Beep, Beep, Beep, Beep! I turn over in bed on a cold dampish Sunday morning absolutely exhausted from the previous nights fireworks mayhem only to see it's 8.30 AM! I have 25 minutes to grab my gear and bike and high-tail it to the station.
Arrive at Leatherhead only to find that the ticket machine and permit to travel machines are busted, ah well free travel to London for me. After a change at Epsom I find myself at Waterloo and grab some coffee and munchies for brekky and head over to the clock.
As I walk up to the group of 20-30 riders I think, hmmm this is awkward I don't know anyone here, but once everyone realises I am there for the same reason they are, all anyone asks is "where you from? What you ridin?" and all the usual getting to know you stuff.
We start to stream out of Waterloo pulling wheelies and manuals just to please the crowds, like you do. We make our way to the London Eye to meet the others coming from the various other stations around London. As we get to the Eye there's no one there(!) so we head off to the Southbank and sure enough, the missing rabble of bikers are there warming up on a set of stairs just next to Waterloo Bridge. There were a couple of hard tail riders pulling some sick stairs gaps and these were no picnic; the stairs had a small kink in them so accuracy was as important as getting the distance to land the transition right! After a brief warm up session it's straight to the various stair sets around the London Imax. There are a variety of stair gaps but the favourites have to be the narrow set that produced some top quality jumping for those that chose to do so. After a short session here it was off again to southbank.
Some general hanging around and fun street trials stuff were being put down till someone spots a stair gap running up to pavement on Waterloo Bridge. After much inspection it was decided that they were jumpable so with a few adjustments to shocks and a makeshift pallet ramp installed at the top, we were off! Colin and Tank flew the gap with ease and it wasn't easy - the landing had a very short run off and was exceptionally tight. It was on Tank's second attempt that disaster struck: he came up just a wee bit short and caught his back wheel on the top step! This resulted in a death defying superman style bar ride then over the top and into the concrete. Check reader videos for the whole thing - it's SCARY. Tank only suffered the usual cuts, scrapes and bruises - the bike however was trashed!
A bit later...
After a bite to eat and a bit of hanging around at the Millenium Bridge, we decided to race through London to the huge set of stairs at Pall Mall.
Off we went! Its was like a hoard of locusts ripping through a crop of people, cars, buses and taxis on the streets of London. The buzz was amazing as I hung back to see this swarm of riders whipping in and out of the stationary traffic. At Waterloo Bridge the leading pack dived left to cross the bridge but they needed to go straight on down The Strand to Trafalgar Square and turn left down Pall Mall. They didn't hear us screaming after them so the 20 or so riders at the back made their way to the stairs and just rode around up and down the stairs waiting for the lost riders to find their way.
Finally the noisy rabble had rejoined us and we set upon a huge 40 rider session down the stairs: it looked awesome! The entire stair width was taken up with riders and people had to wait for us while we gathered together and caught it on film.
Then someone noticed Kettle up on a ledge next to the stairs.
Now this ledge is no more than a foot wide and there were 3 sideward drops on to the stairs below. The drops came in three flavours: nine foot, 15 foot and 21 foot (these are approximate sizes, I left my ruler at home!). Kettle straddled his full sus steed and proceeded to nail the first drop.
So back up to the ledge to check out the second drop. By now a rather large crowd of 100-150 people or so had joined us in this awe-inspiring attempt. Kettle remounted and smoothly dropped the second step to a huge roar from us and everyone else there. Following this attempt kettle proceeded to eye up the third drop but along came the police and explained to us that we were on the Queen's property and if we ride these steps again we would be faced with a £200 fine! Now some time had passed and I think the whole buzz had got to everyone and there was talk of will he do it? I think if he had and they slapped the fine on him then at least a whip round from the riders and spectators would have covered the fine but suffice to say the third lay undefeated.till next time.
Time was against us it was getting a little dark and everyone was feeling a little tired by now so we hopped back on the bikes and proceeded back to southbank. Now for me this was amazing - we absolutely flew down Pall Mall towards Trafalgar Square where everyone took different routes down to Whitehall. As we cruised down Whitehall at quite a pace there was an anti war protest so we expressed ourselves vocally much to the enjoyment of the protesters (not sure the 30 or so police there felt the same) As we turned onto Westminster bridge we OWNED the road and were holding up buses, cars and taxis it was great! As we reached southbank everyone split there different ways some stayed back and chatted a bit, but eventually we all dispersed to allow London to carry on.
My personal experience of the event was amazing I didn't do any riding due to a ankle injury but these guys have inspired me to become a better rider and the friendliness of everyone that day made me some new friends. Every city should hold these rides as they bring together a sort of mobile event were the standard of riding is amazing. Whilst I think back to that day it just makes me feel like I want to go out there and ride! That's what its all about isn't it? While the trails are too wet and wild to get any good jumping in there's always the street alternative (which I have to say is a whole lot of fun!).
All words and pics by Mark Neal Chek out a couple of vids of the ride in the videos section