Today I rode to Windsor with Paul, the rider I met in Richmond Park the other day. The meeting spot for the ride was about an hour away from me given the traffic lights.
Riding in downtown London is not for the faint of heart. For one, the city isn’t laid out on a grid so it’s super easy to get lost. Don’t bother asking for directions either because whatever they tell you will involve at least five turns and you’ll just get lost-er. The roundabouts, despite being really efficient, can also be a bit sketchy if you’re unaccustomed to them.
There are also the ubiquitous double-decker buses. They are quite friendly though. By “friendly” I simply mean they lack malice and avoid running cyclists off the road. I guess in the last four years I grew too accustomed to the AC Transit buses! They also provide an amazing draft.
Part of the directions takes me on a freeway. I’m a bit nervous but I see cyclists on the other side so I trudge on. An hour later I arrive at the meeting point. By this point I’m coughing and my eyes are stinging from the exhaust.
Paul and the others arrive shortly after. They’re all over 40 and it appears as though we’ll be going pretty slow. They do have some killer bikes though. I spot a Supersix, a Colnago, an Isaac, and a really stunning Pegoretti. The Pegoretti also has a Campy Super Record groupo. Sick! All the riders except for one have Mavic Open Pros.
We head off into the countryside. It’s really damp and cool out, my favorite riding weather. The American begins to discuss politics with me. At one point I take my hand off the bars to further emphasize a certain disdain.
“Hands on the bars please!”
“What?” I’m not sure what just happened.
I hear another “What?” behind me.
“I was just gesticulating…” says the handlebar policeman.
I ask the American if that was a faux pas. He says it was because it’s a group ride. I ponder how they eat or drink on the group rides…
To his credit, I think this is a good rule (as for the enforcement of said rule, well.). The roads here are much narrower and there is never a shoulder. They also have been repaved multiple times and contain numerous metal hole covers.
It begins to sprinkle a bit. We make it to the Queen’s gardens on the outskirts of Windsor. Paul called last night, she didn’t mind. We ride through the gardens. Along the way we pass a polo field (grounds?).
Eventually the palace comes into sight. We pass by The Walk.
I found this pic online but you get the idea. It was pretty stunning. Only horses and walkers were allowed on the path though so we continued on.
Along the road we pass a festival called Wings 2009. I found out later this was an international scouts convention! That explains all the kids running around with yellow bandanas in Windsor. (I was never a boy scout. I preferred manly endeavors like baseball and dipping.)
I had been to Windsor once about two years ago with some friends. When we roll into town I get a bit nostalgic because it was during one of my first trips abroad. I see the slanted house that leans to one side. I also see the cigar shop where I bought Cubans to ship home.
We stop at a coffee shop and have a snack. While in line a man asks if we’re in line. I notice the accent so I ask where he’s from.
“Virginia” and to clarify “the United States.”
Ahh. I tell him I’m from the U.S. as well.
“You bike over here?”
“Yeah, the Atlantic was tough.”
After a chat and coffee we head out. I mention to the American that it’s a bit chilly. He agrees and wishes he had brought his “gillet”.
EURO CYCLING TERM: GILLET – a vest
Eventually we came to a bit of a hill. Paul warned me and said whenever you see the top that’s it. I started cranking but fell off of one of the other guys who was going pretty hard. When the next hill came I was more prepared but he still beat me by a nose and I was laughing a bit while it happened.
At this point I start to wonder what’s so damn funny. I lugged my bike halfway across the globe to get my ass kicked at, of all things, climbing? The next hill we come to Paul tells me it’s coming so I take off. The guy who beat me before doesn’t contest it so I feel like “The Cobra” leaving Valverde in the dust on Stage 6. Not to mention I had been big-ringing it on all the “climbs”. (Editor’s note: I just switched from my compact jankset to a 53/39 so it was a real “big ring”.)
I continue on lazily and wait for them to catch up. A few minutes later two of the guys fly past me so I jump on. I didn’t realize it but we’re nearing the end of the ride. We head through some more lights and then they really start to hammer. Two of the riders drop off so it’s just us three taking pulls. At this point we’re going about 24 and I’m hurting a bit. These old timers can really mash.
As the bridge comes into sight everyone lets up. We pull over and say our goodbyes. I head back to London.
On the way back I get a bit lost and end up on Richmond Hill. I stop and ask a courier and he tells me I’m on the border of Richmond Park! Woohoo! I know how to get home from there so I ride in the park a bit before heading home.
What a day.