With a big smile, James Houston let me hold his banana. It was still firm but cold, very cold.
I never thought I will say "no" to a banana, but that exactly what happened on midnight of Saturday or in the early morning of Sunday the 25th of October during the St Crispin's Day Night Ride.
|Bushy Park. This is next to heaven|
I have heard of this night ride since I bought my Brompton bike 18 months ago but I never really given it a thought. But as I participated in many London Brompton Club (LBC) rides, the topic about St Crispin's always come to the fore. I became curious and I came to a conclusion that this kind of ride is only for riders who are mad if not totally mental.
Really, who in their right mind would get up in the middle of the night to cycle 161km ( 100 miles ) along the streets of London and into the dark country roads of South West London? And in the cold month of October ? No way, Jose.
I listed the many "what if".
.. I get a puncture.
.. I get left behind.
.. I get off course and could not find the way.
.. it rains.
.. I get exhausted and could not finish.
.. it is too cold.
.. if I get separated from Brompton group.
.. if my front light is not bright enough for me to see the road.
Despite all the uncertainties, I signed up.
|This is where we collected the wine and had a nice meal.|
As the event day got closer, my excitement grew proportionately with my worries. Can I really do this? The longest ride I have done is 100 km (60 mile). To add another 60 km to it seems impossible. And doing it on a Brompton, a small wheel, is next to suicidal.
The Facebook postings on the night of Saturday is going into crescendo. From the most current whether forecast, last minute putting on a mudguard, checking the front and rear lights, last minute dash to purchase an overshoes and postings to say they are on the way to the meeting point at Wellington Corner, the excitements are all building up.
|The Brompton is taller than the Windsor Castle.|
I have made a mental preparation during the day on what I was going to wear for the night ride. I knew it could be a cold night as the forecast was 9C high and 6C low. I put on my best tights, my best soft shell jacket, my best waterproof shoes. Well, I say my best, because I only have one of each really. Every time I go for a ride I wear this same kit. For me it is almost like a uniform. The only kit that I change is the base layer. And for this particular night I put on a base layer for deep winter. And I was glad I did.
I contemplated on riding to Chiswick where the ride starts but when I realized it will take me 54 minutes to ride there or about 29 km I decided to bribe someone from our household to give me a lift in exchange for a bottle of wine. Yes the St Crispin's wine.
|James H. Appropriately attired.|
I arrived with plenty of time to register and have a nice chit chat with other riders. The first one I saw and said hello was John M. Like me it is his first time doing this ride and like me he is as worried as hell and yes, excited. Tom S was also one of the first to arrive. He brought his big wheeled though not his Brompton. He has more sense. Soon the rest of the gang who met up at Wellington Arch arrived. It was also nice to see Tony D, who despite an injury wouldn't want to miss the fun and excitement at the starting line. He joined us up to the Tower Bridge. It was a fantastic atmosphere. I can sense the feeling of excitement in everyone, the enthusiasm, the fun and agony that lies ahead. I have totally forgotten all my "what ifs".
The last thing I remembered at the start line was when David P prompted me to turn my lights and devices on as we were ready to pedal. And pedal we did. It was a wonderful feeling as we all rushed away towards the City of London. The sights of blinking rear lights, the sounds of cleats engaging and disengaging, the friendly noise of conversation among the riders are but music to my ears.
|Simon S. He must have a DNA of Polar Bear if not a crocodile. He doesn't feel the cold.|
You will never know it is midnight in London, as the traffic is as heavy as anytime of the day. The only hint that will prompt you that it is midnight is the sights of beautiful women (and men) in their mini skirts, despite the single digit degree temperature, queuing outside at the door of a pub/night club. They don't seem to be in a hurry to get into the door though, and they chat with each other as if they are addressing the world. You can hear their voices as far away as Manchester. I can not understand why they looked intoxicated even before they get in the door of the pub. They look happy and that's what matters.
The riders though were in a hurry to make a u-turn at the Tower Bridge. I can only assume they want to reach the country road soon for a more relaxed and peaceful ride. As always the traffic lights in London seem to turn red as I approach them. I was trying to keep up with Bumble Bee and Geoff because I knew they know the way. I had my Garmin on but it is still nice to know that we are heading in the same direction. In one instance, I must have jumped an amber traffic light ( silly me ) which made me get away and ahead of the rest of the Bromptoneers. I carried on pedaling because I know they will catch up soon anyway.
|Photo courtesy: Steve C. At the start of the ride|
I saw Steve went pass me like a rocket. Apparently he was caught in the middle of the roadies so he thought he might as well keep up with the pace. But when he saw me, he slowed down and he kept me company. We continued cycling towards Richmond in a good pace anticipating that at any moment the LBC group will be right behind us. I even had a visit to this nice luxurious open planned toilet overlooking the Thames River designed with no element of privacy. Actually there are many of these in the country side but only open at midnight when no one is around.
We waited for the group but because it was getting cold, we pressed on. We will just wait for them at the first coffee stop. Steve and I had a great chat. We talked about his recently concluded 12,000 km ride of the eastern side of USA which I found to be very interesting. Yes it was on a Brompton.
|Zoomzoom enjoying the view at the coffee stop.|
We kept pedaling. Although we were anxious to reach the first coffee stop, we could not help but appreciate the fun of riding at night along the country roads. I have done 2 or 3 night rides before and I failed in every attempt to explain the joy of riding at night. Night ride for me is wonderful. It is surreal. It is an intoxicating cocktail of fun, sense of peace, exhilaration and a feeling of freedom. Or in other words, it is madness.
Steve dictated the pace, fast, very fast. At one point I felt we were doing 100 kph. I thought at this speed I will not last if not crash. But thank goodness for my son dynamo front light. It saved me from destruction. 'Though, Steve dictated the pace I controlled the speed. It was because I have a better front light than him. So whenever we are in the dark, unlit road, he has to wait for me.
|We finished and we were signing off. |
With a promise of cake, cookies and hot drinks, we were getting more and more anxious to reach the coffee stop. But the coffee stop is nowhere in sight. I was getting hungry and thirsty and yes exhausted. We stopped at the pedestrian bridge in Eton at the foot of the magnificent Windsor Castle. I had many happy memories of this Castle. The first time I saw it was when they opened it to the public to raise fund to rebuild after the fire. But none of these came to play in my mind because I cared nothing except to eat something. I was hungry, very hungry. Just as well as Steve does not look like a hot dog, otherwise, I would have eaten him. We really should have stopped earlier. But we didn't because we thought we were near the coffee stop.
We found a nice bench. With no hesitation I grabbed a banana from my mini O bag. I swallowed it in less than 60 seconds. I was just getting comfortable sat on this bench when I felt a sudden chill. We had two choices. Freeze while resting or continue riding.
|All Smiles at the finish line. Photo owner Jenny H.|
About 10 minutes into the ride, I was starting to panic. I could not feel my fingers. It felt like it is encased in ice. I was freezing from inside out. The 6C degree forecast seemed incorrect. It must be minus 2C degree. But I dare not check my apps. I could not feel my fingers let alone feel the button on my iPhone. Scary thought were playing in my mind. I thought, I can not afford to lose a nail, let alone a finger. I am a masseur and my fingers and my hands are my livelihood. I was going to ask Steve to hold my hands to save it and give it warmth. He will probably obliged but I don't think he will understand, more so because we were in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night.
At last we reached the stop. We reached Twyford. Yes, we missed the first stop. I checked my Garmin. We have ridden 106 km ( virtually ) non stop. I said hi, to David P as he was coming out from the hall to do the return segment of the ride. Tom S and Graham P on their big bikes were also on their way out.
|Bacon roll at the end. The famous Jenny selfie.|
The sight of other riders, resting, chatting, eating, preparing for the next segment and the hearty hot meal chicken ( that looks like ) casserole with tomatoes,mushrooms and olives, prepared by St Crispin's lovely people made me forget instantly the fatigue and the cold temperature outside. After the meal I collected my trophy. It is the St Crispin's Day wine. My most precious wine.
As I was recuperating I realized what made me feel so cold during the last 30 km. It was the banana. I remembered the banana was so cold, it felt like I swallowed a solid piece of ice. I learned my lesson. Never again will I eat a cold banana.
|Our Bromptons ready for more ride as we were having a breakfast.|
We waited for about 2 hours until the Brompton gang arrived. I was looking at James H holding up a banana to create a space for his wine in his bag. With a big smile he offered me his banana. I held it. It was still firm but cold. I said "no thank you". I can't believe I said no to James' banana.
Together again we made our final 60 km ride back to Chiswick. It was a more leisurely pace. It was day light when we left Twyford. As always it was fun riding with Brompton people. We were like two year olds. Starting and stopping, taking photos of us and our Bromptons. James banana was still on offer but this time I went for Geoff's jelly babies. We stopped for a class picture at Bushy Park.
We finally reached the finish line at around midday. We were probably one of the last bunch. We posed for photo yet again, as an evidence for finishing the 100 mile ride. We enjoyed the complementary bacon rolls and hot tea. We reluctantly said our goodbyes.
|Another of those famous Jenny selfie.|
St Crispin's Day Night Ride was such a fantastic even. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. And doing it with the London Brompton Club was even more fun and enjoyable. It was my first 100 mile. A ride I thought I could never do.
A big thank you to the people behind the St Crispin's Day Night Ride. It was a friendly event and well organized. They gave us a cap with a Brompton logo printed. We felt special.
Thank you too to the beautiful people of LBC. You are gems. You are such fun people.
I am looking forward to the next year's St Crispin's. But next time, I will not be bringing a banana.
|Our cap with Brompton Logo. We are special. Banana anyone?|