08 June 2009

No lights? It's OK at Smithfield Nocturne

Saturday night was Smithfield Nocturne, an annual set of evening cycle races of varying degrees of seriousness round the meat market area (which is, of course, closed to traffic).

(There are some nice pics at Booksnake's Flickr site.)

Most serious, and therefore least interesting, was the 50-minute proper cycle race.

The good thing about it was that you could nip into one of the many pubs lining the route - some of them offering special cyclist discounts on beer, a notion that deserves to be popularised.

So long as you spent an integral multiple of a lap time in the pub, you came out feeling that no time had passed, because everything looked exactly the same as the instant you went in. This is the nearest I get to understanding the time-dilation consequences of Relativity.

Less serious, and therefore more entertaining, was the Commuter Cycle Race. Racers - mostly men, but a few women too - wear suits and ties and shorts. They start the race by running a few yards to their bikes, which they have to unfold and then ride five laps.

It's a fun event, but there is so much potential here to extend its commercial and media appeal by bringing in a few more fun, two-lap events, to celebrate Real Cycling. For example...

Real Cycling race. The winner is the one adjudged to be carrying the most absurd luggage - ironing board, snooker table, full paddling pool, etc - and who actually manages to finish two laps.

Real Touring race. The winner is the one who in the course of two laps visits most pubs, restaurants and cafes en route. Points system for consumed wine, coffee, cake etc. (Time limit possibly needed.)

Real Business race. Any pedalled commercial vehicle: sandwich bikes, ice-cream vendors, beer wagons. The winner is the one who makes most sales to spectators.

Real Cycle Taxi race. The winner is the one who manages to take the longest alternative route to the course circuit and fabricate the most untrue history about locations en route.

Real Commuting race. The track is blocked by taxis, cars and buses, which you have to weave in between. The winner is the first one to blog about it.


  1. I love it, especially the Commuter Race. What a British way of behaving like barbarians at the weekend ;0).

  2. Sure, but the /real/ commuter race would be a bunch of people racing around on fixies, wearing spandex-- and a guy on a 20 year old brompton wearing a tan suit beats them all (or a woman on a Dutch bike wearing a floral dress and carrying something practical in the front basket).

  3. It was great fun to watch, and very sociable - I bumped into quite a few people I knew (and I don't mean while I was wandering across the race track). We slipped up to La Porchetta up Exmouth Market when we got hungry for inexpensive pizzas the size of bicycle wheels. Perhaps there should be some sort of eating-out race next year...