Monday 10 June 2013

Nocturne and 100km Nightrider on a Brompton Back to Back!

The IG London Nocturne Folding Bike Race

Saturday, 8th June / Sunday 9th June will forever be etched upon my memory as an amazing few hours  where the adjective epic could have a stab at summing things up.

Spanning these two days I first participated in the IG Folding Bike Race, held at Smithfield in the heart of London. I first attended this event last year and came away with the feeling that I would like more. More came in the form of an indoor version In January at London's Excel as part of the Bike Show.

The Nocturne Folding Bike Race has become more and more popular each year. To Brompton owners it has become like the 'Queens Club' tennis tournament to the 'Wimbledon' that is the Brompton World Championships. The Nocturne provides great training for the BWC and for the really speedy Brompton owners. Doing well at the Nocturne might reap rewards at the BWC. I am a very big fan of the Nocturne and it is a rather pure race in many ways.

I arrived at the Barbican Centre Car Park in good time and made my way to the the signing on area. Gradually more and more members of the Brompton Club assembled. Once signed in we retreated to the riders area on the inside of the track.

Club racers rode purposefully on turbo trainers or rollers and the professional riders bikes could be see neatly racked on top of team cars with copious team livery daubed all over. Penny farthing bikes were carefully stacked in groups and reminded me of the way soldiers of yesteryear might haver rested their muskets/rifles. It certainly set set the scene.

I had decided to take my Titanium Orange Brompton with me and my sole nod to the weight saving brigade was to take off my front carrier block. I did so with the conviction that it would in some way aid the aerodynamic efficiency of me and my bike.

Waiting around for the big off is always a nerve racking affair. Ladies who worked for 'Red Bull' kindly distributed cold tins of these energy inducing liquids and were gratefully received. The new 'Urban Challenge' event which I must say looked like tremendous fun was on directly before heat one of the heat.

Race officials gathered us to go through the race particulars. We were randomly given small laminated pieces of paper containing details of where to place ones folded bike on the start line and we waited.

The wait felt like an eternity but our time came and before we new it we were out on the course. Bike folded I pressed play on my GoPro which this time I decided to position on the rear of my seat post as I fancied a different view. I walked back the 60 metres or so to the start line where over 40 riders, on the balls of their feet, spoiling to get going had to wait again.

The Union flag being waved was the signal we needed and with shouts of encouragement from the large crowd and cheers from the riders themselves we ran towards our folded bikes. My unfold wasn't particularly quick but at least I was not one of the many unfortunates still unfolding when I cycled off.

The heat would be over three laps and we were told that the first 20 riders would qualify for the 5 x lap final. I have put in lots of miles in the past six months and I am happy that my personal journey to gain an increased fitness has been a productive one. I gave it my all and could not have done any more. My riding partner iCrazyBee must have had a tremendous start as I past him on about a third into the first first lap. I passed fellow club member David P but he overtook me but he went past me and although trying I did not catch him up.

Laurence a club member and a very useful rider to say the least who had been recovering from a nasty fall of the bike put in a gutsy performance. My GoPro footage has him like a shadow for the entire race.

Another club member Femi, suffered the frustration of his chain coming off scuppering his race. As for my riding buddy Mark, I did not see him as he was way ahead and along with Brian and Alasdair got into the final 20 with aplomb. (Alasdair was a on a quite incredible beast of a Brompton with various customisations. He could have turned up on a Raleigh Chopper and still made the final).

The race was over only three laps but it felt like longer to me. I was by no means last but I knew that I had not made the glorious 20. In truth looking at the lineup before the race I suspected this anyway. 

This heat, this race was brilliant. I really enjoyed it, the buzz it gave and the atmosphere. The crowd were very enthusiastic and many kindly shouted out words of encouragement to the 'Orange Brompton!' With the Brompton World Championships less than two months away this has provided a great preparation for that event. It has given me a few points to work on:

  • I seem to be able to ride at a fairly brisk pace over longer distances and cope well with hills but my speed over shorter ones needs some work.
  • Everyone was telling me that for this sort of race I should go for clipped in pedals. This is something I may have to look at again. (My Adidas Marathon 80 trainers have the colours I like but the sole is quite woeful). 
  • The hinge clamps can be updated to the spring loaded type that make the fold that bit quicker.
  • Kojaks are lighter, firmer and offer a tremendous ride.

With my heat over the second heat containing several other Brompton Club members got under way. Soaking in the atmosphere the club riders were racing and going at great speed on their carbon fibre wonders.

In the riders some lady riders from the 'Wiggle Honda' team were being photographed and causing quite a stir. I went over to photograph them too and saw that in the centre were Team GB riders and  Olympic gold medal winner Joanna Rowsell, double Olympic gold medal winner Laura Trott and Olympic gold medal winner Danielle King. 

Golden girls

Not a medal but a great souvenir 

The IG Nocturne Folding Bike Race is a near perfect event that was well organised and great fun. I am sure that regular readers will already know that I like medals. (The Nocturne would be even better if all participants were given a Nocturne medal). Regardless of this, if I am lucky enough to get in next year I want to be part of this again!

The NightRider

After the excitement of my Nocturne heat I had to come back down to earth and gasp the fact that I the 100km NightRider later that evening. My riding partner iCrazyBee and I decided that we both needed to get home and do some last minute prep. In my case I wanted to see my daughters and wife before heading off again. 

We decided to grab a coffee at the brilliant, 'Look Mum No Hands' nearby and met David and Anne who would join us later on the NightRider. The last person joining us on the NightRider was Mark but he still had the Nocturne final at 20:30 to get through!

I agreed to meet iCrazyBee and Mark at Oxford Circus as 22:00 so that we could cycle the few miles to Alexandra Palace. I just had about enough time to have something to eat tell everyone about the Nocturne before heading back out.

Mark was waiting bang on time and I was fashionably late with iCrazyBee being unfashionably late. Once gathered we cycled from Oxford Circus to Alexandra Palace. The road leading up to the palace was steep but Mark and I managed it but I think iCrazyBee might have walked a few metres of it. Riders came down the hill on the other side of the road who had earlier start times than our midnight.

Once up at the top there were hundreds of riders of all ages on all manner of bikes (we only saw a couple of other Bromtonians participate the entire night) and a buzz of excitement. Getting out reflective vests and pinning our race numbers on to the front we searched for David and Anne but with so many people we couldn't spot them.

One rider asked me in a quite arrogant manner whether or not I had ever ridden 60 miles, 'on that.' I politely explained that I had completed several rides of a greater distance - London to Brighton, London to Southend, London to Cambridge, London to Oxford. He tutted and turned his attention to the road bike he probably bought from Halfords. I recall passing him on the first big hill and don't remember seeing him again for the rest of the ride.

The riders setting off at midnight were called and it was then we spotted David and Anne. With much cheering from the many midnight starters we were off.

Once we descended from Alexandra Palace we almost immediately encountered another hill. Again I coped pretty well as for some strange reason I actually like hills and find them a fascinating mind game. It was a different story for iCrazyBee who doesn't really like hills. It was our intention to do this ride together as a pack but at this first hill we perhaps knew that it might not happen. The weather was not terrible but there was a nip in the air mainly due to strong headwinds that seemed to plague us the entire 100km.  The ride as a pack option might not happen for the entire night.

The first stop was at the Imperial War Museum. The organisers had done a very good job of taking care of those taking part. There were plenty of chocolate bars, crisps and water tanks where you could up . In addition there were mechanics on hand to tend to your bike if needed. 

As we pressed on some of the views of London at night as I have also seen on the many night rides I have been on, proved to be stunning. Many riders stopped in the middle of the bridges we traversed to take a few pictures.  

Mark and I seem to have a good riding relationship and on longer rides I seem to be able to keep up with him. We started to cycle at a good pace and took the scalps of many a rider. At times we tore through the snaking lines of cyclists and it would be true to say that both of us quite enjoyed it.

Arriving at Crystal Palace we had nearly reached the half way point. We exchanged the first of the vouchers on our race numbers for a well earned snack. Soon David and Anne rolled up and slighter after them iCrazyBee.

We left Crystal Palace together but it wasn't too long before Mark and I started to enjoy the pleasures of passing road bikes or anything that moved. I cannot speak for Mark (although I expect it might be a similar story) but I had already been allowed to go to the Nocturne and I wanted to get the NightRider competed as soon as possible so that I could get back to my family.

With dawn breaking London looked beautiful in a different way and the route was proving to be a very good one. Travelling through a deserted Canary Wharf made me ponder the idea that I should go there again in order to photograph some of the architecture. At Potters Field Park adjacent to the river Thames we had another rest. I took the opportunity to take some photos.

Canary Wharf at dawn

Potters Field Park with the Mayors office in the background

After Potters Field Park we headed for Alexandra Palace. Mark and I decided to cycle on just as David and Anne arrived. We felt a little guilty for not staying in a pack but with the end in sight - albeit still a long way off - we cycled on.

As we neared Alexandra Palace there was one last killer of a hill to overcome. With fresher legs this last hill would have been a piece of cake for me but the Nocturne, trying to keep a brisk pace and overtaking anything that moved had made my legs tired. Despite this I made it - as did Mark (and remember he was also in the final of the Nocturne) to the applause and congratulations of people who lined the last few hundred metres.

Before 07:30 we had done it. A medal was presented to me and loving medals I was rather pleased. The line for the breakfast was quite long so Mark minded the bikes while I went in to get our keenly anticipated food. At about 08:20 we saw David and Anne and not too long after we saw iCrazyBee. We had all done it!

Mark and I said our goodbyes before heading back in to central London where we too said our goodbyes...until next time.

Full circle - back to Alexandra Palace

Taken at 07:32 but we arrived slightly earlier

A particularly fine medal

I enjoyed the NightRider. The route was interesting, demanding in places and all for charity. There was a lovely atmosphere among the riders taking part and a curiosity about us taking on Brompton bikes. Yet again I feel we did our bit and changed many peoples opinions about our bikes.

Would I do this again? I think I might but next time I would try and raise more money for my chosen charity.

Below you can click on the various links to see the ride data and maps for the various points of the ride.

Journey to Alexandra Palace

Alexandra Palace to Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace to Potters Field Park

Potters Field Park to Alexandra Palace

Alexandra Palace to Finish


  1. It was a fabulous day, and it was great to meet you all.



    1. Likewise. I'm sure our paths will cross again.

  2. Hi mate

    Super blog you've got here. I'm considering purchasing one of these elegant beasts and am eagerly consuming the vast amounts of written material available on the interwebz (yes, I even purchased the book, although that is yet to arrive).

    Nothing quite beats real world reviews from long term owners however; and you're doing a trememdous job of providing just that.

    Looking very forward to your next entry.


  3. Hello OB man still following you via a blog feed reader so the ability to comment is not as immediate but forced myself today just to say still reading & still enjoying.

    1. Hello Fegrig likewise with your blog. You always leave me wanting more but as i am finding out having the time to write anything is pretty hard.


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