Thursday, 27 December 2012

The St Crispin's day all night biking disaster

Groupon is a relatively new experience for moi but it's something I've taken to like the proverbial duck to water. In lieu of having much dosh or being in a position to acquire expensive shit, experience is the number one commodity in these ongoing austere times. And one in which Groupon, my internet chums, are the chief resellers of. This elite bunch do a cracking job of convincing you that if you don't go on a hovercraft ride with its gargantuan 65% discount, then you aren't any kind of human being worth their salt. It's amazing. They offer everything - waxing, Ugg boots, clay pigeon shooting - if you wanna do it, they'll sell it at a very attractive looking price. I've totally fallen under their spell.

It wasn't surprising then that I signed myself and some erstwhile comrades up for the St Crispin's Day Night Bike Ride earlier in the year after seeing a deal on the site. The idea was to cycle 100 miles around London with a bunch of other chumps and take in the sights of the capital at night while simultaneously nailing some sort of physical test of endurance. With it's juicy 54% discount tied round it like some sort of money zapping bow, the whole thing seemed too good an opportunity to pass up.

The organisers of the route put it thusly...

"We ride 50 miles to the vineyard and then 50 back. It’s a long way but because the route is designed for vintage bikes and fixies it’s very do-able for the averagely fit rider."

Note the bit saying “averagely fit”. Or at least the bit saying “do-able”.  On this basis I ignored the part about the “100 miles” and took it as read that we could complete this task with ease - how fucking wrong I was…

The big day came about and our preparation for the nocturnal jaunt had been minimal to say the least. We caved into peer pressure around lunch time and picked up a couple of inner tubes, but fuck knows what a brother is meant to use them for. As a pair of beautiful rubber ear rings? A delicious hat in case of heavy rain? Who knows. As the afternoon turned into evening, the conditions were becoming increasingly treacherous - ice cold, blustery and not a little wet. We retired to the boozer to discuss the ride and our strategy. At this juncture, it was very basic -“DON’T DIE”.

After a few pints, some snouts and chips we went back to put on the ‘comfortable’ pants (to prevent saddle soreness), strap on the long johns, add some extra layers, have another beer and munch on some lentil pasta as a last hit of sustenance. Then off into the night we went...

Intense prep for the ride

The evening was a total fucking grueller - We turned up at the Thames barrier to be confronted by a load of cunts in cycling gear all looking horrendously prepared. Then we set off into the London night on a route taking us past every rammed night spot in the capital. Not only were fucked up Halloween revellers out to get us, but every bus, truck and taxi seemed intent on ignoring this mob of cyclists or at least chopping us up or taking us out. Not surprising. If I was in a car and saw some smug lycra wearing National Trust members riding a tandem, I'd find the urge to mow them down irresistible. 

As we left the city behind us and the route became increasingly countrified, two things became increasingly obvious. It was colder than it had ever been before in the history of mankind - and riding like this is a very solitary, lonely experience. Despite being (sometimes) surrounded by other riders, you're concentrating on maintaining a certain amount of pace, not getting lost and not falling off or nodding off - so my chat was minimal. As the race went on, the roads became increasingly desolate and my banter disintegrated into whines, grunts and snorts. It felt like I was staring into what was left of my very soul. 

The two night time stops we made were total fucking bullshit. At the first one we were offered a cup of tea and a biscuit by some chirpy students. At the second, a coffee and a sausage roll. It was tempting to not bother eating the savoury snack but instead ram it down the socks to prevent frost bite setting in. But instead we gobbled it up and on we went, with plastic bags around the shoes. 

We landed at the vineyard at around 7.30am having started on this madness a whole eight and a half hours earlier - the last ten miles had been the most horrific - riding in the pitch black along deserted country lanes with only the jumping red tail light of a rider up ahead to keep you going - it was fucking bad. It got worse - we were confronted by a 90 minute wait for a microwaveable curry in the ice cold morning. Then told that this was only the half way mark. At this point madness set in and talk degenerated into loud exclamations mainly featuring words like "cunts", "bastards" and "fucking cunts". 

Two of us fucked it off at this, the 58 mile mark, and trained it back to Hackney and the sanctity of Wetherspoons. The most mental member of the crew went on to complete the ride. He must have cheated somewhere along the way. Must have...  

Drunk at the start


Eating the energy

Let's go!

16 miles in - already sober and fed up

Dawn - shall we go a bit further? 

90 minute queue for microwavable curry

It's fucking cold

The gourmet extravaganza

Hometime - fuck you St Crispin

10.30 am debrief in 'the office'

The best thing to happen in hours

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