BIGGSY TRAVELS

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Category: Experiences (page 1 of 3)

Cycling with a Tour de France winner

It’s not every day you get the chance to cycle with a former Tour de France winner but on the day of Tuesday May 9th in London at the Adobe Digital Marketing Conference I got just that chance!

Me and Cadel Evans pre-ride

Me and Cadel Evans pre-ride

The opportunity came about thanks to Adobe Cycling arranging a handful of bike rides from the ExCel centre in East London as part of the conference’s networking event. I found out about it quite late on via Twitter, signed up as quick as I could but initially ended up on the reserve list. A reserve list to cycle with the 2011 Tour de France winner – Cadel Evans.

Shortly after my initial application some good news came through, I was riding, but not on the supplied BMC bikes but on whatever I could get to London for 7:30 am. That being my Brompton fold-up bike as it’s not easy to get anything full-size on the trains into London at that time of day!

As it happened a bike with my name on it had been set up, albeit was a bit too big for me, but nethertheless, I was now riding and wouldn’t look out of place trying to keep up on a folding bike. Although Cadel did jibe that I was the only one wearing trainers (I didn’t think I’d need my SPDs) and that I was sporting a very retro, circa mid 1990s Banesto top … before swapping to a better looking L’Alpe d’Huez one. Having cycled up Alpe d’Huez with my girlfriend last September it was fresh in my mind, so I asked him whether he’d ever cycled up it! Doh! Being a seasoned Tour de France rider the answer from Cadel was an unsurprising “Err – yes I have.” lol

Preparing to leave the ExCel Centre

Preparing to leave the ExCel Centre. Photo Ben Rabner

Once everybody had arrived, had tried out their bikes and supped a cup of wake-up coffee we were all set to go and headed off into the East London commuter traffic. After a few detours due to the group getting split up at various traffic lights we took a route down some graffitted canalpaths, close to the notoriously dangerous Bow roundabout. Here we decided wisely to hop off our bikes and use the pedestrian crossing.

Soon after we arrived safely at the Olympic Park. It was just before this, sandwiched between the pavement and the stationary traffic that a young lad on his road bike pulled up alongside us. Wanting to “share the wealth” I acknowledged that it looked like he was a cycling fan, and that he should see if he could recognise the guy in front of us. He instantly said “Cadel Evans?” and so I gestured for him to roll over and say a quick “hello”, which he did, so I hope that made his day that morning too.

Even Tour de France winners have to wait at red lights

Even Tour de France winners have to wait at red lights

Riding behind Cadel Evans along a towpath in East London

Riding behind Cadel Evans along a towpath in East London

Our group was on the small side so we each had the opportunity to ride alongside Cadel and chat away with him. As I was behind Cadel Evans on the narrow camel path section it was at me that he directed “rider up” (cyclist coming towards us) and “pole” (which errr meant there was a pole in the ground!). I probably took more than my fair share of his time but also chatted to who I thought was just another conference attendeee when in fact it was the CEO of BMC bikes who was riding the latest piece of BMC road bike porn.

Following the BMC and Adobe colleagues

Following the BMC and Adobe colleagues

At the Olympic Park we headed to the velodrome to have a quick look round. I’d been fortunate enough to witness Bradley Wiggins’ 1hr time-trial record there as well as having a “taster” session on the track itself just one year before so it was good to be back. For a lot of the riders in the group it was their first time! Shame we couldn’t go for a quick spin 😉

Leaving the Lee Valley velopark arfter quickly checking out the track

Leaving the Lee Valley velopark arfter quickly checking out the track

I didn’t need to worry about keeping up during the ride as although most ot the other attendees looked like seasoned enthusiasts the idea was to have a gentle ride, and anyway racing through the streets of London isn’t really an option at that time in the morning.

So all in all it was a great (but very early) fun morning bike ride that only came about through a work conference and a chance tweet from @AdobeCycling pointed out to me by a colleague. If someone had said back in 2011 while watching the “Tour” on the tele that I’d be out riding with that year’s winner 6 years later I’d have thought they were a bit barmy! Cadel was perfectly friendly and happy to answer a lot of my inane questions. “Take the opportunity of a lifetime during the lifetime of the opportunity” and all that 🙂

Taking a corner in the Olympic Park. Cadel leading!

Taking a corner in the Olympic Park. Cadel leading!

Me and Cadel mid ride

Me and Cadel mid ride

Thanks to Ben Rabner and @Adobe Cycling for organising it all!

World Naked Bike Ride – London

What experiences are still on your “things to do” list? Ever wanted to cycle naked? Ever wanted to cycle naked around London? Ever wanted to cycle naked around London with lots of other naked people in front of thousands of tourists? Well on Saturday 10th June you have that chance as the ‘World Naked Bike Ride’ rolls into town!

I first heard about the naked bike ride when I arrived at King’s Cross station with the intention of meeting my travel blogger friend Sarah near Oxford Street. A tall chap outside the station entrance asked if I was here for the “naked bike ride”. Intrigued I said “yes” and proceeded to cycle up King’s Boulevard to Granary Square to see what was going on.

Some people were semi-naked while others covered up all their bits

Some people were semi-naked while others covered up all their bits

What was going on was hordes of cyclists congregating and one-by-one getting naked! Some reluctantly at first but others with gusto, revealing body paint, slogans and generally a lot of bare flesh. Certain faces and “bits” starred out in the photos below to protect peoples’ modesty.

Not wanting to look too interested in partaking I hung back, while not wanting to look too interested either, i.e. a pervert. However an organiser was keen to shepherd people into position so before I knew it I was stripped down down to my black Calvin Klein boxers (I stripped myself down and wasn’t aided in this process) and I was part of the gathered procession.

Unbeknown to me at the time my friend was just 50m ahead and had actually planned to take part. I only found he was there too later that week. So there I was, on my 1980s childhood BMX cycling along with lots and lots of naked people!

A light traffic jam as we head towards Piccadilly

A light traffic jam as we head towards Piccadilly

I’d arrived at King’s Cross alone so didn’t feel overly conspicuous but groups of mixed sex friends seemed slightly awkward, especially the groups you knew were doing his for the first time together.

Not everyone was naked I might add. Some were in their underwear, some were topless, and of course many were completely starkers. Bizarrely those who wore full underwear or bikinis looked more out of place and noticeable than everybody else. A case of naked safety in numbers I guess!

Naked bike ride London ambling along

Naked bike ride London ambling along

What lead to many cheers enroute was normal, clothed cyclists going about their business simply stopping, stripping and joining in with the ride! One student I met at Russell Square was early for a lunch appointment, asked me what was going on, and then promptly got me to hold her bike while she de-robed and then took part for half an hour or so. I wonder if she ever did tell her friends what she’d just been doing when she arrived at the restaurant?

Lots of people were fully naked

Lots of people were fully naked

I cycled all the way to County Hall by the London Eye before finally whipping off my boxers and … and nobody battered an eyelid! Although it wasn’t the warmest of days might I add! 😉 But it really was the case that being naked felt pretty normal within the gathered masses … and that’s the reason all these people were there in the first place … as well as supporting the ride’s cause against our dependency on oil of course.

Only when riding near Piccadilly did I feel a bit exposed and that was when a bus pulled out separating me from the pack and I became the “lead” lone cyclist as I reached a big group of tourists with no one else to share their initial gazing eyes. But as you’re cycling along at a certain pace any gawping group of bystanders are soon passed by.

You actually stood out more if you weren't naked!

You actually stood out more if you weren’t naked!

Any tips?

  • Take a backpack to put your clothes in
  • Maybe wear sunglasses to hide behind
  • Hope for a warm day!
  • Be weary of hiring ‘Boris Bikes’ the next day as many naked people were hiring them!
  • Ultimately just go for it!

What’s the worse that could happen? … other than possibly meeting a work colleague or a friend casually walking along the pavement enroute.

Anybody taking part this year? If so also check out the WNBR London Facebook page 🙂

There were lots of pauses along the way

There were lots of pauses along the way

That new hotel room smell

That lovely feeling of finally opening your hotel door after hours and hours of travelling, dropping your suitcase on the floor and then falling back onto the king-sized bed with its lovingly made duvet and freshly laundered sheets. But imagine doing all that in a hotel room that’s never been slept in before, or better still in a hotel that’s never had any guests in it before, and then better still in New York City! That’s what it was like when I spent 3-4 nights in the INNside New York NoMad hotel on its first day of opening.

A lovely welcome from the INNside general manager

A lovely welcome from the INNside general manager

So how this actually happen? Well I hadn’t intentionally sought out new hotels in NYC, but instead had been invited their through work to present to a team of US salespeople. It just so happened that our conference was to be in this newly opened hotel. The employees behind the desk in reception were just as happy to be there as I was as it was their first day in the hotel too. There were double the number of people behind the desk that were actually needed, but it looked like everybody was learning the ropes and keen to be out on the shop floor, together with all levels of the hotel’s management. It’s not common that you see the staff to be equally as enthused as their guests.

My room's first guest ... after I'd ruffled up the duvet slightly

My room’s first guest … me … after I’d ruffled up the duvet slightly

Everything was so “spick and span” and shiny new that workers were still positioning the pot plants in the outside foyer and tweaking the sensors for the reception’s sliding doors. We all love that “new car smell” but this was the first time I’d experienced a “new hotel smell”!

the-innside-foyer

Ths finishing touches being made to the foyer

Once in the hotel room, after experiencing the “new lift smell’, I began to think OK – so in this room I’ll be the first person to use the ironing board, the first person to use the hairdryer, the first person so open the curtains and stare longingly at the Empire State Building diagonally opposite … the first person to use the bathroom …probably the first person to use the toilet?

Room with an empire view!

Room with an empire view!

Definitely the first person to use the shower with its freshly stocked Sampar toiletries. Talking of which, post inaugural shower, I cocooned myself in the softest, fluffiest towels I’ve ever had the good fortune to use before relaxing and watching the news on the crystal clear “new” TV.

First use of the bathroom and shower

First use of the bathroom and shower

During the week I visited the gym and no doubt was the first guest to use the treadmill too.

the-brand-new-innside-treadmills

I gave one of the treadmills a test run too

The INNside hotel is right slap bang in the middle of the Garment District (27th street) and made an ideal base for our company conference and post work to head N, S, E and W to easily get to all the cool parts of Manhattan. It’s only 6 months old now so I’m sure there’s still a bit of “new hotel smell” left for you to sample, and it’s somewhere where I’d quite happily return whenever I get the chance to go to New York City again 🙂

More information on the INNside Hotel website or check them out on Twitter.

The elevator foyers make for a perfect Instagram opportunity

The elevator foyers make for a perfect Instagram opportunity

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