Last Sunday, Tim and I participated in the London Freewheel, the second largest cycling event in Europe. It was one of those things I always considered doing when I lived in London, but never did. The centre of the city was closed to traffic from Buckingham Palace to the Tower of London.
Minor setback: I didn’t have a bike. I was tasked with making enquiries about renting one, but I forgot. Crap, isn’t it? A writer, and the best excuse I can come up with is: I forgot. At least it’s the truth, which in this instance I will now attempt to present as ‘refreshing’.
The day before the event, Tim stood outside talking to his neighbour. Michael was attired in t-shirt and a spectacularly unflattering pair of cycle shorts. I mean, really. The Stretchy Lycra Brigade talk about cycling shorts being padded and comfortable, as if that is a valid excuse for wearing them.
ANYWAY, I didn’t fail to notice that Michael was propped against a mountain bike, so after spending some time getting acquainted, I asked if I could borrow it.
“Hi, I’m Niamh.”
“Nice to meet you. HEY, any chance I could borrow your bike tomorrow?”
“Errr, I suppose. What was your name again?”
Later, I said to Tim:-
“Michael, nice guy. How long have you known him?”
“Ah, that was the first time we’ve met.”
The day was gorgeous. Tim and I cycled across Clapham Common and picked up our fluorescent bibs and armbands at the corner. Since it was a designated access point, a route to the city had been laid out along back roads. We were in a group of fluorescent people and held up the traffic for miles.
Tim; image courtesy SkySport: thanks a million.
The Brits being British, they turned out in their best suits: Wonder Woman ignored her powers of flight in favour of more conventional transport; there was a gladiator and a couple of bears; many bicycles featured bunting and foliage.
Image courtesy SkySport: thanks again.
After cycling three quarters of an hour, we came through a pair of ornate gates, beside which stood a huge fountain. Some bronze statues reclined on the bottom, overlooked by a couple of bland, marble figures, all topped by a gold figure frozen on the brink of a suicide leap.
“What is this?” I asked Tim.
He looked at me in horror: “It’s BUCKINGHAM PALACE,” he said, appalled.
Indeed, when I looked back over my left shoulder, there was a queen-sized structure.
“You might not recognise it,” continued Tim, “it’s only the most famous landmark in Britain.”
“I thought that was London Bridge?”
We cycled down The Mall to Trafalgar Square, down Northumberland Avenue to Embankment and all the way along to London Bridge and the Tower of London. It was a unique way to view all the major sights of the city: Whitehall, Nelson’s Column, St Paul’s Cathedral, The Houses of Parliament and the London Eye.
On the route back, Tim and I stopped in St James’s Park for 99s and spent time with a few of the 50,000 cyclists that took part.
St James’s Park
London Eye, from the park