Late in 2012 I had a call from head office making me an offer I couldn’t refuse, “you’re doing a charity bike ride called Nightrider, OK?”
A 25 strong team representing several group companies was formed to raise funds for St Richards Hospice near Worcester and we were set to join the 4,000 or so other riders on June 8th. What is a Nightrider? – a 100km ride around London, through the night, following a route taking in most of the sites on its twisting journey.
Alexandra Palace or Crystal Palace are the two starting points, with riders setting off at 5 minute intervals. Our due start time was 11.30pm, our meeting point a pub, with burger and chips to power us round! The locals were somewhat bemused as we entered the toilets, one by one, returning to our tables in our cycling gear, one in particular upset it wasn’t the naked ride!
After collecting our bikes from the van and gear from the mini bus, we took the short ride to the start, which did not give us the greatest confidence as we got lost, but we soon found the first signage and rolled in to the start area to sign in and collect our bib. A well organised but relaxed start area saw riders setting off in groups when ready rather than at their given times and so we lined up for a group photo, said farewell to the van and minibus drivers, and off we went.
Two of us had a four hour target and so got straight down to pedalling and were soon passing groups of cyclists, it has to said that drivers throughout the night were great with only one or two showing any angst. At the first hill my riding partner flagged a little, at only four miles in and only a small hill I did wonder if he would be able to keep it up. We had been steadily passing riders, trying to find a group at our pace.
We duly caught, while they were waiting at lights, a couple of guys who looked like they maybe going for a time rather than to get round. As the lights changed this proved true as we soon were hitting 25mph, hanging on to their shirt tails to the first hill of note and the two leaders were out of the saddle with not a let up on pace. I hung on, my partner unfortunately now lost. I did think about stopping for him, honest, but my four hour target overtook all other thoughts!
We were averaging around 20mph on the first leg, but soon this was to fall as we found the city, skipping the first stop we carried on over Tower Bridge and the sights and sounds of London at night. I am a great lover of London and would usually be taking in all that it has to offer, tonight though it was pedal stroke after pedal stroke.
My two new friends had sussed me and round the closed roads of Canary Wharf suggested, with a flick of the hand, I took my turn. I hit the front from here on took our turns as the route meandered around the City. I would list the sites, but to be honest, apart from waiting for lights outside St Pauls and Piccadilly, it was mostly a blur. The cobble section slowed us up somewhat and we took advantage of the stop just after. A coffee, a comfort break, and off heading out of the City and picking up speed again. We were now getting close to half way, Alexandra Palace and the first real hill.
This was signposted by numerous cyclists on the roadside with cramp, it was like a fallen house of cards with bikes and riders on the pavements, leaning on lamp posts, generally looking in some pain. I was losing touch with my friends as the gradient increased and was grateful to see the entrance of a second stop for us, coffee and cake and more comfort!
Ten minutes and we were off, a nice downhill, made better with green lights at the junction below, but my nights only disaster occurred on the incline after, chain off and jammed … a minute or so swearing and off again, and now to catch up with my riding partners, justice for me not stopping to wait earlier! Another hill and I could just see the pair reaching the top.
I was riding all out and luckily rather than a downhill the road levelled and I was able to get back on their tail, but unable to assist at the front for a while. Heading back into the City I was flagging a little and sucked hard on my ZipVit gel, squeezing out the last bit and munched on some jelly babies.
Zigzagging Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament the group of three grew to six or seven, the largest we had been. We had a few people stick with us for a mile or so, but then drop off. Heading to Abbey Road and the famous zebra crossing, I was well and truly at the back of our group and unable to help, our average was around 15mph and we were now heading into the last few miles. A small incline saw it back to the three of us and I was truly hanging on.
At this point a lone cyclist sailed past us and with just a few kilometres to go this was the first cyclist to pass and leave us. It was just the tonic, 4,000 riders over 100km and we had been passed by just one rider! (Two start points and staggered start taken into consideration!)
Dropping back to Crystal Palace and the finish in 4 hours 10 mins, so just a little over what I wanted. The three of us nodded and we melted into the crowd and to find the tea and bacon butties. As I stood enjoying my reward at just gone 3.30am, among a crowd of chattering cyclists on bikes from shoppers, MTB`s, full blooded carbon racers and everything in between I did have to smile. It was a great event, well signed and it was possibly the most fun I had ever had on a bike. Really it was a blast and would highly recommend giving it a try.
As I stood tea in hand, I noted that how few orange bibs there were among the sea of yellow ones. At the same time, a young lady stared across towards me “why have you an orange bib?”, (maybe she thought I was a Celebrity!) “I started here at Crystal Palace, we had orange, if you started at Alexandra Palace you had yellow” I said. “Oh”, she paused “so you’ve finished?”, “Yep”, “But are we only half way?”, she asked. “Yep”.
The last of our group rolled in at 8.30am, and I have to say waking up the minibus driver at 5.00am when the second of our group came in was not best welcomed! As we returned home, you may have thought sleep was on order but each persons different stories from the night kept us going. We raised over £11,000 for the Hospice and so all in all a worth while event.
Simon lives in Lichfield and is attempting Fifty 4 Fifty, undertaking 50 events and challenges to celebrate his 50th birthday year. Some of these may seem very ordinary, some little more than holidays, but some should be real challenges. During the challenges Simon will be raising funds for Regain and The Alzheimer’s Society.
You can read more on his blog here.
A Justgiving page for Regain can be found here.
A Justgiving page for Alzheimer’s Society can be found here.
All funds pledged will go straight to the charities.