Monday 31 December 2018

Rapha 500 2019

For the past few years I have managed to complete the 'Rapha 500.' This is a cycle challenge set by the cycling clothing company of the same name in which participants try to cycle 500km (about 300 miles in old money) from Christmas Eve to New Years Eve. Last year I found this very hard going to say the least and this year with some time off work I really didn't know if I wanted to do this, or could do it.

For me there were certain rules that had to be adhered to:

  • Cycling would need to be at a time that did not interfere with the plans of my family
  • All routes would need to be in and around London
  • If it was snowing or frosty I would not cycle and if this meant the 500 was looking unlikely, so be it
  • I would select whatever bicycle I wanted - Brompton, Surly, Condor
  • Minimal stopping for photos as this had slowed things down fun previous years

Day 1 - 24/12/8 (61 miles) Surly Disc Trucker

For this I got up at stupid o'clock. Part of my ride (minimum of 9 miles) would be on the Grand Union Canal so I decided to take my Surly Disc Trucker with its new Schwalbe Marathon tyres. I make no secret of the fact that this is my favourite bicycle.

I cycled through to Hyde Park, into Central London and then east towards the Limehouse Cut, where at Abbey Mills Pumping Station I joined the Greenway. From there I eventually reached North Woolwich and went under the Woolwich Foot Tunnel. From here I cycled back home along south of the river Thames before crossing the river at Tower Bridge to continue on north of the river.

The route was just over 61 miles and as I had started early traffic was non-existent for first half and very light for the second. It was chosen as it was flat and I knew that I could cover the ground pretty quickly.

I really enjoyed this route and knew that I would return to it, weather permitting.

Day 2 - 25/12/18 (20 miles) Condor Fratello 

Christmas Day and as such the 20 miles I completed were all done when everyone was fast asleep. This involved me cycling 10 miles in the general direction of a certain location and then turning back and following the same route back. This I completed quite quickly on my Condor road bike. (I also have to confess that it was the first time in months that I had used the Condor).

Day 3 - 26/12/18 (61 miles) Surly Disc Trucker

Day 3 saw me return to the same route as day 1. This was very much a repeat but despite it not raining, it did look as if it must have been from the dampness on the road. Again I liked the route and getting up at a ridiculous time was actually quite therapeutic in many ways. It was as if London was mine with very few people around and having the city almost to myself was a treat. This route was to give off a very different vibe the following day however.

Day 4 - 27/12/18 ( 58 miles) Surly Disc Trucker

Day 4 was going to be the last time I could repeat this particular route as other commitments meant that it would be impossible to cycle it. This was a shame as I had got into a little routine, knew the route well, enjoyed it and liked the fact it clocked up lots of miles easily.  

All was fine until I reach the Greenway Near East Ham Nature Reserve. In the distance I could see lots of people on bicycles and as I got closer I could see that it was lots of teenagers on mountain bikes and hire bikes doing wheelies etc. My first thought was to wonder why they were up so early? I actually wonder whether they had been at this all night? As I got closer they took more and more of an interest in me and my bicycle with some cycling towards me and then with me. As I neared the others they tried to block my path with their bikes. Managing to avoid this I put the pedal down and despite a few following they soon lost interest and stopped pursuing. Not a very pleasant experience mainly as there were so many of them - possibly 15 or so.

Day 5 - 28/12/18 (40 miles) Orange Brompton S6L

Day 5 involved me starting near the Albert Memorial and doing lots and lots of laps of Hyde Park. When I got bored of that I decided to cycle the 6 miles or so to Richmond Park and then on to Bushey Park before returning to Hyde Park.

Day 6 - 29/12/18 (45 miles) Orange Brompton S6L

Day 6 involved me joining a group of other cyclists on a Christmas ride which took in some of the criminal goings on in London. Click Here This was great fun, although I very nearly didn't make the start of the ride as I had messed up my timings in trying to the 12:00 p.m. start! In all I cycled 45 miles.

Day 7 - 30/12/18 (25 miles) Condor Fratello

I had 25 miles left to go and when I set out I intended to cycle about 10 - 15 miles as my legs (and everything else) was starting to feel it from all the cycling. I ended cycling the 25 miles I needed (actually a little over this) and started and finished outside my front door. I had done it.

When I entered my house and saw that Mrs Orange and the Orangettes were up, I informed them that the Rapha 500 was done with a day to spare. I didn't expect ticker tape or party poppers but all I received was 'that's nice. How about you make us all a cup of tea?!'

The Rapha 500 is not easy. The biggest factor for me is time. I have been fortunate to have this time off from work and I know that if I were working during even some of these days, there would be no way I could fit it in or want to for that matter. Those that manage to fit this in with work commitments have my admiration.

This year I found that completing most of the miles on big wheels helped in terms of covering more miles with less stress and strain on the body. I suspect that if I had completed day 5 on big wheels I could have cycled further in the same time.

As I type this I have to say I am very pleased that I didn't need to cycle today and I am going to have a rest from cycling for the the next week or so!

I do enjoy the Rapha 500 and it is great that they put this challenge out there. Well worth giving it a go, assuming you can commit the time to it.

Have a happy 2019 on your cycling adventures!

As I write this in certain parts of the world 2019 has already begun. In fact I have received a few emails from Brompton and Surly riders in New Zealand wishing me happy travels for the new year - which for me in London is a few hours away.

I have slowed down the blog posts and could have written a great many more about what I have got up to during 2018, however time is always a big factor. I hope to increase the quantity in 2019 if time permits.

Thank you for continuing to return to read what I post or dip into my back catalogue (for want of a better expression). Despite the reduced number of posts from yours truly, you seem to read in the same - if not increasing - numbers. For that I thank you.

I do not have any significant plans for my cycling in 2019 other than to get on the road, enjoy the ride, take the odd photograph and have a few cups of tea / slices of cake on the way. I hope to do several night rides to the coast as part of a large group and in-between them, do my own version on a smaller scale.

Whatever 2019 brings for you I wish you a very happy and prosperous new year and thank you again for the emails and support you have given.

Sunday 30 December 2018

The Criminals of London Ride

Yesterday, to break up my efforts for the Rapha 500, I took part in an interesting ride that than the theme of the criminals of London. The meeting point was the tried and tested outside the National Theatre. Wheels were to roll at noon sharp but I had totally misjudged my timings and had to frantically cycle about six miles in very limited time to get there. I arrived fashionably late by a couple of minutes but luckily the pack had not left. Saying hello to a few familiar faces we set off.

Our ride leader was Bob and the first stop was the building of New Scotland Yard. There have been a number of locations for this but it is now the Curtis Street Building on the Victoria Embankment.

New Scotland Yard 

The next stop was near the former Libyan embassy where on 17th April 1984,  PC Yvonne Fletcher was fatally wounded by a shot fired from the embassy. A very sad day to say the least.

Former Libyan embassy

Next was a location where a Russian exile was alleged to have been poisoned with a radioactive substance, subsequently dying not long after.

Next was the former Iranian Embassy where in may 1980 dramatic scenes were played out and viewed by millions on television. After stalled negotiations The Special Air Service were given the all clear to storm the building.

Iranian embassy siege

The next location - 70 Gloucester Road was where John Haigh, commonly known as the acid bath murder, tried to dispose of his victims in drums of acid.

Acid bath location 
 Not too far away was the house owned by BBC presenter Jill Dando who was shot in the head as she entered her house on the morning of 26th April 1999.

Jill Dando's former home

The penultimate location was where Sidney Street once stood. In 1911 the Siege of Sidney Street involved a gunfight between two Latvian revolutionaries, the police and later the army. It was the first siege in Britain to be captured on camera and some of the footage included the then Home Secretary, Winston Churchill.

The Siege of Sidney Street

The final destination was Blackfriars Bridge where on 18th June 1982 Roberto Calvi, an Italian banker who had fled Italy was found having under Blackfriars bridge with his clothing stuffed with bricks.

As we cycled along I saw lots of locations where even more gruesome goings on took place that were not covered in this ride. London - like many major cities I suppose - has lots of dark secrets, if you look hard enough. 

This was a very enjoyable ride and it was great to see some old faces. I particularly enjoyed riding and chatting to Jenny - The Mile Monster and tried to enlist her in to some rides planned for next year. Many thanks to Bob for leading the ride.

2019 is not far away. In all I cycled 45 miles for this ride if you include cycling there, the actual ride and the ride back. This means that I only have about 25 miles to go for the Rapha 500 and I hope to get this done tomorrow. Watch out for my blog post on that!

Sunday 23 December 2018

Christmas Lights Ride 2018 + Link to Video

It has been quite a while since I did a Christmas Lights Ride on a Brompton. With December particularly mild, I fancied taking the Brompton and my camera out for a poodle around London to capture the Christmas Lights. I asked a few friends, David and Anne were free, along with Chris.  The meet point was the London Eye at 23:30 on Friday 21st December.

As I set off there were a few spots of rain followed by some heavier stuff. Consulting lots of weather apps informed me that it was not going to last long.

It was great to see Anne and David and the last time we did see each other was back in February for the Lumiere and Canary Wharf lights event.

We had all decided that we would cycle until about 03:00 a.m. as we all had other commitments on Saturday and in three hours we would be able to cover pretty much all the best bits of the Christmas Lights.

London - as always - looked rather stunning in its nocturnal guise and yet again never fails to disappoint. All the lights and decorations were in many ways a bonus.

As we progressed we were never too far away from people who had been out at the office party or just having a night out. Electric cars stopped on double yellow lines for occupants open a door and throw up on to the side of the road. Others tottered as they walked - often held up by more sober colleagues and over-zealous bouncers, with a short fuse had had enough. Christmas!

As we reached Regent Street it was hard to believe that it was late December as the temperatures were so mild. It was also hard to believe that it was approaching 02:00 in the a.m. as everywhere seemed so busy!

Halfway up Regent Street we nipped across the road, heading to Carnaby Street. The shops were of course closed but it was still packed with people going in and out of clubs.

With Regent Street done we headed to Oxford Street, which if anything was quieter than anywhere we had been so far.

The Christmas Display on South Molton Street has not changed in several years but still looks good and always asking for lots of photos to be taken.

Our final port of call was New Bond Street and Piccadilly. Peering through the iron gates with managed to take lots of photos of the several arcades that frequent that area.

With the time approaching 03:00 a.m. we called it a day as we had seen pretty much all we wanted. Saying our goodbyes we all headed in different directions. Many thanks to Anne, David and Chris for their company. 

I cycled along Piccadilly towards Hyde Park and managed to reach home before 03:25 a.m. which I was rather pleased with. In a few days time I hope to start clocking up the miles for the 'Rapha 500' and I will almost certainly clock most of my miles in and around Central London.

Below is a link to a video. I managed to shoot this in 4K so try and watch in that quality if you are able. Hope your enjoy it.

Click here for the video

Sunday 25 November 2018

Misty London to Brighton

The last night ride of the season as it were took place a few weeks ago in the middle of October. With some mild weather predicted during the week commencing 12th November, I asked a few friends whether they might be interested in a London to Brighton overnight ride on Friday, 16th November into Saturday, 17th November. Only Dr John was able to make it, so for the third time this year, we embarked on another overnight ride to the coast.

The meeting point was the near the National Theatre at around 23:30. I made the short cycle ride from Barbican where I had earlier stopped off to see an old friend who lives there. Dr John was there already and instead of waiting until midnight, we decided to set off about ten minutes earlier. This was mainly as the weather was changeable. It was misty and at times in out front lights it appeared as if it was raining. This was dampness in the air and this hazy/mist would continue for the rest of the night and early morning.

I know that Dr John would be taking one of his road bikes and I decided to stick with the tried and tested comfort of my Surly Disc Trucker, rather than my Brompton. I packed as light as I dared and used my Apidura Frame bag to carry the basic essentials - namely food. Like those polar expeditions you sometimes ready about, our London to Brighton overnighter was totally unaided and as such we had to take what we needed with us.

The route was the same one we had done twice before and it was a very good one. For some reason the roads seemed slightly quieter than usual which made for very pleasant cycling. The beauty of this route is that by the time you reach the outskirts of Clapham Common, things become even quieter and the urban is quickly left behind.

Riding over a cattle grid signalled a little hill the top of which had good views of the stars and the urban landscape below. This time no cows were seen in the adjacent green areas. 

Dr John and I talked about all sorts as we cycled and as always he was excellent company. The miles flew by and quite unexpectedly we arrived at our halfway stop. This was at a Scout Hut in Burstow - or should I say by the fence outside the Scout Hut in Burstow! After eating the food we had brought with us we decided to get going again as both of us were feeling cold. Putting on a neck-warmer (which really did make all the difference) we cycled off and after a few miles felt okay again.

Roughly 8 miles after the halfway stop we approached 'Turners Hill.' Dr John was off into the distance and I followed. This had been the location where we stopped, sat on a bench and I nodded off. This time we kept moving and cycled on. We made very good progress and didn't feel the need to cycle particularly fast, preferring to chat, spot all manner of creatures running, flying and crying out. 

The miles came very easily and Ditchling Beacon was upon us. Dr John was soon off into the distance and I followed. My Surly has some great gears that really do make climbing very steep hills easier but much slower naturally. At the top I put it to Dr John that I might be slower going up hills on my Surly than my other bikes. Dr John speculated as to why I had only just realised this!

The top of the Beacon was lovely at this time of the day. It must have been just before 06:00 and it was still dark. The last few miles into Brighton were wonderful. Much of it was downhill and we enjoyed every last mile. 

We decided to head straight for the station as nothing would be open and there didn't seem like much point hanging around. We got some food from a stall inside the station and made our way to the trains. We took different trains that more or less set off at the same time. A few stops went by and I saw Dr John about to board my train. There was engineering works on part of his line which meant he had to get home via a different route. We got off at Blackfriars and cycled along embankment, across the Thames and boarded the tube. After a few stops we said our goodbyes. 

This was a lovely adventure and I don't think I will ever get tired of the route or the simple pleasure that is nocturnal cycling through the night. Many thanks to Dr John for agreeing to come along. I would say that this is definitely going to be the last night ride to the coast this year but I think that there might be room for just one more - assuming I can convince Dr John to do this all again!

Sunday 12 August 2018

Some photos of the Tweed Run 2018

Thought I would post some photos I took when attending the perfectly formed Tweed Run back in May 2018.