The weekend of Prudential RideLondon
Last weekend was the annual Prudential RideLondon weekend. If you’re not from London, this might not mean anything to you so I’ll briefly explain what it is.
Over the course of the weekend, the Mayor of London’s office turns the city in a cycling haven. There is a cycling route set up all through Central London and several pretty serious races as well. On Saturday anyone (by that I mean tens of thousands of cyclists) can participate in their FreeCycle event, which is doing a very picturesque loop (or as many as you like) on the streets of Central London that have been closed off to all other traffic – so for once you’re the boss of the road!
Speaking of which, you get to ride straight past the Buckingham Palace and down The Mall, feeling like you’re in the biggest event of the year. Cool, right?! And the best part is that you can be straight in the middle of the road without worrying about traffic (apart from other cyclists) so you can suddenly notice all the amazing architecture and landmarks you would simply walk past normally.
On Sunday those serious about cycling can get their fix – there are two races where you can do either a ‘moderate’ 46 mile loop or a whopping 100 mile loop all the way out to beautiful Surrey! And of course the finish line is right on The Mall with a gorgeous view towards the Palace. Ever wanted to race down the middle of this iconic stretch of the road towards the Buckingham Palace? Well this is your chance!
Prudential RideLondon is a pretty cool thing with music and entertainment aplenty along the cycling routes and some of the central parks turning into full-on festival zones. The organisation of all this is so impressive I can’t help but be amazed at all the effort it must have taken.
So back to this weekend.
Prudential RideLondon FreeCycle ride 2015 was one of the first things I remember doing after I moved to London a little over a year ago, so when my fiancé offered to take part in this year’s FreeCycle ride, I eagerly agreed. It felt like a little tradition.
Last year I didn’t have a bicycle of my own so I rented one of the famous Santander (or Boris) bikes. That also happened to be my first experience with one of these bikes and it was a bit … daunting. I felt I was on the heaviest, least manoeuvrable ship of a bike I had ever been on! And riding that among a sea of other cyclists, often whole families with wobbly cycling children, faster cyclists cutting in and out of my way and general cyclist traffic jams. I felt like I spent the majority of time trying to avoid a crash! It wasn’t all that bad and I still enjoyed it, but the bike definitely took a bit of fun out of it.
Not long after that I got my own bicycle (probably largely due to my reaction to Santander bikes, I dare say). It’s a very pretty sit-up matte pale blue Bobbin Birdie, complete with a nice wicker basket. It’s definitely been my pride and joy! I had, of course, ridden it around London, but never in such cyclist crowds as were bound to show up at the FreeCycle. Remembering my previous experience, I was excited to see what my own bike would feel like in that setting. Wow, was I not disappointed!
This was such an enjoyable ride! We only got to the route well in the afternoon, but that actually turned out to make for a more relaxed ride. I feel like most of the crowds had already done the route beforehand and so we had less of congestions and simply more space per cyclist to enjoy the ride.
How did my bike feel? Absolutely wonderful! I felt in control of every turn, rode fast and slow with equal ease, weaved through other cyclists when needed with plenty of confidence (at least so it felt to me) and generally got away with minimal wobbling (which only ever happened due to excitedly watching everything around and not paying much attention to the road ahead). The best part was that I felt like my bike is responsive – something I sorely missed in the rented bike the year before! I think I must have had a smile on my face for most of the ride! And despite being a little cloudy and drizzly later in the day, the weather generally behaved and didn’t spoil the ride, too.
I think we cycled over 12 miles that day – the loop itself was 8 miles long (with a 2 mile extension) and we cycled both to and from the route. I have to admit that I very much felt my legs afterwards as I don’t often cycle that much per day. So worth it though!
On Sunday my fiancé was brave enough to do the 100 mile ride (he’s really passionate about cycling). He got up and left well before I woke up, being at the start line sometime after 7am. We both have ViewRanger apps on our phones, so I could – and did – follow his progress live. My goal was to see him cross the finish line, so I had to keep track of where he was. I got there just in time and saw him – and he also noticed me – which I was very excited about! It involved some running on my part due to going through heavily crowded areas all around and because he sped up considerably towards the very end of the ride (whilst I struggled to speed up the tube).
We met up at Green park afterwards and spent some time relaxing in the area, before heading over to St. James park to watch swans and other water birds. It was a lovely day to be out!
By the way, am I the only one who keeps thinking of The Ugly Duckling when I see cygnets? This has been happening to me all season long! But I love how they are now quite big yet still so very fluffy.
So are we doing Prudential RideLondon 2017? Absolutely!
Unless it rains.