Sunday 8 June 2014

Nocturne and NightRider Back to Back!!

The days leading up to yesterday have been ones of deliberation, worry and mild fear. It would be true to say that thoughts of Saturday have dominated points in the day where my mind was allowed to wander. These thoughts were of course participating in the "Jupiter London Nocturne' and 'NightRider' Charity ride.

Saturday, according to the weather was at first predicted to be bad, then pretty bad and then absolutely horrid. It is true that there were grey clouds and the rain did pour but it did not last. In fact while the rain was pouring I was putting Kojak slick tyres on my Titanium Orange Brompton. I have always been an optimist and I refused to be a gloomy pill and agreed that things would improve. They did.

I headed off to Barbican where I was going to meet Mark (King of the Hill), my partner in crime, Andrew and all round good egg John M. I drove down and was able to park my car in a friends parking spot who lives nearby. Mark and John were already there and Andrew was late I was just fashionably late).

Soon we were joined by Lawrence and Jenny and after a coffee, free sample of smoothie we made our way to the Nocturne circuit where we registered for the event. There we met David, Anne and Jeremy and also saw fellow club members Paul and Henry. It was good to meet them. We also saw Roger, who has been to every London Nocturne. Today he was on an original Bickerton and was worried about the speed of his unfold.

Once registered we were allowed into Smithfield itself which for one Saturday a year is transformed into the Nocturne. These moments seemed like an eternity as we awaiting the start of our races. There would be two heats and the first 20 riders would gain a place in the coveted final. It was a tense time. Nervous smiles were exchanged and game faces put firmly on.

Smithfield transformed 

A true game face

The Green Machine

As I have written I decided to take my Titanium Orange Brompton. Mudguards were dispensed with a few weeks ago and in addition to Kojak tyres, I opted to use my aluminium telescopic seat post. My theory was that this would provide the extra I needed as my Specialized saddle sits rather low.

Titanium Orange Brompton

There were some big names and familiar faces. Mr Gavin Morton is swift to say the least. In the past he has done very well at the Nocturne and the Brompton World Championships. Mr Antonius Wubben has also done well in both these events. In fact he beat me comprehensively in the Sprint at the Brompton World Championships last year. I have a picture as my screensaver of me in the Sprint, ahead but the truth is that moments later he powered ahead and won. Joe fellow club member was looking to capitalise on previous good results. Philip, again fellow club member had a new and gorgeous looking SL2 X Raw Lacquer recently modified was out to do much the same as Joe. Finally, Mr Keith Henderson, very modest and laid back was going for another win.

Heat 1 went off with Andrew, Laurence and Jeremy. I didn't watch... because I needed to get ready myself. Heat 2 was called. After listening to the clear instructions we selected a number at random that would represent where our bikes would be placed at the start. We went out on to the track for a few laps. I tailed Keith Henderson for a while and he was smooth and nimble. I sensed that the power and pace could be switched on at will but he merely glided around.

I had chosen pen 1. Mark, David, Phillip, Henry and Roger weren't too far away but it was going to be every man for himself. I folded my beloved Brompton and left it waiting. Would I be abel to perform a quick unfold? The walk back to a white line seemed like a very long way away. We would stand behind the line until a Union Jack was lowered. The crowd - a huge part of the Nocturne atmosphere - started to bang on the advertising sidings. I fancy they matched the rhythm of our heart beats as we waited...

The flag was lowered and we were off. I ran, unfolded and was off. I didn't see where anyone else had gone or how they were doing. I just peddled as hard as I could. Ahead I saw the familiar sight of Mark's 'Green Machine.' He was pedalling hard. Mark is very fast and easily made the final last year. I knew that if I could keep near him, I might stand a chance.

I past quite a few riders with this goal imprinted on my mind. Mark was quick! I tailed him for the entire first lap. Then the second. As we rounded the right-hand corner leading to the steep incline, he was off. I could not keep up. I motored as hard as I could but a couple of riders I had previously past, now overtook me.

Three laps averaging about 19mph, peaking at over 30mph on the downward incline would take about 6 minutes. As I passed the finish line I started to coast round. I had really enjoyed this! My goal was to have performed better than last year and as I entered the riders area, I was confident I had done that. I was not too confident at getting into the final...

Riders could have massages and wasting no time I was to see my riding partner, lying prostrate with a smile on his face! He had greatly improved on last year and I know that he was very pleased with that. I was too.

Ruffled feathers after heat 1

With both heats finished we eagerly awaited the results. After not too long they were posted near the registration tent. Laurence, David, Jeremy were through. I looked to my name and saw that I was through too. I was so happy. Sadly it wasn't to be for my partner in crime but he had a very respectable position and had made a great leap from last year.

Mark, wasn't on the list? We know that he was in the final as he was at least 5-6 positions ahead of me - perhaps more. Thankfully it was all sorted out quickly and he was in too.

With a few hours to kill - the final was scheduled for 20:30 - we retired to a nearby cafe for some fuel. This done we headed back to the riders area to watch some of the other races.

The single speed, no brakes track bike race was amazing. They shot around at incredible speed! The road bikes with gears were next and were as quick.

The penny farthing race is always a particular favourite of mine and I am always in awe of their stamina and skill - especially up that steep incline!!

The retro bike race was next and there was some seriously good looking bikes on display.

Back in the riders area, one of the Boris Bike competitors tried to ride one on rollers!

Joe looking confident for the final

Phillip's lovely custom bike

More subtle customisation

Our final was a little later than planned as these things do happen at big events with multiple races. As such the race was 3 laps instead of its intended 5. Believe me I was glad of this!! The call came and again we elected numbers at random. This time pen 2 which I shared with David.

Again we went on a warmup lap. This time I trailed Mr Morton and could barely keep up! We returned to the start, folded our bikes and retired to the white line that seemed even further back this time. A few nods between friends was the only communication needed at this tense moment.

The flag was lowered and we were off. I unfolded and peddled hard. In the distance I could see the big names power off into the distance. I would not see them again. I looked for Mark but could not see him. He was ahead but this time I was on my own.

I think just as I rounded the corner for the home straight for the second time I saw that Mark had stopped. I feared that his recent injury had flared up. Thankfully it was simply that he had hit a pothole and his chain had bounced off. It is not the way he would have like to finish as I suspect he would have placed very well - even though probably not 100% fit.

I did the best I could and was pleased at the enthusiastic support from many in the crowd who liked Mr Orange. I have no idea where I placed but I most certainly wasn't last.

The Nocturne is a wonderful event! It is well organised and possess a wonderful atmosphere. It celebrates cycling in all its forms and the folding bike race is pure...raw perhaps. I love the Nocturne and it is quite simply a cycling highlight. The Brompton World Championships is of course the pinnacle. Hundreds of Brompton users all competing in one event is beyond compare. I have written before the highest compliment I can pay the Nocturne is that it is almost as good. Believe me that is high praise indeed.

With the race over we said our goodbyes and made our respective ways home. Of course for Andrew and I the night was not over. If anything it was just beginning!

I got the car and drove home mainly to get my lights. As the Nocturne ran a little over I was cutting things rather fine. My fault as I should have simply brought all I needed with me. I got to Alexandra palace at about 23:45. I was due to start at midnight along with Andrew but as there was a huge line for registering I was going to miss the start.

Andrew had problems with trains as arrived not long after but then had to join the line. We therefore started at 00:25. We set off together and with the Nocturne not enough in one day we had roughly 60 miles ahead of us.

There were hundreds of us, each cycling for a charity special to us. Everyone had their own reason and over the next few hours I was humbled by the motivation of many to complete this event. I of course had my own reasons. My mum was diagnosed with breast cancer while I was away at university. It was not a pleasant time but she got through and was in remission for almost 10 years when it came back. If anything this was worse than the first time but again she got through and has been in remission since.

One sour note is the number of people who simply gatecrash an event. There were quite a few. Yes this event is on public roads and everyone has their rights but for me it is bad form. If anything it has the potential to jeopardise events like this. I am no supporter of people who gatecrash any organised event but those that do so for charity events are the lowest of the low in my book. Sorry rant over.

Andrew and I pretty much knew that we might start together but might not finish together. This happened sooner than I thought possibly as a result of getting to the final of the Nocturne. After the first big hill - which went on for ages - I stopped at the top and waited. As I did I could feel that my legs were starting to stiffen and I knew that if I didn't keep moving I'd be in trouble. This was to be my strategy for the entire ride.

I cycled at a good pace. I overtook people who started much earlier than Andrew and I (I know that he did too). It is important to state that this event wasn't a race and I wasn't treating it as one. I was simply going at my pace. By 02:40 I was at Crystal Palace - the first snack point.

I was very grateful to get a black coffee, some sweets and a rather nice pastry. Not long after I filled my water bootle up (should have taken 2x) and was off again.

Several roadies were very complimentary about how well the Brompton was performing. Again I like to think that I dispelled a few misconceptions that a Brompton is simply a short journey commuter bicycle than cannot be ridden at a decent pace.

Not too long after leaving Crystal Palace I could hear birds singing and getting ready for the dawn chorus. By the time we reached central London dawn was fast approaching. I stopped to take a few pictures as I liked the reflection of the Shard in the Thames. There was another snack stop but I didn't feel I needed a break so I pressed on.

It was not long after this that disaster struck. I had been pretty good up to this point and the route was fairly well signposted with arrows. Whether it was due to tiredness or carelessness I must have missed one. When it become obvious that I had not seen a sign for a few miles I stopped to see where I was. I got my iPhone out. It displayed 19% battery and as soon as I tried to us google maps it shut itself off! I stupidly didn't bring my portable battery charger and it was therefore rendered useless.
For this reason I have been seriously considering abandoning the iPhone in favour of a Galaxy S4. At least with that phone I could carry a spare battery!

I had my Garmin Edge but had decided not to mount it to the bars. Instead I had my Garmin Virb and my Hope Vision light. I tried to navigate using my Garmin Edge but could not get to to navigate to the postcode I wanted - Alexandra Palace. I suspect this had something to do with the tall buildings and that my Garmin had been kept logging the route in my Mini O bag?

Whatever reason I was on my own! My sense of direction is not the best and I didn't really know where I was going? Eventually I stumbled back, more by luck to the Euston Road and remembered that I had come down from Regents Park earlier that morning. I resorted to tracking the route back to Alexandra Palace using the arrows going the opposite way.

I saw NightRider riders in their orange bibs (indicating they had started at Crystal Palace) and know that they must have come from Alexandra Palace - their halfway stop.

My route was not the best. Tracking back meant that some wonderful downhills now became tortuous  hills. They just kept going on and on. Hampstead and Highgate were the worst. By the time I reached the home straight I saw the spire of Alexandra Palace in the distance. The last hill was hard for tired legs but i made it.

I went through the finish arch, got my medal and had done it. I arrived at Alexandra Palace at about 05:35. My Garmin Edge seems to have plotted the route I took well but instead of 60 miles I did 55 but who's counting. I'm pretty pleased at the time it took me and the pace and under the circumstances there was really nothing else I could do.

Filling up my water bottle and downing it in almost one go I abandoned the free breakfast and headed for home. Before I left I took a few photos of the views and even at this early hour it looked like it was going to be a lovely day.

This was certainly some weekend! This is something I did last year of course but I felt well prepared for this year. The 60 miles (well 55 as it turned out) didn't really phase me. All those Friday night rides, Brompton Club rides and training (well if you can call what I do training) have served me well.

I have throughly enjoyed myself and I suspect that next year I will probably sign up for both...again!! I was also pleased to find out that my partner in crime did really well and finished safely. Geoff did the ride too but I didn't see him the entire night.

Both the Nocturne and NightRider organisers really do need commending as they put on great events that all ran very smoothly. If I had to choose a favourite out of the two, it would have to be the Nocturne. It was a wonderful event and I was really pleased to take part. The final was a lovely bonus.

Nocturne ride data and maps for my heat 1

NightRider map and ride data


  1. Mr. O,
    Nice report of the two challenging events.
    I am happy to see some familiar faces in the post, like David and Bee.
    Glad you had a great time.
    Peace :)

  2. Nice going. Good write up too.


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