We were a bit discouraged by the weather this week. The forecast was a bit non-committal for Sunday predicting 20% precipitation but brightening up in the afternoon.
I had hoped that a family would join us at Sidings Community Centre but I got the message that one of the boys was poorly and the other was going out with his dad for father’s day. Fair enough! So I rode down to Regents Park on my own after receiving Happy Father’s Day greetings from my daughter by phone.
I arrived at the same time as John and James and we waited for others to turn up. Slowly but surely the others arrived and soon there was a good number sheltering from the drizzle under the trees.
John Chamberlain has led the Round Camden Ride for a few years, taking over from Paul Braithwaite, who created the ride and led it for a number of years. John needed a break and asked if I would lead it and I agreed. It is quite a responsibility with, usually, a large number of cyclists joining us. We did have the help of three Cycling PCSOs, Murat, Adie and Michael. John briefed the marshalls who had already volunteered their services or that we had ‘persuaded’ to help and afterwards I gathered all the riders to welcome them and brief them for the first part of the ride to Golders Hill Park.
Just about the time we were due to leave a family arrived and said that others were on the way. We waited for them and eventually set off with 30 people, including all the marshalls and the Police.
The children set off up the Broadwalk with Michael and the rest of us rode around the Outer Circle and met them. We had only got a little way into St Johns Wood when I got the message on our short-wave radios that a chain had come off completely from one of the bikes. James, our experienced mechanic, started work and we decided to move on and they would be able to catch up. Then the message came that James’ tool had broken and John had to go back with with another tool. I think we were just about to cross the Finchley Road at Boundary Road when we were all back together again and everything repaired.
While leading with a large number of cyclists we like to have the children at the front just behind the leader. The children settle into the idea of riding at a slow, steady speed to keep all the riders together as one discrete block. The children manage to keep up a constant chatter, a running commentary sometimes or something they’re doing at school. It’s great to hear them making new friends or cementing friendships.
Once upon a time the ride went up the Kilburn High Road, being the border of Camden and Brent. On more recent rides, safety and peace of mind has prevailed and we have taken a much more peaceful route through back streets of West Hampstead although we still have to negotiate a busy section of West End Lane past all the West Hampstead stations. Just here we came upon another set of cycling PCSOs who had come to join us on the ride.
We’re soon back onto minor roads again and then on pathways leading to Hampstead Cemetery. There we stopped briefly to regroup and catch our breath before the ascent. We lost a little height going down Fortune Green Road and then back up again to cross Finchley Road at a light controlled crossing. There the serious climb started. There is a zig-zagging route up Heath Drive, Kiddipore Avenue and Gardens etc, giving occasional breaks from the steepness. We climbed 98ft in only 1.3 miles up to Golders Hill Park where we had lunch.
By now the weather had really brightened up. The skies were blue and the sun was out. Many people had brought picnics and ate sitting on the grass while others took advantage of the café and had hot food and drinks. Several riders joined us at Golders Hill Park so we’d increased our number. 50 minutes was enough time for everyone to eat and visit the facilities and another short briefing for the marshalls we set off again at 1pm.
Unfortunately the hills continued. We used the back roads around Hampstead Heath Extension and Turners Wood to avoid the busy Hampstead Lane, particularly the bottleneck at the Spaniards Inn. We had to ride along the section of Hampstead Lane past Bishops Avenue and Kenwood. We used another diversion around Highgate School returning to Hampstead Lane just before we turn off to Highgate Village.
Highgate Village is the highest point in the ride at 436ft. We pass through the village to get to Highgate Hill.
At the top of Highgate Hill you feel like you’re on the top of the world with a fantastic view down over the Emirates Stadium and across London. It’s a great temptation to let yourself freewheel down, getting faster and faster. However, the responsibility for everyone on the ride prevails and you keep your brakes partially on and come down the hill at a reasonable speed.
We turn off just past the Whittington Hospital and continue going down Dartmouth Park Hill through Tufnell Park and turn off Breckneck Road into Camden Square.
Here we had another short pause. It was a place where riders who came from the east of the borough or beyond to peel off but everyone wanted to come back to the starting point.
Continuing, we crossed Agar Grove onto the cycle path linking with Camley Street and down to the lowest part of the ride as we pass the Grand Union Canal at the Camley Street Natural Park.
Here we turn right under the railway lines coming into St Pancras Station, past the station along newly finished protected cycle tracks down to the Euston Road.
Across Euston Road we stopped again in Judd Street. This was the original ride’s start and finish point. One or two families left us here and we expected to say goodbye to the PCSOs but they and the rest of the riders wanted to finish the ride in Regents Park.
To that end we took the Tavistock Place cycle track west to Tottenham Court Road where we continued down Howland Street and Bolsover Street to Great Portland Street where we crossed the Euston Road again to get back into Regents Park in the Broadwalk where we’d started this morning.
We took a while to say goodbye. The children had all disappeared into the park and parents were enjoying moments of relative peace and quiet. Many said how much they had enjoyed the ride and wanted to know about future rides. All the PCSOs and marshalls were thanked, photographs were taken of those who were left and slowly people drifted away. Many were invited to a local hostelry for a refreshing pint but only three of us were able to slake our thirst with a cool beverage. Ahhhh!
I usually put a list of the people who actually came on the ride but I didn’t actually get to meet everyone and not everyone signed the register. If I’ve not added anyone please excuse me. Send me an email and I will add you to the list.
Geoff, James, John, Chris, Paul A, Paul B, Richard, Julian, Luke, Diana, Simon, Roxy, George, Jill, Chau, Roz, Sam, Peter, Suzanne, Will, Clara, Kit, Conor, Jasmine, Gavin, Murat, Adie, Michael, Ian.