When we left you in part one of our 2016 review (available here) we had got to the end of June, and boy what a six months we'd had! Leading group rides for a growing bunch of London cyclists of all abilities in Surrey, Kent, Essex and Windsor was the best start we could have hoped for. Taking groups over some of the best climbs in the area, stopping at best coffee shops and pubs, and showing people just how far they could go was exactly what we'd set out to do.
It was incredible to watch everyone's desire to go further, faster and higher increase as we took on longer rides and challenges, including London 2 Brighton. All the while, groups of new riders were joining and taking advantage of our beginner rides; themselves growing in confidence and surprising themselves with their improvement. However it was July to December where things really went up a notch...
Rather fittingly, July started with the most famous bike ride of all time; the Tour De France! This gave us a great opportunity take on the Kent Alps to mark the start of the race, before watching the Grand Depart on TV. This was the start of a July spent in Hex or The Dynamo, post ride, watching a guy called Chris win the tour...again!
The day after the Grand Depart, a small group of DW members took on a slightly different challenge: track cycling. We couldn't have been more blown away by our experience at the velodrome. Chris Hoy we weren't, but it was a good start, and opened us up to yet more options outside of road cycling and we will definitely be back for more.
July was also when Ride London training really began to ramp up, as everyone upped their distances to well over 100km weekend after weekend in the Surrey Hills. Training on large parts of the route definitely helped to make things easier on the day, and gave us some great group rides in the sunshine. We hope everyone enjoyed it, and found them useful - much more of the same next year (more info below).
Another event that passed slightly under the radar for us was the Dunwich Dynamo. The overnight ride from Hackney to the Suffolk coast, which happens every July. Thankfully it didn't pass Papiya by; she smashed the 200km ride and watched the sun come up at the beach! Again proving what an awesome road cyclist she has become. Well done Paps.
July gave us another opportunity to showcase just how amazing cycling in the UK is and to prove that you don't have to go abroad to experience great riding. Our trip to the Peaks in May had helped to do this, but it was our weekend down in Bath that really proved how easy it is to get out of London to experience beautiful cycling. Taking a group of cyclists to the Mendips, especially Cheddar Gorge, in the blazing July sunshine was a highlight of the year.
Ride London is one of the best sportives in the world, not so much for the size and scope of the event, but because it allows so many cyclists every year to prove to themselves that they can ride 100 miles in a day. Loads of our members signed up, and we loved helping you train, offering advice, and catching up afterwards. Spending so much time with everyone on the training rides in the run up to the event, we were well versed in everyone's fears: 'it's too far, what about the hills, what if we can't finish'. It was brilliant to hang out with everyone after the event and hear all about how they'd completely smashed their predicted times, and absolutely loved riding the event.
Having beers and snacks with everyone in a sunny Green Park was the icing on the cake! We can't tell you how proud we are of those who took part, especially the 'new' cyclists like Helena, Papiya and Lottie, as well as everyone else who rode. If you have never ridden the event then you should sign up ASAP - click here for details.
Ride London, whilst a great event for us (still annoyed about that puncture), was quite a painful ride! Knee and back pain mean that we finally gave in and sought professional help. By this of course we mean getting a bike fit, not seeing a shrink (no matter how many times a 'non-cyclist' tells us we need to). We did loads of shopping around, but finally got in touch with Super Domestique, in Shoreditch, for our first ever bike fit. We couldn't have been more impressed with the results, and can safely say that the process definitely rescued our year's riding -another 3,500km in that pain would've been a disaster!
You can read the blog series here (we enjoyed it so much we wrote three). We were even more delighted to have Super Domestique come on board as our official bike fit partner. Getting 15% off fits, many of our members have already taken advantage of Elliott's expertise and had their ride experience transformed. Thanks for all your help this year Elliott and the Super Domestique team.
We've loved taking large groups down to Brighton for fish & chips, but one perfect day in early August, we decided to ride back to London as well! Not only was it a perfect sunny day, but it was also Brighton Pride Festival - #ridetopride was born! A large group of us rode over 200km in blazing sunshine (and in our brightest kit) on an incredible route, leading Steve to call it 'the ride of the year'. High praise indeed. However in 2017 we might not eat large burger and chips directly before riding up Devils Dyke! It was a great day out, and one we will be repeating in 2017.
August also saw us recruit the services of wonderful photographer and friend Patrick Douetil to take some seriously pro photos in Richmond Park. With the sun going down a small group of us posed, pouted and 'sucked in' for Patrick and Lewis to capture our best side. The results are fantastic and can be found all over our website. If you are in need of a photographer (cycling or otherwise) then get in touch on the link above. Thanks to everyone who came and helped out, you're all famous now!
Another highlight of our year was heading north of the border to ride in Scotland with our PT and FST partner Andrew Cowderoy Fit For Life. Scotland is possibly our favourite place in the world to ride, so it was great to zip up to The Trossachs for a weekend of beautiful hills. Andrew, Sian, Will and Adrian were the perfect riding partners, and the Cowderoy family the perfect hosts - thanks for everything guys!
As well as trips away and amazing long rides, we continued to run evening and beginner rides throughout August, helping to get more and more people out on the road. The continued improvement and development of old and new faces really was a pleasure to watch! From spinning around Epping Forest and Surrey in the evenings, to riding London 2 Cambridge, we've loved every single ride over the summer.
Despite summer being 'over', we certainly didn't slow down, and it was wonderful that none of you did either! We celebrated the beginning of autumn with a Dirty Wknd in Norfolk, and a ride out to lovely Southwold! This was our first Norfolk DW ride, in collaboration with All About The Ride, and it was a huge success. Thanks to Lex from ATTR and everyone who came along for a ride with us. The next day a group including David, Ben, Amelia and Phil also took on the North Norfolk Triathlon in Wells - an incredible day and a tough challenge. Well done everyone!
The Tour of Britain is fast becoming a much watch event, so when we found out the finale was a circuit race in Central London, we just knew we had to be there to watch. After a prolonged breakfast at Rapha (waiting for Steve to wash his hair) we managed to get a great spot at the finish line to watch the sprint. We weren't disappointed, and would highly recommend getting out to watch a stage next year. Thanks to Steve for being chief photographer!
September also saw us switch our midweek rides from evening to early morning, with no drop in enthusiasm or attendance. Sunrise rides became a weekly highlight; riding in Epping Forest or Richmond Park as the sun comes up is really spectacular. Massive thanks the Helena (@the_fitadvisor) for leading Thursday morning beginner laps in RP - the confidence and help you've given new riders has been invaluable. Thanks also to Jane, Karin, Laura and everyone else who's joined Helena.
One of our favourite things in the whole world is when a group who meet on our rides go off and enter other events/rides without us. This happened in September as a team of awesome women cyclists, including Helena, Lottie and Eve, took on the Rapha Prestige event. The Prestige is a nearly 100 mile checkpoint ride where you have to plot your own route. The fact that these guys didn't own a Garmin before starting shows what an achievement it was. Chapeau ladies!
October was the month of big rides. We'd had a summer of constant riding; now was the time to test our legs! The Legs Of Steel Sportive, a particularly hilly course in Surrey, was the perfect vehicle for this test. Starting at Box Hill in the pouring rain, which didn't stop, it certainly was a difficult day in the saddle. The great attitude of our group and the excellent organisation meant that we all got round in good spirits (even Barhatch didn't stop us). The fact that the sun came out for the last 10km was a little bonus, finished off with a lovely pub lunch. Thanks to Lucy and the Ful on Tri club for their impeccable organisation. If you're looking for an end of season sportive look no further than Legs of Steel.
Big ride number 2 came in the form of 'The One V2.0'. Clearly we hadn't learnt our lesson last time, as we even added a few more hills! Resident sadist Ben (Not In The Peloton) created the route and we were once again joined by the lovely people at UKCycleChat. Our little band of riders from V1.0 had swelled to a large group of about 25 as we set off. Not everyone completed the whole course, but a great time was certainly had by all. Calls for V3.0 are currently at 'deafening roar' levels - we're sure Ben will be up to the task of creating another route to torture everyone again. Thanks (not really) Ben!
Our group trip to Sardinia in October could not have come at a better time! The weather was just starting to turn by the end of October, with full finger gloves and winter bootie starting to make an appearance. What better way to deal with it than to jet off to the Med for some 30 degree sunshine! We joined our partners Grand Tours Project out there for 4 perfect days of cycling, eating and drinking! Sardinia is a playground of quiet roads, amazing scenery and a few tough climbs. The Apres Bike (it's a thing!) was also incredible. If you're looking for some winter sun, check out our Feb & March trips here. Thanks to Alain, Marcello & Simone for guiding us!
Big ride number 3 came on Halloween in the form of our Rude Health ride with Andrew Cowderoy, Queen of the Mountains & Saddle Drunk. Around 35 of us met at Rude Health Cafe in Fulham for a spooky Surrey ride. Two large groups covered two different routes, all ending up back at the cafe for brunch. It was great to see so many turn out; thanks to everyone who was involved, and Andrew for leading group one.
Whilst we clearly love cycling, we are also massive fans of anything that gets you out into the countryside being active. Walking and hiking are a great way to get people out of the city and it couldn't be easier to do just outside of London. Our first group walk up to Leith Hill tower was a brilliant day out, and something we hope to do a lot more of in 2017. Thanks for all your help organising and map reading Laura & Adam.
November also saw the arrival of the London Six Day Cycling Festival, and we were lucky enough to be there, thanks to Blaze Lights. It's an incredible display of track cycling and a great night out. Watching Cav, Wiggo and a host of other track pros battle it out live was fantastic. Tickets are now on sale for next year (Oct 2017) and we'd highly recommend going!
A rare free Saturday also allowed us the opportunity to ride with a different club for once, namely the Pretorius guys and girls in East London. Pretorius have been making bikes and kit and running club rides for a few years now, and have built up and incredible following. It was great to join them for the morning and ride fast and hard in a tight formation. It's also great to meet a new group of London cyclists. If you're looking for a more serious ride on the east side of the city (or an awesome titanium bike) then definitely click this link.
The first weekend in December was all about the Dirty Wknd Christmas Party! A chance to don our best Christmas jumpers (or pudding onsies) and go for an awesome group bike ride, followed by pizza and beer at The Dynamo. It was so amazing to celebrate our first Christmas with all of you, especially as everyone made such an amazing effort with Christmas decorations. Amongst very fierce competition, rider and costume of the day went to Justine who, on only her second ride with us, dressed up and rode as a Christmas pudding! Kudos Justine. Thanks also to The Dynamo for having us - excellent pizza, beer and service as always!
The following weekend saw us embark on yet another Christmas ride; this time that of our new partners Viva Velo Cycling Tours. We are incredibly pleased to be partnering with the guys for next year, and were thrilled to be asked to help lead one of the groups out to Windsor. Three large groups (split by ability) set off from Richmond heading for Windsor and the lovely Cinnamon Cafe, before returning to the pub in Ham. It was a great ride, and we can't wait to do it all again on the 14th for the next Viva Velo Club Ride
In December we also took part in our first Pure Ride performance cycling class and couldn't have been more surprised and pleased with the results. We don't train with much data, so it was incredible to take part in an intense interval class, with RPM, watts and FTW info to work with. We are in talks with Pure Ride about partnering for 2017, so hopefully we'll have some really interesting things to bring your way very soon!
Not content with taming the Tourmalet in the Summer, Dirty Wknd member Paz Brennan decided that as a little Christmas present to himself he would solo cycle from Panama to Mexico City! He's not finished yet, so click this link to check out his Strava and give him some much deserved Kudos! Can't wait to hear all about it and ride with you when you get back Paz!
All that is left to do is name our coveted Rider of the Year Award. There could have been 20 members who we could easily have named rider of the year, but one person stood out that tiny bit more than the rest (it's all about marginal gains remember). We are of course talking about Papiya 'Pocket Rocket' De! When Papiya came to us on a brand new road bike in spring she was just managing a few laps of Richmond Park. A few short months later, she was in the Alps smashing Cols and riding over night to Dunwich! We couldn't be more proud of your progress Papiya and can't wait to see you sky rocket even further in 2017! Now, if you could just show up on time.... ;)
That brings us to the end of our 2016 review. So many more amazing things have happened throughout the year, but unfortunately we can't fit them all into one blog post. We must thank all of our ride leaders, partners and friends for an amazing year; your help and support has been absolutely vital.
And we couldn't leave without thanking you guys: the members! Watching you improve every week, whether you're a beginner making huge leaps, or a pro making marginal gains, is what spurs us on. We've loved every second of it, and hope you've enjoyed it as much as we have. If it sounds like something you want to get involved with then find out all the details of joining as a member by clicking this link.
What a year 2016 has been. Here's to an even better 2017!!