The ride should have been a week earlier, but we had to abandon the idea due to torrential rain and substantial wind. A week later the conditions couldn't have been more different. It was a dry but icy cold start to the day, whizzing down the hill to Purley Cross certainly woke me up and made me feel alive. A quick couple of miles warmed me up and got me to the meeting point for the start of the run.
East Croydon railway station, is a soulless spot, surrounded by the worst excesses of 60s modernist architecture. Luckily I soon found the Whatleymeister and Godders, grabbed a quick snap in front of the NLA tower and we were off for a pleasant run through South London's suburbs. Following a number of trails that follow disused railway lines and former industrial area reclaimed into parkland, Godders commented "who would have thought you could find all this in the middle of a city".
At Lewisham we headed up onto Blackheath and over to The Royal Observatory for a view of the vista over to Docklands. Then it was a flat out blast downhill to the Cutty Sark and a rendezvous with jonnyboy666 who had made his way from an overnight stay in Kilburn some 10 miles away.
Next it was time to head down into the foot tunnel for the underwater route to the Isle of Dogs, as Whatleymeister pointed out, it was his first ever lift assisted RetroBike ride. Arriving at Island Gardens the sun briefly shone and we rapidly made our way towards Stratford and our 2nd rendezvous, this time with local boy Bike Man. He guided us around the perimeter of the former Olympics site, through Hakney Marshes and along the canals tow paths to Victoria Park. I generated considerable mirth from my fellow riders by using my painfully screechy front brake as a fog horn and clear a pathway through the many bimbling hipsters and sundry tourists.
Our next port of call was the Haggerston Park BMX track, an unexpected jem in an otherwise uninteresting area. We all had a go and as a novice I found it quite intimidating, but equally thrilling too. I learned the hard way that you don't use your brakes and would be tempted to go back, but maybe when there are no onlookers to watch my failures.
I had arranged a couple of prizes raided from my "conference freebee giveaway" cache, very Alan Partridge I know, so took the opportunity for a quick prize giving session, namely:
Farthest Distance Travelled To Attend - went to jonnyboy666 who had made the trip up all the way from Southampton.
The Riders' Choice RetroBike du Jour - went Bike Man, who won by a whisker for having the most original and Retro of all the bike's present and boasting the ugliest forks too.
It was now time to head for the centre of town, dodging buses and taxis for a photo stop at St. Paul's Cathedral. Godders found a puncture and deserves a prize for the fastest inner tube change in the West End.
Then it was up the Strand, whizzing round Trafalgar Square in seconds flat and on to the final photo stop at Buckingham Palace. The queen was in, but didn't offer tea or scones, maybe next time?
After this we bade farewell to jonnyboy666 who was heading back up to Kilburn whilst the rest of the party headed South to Vauxhall Cross. Outside the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, Whatleymeister left to brave the delights of the South Circular for the short run to Clapham Junction, whilst Bike Man headed back East, which just left myself and Godders to make the trip back to Croydon.
Taking the scenic route; past the Oval Cricket Ground, through Loughborough Junction, Dulwich and on to the lung busting climb up to Crystal Palace, one of the highest spots anywhere in London. With only about another 15 minutes of riding left ahead of us we indulged in a swift pint and took in the view. The night was so crisp and frosty with phenomenal visibility, I believe we could see the radio tower on Wrotham Hill in Kent and the towers of the Queen Elizabeth Bridge at Dartford.
There was considerable post football chaos around Selhurst Park football ground, I began to wonder if the Croydon riots had resumed. A few nifty back street runs avoided the grid lock, got us back to Croydon and saw Godders off to catch his train with 2 minutes to spare.