Thursday 31 December 2020

Rapha Festive 500, London Waterways: Day 8 - Back on the Thames

Featured waterways: Croydon Canal, Grand Surrey Canal (disused), River Thames

Distance ridden: 30km 

Cumulative distance: 511km

Distance left: 0km

Terrain: Tarmac

Weather: Overcast, 0degC

Route on Strava:

Finally, I'd made it to the last day of the challenge! I just had 19km left to do, so barring a catastrophe I believed I would be able to achieve the 500km. All I needed to do was to pootle into Central London and then somewhere along the home run I would hit the magic 500km mark. I would treat it like the final day of the Tour de France when the riders traditionally do a leisurely paced ride from the Paris suburbs into the city centre. 

In fact, if I really wanted, I could stop riding at Brixton or Herne Hill and get on a train to avoid the big hill leading back into Crystal Palace. But that wouldn't be in the spirit of things really, would it? Furthermore, during these Covid-19 times I feel safer riding my bike out in the fresh air than sitting on a train with all the risk of people coughing or sneezing their coronaviruses onto me!

After a celebratory end-of-year 10km run around my neighbourhood, I had a leisurely breakfast and then set off on my final cycle ride of the Festive 500, and of 2020.
The route went through the vibrant Peckham Rye Shopping Centre, which is now traffic-free, and led me to the back of the library where I discovered another traffic-free path known as the Surrey Canal Path. What was previously known as the Grand Surrey Canal no longer exists, but this section of it has been made into a very pleasant cycle way that leads to Burgess Park. Both Burgess Park, and the site of thee Peckham library are built on what were previously basins of the Grand Surrey Canal. Who'd have thought there was so much history here - and so much water!

Glad to reach the finish line at Tower Bridge

After crossing the park and going through some back streets in Bermondsey, I arrived on the new segregated cycle lane at Jamaica Road, and shortly after that I was on the River Thames at Potters Fields, facing Tower Bridge - my virtual finish line. 

There was no champagne to pop - not even a celebratory tea and cake as everywhere was closed due to the pandemic restrictions. So I just smiled to myself in quiet satisfaction that I had achieved what I had set out to do, and the week had gone to plan without any significant hitches. 

One can never take the week-long Festive 500 challenge for granted, especially at this time of year in the Northern Hemisphere countries where the weather can be inclement and the days are short. You always hear stories of folks whose Festive 500 came to an abrupt end due to a significant mechanical problem, or sliding over on ice and getting injured. Then there are many people who just lose motivation at this uninviting time of year, get to day 6 and realise it's just not feasible to complete the outstanding 300km in two or three days! 

Talking of weather, there was no ice on the roads at the time that I was cycling, but it was freezing - literally, as temperatures were fixed at 0deg C. This wasn't the day to be standing around. One mistake I did make, was to spend a bit of time with my gloves off when adjusting my tripod, taking photos and recording video footage.
My hands got so cold I could barely change gear when cycling. It was only when I rode home and rode at near race pace that I began to regain any feeling in my fingers.

I was very happy to end my Rapha Festive 500 on the Thames - at the river in the city I call home. And Tower Bridge seemed like a majestic, backdrop as I felt like I was Queen of the Waterways - well at least for 8 days! The many passers-by and tourists gave me slightly bemused looks as I recorded my footage on the path, though to their credit they took care not to photo-bomb my pictures.

None of them will have imagined I had ridden my bike 500km over the last eight days or known that I had ridden along rivers and canals in all the corners of London and the suburbs - that was for me to quietly celebrate. 

But who knows, they might see or hear part of my stories if they are ever trawling through social media and looking for places to ride their bikes along a London river or a canal. Hopefully I will have been able to give them a couple of ideas!

I have discovered a number of new places during my rides around London's waterways over the last eight days. It has provided a different angle of London, and also given me ideas for traffic-free routes and short cuts. I only touched the surface in terms of the waterways I visited. There are many more to visit, plus many disused ones too. I hope to ride along them in the not-distant future.
Also, one tip when route-planning rides in London, is if you want to find a traffic-free area, look for a river, canal, brook or basin and you may well find that there is an associated traffic-free path or quiet road available.

So that's my Festive 500 over and out for 2020. I look forward to doing another theme in 2021.

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