Today we have the pleasure to feature the story of the first Cardiff Night Ride. Written by Ed Robson, and featuring some images from us taken at the start of the event, we hope you enjoy this lovely story. And here’s to all those that bravely took part. Chapeau!
Cardiff Night Ride 2013 by Ed Robson
Just before sunset on June 22nd, the day after the solstice and shortly before the rising of the Super Full Moon, a diverse and adventurous group of around fifty cyclists convened in the beer garden of the Mochyn Du, focused on a mysterious goal, many miles and hours distant. Any onlookers may have been baffled as to how and why such a varied group had assembled, as this was certainly no ordinary cycling club, and there were no charity t-shirts anywhere to be seen. There were bikes of all descriptions, with shoppers, Pashleys, carbon road bikes, singlespeeds and mountain bikes all represented. The attire varied as much as the bikes, with quite a few more alternative garments than a normal ride. The usual lycra was complemented with lots of casual wear – a mohair cardigan teamed with skirt and flip-flops being perhaps the most memorable combo, sported by a lady whose bike had been adorned with LED fairy-lights, for aesthetics as much as visibility no doubt.
This was the inaugural Cardiff Night Ride, and these were the pioneers. At a pre-designated time as darkness fell and with no discernible signal, pints were finished, people mounted up and off they pedalled into the night, bells ringing, chatting happily as they glided between the trees of Sophia Gardens, bound for the town centre, and adventure.
Inspired by the Dunwich Dynamo, an annual ride through the night from central London to the Suffolk coast, the Cardiff Night Ride has no sponsor, no corporate branding and no registration. There are no support vehicles, start or finish lines, no timing chips and no medals. It is a return to the days when, as a child, a friend would ask you “Coming for a ride?” and off you would go, purely for the fun of it. All you get in the way of organisation is a Facebook group with a map, a start time and location. The goal this year was to reach Swansea Bay and watch the sunrise on the beach, but the real purpose of the Cardiff Night Ride is to enjoy being out on bikes, in the company of like-minded bikey-types and do it at whatever speed you like.
The sight of such a large group of cyclists was clearly a source of much amusement for the revellers of St Mary’s Street. Shouts of “Look, it’s the Tour de France!” and similar witticisms, were met with a tinkle on a bell and a quick burst of speed to escape into the Bay. Over the Barrage a blast of headwinds previewed the hardships to come and the group split into several bunches ascending the slopes into Penarth. My group soon dwindled to three. After quite some time had passed with no sight of other riders, I had become convinced that everyone had given up due to the weather, so I texted the owner of the Swansea café that had agreed to open up at 5am “They’re dropping like flies. Probably not worth your while opening five hours early, sorry”. He’d been pretty specific that he wasn’t prepared to pay his staff overtime for any less than twenty people. I was disappointed, but it looked like the three of us were going to carry on regardless.
Gradually though, over the following miles, from garage forecourts, sidestreets and bus shelters, other riders started emerging where they’d been waiting or got lost. Eventually we were all back on track. My spirits were lifted; the Night Ride was back on.
Over the following few hours, the miles were eaten up in a spirit of camaraderie not found on more conventional timing-obsessed rides, as friends were made, cows were surprised, sleeping villages were passed unawares and drunks were totally bewildered as the ride passed by in the company of occasional bats. This was the antithesis of a race; people supported each other and roughly-matched riders naturally formed groups and found a suitable pace, waiting for each other in the darkness and laughing as they rode.
“Oh, bikes! I stoled a bike!” slurred a drunk lady in Llantwit, clinging to a friend for support and struggling to focus on the fast-moving headlamps. The Super Full Moon made a brief appearance as the clouds parted; the headwind turned tail at Ogmore and sheep had to watch out as the ride swept past in a blur. Headlights threw crazy surreal shapes on the road as riders’ shadows appeared, grew, merged and vanished, confusing already tired eyes and minds.
Eventually, after around six hours; the beach. Relief. Aching muscles and joints relaxed into the soft, damp sand. Photographs were taken, stories compared, some took a dip in the sea. The super-moon sank and the dawn broke as the tide came in.
Gradually, other groups arrived, looking satisfied and exhausted. Their odysseys through the night completed. Train times back to Cardiff were discussed, cafes were sought, and the first ever Cardiff Night Ride was over.