24 December 2009

Give yourself a present with a Christmas Day ride

Cycling in London is mostly great fun, but it can be a bit unpleasant at times. You get forced into doing things you don't want. Shouted at when you've done nothing wrong. Abused by people taking out their stresses and anxieties on you. Generally, you're treated like you simply shouldn't be there, even when you've no alternative. Talking of which, I'll be going home to spend Christmas with my relatives...

Nah, only joking. It'll be great, back up in Yorkshire, eating and drinking and laughing and probably doing a few social rides with rels to see friends for a sherry and mince pie, play with the huskies, and perhaps fish for some seals through a hole in the ice.

And there's probably a social ride on Christmas Day near you. Well, if you live in London or Cambridge, anyway. Here's what two cyclists will be doing tomorrow. (The text is updated from an article I wrote for the CTC magazine for Christmas 2007.)

Barry Mason of Southwark Cyclists talks about the 25/12, a Christmas Day ride through London

Where do you go?
We start late morning, see some unknown bits of wonderful Southwark, and break at a riverside pub. Then it’s central London for the sights and parks. Around 3pm or so we'll have a late lunch at a wonderfully accommodating Lebanese cafe on Edgware Road that caters for omnivores, veggies and vegans. And then drift back towards Southwark and maybe a pub. It's a slow ride, paced for all: maybe 30 miles in four hours.

Who comes?
The first year, 2002, three people joined me on a wet day. Last year about 170 turned up. We're now listed in Time Out and the papers. I love the mix: some regulars but mostly new faces, some tourists even.

Some people are out for an hour or two before a family day, some are delighted to escape the TV, some might be home alone that day otherwise, some seem to want to stay out forever.

I hope the four German goths in drag and high heels turn up again, but who knows! And if a few singles meet new friends, even better...

What's special about it?
Christmas is hideously commercialised. For me, the ride is an antidote to all that, and a great excuse to do something I love in the city I adore with like-minded people.

The buzz is the happy people and the atmosphere. It's the most smiley ride of the year too: everyone in childishly good sociable moods. Pedestrians love us. And almost no other traffic! In many ways it's what the season is all about at its roots: peace and goodwill to all.

What advice to anyone inspired to do one where they live?
Give people a lie in. Don't start too early. Be inclusive. Make sure the ride's clearly for everybody and that it's easy. Tell local media – it's newsworthy. Don't be put off if only a few people turn up the first year; those who do will treasure the experience, and there will be more next time.

Details for tomorrow's ride
Meet 10am Cutty Sark / 11am Southwark Needle. Southwark Cyclists
(This being the last Friday of the month, December's Critical Mass ride is also on this day, departing from outside the National Theatre at 7pm-ish.)

Nigel Deakin will be on the Cambridge CTC DA’s annual Christmas morning ride
What's the ride like?
This is probably our shortest ride of the year, but one of our best-attended, with about 20 riders. We meet at a civilised 10am and ride at a gentle pace through familiar local lanes for about 20 miles. We end up at a pub about five miles from Cambridge before making our individual ways home for lunch.

There's always something special about riding on Christmas morning. Everyone we meet seems in a good mood. Christmas Day is traditionally a day for over-eating and drinking a bit more than usual so it is nice to get some exercise before returning home to carry on the tradition!

Details for tomorrow's ride
Meet at Brookside at 10am for ride to The Hoops, Barton for a lunchtime drink. Leader: Mike Stapleton.

Happy Christmas everyone

(The postie with the tinselled bike, by the way, was snapped at West Wittering on the south coast)


  1. There's still a lot of snow and ice on the ground in Cambridge; we are hoping to go ahead with our Christmas Morning ride but may cancel it on the day if looks too icy. For more information, see our website: ctc-cambridge.org.uk.

  2. ...and yes, it went ahead as planned.