London Fixed Gear have always had a ‘bridges ride’ involving late night miles riding in a noisy beery rabble from west London’s Kew gardens and zig-zagging across every London bridge all the way east across to Tower Bridge. It was my last weekend in London for a little while, so when Cynthia texted me asking what my midnight/early morning plans were for Friday I knew exactly what she was thinking. We did our own bridges ride.
It felt a little warped meeting at 3am. It’s a funny time. Other rides I’ve done have either been later at night – a continuation of the day before – or they’ve kicked off at 4am in October (two factors which always make you feel you’re intrepid). Pulling on t-shirt and shorts at 2am to go and cycle sober through London was predictably odd.
We each had a quick attempt at a nap and then I cycled from East to meet her outside the Royal Albert Hall. I cycled through a surprisingly un-rowdy Shoreditch and Leicester Square, grinning like a tit and thinking how wowed I’d first been when I first saw the Leicester Square billboards on my first ever visit to London (a time when even the Oxford Circus McDonalds seemed like an impressive place) and soaked up those memories a bit, feeling a little of the same.
Cynthia’s nap was more successful than mine and she overslept. She only lives around the corner from the Royal Albert Hall so it gave me a couple of minutes to sit and enjoy the weird time. A drunk man rolled by, and then a man in a skin suit speeding past. 2:30am seems like very keen dedication.
Cynthia appeared on the other side of the road, butting the steep kerb with her bike and falling off sideways onto the pavement. She’s very skilled at falling off, and luckily it’s always quite funny when she does. It was a good start.
Cycling in the night always goes quickly. But London had a startlingly blue sky pretty soon into the ride and after whooping our way across the first few, the rate of bridges sped up and so did the sunrise.
And we found a tiny car, and giggled a lot.
We had a Garmin route for the mindlessness and then largely ignored it, though it was nice to have to hand. You just find the first west bridge, then follow the river home east to Tower Bridge.
It felt iconic and ordinary, all at the same time. Like a private playground that I’d gotten to know. It’s been a little while since I left London and the city’s started to feel small. Following the winding river exacerbates that feeling, but there’s a beauty to cycling over Tower Bridge at the end and appreciating how bizarre it is that this iconic bridge of storybooks and nursery rhymes is just around the corner from my house. I can’t wait to come back and have the jarring feelings of returning somewhere familiar but knowing that you’re seeing it with newer, cleaner eyes.
Next time it’ll be an 11am bike party with a big group, but for this weekend just the two of us zooming around felt importantly special.
Full time goons