I was inspired by Nathan’s posts about the San Francisco Unicycle Tour to try something similar in London. This morning 6 riders set out on the first annual London Coker Tour. The weather was overcast and a little breezy, but not bad for November in England.
At about 8:30, after the traditional pre-ride faff, we set off from Tooting towards Earlsfield and then onwards to Wimbledon Common. This first part of the ride was on the road so we started early to avoid traffic. After an uneventful half hour or so we arrived at the Common, and the start of an almost completely traffic free 14 mile stretch all the way to Chiswick
It had rained quite a bit in the last few days so the ground on the Common was wet with plenty of slippery leaves. After a couple of missed mounts and UPDs everyone was on and were were on our way. The cycle paths across the common range from smooth hardpack to very loose sandy gravel to mud so it’s an entertaining place to ride a Coker, or a 29er with a big apple tyre. We managed to make it to the other side without mishap and crossed the footbridge over the A3 to Richmond Park.
The foot bridge has stepped ramps at each side. Alan and Liam had a go at riding down them. Alan managed a couple of steps, Liam managed the whole of the one ramp, a impressive feat, especially as he uses SPDs
Richmond Park was originally the Kings deer park where he used to hunt. Nowadays it’s mostly used by cyclists, horse riders and walkers, and on a Sunday morning you see a lot of very expensive road bikes doing laps at high speed. Our route took us through the centre of the park, past a large group of deer, a large group of cyclists, and out of Ham gate heading towards the River Thames. The cyclists were very impressed to see 6 unicyclists, the deer didn’t say much.
At the crossroads in Ham disaster struck. Alan was hopping on the spot waiting for the lights to change when there was an ominous crack from his Coker. It wasn’t immediately obvious what had happened and we thought perhaps he’d snapped a spoke. We rode on towards the river and it became obvious all was not right. Closer inspection revealed a crack in the hub, with only the crank bolt holding the crank on. Alan decided to try and ride it carefully to Richmond where he could get the tube, but when he attempted a free mount the axle finally gave way leaving him with only one crank, and a 3 mile walk to the station.
We made our way along the Thames to Richmond, some riding, some on foot and stopped in the cafe by the river for tea (or coffee) and cake. The cakes were excellent, heartily recommended. UK riders will understand that tea and cake are essential components for a good Coker ride, along with beer. Our next scheduled stop was the Fullers brewery, so we had that covered. Once we’d finished our tea and cake Alan left for the station and the remaining five riders continued down the river, past Kew gardens towards Chiswick.
We crossed over the river at Chiswick bridge, by the finish line of the Oxford-Cambridge boat race, and continued up the north bank towards the brewery.
After a hearty lunch washed down with some very fine ales we were ready to continue. Rich decided to rest his knee so he took the tube (and Alan’s broken uni) and agreed to meet us later on.
The next few miles of the ride was back on roads, but almost all of them are quiet back streets with little or no traffic. The route winds its way through Hammersmith, cuts across the south of Shepherds Bush, up into Notting Hill and then round and down to Kensington Gardens. There was a lot of stop start riding as we crossed several busy roads, but we made good time and were soon in Kensington Gardens heading to the Albert Memorial where we’d arranged to meet Rich.
After photos by the memorial Rich and Alan swapped again with Alan heading for the tube and Rich joining the rest of us for the next part of the ride. We headed east out of Kensington Gardens and over the road into Hyde Park. We rode up the side of the Serpentine and out of the gate at Hyde Park Corner. We crossed the roundabout, rode under the Wellington Arch and then down Constitution Hill to Buckingham Palace.
After yet more photos we headed down The Mall to Trafalgar Square. Constitution Hill and The Mall are closed to motor vehicles on Sundays so we had a completely traffic free ride all the way from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square.
More photos in Trafalgar Square, then a short walk down to the river and over the bridge to the South Bank where we met Alan next to the London Eye.
To be continued…