Saturday 3 September 2022

London to Oxford overnight on an Orange Brompton

It has felt like ages since I went on a night ride and that one was the Dunwich Dynamo a few weeks ago. Setting off into a rather mild night, I wondered whether I had enough layers to keep the cold out - should it materialise of course. This ride was London to Oxford a destination that I have cycled to several times over the years. 

My route took me over the Millenium Bridge, which was a hive of activity. Lots of people were taking photos of the London skyline and not to be outdone, I used it as a suitable background to compose a photo of my Brompton. 

My Brompton in question was my Orange Special Edition, recently back from Brilliant Bikes after having its rear triangle hinge replaced. There had been the tiniest amount of play and not wishing to take chances, they were able to fit me in last week to have the necessary work carried out. I have to say that it did seem to ride better.

I recently refitted the SON dynamo hub wheel and front SON Edelux II headlight. No particular reason for this other than me thinking it was a waste it all just hanging around used. For this ride I used this light exclusively, apart from one steep descent where there was gravel and potholes I wanted the extra illumination of my Exposure light. 

At the rear of the Tate Modern, I spied another suitable backdrop and proceeded to snap away. To my horror, a large rat scurried out, took one look at me and scurried back - thank goodness - to wherever it had come from!

The meeting point near the National Theatre and the entire area was heaving. Great to see again after the many lockdowns. Dr John arrived as did Simon on his recent London Edinburgh London bike that looked rather nimble. 

Our ride leader and all round good egg, Bob saw a couple of chairs on the walkway into an adjacent building and took the register of participants much like an old school teacher might have done. After the outline for the ride and safety procedures, we were off into what was still a rather mild night. 

There was quite a bit of getting out of London at first. As we cycled down Regent Street, my mind instantly thought forward about a Brompton Christmas lights ride. I will have to contact the powers that be to see if something can be put into the diary. 

Once past the BBC Broadcasting House Building we cycled through Marylebone and my beloved St John's Wood and Maida Vale. We passed the house my parent first lived in and the one where my sister was born. It was then northwest through Kensal Green, Harlesden and Wembley. Pressing on we passed through Harrow on the Hill, outskirts of Pinner and Northwood. After Rickmansworth things became a little more countryside as we cycled through Chorleywood and onto the halfway stop at Amersham. 

Our halfway stop was a particularly good one. Two members of the Friday night ride fraternity, Rachel and Stephen, gave up some sleep to put on some lovely refreshments in a church hall. 

This was all eaten with enthusiasm and there were a few occasions where I think I could have nodded off. Simon actually did try to nod of and laid down in the hall for a power nap. 

Very grateful and suitably refreshed we went out into the early hours. Amazingly it was still quite mild but a tad cooler, so I put on a thin gilet for good measure. Of course a few miles down the road I was too hot and took it off. 

Dawn approached slowly from the east and fog swirled in the distance. Normally this brings colder conditions but not this time. 

Our route took us on the Phoenix Trail. This is a 7-mile footpath and cycleway that mainly follows the route of a long disused railway line. It was really good and despite its gravel surface, it was fine. Birds sang away happily in hedges either side and gaps in said hedges provided some stunning views out to open countryside. 

For one long section of track there appeared to be almost earthquake fracture lines along the surface. These were quite wide in places and went on for quite a bit. 

On the outskirts of Oxford we visited the famous or perhaps infamous, Headington Shark. 

First appearing in 1986 it was commissioned as a protest by the then owner against American warplanes attacking various targets. Its survival was precarious but eventually it was allowed to stay put and very much a must see thing if you are in the area. 

Rolling into Oxford and its distinctive buildings, I was last to cycle in, so Bob gave me the task of group photo taker. 

Saying our goodbyes a few of us cycled the short distance to the station while the others went for a well deserved breakfast. 

My train was just after 09:00 I I had to wait a while for it. Simon and Dr John got on earlier trains. 

My train journey was okay and I sat next to a luggage rack, ever watchful. There were times where I know that I nodded off and I only hope that I didn't snore!

My train rolled into Paddington as advertised at 09:53 and I was hope before 10:45 which I was pleased about. 

This was a great ride. The first 40 or so miles involved a gentle incline and a few tasty hills but it was nothing too taxing. Many thanks to Bob for leading the ride and again to Rachel and Stephen for the lovely halfway stop. 

Until next time, stay safe out there people!!

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