I said I’d report back on the night ride so here it is.
I woke up quite anxious on Saturday morning, but not because of the cycling. The anxiety was about getting myself and the bike packed up and down to London. The carrier I got for the back of my car is quite difficult to fit, maybe because my car is a little panda; then I have trouble lifting the bike onto the carrier as its pretty high up. Could really do with some help to do all that, but I managed eventually. Of course, it was all to undo again at the station, so I had to give myself loads of time before the train.
The anxiety stayed with me for the journey as I then had to negotiate my way across London. Firstly cycling from euston to highbury then getting the London overground to crystal palace. In the end it all went fairly smoothly and I started to relax as I got near.
It gets darker quite a bit sooner down there than it does at home so was dark long before the ride was due to start. Crystal palace was pitch black when I cycled in though the trees, avoiding potholes. The check in was lit and cyclists were milling about everywhere. I’d arrived earlier than I should have, so hung around watching, having bought a cuppa from the catering van. Everyone was in a group chattering excitedly about the night to come, but as I am rubbish at making conversation with strangers I simply watched them. 75 cyclists set off at a time at 5 minute intervals. I was in the 10 th group and positioned myself at the back of that group as watching the previous groups it was apparent that a lot of the younger chaps were racing off. Unlike me.
The start was good – downhill. Then it was all about watching out for the yellow signs. Half a mile into the ride my front light fell off. The bracket had sheared and I’d nothing with me to fix it on with. I’d stopped to try and fix it by which time the other 74 in my group were long gone.
So off I set, front light clutched in my left hand, following the signs, soon being overtaken by some of the speed cyclists in the next group.
The route flattened out and the cycling was fairly easy. I was soon passing lots of cycles upturned at the side of the roads with punctures; seems those road bikes with thin tyres are not very resistant to potholes and are very prone to punctures! My little hybrid bike with its thick tyres managed the whole route intact… Even if it did go a lot slower.
The first break point came quickly at 22 km. it was just beside tower bridge and gave us a lovely view of the lit bridge. The mechanic at this break couldn’t help with my light, so I rode off still clutching it.
Riding through canary wharf was pretty eerie on my own, but better than some of the busier areas, where there were loads of drunks coming out of clubs jumping out in front of the bikes or shouting at us as we passed. Some were very encouraging though and clapped and cheered as we passed.
I was getting into my stride by now and the pace was quite steady. I was even passing lots of other cyclists, but it was at that point that we first went off route. Some drunk had moved one of the signs, so the group I was following set off in the wrong direction. It was a mile or two before we all realised, having to retrace our route to the last sign. Luckily someone had downloaded the route to satnav so we were able to pick it up again.
Second break point and this time the mechanic was really helpful and tied my light on with cable ties; plus I got a couple of energy chocolate bars to nibble on.
Not long after that I rounded a bend and had to swerve to avoid a maniac car coming towards me. Shortly after that I came across some police cars and an ambulance just pulling away – one of our cyclists had been knocked over by that same car. Hit and run. Stolen car I believe, that was set on fire not far away. Poor lady cyclist was very badly shocked and bruised, but Im told she is ok.
Before the third break at Alexandra palace the birds started their dawn chorus. Lovely in the quiet streets at 3 am. Also saw several foxes and a squirrel. The hill up to Alexandra palace was evil and I was ready for the sandwich and tea that was on offer at the top.
The sun came up as I was eating and the view over London was spectacular. Incredibly, the night had stayed dry and the sunrise actually brought sunshine.
More hills followed, but flatter ground came again before the last bereak at the imperial war museum.
Last lap I thought. Only 20km to go.
Wrong! I must have been tired by this time as I foolishly followed a small group of cyclists who’d missed a sign and carried on through Knightsbridge to hammersmith instead of turning at the royal Albert hall. After 2.5 miles I realised this was totally wrong and so did they. They decided to head off, while I retraced my steps to the last sign, adding another 5 or so miles to the route. Getting tired by this time, I was cycling completely alone thinking I must by now be last.
I wasn’t and soon passed some other stragglers. Quite a few actually, so didn’t feel too bad. Some killer hills were to come at the end and by the time I saw the crystal palace park I was so ready to finish.
Someone handed me a medal and I waited for the elation to hit. Instead I felt incredibly down and tearful.
Others were disappearing with friends and supporters and all I could think about was the stress of getting back on various trains etc.
At this point I need to say a huge Thankyou to Bill. A friendly face arrived just in time to cheer me up. I’m only sorry I was so tired and had to rush off. But I really appreciated him making the effort to come over early In The morning just to support me. I felt a little less lonely because of his efforts.
Anyway, that’s pretty much the nightrider experience, except to say Thankyou to all those who sponsored me. I’m sure the mayhew will appreciate the contribution. And instead of the original 100 km I actually managed 114!
Now I’d better start training for the walk……