A capital idea
Riding in London at night is enlightening
City riding is generally thought of as a means to an end rather than a pleasure, where defensive riding is the key to survival and filtering is a must if you’re looking to make any progress at all. Rush hour is an outdated term – traffic is a day-long drudge and there’s not much fun in negotiating that. By night, however, things are a little different…
Start at The Ace Café; wait for the daily grind to subside then slip out on to the North Circular Road (A406) eastbound. Apart from the a couple of major junctions it’s surprisingly free-flowing thanks to the many underpasses and overpasses. Knowing how busy this route is during the day gives a unique feeling of freedom that only intensifies as the daylight fades.
Follow signs for the City Airport – urban adventure riding is as much about navigation as anything else and keeping an eye out for signs also serves to sharpen observation. Once you have sight of the runway to your left switch to signage for the City, tracing the course of the DLR to an amazing view across the Docklands from Bow Creek. The road then descends amongst the glass and chrome of Canary Wharf before disappearing underground to the permanent illuminations of the Limehouse Link.
You’ll resurface to The Highway, which leads directly to the Tower and Tower Bridge. Turn left to cross this most iconic of landmarks; from sunset the city is fully lit, giving such sights a surreal, cinematic quality – exploring a city at night is just like being in a movie.
The first available right will take you back to the river and London Bridge – once across, keep an eye out for directions to Westminster/parliament Square and you’ll soon be cruising along the Victoria Embankment with the Thames to your left. At the Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben) hang a right to cover the four sides of Parliament Square before peeling off along Whitehall and past the Cenotaph to Trafalgar Square. In view of Nelson, take the first left, pass through Admiralty Arch and rock up The Mall to the Palace.
Hyde Park Corner can be a frantic nightmare during the day, but at night there’s the time and space to actually enjoy it – follow signs for Wembley/ A40 and Park Lane will sweep you through Mayfair to Marble Arch, where it’s not uncommon to find yourself riding alongside a supercar or three. Having entered the city from the east, you’ll depart to the west, soaring above the rooftops along the unlit, elevated Westway. Stick with the A40 to Hanger Lane, then for the last stretch pick up the A406 once more, rolling back to the Ace just in time for last orders.
‘The unique sense of freedom only intensifies as the daylight fades’