What is this? London Freewheel figures from yesterday.
We set off for the Bromley LedRide departure point and arrived just before 9:45. All in all there must have been about 30 in the group, which isn’t so bad for that far out of London. Looking around there appeared to be a predominately mountain bike types and just a couple of us roadies. After the initial talk by the Marshal we realised that the Led Rides to the Hubs (the 6 pre-entry points) were more for ppl who have never cycled a distance let alone cycled into London. The clincher for us was when we saw the route they the group were going to take from Bromley to Peckham Rye Park; all on back roads, all over the place (read: far from a direct route) and estimated to take an hour to an hour and a half. As we knew we could do this in 19 mins using the main roads, we decided to make our excuses and leave the novices too it. We then shot off down Bromley Hill, through Catford, on to Dulwich then into Peckham Rye Park.
Arriving at the park there were a few stalls set up and quite a few cyclists. We managed to collect a free Redbull each then decided that as there really wasn’t much going on in the park and knowing that the main circuit would be busy quite early, headed off to our Entry Point at Southwark Bridge. We even managed to have a great send off by some pompom twirling cheerleaders (a nice touch that). Rather than taking the most direct route there we decided to actually ride the signed and marshalled route via the back roads, all the time more and more cyclists joined our group. By the time we entered at the bridge point there must have been about 50 cyclists in our group (adults and children).
The Circular Route
Arriving at our Entry Point to the Circular Route was amazing; there was this solid steady Peleton of cyclist of all types and descriptions going from right to left in front of us. In fact it was quite hard to join this flow due to its density, however we managed it and off we went. There were bikes of every type and description you could name, but even better than that was the fact that there we riders of both genders and of all ages; from kids with training wheels on tiny bikes to some really old ladies on bikes that looked just as old (if not older) as they did. It looked at one point that a Congestion Charge would be needed to limit the number of cyclist in London! I soon realised that this was not a day to be using my cleats and later changed into my trainers through fear. The circuit was great. We passed under the underpasses trying to make as much noise with bells and whistles as we could. It was like one huge version of Critical Mass. Finally we made it round to where the Freewheel Festival was in St James Park.
The Freewheel Festival
The Festival could have been a lot better, but seeing as they had only expected a maximum of 30,000 cyclist and almost double the number had turned up (not to mention all the tourists that had seen something going on and wandered in) its not surprising the Festival fell a little flat on our expectations. It felt tiny. We managed to collect a good haul of FREE stuff, everything from free food and drinks, lots of free water bottles (roadies can never have enough of these), free t-shirts, free bags, a free tool-kit key-ring, a free sandwich from Hovis (the Sponsors) which had to be the best BLT I have ever had I might add, free pens, a free CD of this years TdF, and a free copy of this weeks Cycling Weekly (my usual read) ~ needless to say my rucksack was a little heavy by the time we decided to ride the Circular Route again ~ WIN!
The Ride Back to Peckham Rye Park
We went for another ride on the Circular Route, then close to 4pm (the time they would re-open it to cars) we decided to head back to where our Entry Point was and make our way back. We arrived at the Entry Point just as the church clock struck 4pm and took one last look at the scene on Southwark Bridge that reminded us of 28 Days Later (something I will remember for a very long time). Cycling back along the signed and marshalled route to Peckham Rye Park we did a spot of Marshalling ourselves as there were quite a lot of small children all very tired after a long days ride. So we kept at the back and blocked the road with our Hi-Vis outfits so that cars would automatically be a little more careful. We arrived back at Peckham Rye Park and were cheered and clapped ‘home’ my all the stewards and marshals there (another nice touch).
The Ride Home
After a much needed bathroom break and another can of FREE Redbull we headed off to cycle home via Dulwich, Catford and Bromley. At our local shops we decided that we really had earned dinner so decided a take-away curry would be nice. After chatting with the guys in our local Indian about cycling (they were taking an interest in Freewheel as they had seen it on TV earlier), we took our take-away home and I have to say it was the nicest curry I have had in a very long time.
Summing Up the Day
All in all, a wonderful event. We are hoping that the organisers realise the mistake they made in underestimating just how many of us London cyclists there are and make next years route much bigger (it was only just over 8 miles this year) and add a lot more to not just the main Festival, but also have things going on at the Hubs when we arrive back. It was a bit of a shame to see cyclists milling around at the Hub with not much to do. I’m sure this has helped in our cause to get ppl cycling more and is another step closer to the Cycling London we want to see, but I think we still have a way to go yet before my dream of a Car-Free London exists.
If you didn’t join in this year, make sure you do next year as I think Year2 will be much bigger and much better.
Roll on next years event.