The start was joyful – we had about 80 riders (a good 20 more than last year), the weather was fine and in fact remained so all day. Although sunny at lunch time, there was a pleasant cooling breeze. The départ was very official (almost up to Tour de France standards) with Paul Davies and Beverley Biwaji registering riders and marshals in Camden’s new electric van.
We has a little delay before starting out due to a faulty valve followed by a burst inner tube, but this was quickly fixed by the Camden Cycle trainers.
The ride took the usual clockwise route around the boundary of Camden, through Hatton Garden, Lincolns Inn Fields, to Leicester Square and then via Charlotte Street to Regents Park for our first brief stop. This year for the first time we were able to ride up the Broadwalk – I think that everyone followed Stefano’s advice to respect pedestrians so as to make the shared use trial a success.
We rode westward and more westward until we met the Brent border at Kilburn High Road. It’s sad we have to ride up that way – a couple of miles of following buses (and observing jams on the southbound side of the road) before a right turn into sanity at Mill Lane. From there we went through Hampstead Cemetery and then over Finchley Road, up the hill and into Sandy Lane. Unfortunately a group of over-enthusiastic cyclists forgot Stefano’s advice and went off down the slope four abreast – upsetting at least one pedestrian.
The arrangements for the 2009 event were new: the police were not available to act as marshals, so this was done by Camden Cyclists and Camden Cycle trainers with Stefano as lead marshal. A major safety concern was about people being left behind, therefore Stefano hired walky talkies so that back and front could communicate. It had been agreed that we would keep the group together, which resulted in delays after each set of signals. The photos below show us ready to start off again (led by Paul) after getting the group across Holborn Circus and the rather pleasant waiting place in Hampstead Cemetery after crossing turning right Shoot Up Hill. We did lose a couple of cyclists early on – they felt that the speed was too slow, but thought they could use the map in the flyer to do the ride on their own.
However, John who was sweeper for the third time this year, reported that although the front arrived at the lunch stop half an hour later than usual, the back arrived half an hour earlier. Then when we eventually got to the finishing point at Hampstead Old Town Hall, all the remaining members arrived within a few minutes of one another. In other years, some didn’t make it. So, all in all, I think that we agreed that keeping together was a good idea.
Lunch stop in Golders Hill Park
This is an excellent place for a rest. The café provides proper food (after a long wait in the queue) and those wanting just ice creams could get them quickly. Some of us sat at tables in the shade and others stretched out on the grass.
On leaving Golders Hill Park, we rode along the aptly-named Wildwood Road and then via the upmarket Ingram Avenue onto the rather too busy Hampstead Road (Haringey border). Then we squeezed up alongside the smelly motor vehicles to reach the highest point of the day at Highgate Village (131 m above sea level). We rode quickly down Highgate Hill, Dartmouth Park Hill, Brecknock Road and York Way along the Islington border. Eventually we passed the Town Hall once more and set off via Mabledon Place over Euston Road to our last rest place by the British Library. We all lined up for a photo before the final assault on the road to Hampstead Old Town Hall.
When Paul designed the ride, he intended that all of the wards in the borough would be visited – the periphery covers most of them and the ride up to Belsize Park visits the three “land-locked” wards. The route goes up Royal College Street, then via Grafton Road and Queens Crescent to South End Green – I took the last bit up the hill on Pond Street in my lowest gear and was impressed by all the riders with younger legs speeding past me.
We parted outside the Old Town Hall, after congratulating ourselves on having made the 22 miles altogether. Thanks to Paul once again for leading the ride and Richard Riddle and his cycle trainer gang for helping us with the marshalling and doing all the bike fixing – fortunately not much. Last, but not least, Stefano was brilliant with his on-the-spot approach to dealing with junctions and for thinking of using the walky talkies.
A good time was had by all, with lots saying enthusiastically “Same time next year!”
So I join them in hoping we’ll have another one in 2010!
Photos by Paul Braithwaite, John Chamberlain, Ellen Gates, Jean Dollimore
To see more photos or larger versions of these, Look at our Flickr site