Pre-trip planning had highlighted RideLondon cycling events on the weekend following BWC2013 so what else to do but schedule some time in London? Moving into London on the Wednesday was going to provide just over a week to fit in lots of activities, including our Palace visit (ie Brompton factory) as well as the weekend cycling events.
Saturday was the RideLondon FreeCycle event, where tens of thousands circulated on a 8mile closed section of roads containing some of London’s best tourist-sights. From our Isleworth flat to inner London, we decided to try out traveling by train & Tube with Ralph & Robinson. The train was simple enough, with lots of non-folders trying to also squeeze in. At Waterloo we switched to the Tube & tested ourselves with regular fold & unfolds, up & down escalators & tunnels. I think we coped ok but perhaps we’d need to observe what happens for peak hour commuting before attempting any more?
Arriving at Green Park station, we managed to meet-up with some of the London Brompton Club members & started the ride together but got hopelessly separated before the first lap was done. Perhaps it was better that way, because I inadvertently treated one member’s Brompton with a lot less respect than he would have liked (sorry Andrew). I was assisting an enquiry about the price of a Brompton & scrambling for the likely UK price, I suggested that it started about £750 & was probably twice that for a high-end model. To which the enquirer asked if “…BumbleBee over there is one of the high-end models?” Oh no, said I, it’s just a… – before realising what I’d said about “The Legend”, that is CrazyBee’s pride & joy. Hopefully all will be forgiven next time?
Unfortunately, the FreeCycle event wasn’t exactly traffic-free as it seemed to be almost wall-to-wall bikes, including family groups taking the chance to escort little Brad or Victoria on their maiden rides – or so it seemed? Highly entertaining for most but frustrating for anyone wanting to set a new record (certainly not me) or drop out/in as the sights dictated (maybe me?). Very well marshalled but barrier controlled to the point of dictating where you could leave the course? Probably very necessary – & it certainly kept those pesky pedestrians at bay & allowed “us bikers” our own piece of London (for about 7 hours). I’m not a fan of family rides although when they are point-to-point – such as Sydney’s “CycleSydney” event – maybe it keeps people focused on moving along? The London ride certainly had a different feel – & it could be conveniently handled in small dosages (between those essential coffee & food stops).
Sunday was more my cup of tea, so to speak, as the RideLondon Surrey Classic race was going to follow the 2012 Olympic course. Featuring 8 Pro-Tour teams (& lots of other Pro teams) meant for a serious cycle race. We figured to catch the action out on the course at a couple of locations – & definitely skip the crowds at the finish on The Mall – so headed out on Ralph & Robinson from our flat, intending to also include a bit of Thames touring. First off we navigated back to Richmond Park & this time (rather than driving there in Kanga) we managed to ride up Nightingale Lane! (well almost, but three-quarters of the way up is a bit of a win for both of us). In Richmond Park the course was fully barriered so we settled in at a corner that included a lovely chicane of cobblestones. No dramas with the Pros however, for they swept through rapidly – with an Orica-Greenedge rider trying to make a break on the field.
Once the whole race circus was through, we rode back down to the Thames & ambled in the direction of Kingston. It seemed that a sunny Sunday in London was a magnet for crowds relaxing along the river & our progress was rather (pleasantly) slow. It’s certainly well-equipped along the way, with hotels, riverboat dining & cafes – but still has open areas & even some “off road” tracks through bush. Eventually we found Kingston-on-Thames & joined in the festivities that were arranged – not just for us, for the race made two passes through Kingston & so the town certainly went to some effort!
As is usual with cycle racing, we had a group to observe coming through the town before the peloton swept through & then a number of small groups made their way toward London. Once the last solitary rider was gone (closely followed by a broom-wagon?) then it was time for us to retrace our steps/tracks all the way back home. Quite a grand day out?