Sunday 26 April 2015

The First Ever All Brompton Night Ride from London to Southend

Friday night was going to be a very special time for a few Bromptonians as it represented our first Brompton Friday night ride to the coast and in this case Southend.

Over the years I have grown to love Friday night rides to the coast and had been looking forward to this particular ride all week. I had diligently kept an eye on the weather situation (a bit of an English pastime anyway) and made sure I was going to be ready for the long night ahead.

The meeting location was the all too familiar Hyde Park Corner. It was originally posted for Charring Cross but sentimental attachments to the Fridays rides induced me to ask David, our ride leader to change it, which he did.

Before meeting at Hyde Park Corner I could not help but do a lap of the Brompton World Championship circuit, which this year is going to be held in London. My lap was cut short mainly due to the huge volume of traffic and preparations for Anzac Day.

Meeting at Hyde Park Corner there were already a few of the brave and one by one they started to arrive for our nocturnal adventure.

There was apparently an early morning service to be held near Wellington Arch which accounted for the police presence and others busying themselves with getting things just right.

With all participants assembled, David gave a brief run-through of the ride and more or less on the stroke of midnight we were off and consumed by the night.

Geoff took the role of tail end Charlie and Mark and I hovered at the back too in order to catch up on gossip. It seemed like an age since the three of us had ridden together.

We made good progress, despite the fact the traffic was extremely busy in and around London. In what seemed like next to no time we had reached east London and the Excel building came into view.

This represented our first stop to take on water, the odd snack and one of the jelly babies that Geoff always brings to one of these rides - and I have to say very much appreciated!

As always I had brought a flashing light to beef up my SON dynamo powered Edulux II light. In truth with this light one doesn't really need anything else as it produces a super bright and more importantly wide beam.

Our route chosen by David was as always interesting. As we skirted industrial estates booming music and the revving up of highly tuned car engines could be heard. With the burning of rubber, handbrake turns and donuts, it was all getting a too like ''Fast and the Furious' or 'Grand Theft Auto' for yours truly. Of course I didn't see any one perform any of these but I am pretty sure you could see the intent in their eyes!

As we pressed on we reached one of the highlights of the journey, cycling through Rainham Marshes. Now an RSPB nature reserve covering over 400 hectares, is a former Ministry of Defence test firing range.

Cycling through the marshes was certainly an eerie experience and I am glad I had good lights and the safety of numbers.

The night really does play strange tricks on the mind and at any moment I fancied a werwolf, vampire, ghost, wild animal or worse still one of the locals, might come out of the reeds. Thankfully only the sounds of Reed and Sedge Warblers could be heard, angrily singing their disapproval at several Bromptonians happily cycling through their territory.

Cycling through Rainham Marshes at this time was a highlight and the RSPB reserve buildings looked wonderful in the half light of our various lights.

Just before 03:00 we Thurrock Services, a 24 hour motorway service station where we would be able to sit, relax and take onboard some refreshment. Outside it had been raining steadily but was so fine a rain I didn't really bother with any waterproof jackets.

Parking our Brompton bicycles up we retired to the seating area and pretty much had the entire services to ourselves. I recall on a previous ride to Southend arriving at this very spot much later that we had, so David's route was a pretty good one.

With a  good few miles still ahead and with our rest done we headed out into the darkness about an hour later. As always is the case for a few miles I feel cold and was grateful for the light waterproof jacket I had decided to wear until I felt warm again. Sure enough, after less than ten minutes I took it off. There was considerable drama ahead of us however...

A strange and unfamiliar sound was coming from the rear of Brian's wheel. At first we thought it was a loose mudguard rubbing against the wheel but it was something more. A few miles further and his rear wheel looked as if it was wobbling and slightly out of alinement.

Brian stoically soldiered on without making any fuss but it was soon realised that after hitting a pot hole a spoke or perhaps several had come lose, resulting in the wheel being compromised. We had reached roughly 45 miles with only 15 or so to go when a spoke must have gone through and burst the tyre in what was by all accounts an explosion. For Brian the ride from London to Southend was over.

Luckily (although it may not have seemed this to Brian) we were about 2 miles from a train station. We left Brian with good wishes and a lonely walk to said station. Brian was unflappable, in good humour and after a cigarette was off. The wheel I am sure can be repaired and Brian will live to fight another day. I really hope that we can repeat this ride so that Brian can get some revenge.

The rest of us pressed on as dawn approached. At one point along a wooded area Sam shouted out 'look!' I looked around and though it might have been a white stag or similar but it turned out to be a bluebell wood. Still impressive though.

Sadly, Anne ended up going home early too as her knee which has been giving her problems for several weeks must have started to let her know that it was time to stop. We said our goodbyes but it was sad that Anne could not have competed the ride as she is excellent company.

With the back of the ride broken and the sea spotted we knew that we had done it. Southend could be seen in the distance. At this point Geoff kindly gave me a stick of Southend Rock as a souvenir of our  Brompton adventure.

We stopped to take a few photos which consisted of the Brompton being the main focus! The others were going to get a well earned breakfast but I wanted to head straight back to London, so I said goodbye to the others.

Tony joined me and with only a few minutes to spare we managed to catcher the next train back to Fenchurch Street Station.

The journey took about 55 minutes and as the countryside flew past my window, I could not help but to look out and take stock of what we had all just done.  This was the first all Brompton Friday night ride to the seaside and it went very well. I certainly gives hope that we can repeat and perhaps cycle to other seaside destination.

I remember saying to Zoom Zoom at Hyde Park Corner before we left London that night rides of this nature are special, addictive even and after completing this ride I was left with the feeling of wanting to do it all again. For me this was a brilliant adventure. As for what Zoom Zoom felt about his first ride of this type, I will let you know.

As I type this my stick of Southend rock is sitting in front of me and I am pretty sure I will do it again. When I got home on Saturday I had a couple of hours sleep and felt pretty good. A day later I feel fine - after cycling over 70 miles if you take into account the milage to and from the ride itself.

A big thank you to all the crazy types on Brompton bikes who came out for this ride, Mark and Geoff for the chats/company at the back and for David who provided a great little route and safety navigated all the way. Map and ride data can be viewed via the link below.

Map and ride data

Monday 20 April 2015

Tweed Run 2015 Video

The Tweed Run on Saturday was brilliant and I really enjoyed it and the many lovely outfits.

You might have read my blog post but have a look at the video footage I managed to get as it hopefully captures what it was all like.

As always watch in the highest quality you can - preferably full 1080p

You can find the video via the link below.

Link to video

Sunday 19 April 2015

Tweed Run 2015

The Tweed Run is a wonderful annual cycling event held in London, where for one day you can wear your finest tweed outfit / accessories and almost turn back time to a bygone era, perhaps more civilised than today. I have been on two Tweed Runs and this was going to be my third. I was very much looking forward to it!

The meeting point was Trafalgar Square and I actually thought I was going to be late as my iPhone pinged a message informing me that the Tweed Run was at 10:00. Thankfully, I wasn't late at all and participants were asked to be there from 10:00 onwards to soak in the atmosphere and get ready for the group photo. Phew!

There were some quite simply stunning outfits and many had really thought long and hard - and probably gone to great expense - about their outfits.

Accessories were obviously chosen with great care and I have never seen so many people smoking pipes. I wonder if they'll be doing so come Monday??

Regular readers will know I have a thing about cameras and there were some stunners on display!! Leica, Hasselblad and even some very expensive medium format numbers from Phase One and Pentax.

One of the great things about the Tweed Run is that isn't age or gender restricted. There seemed to be small children up to pensioners (and most of them were a fit as me I can tell you). It was also great to see so many ladies and they looked elegant in their lovely outfits.

Moustaches were in abundance as were beards. I would grow a beard but fear of being mistaken for a hipster. Sill maybe next year?

The time waiting for the big off seemed to fly by as I people watched with enthusiasm. I loved the outfits and the gorgeous bicycles of every conceivable shape, brand, size and colour. There were a few Brompton bikes and even a few orange ones.

The weather was nothing short of perfect with blue skies, sun and a gentle breeze. The good weather and the sight of several hundred people dressed in the wonderful outfits you can see in the pictures also brought out many tourists who stopped dead in their tracks.

Like a red carpet event the innocent became the frenzied focus of the tourist camera and for one brief moment the ordinary Joe / Josephine was like a film star from a golden era, pursued quite literally in some instances across Trafalgar Square.

The time came for the group photo and I decided that I would take a few photos of the group rather than be in it.

Participants looked fantastic in such large numbers and at the end hats were thrown skyward. Priceless.

With photos done we still had the ride to look forward to and people wasted little time in getting to their bikes.

We headed off down The Mall to the dinging of bells tuned to different notes. They made a wonderful sound and I too enthusiastically dinged my bell along with a big smile across my face.

As we passed Horseguards, the Household Cavalry stood to attention as if to salute the passing of several hundred cyclists in tweed.

By the time we reached the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey we were grouped in large numbers and onlookers took a double take at the sight. Many people on buses, cars, taxis cabs, foot and all other forms of transport go their phones out and started to take photos or video. Other simply waved.

The one common bond shared by participants and onlookers alike was to smile, us to be taking part and them to see something you do not see everyday.

On the ride I met a few people who knew of my blog. One gentleman was from Germany and said in addition to reading my blog, I have been responsible for him buying a Brompton. Another lady from America said she and her husband love seeing all my photos to do with London.

We stopped for tea. This provided more opportunity to chat, take photos and compare tweed and bicycles. Once this was done we headed off again.

As on all the Tweed Runs I have been on, for me the ladies really did steal the show as far as outfits went.

We headed down The Mall again towards Buckingham Place and I fancy the Queen would have been mighty amused should she had glanced out of the window.

Cycling through Hyde Park was brilliant and even thought it was all at a very sedate pace I loved it.

Stopping to take photos riders would shout out 'tally ho' or ding their bells. Gentleman took off their caps whiles others waved.

Bob and Roger were on this ride doing important work as marshals. I briefly saw Roger but only heard the voice of Bob telling people that they needed to get going towards the end of the tea stop.

Graham was also on the ride but I didn't see him sadly. I did however see Mr D who was on his Pashley Guvnor. As always Mr D was the personification of style and elegance and looked immaculate.

Sadly, I had to leave the Tweed Run early as I had a dentist appointment. If you have ever seen the film 'The Marathon Man' my dentist makes the character played by the late Sir Lawrence Olivier seem like Doris Day! I therefore was too afeared to cancel the appointment even though I would miss part of the ride.

The Tweed Run was quite simply, brilliant! I absolutely loved every second. It was great fun and extremely well organised. The volunteer Marshals did a great job keeping us safe and the entire event was very slick. Many thank you to the organisers and I hope to attend next year...with eve more tweed!