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Alternative Bike Races at the London Nocturne

Racing on the road is not just about road bikes

Words by Maria David

While many people focus on racing road bikes at this time of year, others like to indulge in alternative cycling events.

At the recent Rapha London Nocturne, the crowds were treated to a broad spectrum of cycle racing, as well as the typical town centre criterium racing on road bikes. Some riders donned their office wear to take part in the folding bike race, others took part in the fixed-gear race, while the real traditionalists wheeled out their Penny Farthings.

We talked to a few women who took part in these different types of bike racing.

A Penny for your thoughts

“You are in an amazing riding position and the view you get is great. Whenever I go out for a ride I can’t help smiling, and it makes everyone else smile too!”- Hannah Hawkins

Hannah Hawkins, from Devon, started riding Penny Farthings ten years ago and has been racing them for four years as she tells us: “I have been a member of the veteran cycle club for a long time and got into riding Penny Farthings when a chap called Joff Summerfield started making and selling them. I went up to Greenwich and I bought one from him, and now I’m on my third one!”

“I have a Penny for racing, and others for touring. I’ve always loved bicycles, but I find riding Penny Farthings is such good fun. I train by riding a fixed wheel bike that has the same gear ratio. You can ride uphill and downhill on a Penny, but when going downhill if the gradient is more than 1 in 7 it can be tricky, as back-pedalling to slow down can difficult. Once I had to stop myself by riding into a hedge!”

“As long as you can ride a bike you can ride a Penny Farthing. You don’t have to be particularly fit. There are quite a few people manufacturing Penny Farthings now, so when you buy one the salesperson will usually spend half a day with you going through everything.”

Patsy Harrington, from London, is a relatively new to Penny Farthing riding.

“I love that you get people of all shapes and sizes, riding Penny Farthings. Some people are sporty, some less so, it’s very inclusive. My sons ride Penny Farthings as well, and we go out as a family and do Penny Farthing rides together. It’s a really exciting type of cycling, and one of the most interesting races to watch. The Nocturne was a bit tough because it was windy, but it was good fun and nice to catch up with other people in the Penny Farthing community.”

The League of Ordinary Riders will celebrate 200 years of the bicycle with a Penny Farthing ride at Good Easter on 15-16 July

Brompton racing

“I don’t do any other type of bike riding, the Brompton is enough for me!” – Miriam Schattner

Miriam Schattner, visiting from Hamburg, Germany, is avid about racing on her folding bike as she tells us…

“I started racing Bromptons in 2004 when I got my first got mine. I got the Brompton just for fun because I liked the look of it. I liked riding it to work, and going on holiday with it, particularly as you can take it on the train and on the plane very easily.”

“The Brompton community is so friendly and people are welcoming at the races. When you have a Brompton you take photos of it and that way you make contact with the community and people start inviting you to events. My first Brompton race was exciting, but I was so nervous. However, the other Brompton racers were so nice, they gave me tips, and I felt like I was part of the family.”

“I have a Brompton for commuting and another one for racing. The gears on my racing Brompton are bigger than on the ones I commute with, so I can get up to a higher speed. The bike is also lighter and there are no bits on it like a dynamo and commuting items. When we do the Le Mans style start in the races [a mass start involving running up to your bike and unfolding it from the gun] I normally start in front of my bike and I have the flag of my hometown on the bike so that I can find it easily. But at the Nocturne, I actually ran past my bike! My main tip when racing is to just switch off your brain and ride!”

The World Brompton Championships will take place at Prudential Ride London on 29 July

Fixie Love

For Alexandra Diem, from Southampton, fixed-gear racing is more like an extension of track cycling but with slightly different gears.

“My first fixed-gear race was the Red Hook Criterium series. I enjoyed it so much that I have tried to race as much as possible, so I go to many different places to race. I don’t do specific training, as my training is really just from what I do at the track sessions. And then fixed-gear racing also helps me with my bike handling when I go back to my track races. I like fixed-gear racing because the atmosphere is so much more laid back than what you find in any other type of racing.”

Yewande Adesida from London only took up fixed-gear racing this year, after her team-mate, Eeva Saarlling encouraged her to have a go.

“The Nocturne was my first crit race on a fixed-gear. I was a bit scared as there were a lot of sharp turns. I got dropped but then I did what I could to try and get ahead of the group I was with. The race was interrupted due to a crash and I got a bit nervous and ended up hitting the crash barriers, but I was okay. I am really glad I did it though, and Eeva Sarlin came third, which is great. I wasn’t sure about racing at the Nocturne, but people have been really supportive. I would recommend this to other people, as the support from the other bikers is great.”

The winner of the race was the Italian former elite road racer, Jasmine Dotti, a regular on the fixed-gear racing circuit. And why does she compete in this discipline? “I love it because it’s fast and there are no brakes. There’s just so much more adrenaline than in normal road racing!”

Red Hook Fixed-Gear Races will take place on Greenwich Peninsula, London on 22 July.

The next round of the Rapha Nocturne will take place in Copenhagen on 19 August.

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