London Superhighways Ride Report

When I organised this ride I was aware that it corresponded with the annual Tweed Run and there was a reasonable chance that we might bump into these splendidly attired ladies and gentlemen on their vintage bicycles. But we could not have hoped for a better encounter at a more spectacular location than we managed after lunch on our ride.

There were sixteen riders on today’s adventure (I always like to think of our outings as adventures rather than rides, it much better encapsulates what we set out to achieve – viz. adventures on bikes). We had received a couple of late cancellations from riders who could not make it for one reason or another. Indeed one cancellation was so late because the rider had overslept and only moments before managed to get out of bed; disgraceful!

An attendance of sixteen riders is about the limit of what we can comfortably manage on our rides nowadays. But we had good cyclists with us so we were confident we could cope (and naturally we did). There was the usual mix of old faces and some riders who we were welcoming for the first time – so it was a really good mix.

We set off under the shadow of the new build looming high over Westmoreland Road. It has the feel of a huge cruise liner but displays none of the expected luxuries of such a vessel. The construction seems to have been going on for decades; I find it hard to remember a time when this building site wasn’t there. It is currently shrouded in polythene so perhaps when the wrappings are loosed it will emerge like a beautiful butterfly from an unpromising chrysalis. I sure hope so.

Our adventure today was to visit and explore the Central London Cycling Super Highways and then return to the south east on Quietway 1, the Waterlink Way and then a bit of an alternative to the east of the A21. This is a great way to see how the London cycling infrastructure links up (or sometimes doesn’t).

We concertinaed our way northwards as far as the Ivy House in Nunhead where we stopped to admire London’s, indeed the country’s first pub purchased under the Localism Act 2011. This outstanding pub frequently features on TV and other media. We sometimes stop here on our adventures for a coffee or something stronger. Today we just admired the architecture and moved on.

There seemed to be a community garden day at the allotments in Burgess Park where there has been considerably landscaping recently, I believe in connection with the old Surrey Canal, but we needed to make progress so again we moved on.

We arrived in Blackfriars Bridge Road at about 11.30 and here we joined the North/South Superhighway heading northwards. Unfortunately due to road repairs, having joined the cycle lane we were almost immediately spilled back into the main carriageway to mix it with the cars and lorries. Fortunately traffic was light so no great problem but I do feel this is somewhat indicative of a level of disregard for cycling infrastructure and cyclists, especially bearing in mind that this is immediately outside the Palestra – HQ of Transport for London.

We made our way to the northern end of the highway by the entrance to Smithfield Market where we briefly discussed the forthcoming London Nocturne – a series of highly exciting road races around the market on the evening and night of Saturday 10 June, the night before the Tour de Penge. So that’s a great cycling weekend to look forward to!

We made our way back to Blackfriars Bridge and joined the east west track heading west. Motor traffic was chaos at Parliament Square where we serenely sailed past the queues of stationary and crawling cars and taxis. Oh how they hate us!

We stopped for a very pleasant lunch at the ‘Will to Win’ Café in Hyde Park. We sat outside in the shade of the London Plane trees discussing important things like cycling, new bikes, old bikes, cycling nice bikes, cycling etc. Once we had eaten we were keen to get going again. There was a chill wind and the shade of the trees had cooled us down too.

We retraced our ride to Buckingham Palace and then headed on the cycle path alongside the Mall to Horseguards Parade all set up with tiers of seating ready for Trooping the Colour next month. As we approached Birdcage Walk we encountered a horde of young (15-17 years old) cyclists passing in the opposite direction all doing wheelies. And I mean all, hardly a one of them did not have his front wheel high in the air. Now I ought to be disapproving of such wanton behavior on the road, but in truth it is such a joy to see so many (30-40) young people riding bikes I can easily forgive their moment of transgression.

And then the sight of the day; as we waited to turn left from Westminster Bridge back onto The Embankment we met the oncoming Tweed Run. If there was one there were a thousand riders all bedecked in their finery and many on beautiful antique bicycles. For a while both lanes of the Super Highway were blocked; we all just got off the road and watched in slack jawed admiration.

It is real privilege to cross Tower Bridge on a bicycle. This imposter of a bridge seemly claiming a heritage of centuries remains a potent symbol of all that is London. We rode in double file to prevent overtaking on the narrow causeway, a buttock tightener at the front of the ride, how much more so for those riders at the back. Traffic was patient and we returned to the safety and security of South London and stopped at ‘Machine’ the cycling café in Bermondsey Street. The service was slow but we weren’t really in any sort of hurry and it felt a bit warmer now. This provided a further opportunity to talk about important things like cycling, bikes, new bikes, old bikes, cycling nice bikes, cycling etc. the coffee is excellent.

We joined quietway 1 and cycled to Deptford where we picked up the Waterlink Way. At Ladywell we diverted to the quieter roads on the eastern side of the A21 which took us to the safety of Bromley where we dismounted the ride called our goodbyes and headed our homes.

A great bunch of riders one of whom had only recently been a student on our Adult Cycling Course so chapeaux to Janice; we look forward to welcoming you all again.

Cycling time: 4:19:23
Total time: 7:15:00 ish
Total distance: 37.98
Average speed: 8.7
Max speed: 21.6

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