Sunday, 17 September 2017

London to almost Felpham

On the evening of 1st September I set off for another nocturnal adventure to Felpham, near Bognor Regis. At least that was what was planned. The reality proved to be somewhat different.

I was - for reasons that I will not go into - pretty sure that I would have to take my Orange Brompton rather than my Condor road bike but I ended up taking my road bike after all.

The meeting point was the South Bank and before I got there I decided to take a few photos of the area around St Paul's and the Millennium Bridge.

When I arrived I was soon joined by Dr John and Geoff. Soon there after lots of other participants started to filter in, some familiar faces and some new.

Out ride leader was Adam, who has done so on a few previous rides. After the safety talk we busied ourselves with the task of getting ready for the off as close to midnight as humanly possible.

We set off just after the allotted hour into a changeable night as far as the weather was concerned. It was one of those in-between sort of nights where one didn't really know whether to put more layers on or wear less.

The progressed well and we reached Clapham Common where on previous sojourns we had seen - and heard - several people chanting Hare Krishna, a couple having a heated argument and several rabid dogs trying to half kill each other.

As always, when required to we stopped and regrouped as and when required. At one such spot we stopped at a 24-hour petrol station that happened to have a Marks and Spencer food section and more importantly, still open. Now despite the fact that we were stopping at 'The Cabin' a location famed for  its cuisine, I decided to buy a BLT sandwich while the opportunity arose.

At about 03:30 in the a.m. we arrived at The Cabin and I decided to stay outside with a few other participants who had brought their own tuck. The early morning proved to be quite chilly at times and I decided to put on a light rain jacket until we got going again and I warmed up.

As we departed from The Cabin dawn was trying to put in an appearance but was not quite there. The initial miles were as predicted chilly and I was glad of the extra layer.

The countryside at this time of the morning is always quite stunning and as we stopped to regroup you could see beams of light making fingers through the trees.

Not too far from Arundel our route took us on what can only be described as cyclocross. Now I had been on this route before when Simon - the founder of this fine group of cyclists - took us there on a previous London to Felpham.  Some participants were wary of this and wanted to take to the road, even though this would mean ascending Bury Hill - which is very busy with traffic and not the best of surfaces.  Thankfully the scenic route was the only route on option.

We had to negotiate several stiles and hold bike aloft while going through. There was a great deal of teamwork involved and everyone got through quite happily. It has been a long time since I used the Countryside Code but I feel that it was needed here.

The next stage in proceedings involved traversing a wooden suspension-type bridge. The version that I will recall to the Orangettes at home, is that it spanned a chasm the like of which no-one has ever seen before...because everyone who crossed it previously was too scared to look!

The views were stunning and another bridge that spanned the the river Arun - I think.

Once on the bridge we waited for the rest of the group to assemble while the rest of us took photos, foraged for blackberries and generally had a chit-chat.

At Arundel, not too far from the train station of the same name it was approaching 09:00. The ride had taken a little longer than expected to reach this point and I had less than a minute to decide whether to head for Arundel station and get the train back to London or continue for the remaining 9 or so mile and get the train from Bognor Regis even later. I opted for Arundel and knowing that I only had minutes to spare I told the TECs that I was bailing and cycled hard to try and get my train.

I only just made it and once aboard fired off a text to Geoff and Dr John as I they had set off when I was still deciding on what to do. The train was packed and when it reached Gatwick it was like a rush hour tube! Getting off at Clapham Junction I made it to another connecting train, getting home in pretty good time.

In all I cycled 60 miles and despite not completing the entire ride I thoroughly enjoyed it.  There is only one more of this type of ride left this year which will be to Brighton at the start of October. I already look forward to it!

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Overnight to Whitstable with a hill at the end!

Lots of people who take up cycling say that it is addictive. This could be magnified several times over if one considers your cycle ride with be through  the night and end up by the seaside. There is something about it that those in the know fully appreciate but 'muggles' just cannot quite understand.

I started with this as my conversation with a middle-aged couple, worse for wear on the tube brought this to mind. When they asked where I was going and I told them that I was starting at midnight to cycle through the night to arrive at Whitstable about 65 miles away sometime the next morning with about 70 or 80 fellow cyclists, I may have well said that I was going to the Thames Estuary to club to death any baby seals that strayed onto the foreshore. To them the notion that anyone would do this rendered that person crazy and better off doing something else.

Thankfully my journey on public transport was quick and I could get out into the fresh air and the liberation that is cycling. I arrived at the Millennium Bridge which was totally packed with people walking across it.

Arriving at the meeting point on the South Bank I saw Dr John, Jenny and Ian on their Brompton Bicycles, Charlie and Graham who like a few of the others in attendance were fresh from their London, Edinburgh, London exploits. Bob was there too in his official capacity as Tail End Charlie and Olaf who would be having his last ride (but hopefully not his last) as he was moving soon back to Germany. Sadly, Geoff, David, Anne and Mark were unable to attend.

Our ride leader was Ross who welcomed us and over 30 first timers. With the safety briefing completed we checked our bikes just after midnight the sound of GPS cycle computers bleeping into action and cleats clicking into pedals meant we were well and truly off.

Jenny's lit up Brompton

Our ride leader Ross set a good purposeful pace and before long we arrived at the Greenwich. After a few pictures of the Cutty Sark, nicely illuminated perhaps as they knew we were passing by, we were off.

It was a warm night and I felt very comfortable in my short sleeves. When we cycled further east adjacent to the river Thames, the temperature dropped but nothing that was a problem.

At one of our stops I saw the piece of artwork and had to prop my bike up against it for a photo. If you look carefully you will see two gentleman who were obviously caught short. I am pretty certain it doesn't distract too much from this being a lovely photo of my Condor road bike!

The gentleman that is Dr John

Arriving at Gravesend we stopped at a pub formally named 'The Call Boy.' I recall on one of my first rides to Whitstable it being a gay club and a gentleman talking to Simon - our then ride leader - about what we were all doing.

As always there were occasions where the front of the group stopped for the tail to catch up. It was a fairly smooth ride with little in the way of mechanicals or punctures.

At about 33 miles in we reached our halfway stop at. The Church of the English Martyrs. As we arrived Tim - a ride leader of this very event - greeted us. Inside he and his wife had organised with the help of some other members of the church a wondrous feast of comestibles. For the bargain price of £5 one could get a couple of rolls and a slices of homemade cake, washed down by tea/coffee. The cakes in particular were excellent.

While we were eating all these goodies, Martin gave a lovely speech about Olaf and proceeded to give him medals for various things he had done over the years as a member of this wonderful club. When Simon - the founder of this club - decided that he wanted to pass the baton on, Olaf along with some other longstanding members stepped in an began organising rides. To him and the others I have to say a huge thank you as without them this wonderful, if not crazy notion of riding to the coast from London might have become but a memory.

Often when we get going from the halfway point I instantly feel the cold but on this occasion all I needed were some arm warmers, which were discarded not that long after. With a goodby to Tim and his wife, feeling fuelled up we cycled off for the second half of the ride.

Dawn is a beautiful time of the day to experience via cycling. The colours of the sky is stunning and this combined with the sound of birds singing makes it all worthwhile.

Bob and I chewed the fat for a while. He like Olaf, Graham and a few other riders had not long recovered from their epic London, Edinburgh, London adventure. He reminded me of the time on this very route a few years ago where he was singing the praises of road bikes. At the time I tutted and said never! How things have changed. I still love my Brompton but I have been seduced to the dark side that is the road bike.

We stopped to regroup with a view across to the Sheppey Crossing - a bridge that links the Isle of Sheppey with the mainland of Kent.

At Faversham we stopped and regrouped before those who wanted to could cycle at a faster pace towards the breakfast stop. As I needed to get back to the big smoke as soon as possible for something planned later that day, I wanted to do just this. I loaded  pre-planned route into my Wahoo Elemnt that would take me on a slightly different route to Whitstable station. The route I planned would take in Fox's Cross Hill that would lead onto Wraik Hill. In addition it would take me to the correct side of the nation for the London platform without crossing the footbridge.

Wraik Hill was tough at this point in the ride but I enjoyed getting to the top...eventually! It just seemed to last for ages. I found following the route on the Elemnt simplicity itself and I am finding it a great deal easier than my unsatisfactory attempts with the Garmin 820.

Arriving at Whitstable station in good time I pressed stop on my Garmin 820 - which has been relegated to recording the ride data of my adventures and posting on Garmin Connect - a clocked up a tidy 65.9 miles. A few fellow cyclists from the ride started to filter in and my train to St Pancras was on time.

Yet again this was another highly enjoyable ride that I always enjoy. Many thanks to Dr John and my fellow riders for their company, Ross for being an excellent leader, Tim and his wife at the halfway stop and all the people acting as Tail End Charlie. With any luck I will be able to do this all again the same time next week but this time to Felpham.

Link to map and ride data