Three Bridges

I’m not doing enough riding these days, so… dammit! I’ll go for a night ride, straight after my fencing lesson…

So I took the 28 (700c x 32, with 110mm cranks) because it has lights, and it’s faster than the 24, but safer in the dark than the Coker. I took my LED head torch too.

Down to the river, then along the narrow tarmac path past the football training ground. The path is wide enough for 2 pedestrians side by side, but 3/4 of it is covered with a thick slimy carpet of autumn leaves. The floodlights of the training ground destroy my night vision, and the LED head torch adds nothing to the occasion. I ride by feel, fingers lighty holding the Miyata handle, feeling the movement of the uni, and balancing by reflex.

I ride under the arch of the old railway bridge, and nearly collide with a female bicyclist who swoops down from a path on my left. I try to keep up with her, but she’s reasonably fit (a rower, by the look of things) and I don’t want to overdo it and UPD. Across the front of the Forest football ground it is well lit, and the tarmac is smooth, so I sprint for a hundred metres or so. (This is probably where I hit the max speed for the ride: 13mph (21 kmh) which isn’t specatacular, but I’m not trying too hard.

As expected the female bicyclist stops at the rowing club. A few rowers express mild surprise as I ride past.

Then it’s down a steepish slope and under the tunnel beneath Trent Bridge. Here, the head torch helps. The first part of the tunnel is smooth tarmac; the second is big cobble stones. This is followed by a winding S shaped slope upwards which used to catch me out a year or two back. I have to stand on the pedals (110mm cranks) but there is no technical challenge now.

As I cruise along the waterfront the lights of the pub across the river reflect on the slightly choppy river. It’s quite breezy, enough to make me have to duck my head now and again against the stronger gusts. I pass a couple of yobs, peeing against a tree outside the County Hall. A political statement? I doubt it. I expect abuse, but get only an inarticulate cry of surprise.

The next bridge is the suspension bridge. This is a footbridge with a slatted timber deck, and is quite high above the river, so there’s a block-paved slope leading up to it. Anti-car bollards make the approach and exit slightly tricky, and I have to stand on the pedals to ride up, and take care as I descend. Half way across, I meet a courting couple. She breaks off mid-sweet-nothing to stare as I ride past.

Showing off a bit, I swoop down the sloping grass in the brightest patch of light, until I get to the riverside, then I ride under the suspension bridge and along the rough uneven tarmac track, as far as the next bridge. This section is badly lit, except for the incidental light of the buildings across the river, which make the whole river surface sparkle gold and silver.

A flotilla of kayaks comes down river. These are serious athletes, out training in the dark, from the Nottingham Kayak Club (my dad was a founder member, I think) and I watch their tiny red LEDs glow as they glide past, paddles barely splashing. A group of K2s (two seaters) also passes, paddles flashing in perfect unison.

The next bridge is the Toll bridge, now a well lit, well surfaced footbridge with a cycle lane. From here, I ride up onto the top of the flood bank alongside the road. The surface is bobbly grass and mud - the sort of thing that was a challenge 2 years ago. Now I’m on a 700c with short cranks, in the dark, and I have enough brain space left to think about how much easier it is.

I realise that for much of the last 1/2 mile, I’ve hardly looked at the ground at all and I’ve not needed my torch. This idea of holding the handle lightly, and feeling the terrain is great. Don’t hold the handle tightly unless you’re really pulling on it.

There follows a section of grit path, then a narrow tarmac path between high walls. The head torch is needed here, but sometimes the security lights of the flats behind the wall are too dazzling.

As I come out near the suspension bridge, I hear runners’ feet slap slap slapping down the slope. A dozen runners appear in front of me. I’m surprised to find I can’t keep up with them. these are runners, not joggers. Of course, I’d beat 'em over 40 miles. ;0)

As I approach Trent Bridge, I decide to ride up onto the pavement and cross the bridge. I find myself caught up in a tide of runners who overtake me. At least they clear my path across the bridge: there are cyclists and pedestrians everywhere, pressed against the parrapet, or diving for cover! At the end of the bridge, I come to the finishing line of the run, where a coach with a clip board and watch is writing things down. The runners are milling around, blocking my path. I ride through, as one or two of the more aware ones shout a warning.

Then it’s down the slope, under the bridge, up the slope, and over the bridge, and down the slope onto the river bank. For the first time ever, I’ve done the full ‘clover leaf’ of Trent Bridge: under the tunnel on each side of the river, and over the bridge on each side of the road. I guess that the ‘clover leaf’ alone would be 1/2 mile or so, and a year or two back, riding it ‘in one’ it would have been an achievement. Now it’s just something I notice with quiet satisfaction.

From here, it’s back down the river, and towards the car. Over 5 miles covered, with no UPDs… until 5 yards before my planned dismount, I get complacent, and step off unintentionally. At least I don’t drop the seat… but it’s still a failure, even if only I know. (Now you lot do, of course.)

5.31 miles (8.54 km)
39:28.
Average speed, around 8 mph (around 13kmh)
Max speed 13 mph.

Not brilliant figures, but a 5 mile night ride at a steady speed, and very pleasant.