Sunday, September 23, 2007

Slightly stalkerific: The London Freewheel

Just three weeks after the Richmond to Windsor bike ride, I've been back in the saddle for another day of peddle-tastic cycling - this time for the London Freewheel event.

The basic idea of this, the very first but undoubtedly not the last, Freewheel event is that the car-hating mayor of London shuts off load of roads in the centre of town, and then unleashes hordes of cyclists. Now, I love my car, but the chance to bomb it down the mall was too good to pass up. I did not, however, wear the car-hating mayor's bib-based propaganda.

Bearing in mind the course wasn't opening until around 10:30, I was in no massive rush to get up early, and eventually left home at bang on 09:37 and headed towards Ravenscourt Park to meet-up with Mr. Chunt, my wingman in Freewheeling madness. I arrived almost exactly an hour later (which is nice to know in case I ever have to cycle to work) having survived a huge pack of REALLY slow cyclists by Kew Gardens, almost cycling into a high curb, almost witnessing a car accident, and almost getting hit by a tit on a scooter.

We didn't hang around after meeting up, and were soon following a very badly marked route through Hammersmith, Kensington and Chelsea, and on into the centre of town. And we didn't hang around upon arriving at the start of the route by Buckingham Palace (the flag was up so the Queen was in; bet she *hated* the inane ringing of all those bicycle bells); straight away we were onto the course and bombing it through London - although replace 'bombing it' with 'getting stuck behind lots of children and getting stopped often by marshalls with big stop/go signs' and you get a better idea of how it went.

To be honest, I wasn't massively impressed with the event by this point, particularly because it was so massively oversubscribed that at times you literally couldn't move because of the sheer number of cyclists. And then when you did start moving and were just getting into the flow of it some bastard marshall turned his sign to 'stop.' They were like the anti-fun police.

Anyway, there was one awesome moment that *completely* made the day worthwhile. On the road that runs alongside the Thames there's a massive tunnel, and Chunty and I managed to get ahead of the pack so that we really could zoom through there like men possessed. And what made it super-cool was that everyone going through the tunnel was ringing their bells and shouting so that it echoed. Mr Chunt doesn't have a bell; he has a marine-approved air-horn. By god there were a hell of a lot of startled looks and wobbling bikes when he set that off; I expect some people's hearing won't return until at least the middle of the week. Rather lacking in the air-horn department, I just shouted "RAWR!" really loudly.

As I said in an earlier post, I was a little disappointed with the route; it was pretty much a straight line, and totaled about 8.7 miles. It felt like we did it in about 15 minutes - and we stopped off on London Bridge because I was a bit peckish and Chunty wanted to take a picture of Tower Bridge (shame we couldn't cycle over that). Admittedly you could cycle round the route as many times as you wanted, but after stopping off back at the start line we could see that even more people were turning up; hell, it took us about 10 minutes to cycle up the mall towards the exit!

We cycled back via Clapham rather than Hammersmith, mostly just for the hell of it, but also because if we'd wanted to find the exit for the Ravenscourt Park route we would've got caught up in the heaving throng again. Anyway, it made for quite a nice end to the day as we cycled through Clapham and Putney, before we parted ways by Richmond Park. At the top of a hill in the park, I turned round to look out over the capital and got a good idea of how far we'd actually come. And then I continued on through the park to Kingston, Hampton Court, Sunbury, home, shower, and a nap on my bed. Phew!

All in all, then, I love the idea behind this event, but hated the anti-car message that seemed to play a big part in it; it was a tad preachy at times. Also, there were far too many people - I read that about 37,000 signed up, but the fact of the matter is that anyway could cycle the route if they just turned up. God knows how many were actually there. Maybe next year give people numbers rather than crappy bibs, and don't allow people without numbers on the route? Oh, and make the route longer - c'mon, it's a Sunday!

That said, I'm glad I did it.

-----

Some pictures! Chunty's part cyborg and has a camera built into his head, so there's more pics than if it had just been left up to me. Let's start with the slightly stalkerific inspiration behind this post's title - upon arriving in Ravenscourt Park, who did I find but T-Bird's favourite comedian Bill Bailey! He was with his kids, so I didn't go and trouble him (if he'd been alone I would totally have gone over and said "hi"). Nevertheless, here's Bill Bailey in situ (taken from afar):

He's the figure in the middle in black kneeling down like he's being knighted. As if you couldn't tell. Here's another one:

Look - there he is with his back to the camera. Let's move on from stalking Bill Bailey.

This is the Ravenscourt Park start hub - which is incidentally very close to my office. They were giving away free sugar-free mints here. The main ingredient in sugar-free mints is sorbital. If you eat too much sorbital it makes you poo a lot.

For some reason they were playing the theme tune from ET at Ravenscourt Park, so, ever the showman I did the "El-eeee-ot" pointing thing. I was kind of going "ooo" too, but in this picture I just look like a special. A special with awesome pectorals - just look at those bad boys!

I bet Her Maj *loved* the fact that her house was on the start line. All those cycle bells must've driven her insane.

I swear, I was totally giving two thumbs up when Chunty got the camera out, but he took so bloody long in actually pressing the button that I flipped him the V – and whadya know? He took the friggin' picture.

I wanted to cycle over Tower Bridge. Denied!

A throng. Heaving.

23 comments:

WillowC said...

I can't believe you didn't take your little girly bell. You've ruined my weekend.

Tim said...

I did have my regular bell which makes a delightful 'Are You Being Served' style 'ding!'

Tara said...

I did notice the pectorals, they're lovely, as well as the E.T. signage! I'm jealous, though, I don't have a cyborg friend to help me take photos. Need to find one.

WillowC said...

You'd have thought the Queen would have quite appreciated that, wouldn't you?

T-Bird said...

You have a cyborg friend? Dammit! I want one! Can you get them at the Apple store?

Sounds and looks like a super number one fun times day! A question: does your bike shirt say "Specializer"?? It brings to mind Arnold walking around going "Come with me if you want to be specialised".

That doesn't translate well into type. You have to read it with his voice...

Tim said...

Tara - Everyone needs a cyborg friend!

Willowc - Of course she would. Prince Phillip might not though…

T-Bird - Yes, just go into the Apple store and ask for an iDude.

My top says Specialized - it's a brand of biking gear. I'm special!

Inexplicable DeVice said...

You also look part cyborg, but that may be due to your enormous helmet.

I think your top would be better if it did indeed say Specializer. Better still if it wasn't on... RAWR!

Tim said...

That is quite possibly the filthiest comment you've ever left here.

Inexplicable DeVice said...

Why, thank you.

What do I win?

Tim said...

An ASBO.

Inexplicable DeVice said...

Ta. Will there be a gold chain from Elizabeth Duke at Argos to go with it?

Do you know, I thought there was something not-quite-right with these pics of you?

I've just realised what it is: You don't have any face-fuzz.
Although the chest-fuzz goes some way to make up for it.

Tim said...

Yes - a nice chunky zero-carot man bracelet.

As for the lack of face-fuzz - I was maximising my aerodynamics.

T-Bird said...

Will you two boys *please* get a room?!

And many thanks for the Bill Bailey sighting! I am sated in my stalker needs... for now! Mwahahahaha!

Inexplicable DeVice said...

C'mon Tim. You heard her...

Tim said...

T-Bird - He's an obsessive stalker! A bit like me tracking down the Bailey, actually…

Inexplicable Device - I'm not that easy!

T-Bird said...

*sigh* So no room this time? I have to say I am a little dissapointed. Did I spell disappointed right? It doesn't look right to me.

So you're not that easy? Well, then... GET READY TO BE SPECIALISED.

Inexplicable DeVice said...

* waits in anticipation *

Inexplicable DeVice said...

Crikey! I've just re-read these comments and I'm coming across a little too lecherous.

Must. Rein. Self. In. Occasionally.

Anyway, I've heard that ErosWings is stunningly handsome too, so, if you're not careful Tim, you might end up a has-been.

Tim said...

T-Bird - Sorry, that particular fantasy of yours will have to remain unrealised!

Inexplicable Device - Fickle bastard.

missy&chrissy said...

hee - the image of the queen pulling her hat down over her head to stifle the sound of the bike bells has made my morning!

Tim said...

Imagine how mental the corgis went!

T-Bird said...

She probably had some palace lacky put their fingers in the corgis' ears so they couldn't hear the bike bells!

Tim said...

Ha ha! Probably!