With bikes now constituting up to half of all road journeys on some central London routes, cycling is taking the capital by storm. And with bike racks now as customary as breakout space, there’s never been a better time to get on your bike. Keen to get a piece of the two-wheel action, I headed down to the City to catch a peek at London Nocturne.
Moving from its former home in Smithfield Market, this year’s 10th anniversary race snaked around Cheapside in the shadow of St Paul’s Cathedral and the Guildhall. Public grandstands, hospitality areas, big screens and jubilant commentators all complete the Tour de France ambience. All that’s missing is the yellow jerseys.
The event attracts professional riders from UK and overseas teams who glide at heart-racing speed through 800 year-old streets.
But the event is far from elitist. Penny Farthings and folding bikes also share the limelight. Requiring a step ladder to mount, the Penny Farthings are the perfect solution to today’s urban cycling dangers where 22% of drivers claim not to see bikes on the road. In the land of tall buildings, there’s definitely a place for tall bikes.
Despite their spindly appearance, the lycra-clad high wheelers skedaddle around the course at a fast and furious pace.
It’s a slightly surreal experience to see such contorted purple faces grimacing down at you from their lofty perches. At the end of the race, points are awarded to the contestants as part of their world-series ranking. Yes, Penny Farthings are not just for the eccentric Brits!
On the subject of eccentricity, Nocturne’s Concours d’elegance (elegance competition) undoubtedly steals the show. A strictly no Lycra affair, the competition seeks to find the most elegant entry; best bike (hybrid, folding or classic town bikes only) as well as the most considerate cycling style.
The contestants are put through their paces with a series of urban challenges which range from pedestrians, i-phone zombies, red lights, road works, taxis and a large HGV. Needless to say, the tweed jackets and hats remain unruffled during this most elegant of races.
With investment in London’s East-West and North-South Cycle superhighways taking shape, it may well be time to ditch the oyster and invest in a Farthing for your morning commute. It could bring a whole new meaning to climbing the career ladder.
London Nocturne took place on the 4 June 2016 and is free to attend.