Wednesday, 15 June 2011

My experience of the Nightrider 2011 charity bike ride

I signed up for this event last August, and finally rode it on Saturday June 11th this year. The Nightrider is a 100km charity bike ride around London at night. This year there were 1000 riders taking part. The groups of cyclists were being set off from 11pm onwards in groups of 50 at 6 minute intervals. I would be in the 11:18pm group.

There were two start points. You could start at either Crystal Palace or Alexandra Palace. I opted to start at Crystal Palace.

I was riding the event to raise awareness and funds for Arthritis Research UK as I have friends and family who are affected by this condition. I had to raise a minimum of £175 in order to take part in the event. At the time of writing I have raised £275, so I've exceeded the target. My aim is to raise £300, so I still have some more fund raising to go.

I would be staying over in London at my friend Don's. He lives in Chatham, Kent, which is a 45 minute drive from Crystal Palace. The plan was for me to leave Kettering at around midday on the Saturday and get to Don's for around 2 - 2:30pm. I arrived at just after 3pm thanks to a massive queue for the Dartford Crossing.

I spent the afternoon / evening relaxing, as I had a long night ahead. Don and his son Tom would be meeting me at various points around the course to cheer me on, and would meet me at the finish to take me back to Don's.

I arrived at Crystal Palace in plenty of time. I was already wearing my cycling kit, as well as a hi-viz waistcoat with my number attached to it..I got the bike and myself ready, and checked everything over to make sure it all worked. Even though I had already done this earlier in the week, I still wanted to do a last minute check of the equipment.

I could see lots of other cyclists getting ready. There was a vast range of ages taking part. There were all sorts of bikes too, from tandems to tourers to urban hybrids to racing bikes. All types of bike were well represented.

I chatted away with Tom and Don until my start time arrived. As each group was set off into the night, there was a massive cheer from everyone. The atmosphere was excellent. Everyone was very friendly, and I got talking to lots of other cyclists as I waited for my start time.

As the 11:12pm starters set off, I made my way to the start area to be set off. Eventually 11:18pm arrived. With another cheer from the crowd (including Don and Tom) I set off into the night with my allocated group of 50 cyclists.
The route is marked throughout the entire length of the course with yellow signs on which is an arrow indicating the direction of travel. Mostly these were easy to spot, but at times were tricky to find, or were a bit misleading. This could have been down to people moving them earlier in the day for mischief, or maybe they were just not always very well positioned. I would recommend that all signs are placed in the same position at all junctions i.e. to the left. Sometimes they were positioned in the middle of a junction or to the right of the junction, so quite often you would be looking around for the sign as you approached a junction.

Not long after leaving Crystal Palace I cycled past Don and Tom who had stopped nearby to give me another shout of encouragement. The first control stop for refreshments was Tower Bridge, but I didn't bother stopping, I decided to just keep riding. It was about midnight and was still very busy.

Throughout the event I rode with many different groups and riders, everyone was very friendly. I missed a few of the direction signs, but thankfully I hadn't gone too far before I realised. In the dark it was not always easy to spot the signs, and this is where riding in a group is so much more beneficial, as there are many more eyes to look out for direction signs. With a background in Audax (long distance) cycling, I never assumed the rider at the front had seen the signs, and I would shout out the direction as soon as I knew which way to go.

I was amazed by how busy London was. Throughout the ride, the streets of London were almost permanently busy, particularly in the city centre. Even at 4am, the city centre was heaving. It was full of revellers, taxis, cars, rickshaws and buses. Often the revellers would just walk into the road right in front of you, as they were clearly the worse for wear. It was not always easy finding a safe line through the traffic and people, and I had a few near misses with some of the traffic, including a few near misses with taxis.

It was moments like that where I wasn't sure how an inexperienced cyclist would cope. Riding in busy traffic during the day is one thing, but at night where there are greater numbers of drunk revellers, rickshaws and taxis must be very daunting indeed.

It was wonderful seeing the London Eye looking resplendent in the small hours, it truly looked spectacular. Riding through Canary Wharf was the same. All the buildings looked lovely lit up by the night lights.

At one part of the ride, we rode past a smart looking gentleman standing next to a Mercedes. As we rode past he informed us that the woman in the back of the car was not wearing any knickers, and would we like to get in.

I was glad of the coffee at the half way point, as this perked me up. It was 2:45am, and a hot drink was in order.

I met Don and Tom at the next control which was the Museum, which also looked amazing at night. As I rode into the control I had a quick bite to eat, and set off with another group of cyclists who were leaving.

I was quite surprised by how poor many of the road surfaces are in London. For a major city which is hosting the next Olympics and trying to encourage greater cycle use (in part thanks to Boris Johnson and the Barclays sponsored bike scheme), I was disappointed that so many of the roads were in such disrepair. My initial worries at the start of the ride of getting lost or nodding off and falling off my bike were replaced by the possibility of getting an impact puncture from hitting a pot hole at speed.

As we rode past Big Ben we were lucky enough to hear it chime 4am. This part of the ride took us past Westminster. By this time dawn was breaking and it was getting light. I rode past a group of cyclists who were lost, and who informed us they had ridden round in a circle and didn't know which way to go. I told them they were on route and should follow me if they wanted. They didn't take me up on the offer.

As I neared the finish at Crystal Palace, Don and Tom drove past and shouted more encouragement. Just before the finish, there is a long drag up to Crystal Palace, but nothing overly taxing. Many of the other cyclists were suffering however, and I soon rode past several of them.

I eventually rode into Crystal Palace and the finish. It felt great to have ridden such a brilliant event. Not everyone can claim to have cycled 100km around London at night. It's certainly a fantastic event, and one which I would recommend to any cyclist who is confident riding in busy traffic and feels comfortable riding with other cyclists in the dark.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Jack Schitt


For some time many of us have wondered just who is Jack Schitt?

We find ourselves at a loss when someone says, 'You don't know Jack Schitt!'

Well, thanks to my genealogy efforts, you can now respond in an intellectual way.

Jack Schitt is the only son of Awe Schitt. Awe Schitt, the fertilizer magnate, married O. Schitt, the owner of Needeep N. Schitt, Inc. They had one son, Jack.

In turn, Jack Schitt married Noe Schitt. The deeply religious couple produced six children: Holie Schitt, Giva Schitt, Fulla Schitt, Bull Schitt, and the twins Deep Schitt and Dip Schitt..

Against her parents' objections, Deep Schitt married Dumb Schitt, a high school dropout. After being married 15 years, Jack and Noe Schitt divorced. Noe Schitt later married Ted Sherlock, and because her kids were living with them, she wanted to keep her previous name. She was then known as Noe Schitt Sherlock.

Meanwhile, Dip Schitt married Loda Schitt, and they produced a son with a rather nervous disposition named Chicken Schitt. Two of the other six children, Fulla Schitt and Giva Schitt, were inseparable throughout childhood and subsequently married the Happens brothers in a dual ceremony. The wedding announcement in the newspaper announced the Schitt-Happens nuptials. The Schitt-Happens children were Dawg, Byrd, and Horse.

Bull Schitt, the prodigal son, left home to tour the world. He recently returned from Italy with his new Italian bride, Pisa Schitt.

Now when someone says, 'You don't know Jack Schitt,' you can correct them.


Crock O. Schitt