The Fridays' first multi-day tour was from London to John O'Groats. Founder Simon Legg wrote all about it in the December 2012/January 2013 issue of 'Cycle', the CTC's members-only magazine. The piece is in the CTC's archives but you can read it all right here:
In the spring of 2008 (back when the Friday Night Ride to the Coast was an event run by the Cheam and Morden CTC group, before it became the raison d'être for The Fridays, a whole new CTC club of its own), the event made such an impact arriving in Bognor Regis that it featured in the local paper:
Around the same time, FNRttC Founder Simon Legg wrote a piece for The Guardian's Two Wheels series that perfectly captures the mystique of riding at night as opposed to riding in daylight. It was this article -- in a 'serious' daily paper -- that drew the attention of many first timers, some of us are still riding with us today. The link is still 'live' but you can read it all right here:
Adventures of the night riders
Midnight at Hyde Park Corner. Forty or so cyclists gather under Constitution Arch. There is last-minute banana-munching and talk of weather forecasts. It's the start of a night ride.
By turns lessons in astronomy and convivial adventures, night rides are cycling with conversation; with a touch of the exotic and a smidge of romance. They are cycling à la mode - creatures of the internet, advertised by email and recorded on YouTube. And this is no ordinary night ride. This is the Cheam and Morden CTC Friday Night Ride to the Coast.
For the how, follow the link below. The why is simplicity itself. If you live in southern England and hanker after quiet roads and good company, then you've got to look beyond those clever maps with wiggly green lines denoting roads that are crammed with 4x4s stuffed with ruddy-faced commuters, children being ferried to rugby practice and families on their way to the garden centre. So that hankering will seek not just the place, but the time. And the time is that magic interlude between cars: the seven hours between chucking out and opening up.
Off we go, then, through the spangled pastures of Belgravia, around Sloane Square and off into the soft underbelly of the capital.
A quick comfort stop in the bushes of Clapham Common and then down, through the gateway that is Balham, past drunks in Tooting, and out on to the wastes of Mitcham. At this point the temperature drops. There's a sudden seriousness. Our little peloton thins, and then gathers every few miles. The first-timers look about them, seeking assurance. The regulars get into their groove.
By 1.30am the streetlights are exhausted. We go over the Downs, our super-duper LEDs scattering wildlife and cars alike, and then descend, all of a rush, into Reigate. On Lonesome Lane's smooth tarmac, white-lined at the side, the skein of light stretches as the fast riders tear round corners, scattering mist. Into Horley. If we're lucky we won't skid on the sick. If we're very lucky we'll see young people doing it in a car park. And then a front door opens.
A figure framed by light. Tourist Tony.
Quite why Tourist Tony feeds all-comers at 2.45 in the morning is beyond understanding. Cake, pizza, dhal, tea, coffee and more coffee are all dispensed with a gentle humour that forgives doziness and a disinclination to wash up. Young women, claiming cold toes, are turfed out of his bed. All is done in 45 minutes, and we're on our way, past the ostrich farm and the Iron Age settlement, down a track that turns into a field, under the motorway and then southwards, coastwards.
This is a guided ride, tenderly organised. Tail-end Charlies keep tabs on the stragglers and sort out mechanicals. Your correspondent shuffles from front to back, counting. We have our share of whippets, but we also have our share of wide-eyed innocents, some of a prosperous build. Celebratory ciggies are lit on hilltops. We have people who have never ridden 60 miles before, people who have never been on a CTC ride and people who have never ridden at night. There's no timetable, and this is definitely not about the bike. Spokey-dokeys are allowed, if not encouraged. The age range is five to 66. Guardian readers are in the minority.
On the long downhill to Ardingly a new order takes hold. This is the time of the tandems. If you're smart you'll latch on to the back, but should you miss the opportunity you'll see them sail by, lit at all quarters like ocean-going liners.
Dawn at Ditchling. An oil company executive on a bike enters stage left with Thermos flasks of coffee. We look at the Beacon, and, one by one, set off for our date with the unforgiving truth. At the top there's a whooping and a hollering, or, on a good day, an impromptu rendition of the Ode to Joy. I'm afraid I've worn out the "Gentlemen in England now abed ..." line, but it's no less true now than it was three years and 20 odd rides ago.
Down to Brighton, the sea and breakfast. We'll see roadies cracking up toward Ditchling, and goths staggering out of clubs. Cafe owners open early on the promise of CTC locustry. Full English breakfasts are wolfed down by the dozen. And then the train home. Contentment spreads itself around like cream on hot pie. We'll dine out on the tale for months afterwards, but, for now, we're happy to sort the memories into some kind of order.
The Cheam and Morden CTC Friday Night ride to the Coast leaves Hyde Park Corner at midnight under the full moon from March to November. The next ride is on May 16. Destinations include Brighton, Southend and Wittering. Good lights and pre-registration are essential.