steel yourselves for something quite shocking) I became offended at the sight of men with a three button suit jacket with all three buttons done up!
Soon we reached the welcome sight of Oxford Street and cycling down it when took lots of pictures. Once at Selfridges we turned back up Oxford Street.
A quick stop at Trafalgar Square at just after 03:00 am provided another photo opportunity for those of use with cameras to try and capture empty scenes that in a few weeks will be filled with thousands.
Heading south we reached the former resident of the old Etonian on the plinth before heading to for me, one of the highlights of the ride.
We rode through an empty and atmospheric Hyde Park - the stretch adjacent to the Serpentine. With little lighting, the only illumination coming from our bike lights, we snaked our way through. The waters of the Serpentine reflected any available light sources which made things quite beautiful.
We cycled past the Royal Albert Hall and Albert Court, once the home of Howard Carter. I wonder what he would have made of us travelling past? Heading past Harrods we eventually arrive at the Brompton Oratory. It was from a flat overlooking this building that Andrew Ritchie named the bikes we rode on, the club we belong to and started the journey building the bikes we rode on for this mad journey.
With this done we made our way to the London Eye and the end of our epic journey.
At the London Eye after taking a group photo we made out way to Waterloo. At this point we said our goodbyes to those that remained and iCrazyBee, Mick B and I went out to seek somewhere to have breakfast.
Unfortunately as it was 07:30 Mick and I had to be back at our cars by 08:30 to avoid a parking ticket or worst. (Better planning next time). Saying our goodbyes Mick and I headed back to the cars. We made it in good time as the sun began to rise and chewed the fat some more while getting packed and ready for the off.
It is amazing to think that from one of my crazy ride ideas (other Bromptonians please beware, I have many more) this actually became a reality. As I type this, I do not feel too fatigued, although I am sure it will come. I really enjoyed the ride and it was great to see London going to sleep and waking up. I suspect I will do this ride again - in the not too distant future I hope, but definitely when summer arrives. As always, it is the company that makes these rides as special as the rides themselves and yet again I am left with the question, when's the next ride??!