Early Sunday morning I posted on a popular social media platform that I was considering cycling a few laps of Richmond Park, later and evening ride Richmond to Box Hill. The latter struck a chord with a few fellow mad types. A time set and a meeting point was agreed.
Shortly after 19:15 I met my riding partner of many a ride Mark (King of the Hill) along with Matt and Jeremy at Kew Gardens. At 19:40 we were off on our steel (and in the case of Mark and I) titanium rides.
As we passed thought Bushy Park the sun was setting. Deer grazed close to where we cycled, the red of their coats enhanced by the light from a golden sun to the west. The park was beautiful, peaceful with not a soul in sight apart from four Bromptonians traversing thought on route to a famed destination. One reason perhaps why the we had the park to ourselves was revealed on a notice that informed the park gates would shut at 20:15. It was 20:12. It did of course mean that we would be able to pass this way upon our return.
Our pace was brisk and every so often we stopped for a brief rest and field intake. Going through a wooded section brought back memories of cycling through the Badlands on the London to Brighton ride.
Cycling at night is a lot of fun. It is quieter than the day and although one doesn't quite obtain the same clarity of view in terms of scenery, the buzz of cycling at night more than makes up for this.
Before long we reached the bottom of Box Hill. After a few photos we made our ascent...
Box Hill isn't the hardest or steepest gradient I have attempted but to say it is easy would be churlish. This is the second time I have cycled up Box Hill and as have to say that this time was significantly easier than my previous attempt. I ascended pretty quickly and was happy that I had brought my Hope Vision 1 LED lit to illuminate my path.
My fellow riders were close behind and all successfully ascended the famous Box Hill. Once at the top the view was made up of hundreds of lights from distant houses.
On our last visit to Box Hill, Mark spotted a pub on our way back that was not far at all from the summit. I must confess to not noticing it or giving it much attention but it was to be a location not easily forgotten.
The pub was a themed restaurant called the 'Smith and Western.' As you might have guessed from the name it was a western themed bar/restaurant.
Now I must make a confession. I have not yet had the pleasure of visiting the United States of America but it is somewhere I have always wanted to go. Along with people from Australia and New Zealand, I have not met an American I haven't instantly liked. When I was little apart from pretending to be a Jedi I often pretended to be a cowboy from the Wild West. (All the more remarkable perhaps growing up in Kensington). I suspense what I am saying is that I quite liked the exaggerated Americana of the 'Smith and Western.'
The exterior resembled one of the wooden porches perhaps seen in the 'Waltons' and the music certainly set the tone. As we parked our bikes and ventured inside we were treated to a song that had the line, 'You've gotta whip a mans ass sometimes.' Even the staff wore cowboy hats and shirts and although I did not see, I will go to my grave believing they also wore cowboy boots.
With free tortilla crisps and monkey nuts this place was great and the perfect rest point before making the big push back to Kew Gardens. The country and western hits came in quick succession:
'Cotton Eye Joe.' (The original version).
'Ring of Fire.'
'Country Boys and Girls Getting Down on the Farm!'
A signed invited people to measure themselves up against a series of famous people from the Wild West. Mark (King of the Hill) attempted to duplicate the jaunty thumb in belt pose. What he managed was more akin to hand on hip.
We were about to head on our return journey when Jeremy discovered a puncture. With the tyre changed we made our way back. Passing through a wooded section which we now referred to as 'The Badlands' brought even more memories of London to Brighton back. I cannot tell you how dark it was but without lights you would not have been able to see your hand in front of your face.
As we cycled on an uninterrupted, flat road Matt and I cycled away and enjoyed the speed we had built up. We were enjoying it so much that we missed a left turn, only having to turn tail and go back.
As Bushy Park was shut we had to circumvent it meaning that our journey would be longer and take more time. That done we said our goodbyes to Jeremy a few miles before we reached Kew Garden.
It had been a very off the cuff, last minute, impulsive ride and idea but it worked. I really enjoyed it and was glad that I managed to get a few others to join me. Mark did a fantastic job of navigating and although I had the route stored on the Garmin 810 on loan from Garmin UK, I didn't know how to reverse the route. If I had gone it alone I might have taken slightly longer!
If your reading this and thinking to yourself that you might like to ride somewhere at night I can thoroughly recommend it but consider the following points of advice:
- To start with choose a route you are familiar with - it doesn't even have to be that far to start with.
- Try and get a friend or friends to go with you. The more that go, the more fun you'll almost certainly have.
- If you go on your own make sure you tell someone what you are doing.
- Take a fully charged phone.
- Take a small amount of cash or one back card, just in case.
- Give your bike the once over before setting off.
- Carry a basic tool kit / puncture repair kit.
- Take good front and rear lights.
- Wear hi-vis.
I am sure that in the not too distant future I will be doing this very ride again, probably with more riders but one thing is for certain, an element of night riding will feature on my list of great cycle journeys. Give it a go. You might very well have as much fun as we did.
Below you can click on the link to view the maps and ride data from the route to Box Hill and the return.
Richmond to Box Hill Maps and Ride Data
Box Hill to Richmond Maps and Ride Data