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By Megan Smiley, Jun 5 2015 09:04AM


Last Saturday night I didn’t get to bed till 5am. This is pretty much unheard of for me these days, I’m normally getting up around that time and if I'm out in public past about midnight I normally fall asleep!


However, I wasn't out socialising but being a Ride Angel for Women V Cancer Ride the Night. In it's second year, the ride saw around 1,800 women cycle 100km from Windsor into London and back again for three charities: Breast Cancer Care, Ovarian Cancer Action and Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust.


It was an amazing night. Of all the organised rides I've done, I’m always in the minority being a woman, so it was brilliant to be the majority, in fact men weren't allowed to do it! Also, to see so many women on their bikes, more than I’ve ever seen, was incredible.


Setting off at around 9pm it was still light, so the impressiveness of the fancy dress that pretty much everyone had, didn't show it's true colours at that point, but as the night went on and got darker, the fairy wings with lights, the tutus with lights, the helmets with lit up mohicans, and all the other wonderfully creative outfits, became quite a spectacle, receiving well deserved cheers, encouragement and some slightly drunken attention whilst cycling through Richmond at midnight. At a glance people might have thought it was a massive cycling hen do!


As a Ride Angel I was there to support riders, checking people were ok if they had pulled over, helping with any minor mechanical issues or calling for the 'official' support if needed, as well as keeping up morale. However, I was hardly needed, partly because there were few punctures (perhaps due to most not being on road bikes with thin, easily punctured tyres), but mainly on the morale front. Even with the rain starting at 1am on Sunday morning spirits were high, and motivation and determination levels were ever higher, as many people were cycling in memory of a lost loved one.


Finishing at just before 4am pretty drenched and a little sleep deprived, I couldn't help feeling a warm glow inside. This was a truly unique event, that has so far raised £768,000 for the three charities, and they are aiming to reach one million. What really makes this ride unique though, is all those women on their bikes in their fancy dress laughing and chatting and doing something amazing for a cause dear to them, and I felt privileged to cycle alongside them.



By Megan Smiley, Aug 13 2014 09:14AM


Ride86 doesn't quite have the same ring to it as Ride100, however it was still an amazing event. It was the second year of Prudential's Ride100 mass participant cycle ride past iconic London sights out to the Surrey hills before coming back into London and finishing on the Mall.


With 24,000 riders excited and slightly nervous, mainly because of the imminent arrival of the tail end of hurricane Bertha, there were mixed receptions when the organisers announced on the morning of the event that they were cutting the route short to 86 miles rather than 100, ditching the famous Box Hill and less known but apparently worse Leith Hill, due to safety reasons.


Setting off for the Olympic Park early on Sunday 10th August the weather wasn't too bad but by the time I crossed the start line the rain had started and so had the punctures. I had one about 100m before the start line and I was not alone, and it became a frequent sight throughout the day of people bent over the upturned bike changing an inner tube. The wet weather brings rubbish into the road causing way more punctures than usual.


There were times when I asked myself why I was doing the ride, one point being when we got stuck in Richmond Park and everyone had to get off their bikes to walk for nearly half an hour due to an accident ahead. It was at that point that the heavens really opened and there wasn't one part of me that wasn't completely and utterly drenched. But spirits were (surprisingly and perhaps strangely) high and neighbours were chatting away and much laughter could be heard (maybe it was a laugh or cry situation?).


Throughout the 86 miles the volunteers, stewards and spectators were excellent; cheery and helpful, making a real difference at those stages where you were soaked and a little lacking in enthusiasm, and fellow riders were chatty and positive – in true British style! There was even one guy who wasn't on the ride but decided to join in (not that I approve of that, and he was a trouble causer) but I like to take the positive from it: he couldn't bear not to be involved in all the fun so just had to join, registered or not!


There were points when the flash flooding was so bad that I had to cycle through, what only can be described as streams in the roads, but there were points when the sun came out and there were points when I couldn't help smiling and laughing to myself when I thought about the ridiculousness of what so many people were doing. At times like that, I always think what would aliens make of the human race if they were up there observing us – spending hours cycling in a big circle in severe weather conditions isn't the most sensible thing to do when you think about it.


But I'm glad I did it, the only problem is I can't really say I've done Ride100. I did fully back the organisers decision in reducing the route. As it was I saw and heard of a lot of accidents so if they hadn't cut those two big descents out, there would no doubt have been many more accidents. In fact the whole event was amazingly organised and the logistics involved were smoothly implemented throughout, even with the route changing at the last minute.


So, I think, like I'm sure many other people, I will have to do it next year to complete the full 100 miles. Let's just hope Bertha doesn't rear her ugly head again!


By Megan Smiley, Jul 11 2014 09:25AM

Living in London you can become a little nonchalant about all the amazing opportunities on offer, I know I have. When I moved to London over six years ago I had a list as long as my arm of things I was going to do. I have slowly ticked off quite a few of them but there are still plenty of things on there too. However, when I visited Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park that opened to the public in April this year, I saw people trying out the track in the Velodrome and upon realising that they were on a 'track taster session' that anyone can do for a very reasonable £30, this jumped to the top of my 'things to do in London' list.


The hour long session was as good as I had hoped. The mix of anticipation and nerves about cycling a fixed wheel bike with my feet strapped in so tightly that I wouldn't be about to put a foot down in a panicky moment on a wooden track with banks that seem a lot higher up close, disappeared as soon as I started cycling. The instructor was great and the group of about 15, a mix of ages and abilities, were all made to feel comfortable and encouraged to the right level to get the most out of the session.



I loved every bit of it, especially towards the end of the session when I was up by the fence at the top on the bank looking down at the beautifully crafted wooden track thinking about the stars who have cycled on it, albeit a little faster than I was going, but the same track nevertheless!


My only criticism is the fact that Better, the organisation who run the leisure facilities at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and other sports facilities across London, aren’t shouting about this and the other opportunities available at the park: day passes for the Aquatic Centre or the gym in the Cooper Box both only £10, as well as the new Hockey and Tennis Centre that boasts indoor and outdoor courts and pitches.


Sport can be expensive and therefore elitist, however, here is a great example of where it isn't. It's accessible and pretty reasonably priced, this opens doors for 'normal' people to try out world class facilities without having to be one of the best swimmers in the country or know the boss of British Cycling!


There has been much talk of the legacy of London 2012 and a lot of negativity towards the lack of momentum post the Games. With unanswered questions such as: are more girls being encouraged to play sport, and are underprivileged children receiving opportunities to develop their sporting skills still prevalent, then we should really be promoting facilities like the ones at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and getting people excited about sport like they were two summers' ago. Something along the lines of 'if you've got it flaunt it' springs to mind!