Nightrider London Sportive 2013: Cyclo-Sportive Review

Quick info
Distance: 100km/62 miles
Major climbs: 0
Participants: 3,400
Best: Crossing the finish line for a hot cup of coffee
Worst: You still get bad drivers at night in London

Ever wondered what goes on at night in London? A lot, it seems, having taken in the best it has to offer via its ever-busy streets under the guidance of moonlight, street lighting and the LED lights coming from the handlebars of 3,400 other cyclists.

As the first riders beamed their way out of the start in Crystal Palace, it was evident that this would be a ride like no other in the sportive calendar.

Sportive might not be the correct term to use because it was, by all accounts, a charity ride, in which over £2 million was raised for various good causes. All kinds of ability of cyclist were out in fluorescent bibs across the 62-mile route, from those taking part to raise money to the more experienced riders aiming for a solid time against the clock, taking in over 50 world-famous landmarks in 
the process.

Keeping time was an unenviable task when up against the temperamental traffic light systems around London, combined with the sheer number of cyclists on the road, which made for a stop-start ride. Add to the equation fatigue, enhanced by cycling through the night, and you’ve got a task on your hands. It was without doubt a tough ride, one this rider found harder than many sportives of a similar distance.

This same rider was left despondent just halfway around the course, aiming for a good time, but having to drop back after what felt like accruing a repetitive strain injury for the unfathomable amount of clipping and unclipping at every junction, set of lights or slow-down in the pack. As I looked at my speedometer with 30 miles gone, my exhausted mind found it hard to believe that the same amount of miles were still left to go.

Bikes v night buses on Regent Street

>> Save up to 31% with a magazine subscription. Enjoy the luxury of home delivery and never miss an issue <<

Light work
The Nightrider may be billed as a challenge but it was also a unrivalled spectacle to see the heart of London pulsating at night by bike. The gradient was largely unchallenging throughout the course but the best hills made for the most spectacular views and so encapsulated the highlights of the night.

From careering down a steep road in Greenwich and looking down on Canary Wharf over the Thames illuminated by artificial light, to climbing to the top of Alexandra Palace and being presented with a panorama of a lit-up London from above, to zooming about 
the gentle downhill sections of the deserted financial district, these were the special moments.

The inclusion of the city’s iconic landmarks topped off a momentous occasion, namely surging through a packed-out Piccadilly Circus at 3am in a makeshift peloton, followed shortly by heading over Westminster Bridge to the sight of the sun coming up over the Houses of Parliament while Big Ben struck to mark the hour.

One last gentle climb took finishers back into Crystal Palace Park for a well earned medal and some breakfast. While it might not be for the faint-hearted, this annual event simply cannot be missed.

Missed it? Try this…
Nightrider Paris, like its British counterpart, takes in all the highlights of the capital with a 100km route. The event is overnight September 21-22.

This article was first published in the August 29 issue of Cycling Weekly. Read Cycling Weekly magazine on the day of release where ever you are in the world International digital edition, UK digital edition. And if you like us, rate us!