Ride *to* London – a Report

James, one of our Ride Leaders, reports on the CTC Northampton ride *to* London on 7th August 2016, planned and led by Ian Macsporran (group Treasurer and your regular correspondent). 

Northampton Station

Northampton Station

With a mixture of excitement and trepidation, seven of us met 
outside Northampton Railway Station on a veritable assortment of bikes, 
e.g. tourers, Italian fixies, hybrids and trusty racers. On this 
occasion, however, we weren’t there to board any of London Midland’s 
delightful carriages down to Euston but to ride there instead. Our goal 
was to follow a route Ian had planned with his usual thoughtful 
meticulousness insofar as it incorporated as many ‘bike-friendly’ 
stretches of road as possible. Typically, he was also kind enough to 
provide a very helpful information sheet for members who like to ride a 
little quicker than others. This highlighted regrouping points, lunch 
stops and junctions where the traffic could get hairy. Unfortunately, 
for anyone (me) who’d left their reading glasses at home, Ian’s careful 
handiwork was reduced to a blur and ensured that stopping at the correct 
places was largely due to guesswork and a well-known online mapping service.

Setting out via the B526 towards Newport Pagnell it soon became clear 
that – aside from some surprisingly gusty blasts of wind – the day was 
going to provide us with something akin to perfect cycling conditions. 
The sun was out, the thermometer was rising and, with a few exceptions, 
even the drivers seemed happy to share the roads with us. After Newport 
Pagnell and the outer reaches of Bedfordshire our route became more 
rural as we passed through Sharpenhoe, Barton-le-Clay, Hexton, etc., 
climbed a few hills and reassembled for lunch at The Lilley Arms in, 
err, Lilley. The food was wonderful, as was the service and the 
plentiful supply of free water. The only downside being the sad news 
that a fellow cyclist had been taken seriously ill somewhere along our 
route.

En-Route in Hertfordshire

En-Route in Hertfordshire

Post-lunch riding began with a suitably gentle five mile(ish) descent to 
Whitwell; a village it is easy to assume must have an exceptionally poor 
water drainage system until you’re told that it’s actually the 
watercress capital of the universe and is, in fact, meant to look like 
that. Such fascinations, however, were quickly forgotten thanks to the 
incline that greeted us as we took a right turn out of the village 
centre. Still, we continued to make good progress as we headed on out 
through Blackmore, Wheathampstead and Sandridge before finally reaching 
a cycle path that took us to our afternoon tea break: South Mimms 
Services.

Cycle Sign for MWSA

Yes, it’s real

In terms of atmosphere, this particular stop was a million 
miles away from your usual cyclist’s café. However, we were thirsty, 
hungry and, to be fair, it did have a Waitrose. Aside from the fruit 
machines, additional entertainment was provided in the form of Ian and 
his latex gloves as he sought to locate and repair a puncture with a 
dexterity and precision more commonly associated with world-class 
cardiac surgeons.

Cyclists at South Mimms Motorway Services

Cyclists at South Mimms Motorway Services – Not a Usual Sight

The final stage of our jaunt was perhaps the most demanding insofar as 
we were soon in Barnet and the outskirts of London. Cycling through 
London is always an adventure – even on a late Sunday afternoon. 
However, we made good use of the bus lanes and Ian was always keen to 
make sure that as a group we never became too spread out. Highgate, 
Gospel Oak and Camden all passed in a haze of traffic and frazzled 
pedestrians before we finally crossed Hampstead Road and arrived at our 
destination: hot, but happy, and, for those of us who’d not bothered 
with factor 50, some tan lines that were to look quite peculiar on 
Monday morning.

Euston Station

End of the Road

I’ve been to London many times by train, car, coach, etc., but can 
easily say that this was the most interesting and fun way that I’ve ever 
travelled there. It was just a shame that we didn’t carry on down to 
Brighton! Many thanks to Ian for organising the trip and making the day 
such an enjoyable one.

Note: this report has been edited slightly from the original for legal and other reasons.

London Ride 2015 – Saturday 27th June

Ian M, our Treasurer, will be leading this ride and writes:

All members and guests are very welcome to join us on our annual London ride on Saturday 27th June!

This year’s route is “North and South”.

Start time: 10.00 a.m.

Meeting point: Euston Station ouside Caffé Nero at the Melton Street exit from the station

Distance: 28 miles (we will pass fairly close to Euston at 11 miles into the route, if you want to make a half-day of it)

Pace: Leisurely with tourist & refreshment stops

Finish: 5.00 p.m. back at Euston Station

We will visit two cemeteries – one where old folding bicycles go to die, two premiership football grounds – one with an important Northampton Town connection, a test cricket ground, fields and parks, a Soviet tank & a Soviet war memorial, a Georgian cobbled street north of the river, Georgian almshouses south of the river and a building whose façade puts it into one of London’s top ten architectural sites. And cross two Thames bridges. And a hill climb! Themes on the ride include Marx & Engels, Exmoor & Shropshire, and folk-dancing.

Practical notes:

1. We will visit the eastern half of Highgate Cemetery (graves of Karl Marx, George Eliot, Douglas Adams, Bert Jansch among many). This is (a) half-way up a steep hill – by London standards – which is one-way only: up! and (b) now run by the Friends of Highgate Cemetery and there is a £4 admission charge. Choices:
– Climb the hill, visit the cemetery, continue up to Highgate Village to glimpse famous literary houses, and descend on the planned route
– sit out the climb in one of the cafés at the bottom for elevenses – we will return to pick you up
– climb the hill, ignore the cemetery, circle to the bottom for elevenses, or do this two or three times – you’ll have some London roadies for company
– climb the hill half-way, visit the cemetery, walk back to the bottom.

I’ll explain the choices before we set off from Euston.

2. A good train to catch from Northampton is the 0850 which arrives at Euston at 0949.

3. I’ll be at the meeting point by 9.30 a.m. to greet anyone who is travelling there by an alternative route or at an alternative time.

4. If you want to buy cheap “advance” tickets for specified trains then please specify a train which departs Euston after 1800. We should be back at Euston by 1700 but if there’s anything unforeseen … (You can always have a drink in the Bree Louise to pass the time!)

Many thanks to Iain D for accompanying me on the recce!

Any questions? Ask on this forum or phone 07960 302095 (which is also my number on the day)!

Really hoping to see you – it will be a great day out!

Advance information for our London Ride – Saturday 1st June

Iain Dawson, our Rides Secretary, shares some information about the London ride and transport arrangements:

Transport / Getting There

We are planning to be rolling from Euston Station – from the exit onto Melton Street – by 10.00 a.m., so the best trains – assuming you want to take the train – from Northampton would be the 0825 and the 0850. Please remember that ticket queues can be enormous at Northampton so don’t roll up at 8.20 a.m. expecting to make the train if you haven’t already bought your ticket(s).

Currently, London Midland is offering GroupSave tickets, allowing 4 people to travel for the price of 2, but the group that travels on the ticket has to stick together. I’m sure that can all be arranged between individuals.

There are no such joys to be had on East Midlands trains.

We can’t guarantee a finish time because if riders find one of the stops particularly interesting, we’ll hang around a little longer. We built stoppage time into our reconnaissance and made it back to Euston just before 5.00 p.m. so I’d advise either buying an open (day) return – off-peak – or leaving an hour longer than we did, unless you want to hang around a little longer in London, of course.

You don’t have to take the train if you don’t want to; there are other means of getting to London. 

Maps

TfL*1 and LCC*2, have produced some excellent cycling maps covering London; I use them for walking as well.

You don’t need to bring a map for this ride as your ride leaders know where we’re going but if you want to follow the route, they’re available FREE OF CHARGE from: https://www.tfl.gov.uk/roadusers/cycling/11682.aspx. Our route is contained entirely in Sheet 7, also entirely in Sheet 14 (they overlap) and the bulk of it is in large scale on Sheet 1.

Food and Drink

For logistical reasons, we’ve opted for a riverside picnic. It is near a pub though. Very near. But bring something picnicable to munch on.

We’ll also be making a café stop later in the day at a place known to be friendly to cyclists. (And which was offering a Guest Coffee, in the manner of pubs’ Guest Beers, when we recce’d it. That ride was such hard work!)

Safety

The route stays almost entirely away from the major through-routes and their associated traffic. On the couple of occasions where we have to deal with traffic, it’s at traffic-light-controlled junctions or in low-speed zones so traffic speeds are low. Cycling is never a no-risk activity but there’s no reason why being in London on a Saturday should be any more dangerous than being in Long Buckby on a Saturday if you pay attention to your surroundings and try to stay safe.

Our biggest problem is likely to be pedestrians wandering around in the road.

Ride Distance/Pace

Distance and pace are similar to a Leisure Ride, in addition to which we’ll be stopping to see the sights en route (and having reviewed some of the photos from the recce, even a London Tour guide would have trouble finding all the sights we’re going to see).

Boris Bike Hire

Possible: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/roadusers/cycling/14811.aspx but it’s expensive for the whole day.

Better than that: bring your own bike! Even one of those fold-up jobs will cope with this ride!

*1 Transport for London
*2 London Cycling Campaign