Meet the riders

Have you ever wondered what kind of people ride with The Fridays?   Well, now's your chance to find out.  Each month we'll feature someone who rides with us and find out a little more about them, and what they like about The Fridays.


 

 

I cycled into Central London on a daily basis for several years without incident in the era before cycle lanes. Then they installed a bus and cycle lane on Westminster Bridge and I was immediately side swiped by a bus that was trying to

overtake me just outside the Houses of Parliament. Luckily, I fell towards the pavement, rather than into the road, and escaped with only minor cuts and bruises. In fact, I’ve had worse injuries recently learning to ride with clips. MPs would have probably called for these new-fangled cycle lanes to be abolished if I’d have died on their doorstep.

 

I had to give up cycling to work when I started working from home around 2005. Unfortunately, this change of lifestyle may have had a bit of a negative effect on my health. In 2014, I found myself in hospital having a triple heart bypass. Okay,  the 40-a-day smoking habit and the unhealthy eating probably had something to do with it as well, but I think the cycling had previously been helping to offset those things. After my surgery, I decided to give up smoking (if you don’t count vaping), eat fewer pies, and take up cycling again. I bought myself a new bike and started going out for rides with

a new purpose, staying alive.

 

What made you come along to your first Fridays ride?

I was gently cajoled into doing the Whitstable ride by the ride leader, Kim Carter. She and her husband Rick are old friends of ours. She’s been telling me for several years how much fun she has on the rides and how friendly you all are. I discounted the fun and friendly bit as, unlike me, Kim is a naturally gregarious person who could have fun at her own funeral. Instead, I focused on the distance – 70 miles sounded like a bit more than I could chew. Maybe one day, I told her.

 

On our last visit to see Kim and Rick, my wife and I took our bikes and joined them on a short ride (coincidently, to

Whitstable, albeit only from Herne Bay, just a few miles down the road). Having softened me up with a nice pub lunch along the way, Kim again proceeded to extol the virtues of the Fridays’ ride and, in a moment of weakness, I agreed to give it a try. After that, there was seemingly no escape.

 

How did you prepare for your first ride with us?  And how did it go?

I have to confess that my preparations were dominated by a gnawing fear that I wouldn’t be able to keep up. Accordingly, my number one priority was to arrange for my wife to come and pick me up if I had to give up before the end. Having sorted that out, I thought I’d better do some training. At the time, the furthest I’d normally ride was about 35 miles. After a couple of 50- or 60-mile trips around the Thames Valley I began to feel a bit more confident I could do the distance, but still not sure about keeping up with the pace.

 

In the end, I found the first half of the Whitstable ride fairly comfortable. There were plenty of short breaks with lots of time to refuel. I don’t think I was the slowest rider, but even if I had been, I need not have worried unduly. The Fridays’ policy is to only go as fast as the slowest rider. Looking at the stats, my average moving speed was almost exactly 12 mph. So, if you can manage anything close to that, you wouldn’t look too out of place.

I began to suffer quite a bit during the second half of the ride. The temperature really started to plummet in the last couple of hours before dawn and it gradually dawned on me that I hadn’t brought enough cold weather gear. Fortunately, at my lowest point, one of the regulars lent me a pair of gloves and, not long after that, the sun began to rise, giving me a

welcome boost of energy that, happily, propelled me to the end with something to spare.

 

What’s the most memorable thing that has happened to you on a bicycle?

It’s the bad things that mainly spring to mind, such as being knocked over by the bus on Westminster Bridge or my disastrous French touring holiday (see below). However, if you’re looking for something positive, I’d say completing the Whitstable ride and a couple of weeks later the BHF London to Brighton route. I did the London to Brighton run with a

friend who was best man at my wedding in 1992 and my son. Although a bit shorter, it was a lot tougher than the Whitstable ride, particularly towards the end. This time it was the heat that caught me out first, followed by Ditchling Beacon. We were riding on the hottest day of the year, about a week or so before the Fridays own Brighton ride. It took me at least a day to recover.

 

What advice would you give to someone doing their first night ride?

Take plenty of layers and a good pair of gloves. It can get surprisingly cold in the early hours of the morning, even in the summer.

 

Anything else you want to tell us?  

A piquet tente tale.  On a solo touring holiday to France, I arrived at my first campsite near Honfleur just before dusk on a Saturday evening and began to unload everything from my bike. I did so under the watchful eye of several French families who were just tucking into dinner as I arrived. I decided to have cup of tea before putting up my bright, new, shiny lightweight tent. This gave the French campers time to finish their dinner, whereupon they arraigned themselves in a semi-circle pointing in my direction, seemingly to get a better view.

 

This didn’t bother me. I was confident I’d have the tent up in a jiffy, having practised several times before I left. Twenty minutes later, my audience looked completely bemused as I packed everything up, loaded it back on to my bike and proceeded to cycle off into the gloom that had now descended.

 

Why had the crazy Englishman come all this way just to make a cup of tea?

 

Sadly, the answer is that I’d forgotten to bring any tent pegs. I never thought to ask them if they had any spare. The truth is I’d no idea how to say “tent peg” in French and would have been too embarrassed to ask anyway. That night, I ended up sleeping rough under some bushes on a nearby country lane. To make matters worse, on Sunday I discovered that none of the local shops who sold tent pegs would be open until Monday. I decided not to wait and returned home that evening.

Many people have since told me that the French phrase for tent peg is either ‘piquet tente’ or ‘piquet de tente’. That’s all very well, but I can guarantee that I will never, ever forget my piquet detentes again, particularly on a camping trip to France. Une fois mordu, deux fois timide, as they say over there (once bitten, twice shy).

Meet the riders November 2021 - 2021 first timer Andy Hamer

 

Tell us a little about yourself:

According to the Post Office, I live in Tooting, SW London, although most people round here would normally tell you they live near Wandsworth Common.  I grew up in Sale, a suburb of Manchester, in a family that was heavily involved in club cycling.

 

Looking back, I now realise that nobody ever encouraged me to join. In fact, I seem to remember someone trying to fob me off by saying they didn’t have a junior section. I think the truth was that they probably went cycling to try to get away from the kids.

 

Anyway, while they were galivanting up hill and down dale in the Peak District, I’d take my bike out on birdwatching trips around the flatter Cheshire countryside. To me, cycling became a means of getting from A to B to do something else, rather than an end in itself. My bike became the way I got to school, and later on in life, to university lectures and to work.

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Meet the Riders Archive

Meet The Rider October 2021 - Charlie Biggie

Tell us a little about yourself:

I’m Charlie Biggie, from Chesham, Buckinghamshire, where the furthermost outpost of the London Underground meets the Chiltern uplands.  I’ve been cycling, on and off, for about 20 of the past 50 years.  Starting with a rural paper round delivering the Telegraph and the Times to the moneyed residents of the Chalfonts, a lengthy hiatus then ensued while I pursued teenage to forty-something dreams and aspirations.

 

Then I discovered a better way to get to work.  Something had to be an improvement on sitting on a crowded train.

Purchasing a Brompton on the then new Cycle to Work scheme, I could then escape public transport for at least part of the way.  I was hooked again.  

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Joining the CycleChat forum, I found a like-minded community where ideas and opinions could be exchanged, advice sought and found, but it was the Friday Night Ride to the Coast threads that most engaged my interest.  Riding through the night to finish up at a seaside resort definitely appealed to the Aquarian liking for the unusual in me.

 

Thus it was in August 2010 that I signed up to cycle to the oyster capital of Kent, Whitstable.  Without any pre-conceptions, I was surprised and impressed with the level of organisation and concern for everyone’s well-being, the obvious camaraderie and not least, the welcome given to newbies such as myself.  Eleven years and 80 FNRttCs later, I’m still loving it.

 

Which has been your favourite Fridays ride, and why?

Among the diverse variety of routes that have been created, my favourite is our most northerly ride, ending either in Blackpool or Morecambe.  It is the sheer variety of landscape that makes this route stand out for me.  Starting from the urban setting of a lively Friday night in Manchester, very soon we’ve climbed 300 metres and are crossing remote moors on roads delineated by snowplough guideposts.  A rapid and high speed descent to urbanity for a mid-ride snack is followed by more ups and downs, crossing the Ribble before a very level twenty miles across the best rural farmland Lancashire has to offer, finally reaching the Irish Sea for breakfast.

 

How do you prepare for a night ride?

Before any night ride I always make sure everything on my printed checklist is present and correct, batteries and spare sets fully charged, tyres checked, multi-tool, drink, waterproof, spare tubes, co2 cans etc.  My list is long, but not everything on it will apply to everyone.  As for the person physically, usually a high carb meal helps.  Mentally, I’ve never personally found an evening nap to be an advantage, but again this will vary by individual.

 

That said, I vividly recall one ride a few years back where I was uncomfortably aware I was falling asleep on the move.  Fighting to stay awake, I was wandering into the grass verge once or twice when one of my fellow riders pulled up beside me with the sharp words – ‘I can see you falling asleep, so I’m going to ride beside you and chat to you for as long as it takes this phase to pass.’  Thank you to that lady - she certainly saved me and possibly some other riders from what could have been an unpleasant episode.

 

What advice would you give to someone doing their first night ride?

I think the underlying advice from that story to any new riders must be to assess your own needs for sleep and the way your own body clock works.   Above all, make sure you’ve checked that bike is in better than good working order, especially if it’s one you don’t ride regularly. 

 

Last of all – you’ll find the Fridays a very welcoming bunch to newcomers.

 

The Fridays are especially marked in equal measure by their diversity in age, personal background and the machines they choose to ride.  Some of us who’ve done this for a while may recall the individual who rode to Brighton on a BMX, including two (or was it three?) ascents of Ditchling Beacon.  A few years later that same person led a small group of us 200 miles from Doncaster to London overnight at an average speed of 16+ mph!

 

So while the Friday night rides are on their winter break, why not come out to Chesham and enjoy some of the delightful routes we have out here!

Meet The Rider September 2021 - Kim Carter

Tell us a little about yourself:

Hi, I’m Kim and I live in Herne Bay, very close to Whitstable, which is how come I began riding with the Fridays around 10 years ago.  I was chatting to a dad at the swimming pool and he had heard about these mysterious night rides.  It sounded like an adventure so we decided to go along.  For many years I only did the Whitstable ride, as getting back from other destinations on my own after a long night was a rather daunting prospect. But now I mostly ride with my mate James, and we share a 'Two Together' railcard, making the journey both economical and convivial!

Which has been your favourite Fridays ride, and why?

Whitstable has a place in my heart, I’ve ridden it so many times that the Fridays ‘gave’ it to me and now I lead it.  But Bristol to Barry is a fantastic ride.  James and I get to Bristol early and make a day of it before the ride. And the ride itself is spectacular.  I love all the bridges, the quiet roads and the cafe at the end is right by the Barry Island parkrun.  I will be taking my trainers when we do the ride in a few weeks time.

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How do you prepare for a night ride?

Before the ride I check my tyres and lights, I hardly dare mention that I’ve never had a puncture on a Fridays ride in case I jinx it!  I drink plenty of water during the day so that I am hydrated.  And on the ride itself as it does help to avoid the energy dip I often feel around 3am. Also check the weather and think about layers. Have something cosy to pop on as it’s always chilly setting off after the halfway stop.

 

What’s the most memorable thing that has happened to you on a bicycle?

There have been numerous adventures over the years, but once I turned up for a charity ride in Sussex without my shoes.  I was wearing pink sheepskin boots and had to do the 100km ride in those.  People were asking me if they were special cycling boots.

 

What advice would you give to someone doing their first night ride?

My non-cycling friends think I’m mad to consider riding through the night, but I love the sense of adventure, the quiet eeriness of the empty roads, and even the rowdiness of the people who are still out and about as we ride through London at midnight.  I don’t really consider myself a ‘proper cyclist’ - I don’t have all the fancy gear and I don’t belong to any other clubs.  But the rides are achievable for anyone with a reasonable level of fitness.  I love the ethos of the ‘conversational’ pace that the Fridays choose to ride at.  The rides are carefully timed so that we don’t arrive at our destination too early.  I’ve introduced many of my friends to the Fridays rides over the years and they’ve all loved the experience.

Meet The Rider August 2021 - Sonia Williams

 

Tell us a little about yourself:

I live in South London and have been cycling for 13 years. I ride to/from work, to shop, visit friends and go on group rides which has included touring around UK and Europe. I can't remember how long I've been riding with The Fridays, but whatever year it was when our water bottles froze, I think that's the year, but don't quote me on that!

Which is your favourite Fridays ride?

My favourite is London to Whitstable. Primarily for the Victoria sponge at the halfway stop and then for the breakfast location at the finish. There's something special about a Full English whilst looking out to sea.

How do you prepare for a night ride?

My preparation for a night ride usually involves trying to get more sleep in the days leading up to it, and a two hour nap before riding to the start, if at all possible.  
 

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What’s the most memorable thing that has happened to you on a bicycle?

The most memorable thing to have happened since taking up cycling? There is more than one, but I think the Whitstable ride when it rained most of the night and we were all soaked through, yet the majority decided to continue to the end, instead of calling it a night at the half way stop, is up there.   That's the Fridays' spirit!

What advice would you give to someone doing their first night ride?

Get extra sleep during the week and a nap on the day, if at all possible. Good lights, also.

Meet The rider July 2021 -  Peter Haslam.   

 

Tell us a little about yourself:

I’m 67 years old, born and bred in Bolton, married with three daughters. The eldest is 41 and the twins are 38.  I only started riding when I was 62.  I am a bit of a petrol head and a member of the Lotus 7 Club. A good friend in the club lost his driving licence due to diabetes affected vision and bought an electric bike.  To keep him company I and four other members formed the Lotus 7 Club Cycling Club.  We meet up when we can for rides of around 50 - 60kms and of course enjoy café stops. We've been to Mallorca and Tuscany and completed four tours in the UK, including two different Coast to Coast rides.

 

I looked online for a Cycling Forum, found Cycle Chat and Andrew Brennan (one of The Fridays ride leaders) who led a local ride which came through Bury.  I met up with him and he told me about his night ride to Blackpool.  

 

I used to be a member of the Long Distance Walkers Association and always enjoyed night walks so I was really up for it.

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Which is your favourite Fridays ride?

So far I have managed, two Manchester to Blackpool rides, two York to Hull rides, one Bristol to Barry Island, one London to Shoreham and one London to Whitstable.  It's difficult to choose a favourite but the only one to be stress free would be the 2nd York to Hull ride.  All the others seem to be dogged by train problems and or domestic hiccoughs.

 

How do you prepare for a night ride?

My preparations are very much dependant on looking at the weather forecasts every few minutes for about five days then checking my tyres as suggested in Martin’s excellent video.  I just wish every member did the same.  I invested in a hub dynamo after my first two rides and would certainly recommend it, no faffing around with failing batteries.

 

What’s the most memorable thing that has happened to you on a bicycle?

I think my most memorable bike ride was my first and, up to now, only 100 mile ride.   This was from Manchester to Llandudno organised by someone on the CycleChat forum.