Monday, 9 June 2014

Nightrider 2014

My annual nocturnal adventure around London did not disappoint. Well, it sort of did, because it was the same weekend as our hockey club's annual festival, which is always brilliant fun. But Nightrider was on the same weekend as it always is, and our festival had changed dates a couple of times. There was no way that I was missing out on the bike ride I have come to love. So, I went to the Friday night bash, played 4 games of hockey on Saturday, and then went tally-ho to London Town.

This was Nightrider #4 for Gemma and me, and this time we had two new team mates - Burrows and Shiney - which made the adventure even better. Happy in the knowledge that we had raised over £1000 for Spinal Research before we started, we were really looking forward to it. Especially as the weather had been so awful for most of the week, and the skies had cleared ready for the ride.

This year we started at Crystal Palace for the first time, instead of Alexandra Palace, and I think I preferred it. Our start time was 11.15pm, and we didn't have much waiting around, which meant our timings for the evening were perfect.

The first part of the ride was quite frustrating as we headed into town. It was very stop-start with so many traffic lights to get caught up in. I looked at my Garmin watch to check the mileage, and we had gone 12 miles in 1h30 because of so many red lights. But the camaraderie with all those around us was excellent, making it much more fun.

The first stop was Tower Bridge, which came upon us without warning! We normally hit this point at sunrise when we start from Alexandra Palace. But this time it was stunning...

We then twisted and turned our way around the west side of central London, seeing the Tower of London, The Strand and Canary Wharf, before we headed out towards the Olympic Village. Greenwich is always good to cycle around, and as we sped through the flat town we chatted to fellow riders.

I didn't go to the Olympic Village in 2012, and now, having cycled round it, I regret it. I could imagine how amazing the atmosphere felt. It was fitting that our 2nd stop was right outside the Velodrome. A great setting to refuel amongst so many cyclists.  

It was amazing, on a warm night, how quickly our temperature dropped, and we were glad to set off again when we did, as we were all beginning to cool off. We headed off through Hackney and Haringey - interestingly enough, on the map it shows no place of interest in that stretch! I don't remember seeing any, but that's perhaps because I was bracing myself for the Ally Pally hill! Last year I cycled all the way up, but had a stop half way up. This year the bollards half way up were my target, and I used them this year as well. Gemma cycled beside me to encourage me up, and I said to her that I would stop at the bollards and then cycle again. She set off, so she didn't lose momentum. I reached the bollards and carried on, and made my way to the top without stopping - which I was so proud of, as this was the first time! My breathing was very laboured at the top, but nothing that ventolin couldn't resolve!

We warned the others about the hills after the epic descent from Ally Pally, but I had forgotten (or my brain had shut out) the 3 hills... I only remembered 2! Lordy! But again, I didn't stop on any of the hills, and just kept pedalling!

The most bonkers sight of the night goes to Picadilly at 4.30am. It was absolutely heaving. It was congested, with many very impatient car drivers, tooting and honking unnecessarily! Once we were beyond the official photographer, the roads were much emptier. Again, it was great to chat to cyclists around us, while we waited patiently for our turn to move on through the traffic.

The most breathtaking view of the ride was on Waterloo Bridge, as the sun was coming up. Almost every single cyclist to make the turn up onto the bridge pulled over, as the view was stunning. It suddenly made cycling for 5 hours completely worth it.

The Thames was the deadest calm I have ever seen, and the sun was just beginning to reflect on the London Eye and surrounding buildings. We could have stayed there for an hour, watching the changing sky.

However, crack on is what we needed to do, and as we turned our way around the eastern part of the city, we came back out onto Westminster Bridge, where we stopped again for photos, and we worked out that we had just over 10k to go. And it was a great 10k to finish on. We headed around Westminster Square, along Whitehall, through Marble Arch and along the Mall to Buckingham Palace. It was the first time Nightrider has taken us that route, and what a brilliant addition!

The final stop was at the Imperial War Museum, and it was great to be there in daylight (for photo opportunities). We took on more calories ready for the final pedal and set off. I knew the Crystal Palace hill was going to be tough, regardless of which way up we went - I think the final road up to Crystal Palace has changed nearly every year. Sure enough, the climb was gradual and then brutal. But again, with the help of Gemma and Burrows, I made it up. Hills are mind over matter, and it felt good to blast them into touch.

Getting the medal at end is always a great moment, as is tucking into the bacon sandwich at the end. I was so pleased to have shared it with more friends, because it is an incredible achievement. Finishing the event always leaves me wanting to go off on my bike for proper adventures!

We definitely put our backs into it, and we will be back next year, for sure! Very proud of all of us for our pedal power!

Nightrider in Stats:
100km in distance
Lowest point: 2m Ilderton Road in Bermondsey
Highest point: 139m Whitestone Pond, Hampstead
Steepest hill: Queens Wood Road in Highgate at 10%
Total climbing/descent 751m

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