Monday, 20 October 2014

Short Video of the North Kent Coastal Ride

Below please find a link to a short video I made while on the rather splendid, North Kent Coastal Ride.

It is rather usual as all footage, stills, editing, processing and uploading to YouTube was completed on my iPhone 6 Plus - which I am more than impressed with.

As always watch it at the highest quality you can.

Link to short video clip

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Brompton Windy North Kent Coast Ride

I had been looking forward to this ride all week. The idea came from fellow Bromptonian Andy L who had heaped high praise for his North Kent coastal ride. David put out a few feelers for whether people would be interested in following in the cycle wheels of Andy.

The meeting point was Victoria Stattion, from which we would travel on the 08:52 to Faversham. My journey to Victoria took me through Hyde Park. As I cycled along, more or less with the cycle path to myself I spotting members of the Household Cavalry on horseback trotting along looking resplendent.

Arriving at the station in good time I retrieved my pre-bought ticket from the self service machines and saw David, Anne, Luka and my partner in crime Andrew already there. Graham followed shortly after and after a few last minute purchase from various concourse outlets we boarded our train.

We manaaged to get good seats, thus allowing us to happily chew the fat and catch up. The journey was over an hour but your would not have know it.

The the train

We arrived at Faversham where we were greeted by Ivo, John and his friend. Almost immediately we headed off into some glorious October weather. In fact it was hard to take in that it was October. Many took off a few laters quite quickly as even at just after 10:00 it must have been 15-16 degrees.

As we cycled along from Faversham I recognised the route and started seeing familiar houses and landmarks. I was familiar with it as I have cycled here when on the several London to Whitstable overnight rides. With those I would have been cycling along at 06:00 in the a.m. after sum 65 miles from London and with tired legs. This time I was fresh and seeing things in a totally different light. More than a little strange.

Whitstable was a hive of activity. Lots of people milled around buying oysters, ice cream, fish and chips and other seaside comestibles.


The small harbour had lots of boats and the sound of seagulls calling in the distance and the smell of sea air and fish confirmed whole heartedly that one was well and truly at the seaside.

As we travelled away from the centre of Whitstable we again saw lots of painted beach huts, very much a feature of many seaside resorts. Some of these change hands for incredible sums considering they are only the size of a modest garden shed!

Another feature of this ride was that the coastal route we followed was all by devoid of cars. This was  an added bonus and something of a luxury. If course one had to be careful but it meant we could all enjoy the scenery, which I have to report was stunning.

We passed through Hern Bay, which didn't have much to attract us. Remains of its pier could be seen which was destroyed by a storm in 1978. I will have to consult my parents but I am all but certain I visited Hern Bay and its pier as a child but I could be wrong.

As we cycled further still we saw the imposing towers of St Mary's Church - or what is left of it - at Reculver. It could be seem from some considerable distance and was an easy draw for all of us.

Near this site the Romans built a fort at the time of their conquest of Britain in 43 AD. After that the Saxons build a line of forts of which this site was one. Later still in the 7th Century a monetary was established, dedicated to St Mary.

The towers of St Mary's Church 

Huge part of Reculver have been claimed by the sea due to coastal erosion. My O-level Geography came into play as I viewed the evidence for myself.

Further on in its history the twin Towers of St Mary's church had a part to play during the Second World War. Testing was carried out of Barnes Wallis's bouncing bombs as used by the RAF's 617 Squadron perhaps as the towers resembled the structure and position of the Ruhr dams.

After almost 25 miles we stopped on the outskirts of Margate at a cafe commanding some rather good views.

At the cafe many of us ordered various items with chips and consumed them with enthusiasm. Again it was hard to believe that it was the middle of October and the fine weather had brought out lots of locals, day tourists and those on holiday.

It was decided that pressing to Margate would probably take too long and we headed back the other way back to Faversham. Part of the route was on a long stretch of costal path exposed on all sides as seen in the picture below. This meant that for several miles we were battling a very strong headwind. It made the cycling difficult but for me the scenery made it all worthwhile.

Cycling along, the bird watcher came out in me and I actually wished that I had packed an ageing pair of binoculars. The list of birds seen was impressive:

Brent Goose; Little Egret; Oyster Catcher; Curlew; Shelduck; Little Ringed Plover; Stonechat were some of the highlights.

At the end of the long stretch of exposed costal path where we were all spread out we stopped and regrouped.

When we headed off again, the weather had turned slightly. Cloud started forming and in the distance it looked as if a storm was brewing.

Once at Whitstable we again waited for other riders before heading off again. The number of dogs being walked and the variety of breed was amazing.

In the middle of Whitstable town centre and its narrow streets, we stopped for an ice cream at the aptly named 'Sundae Sundae.' The ice cream was lovely and I could have easily had a second. Feeling suitably refreshed we pressed on for Faversham.

Battling strong headwinds we reached Faversham and clocked up 49 miles. We said goodbye to John and his friend and Ivo, while the rest of use boarded the train to Victoria.

Again we were fortunate to bag rather good seats but the easy flow of conversation seen on our journey to Faversham was replaced by some resting. Of course some rested more than others.

We rolled into Victoria after 19:25 said our goodbyes and went our respective ways. This was a fantastic ride and I really enjoyed it. I can imagine revisiting this ride again. As I cycled back through a pitch black Hyde Park I fancied I could still smell the sea air and the faint sound of waves lapping... A big thank you to Andy L for providing the inspiration for this ride. A bigger thank you to David for yet again for organising and guiding us expertly on this ride.

On the train home

Next Saturday will see me take part in an overnight ride where I will attempt to cycled over 100 miles for the fourth time. It should be a brilliant adventure so look out for it in a future post. The map and ride data can be viewed by clicking on the link below.

Map and ride data from the Brompton Windy North Kent Coast Ride

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

London to Felpham Overnight

I was looking forward the night ride to Felpham. The weather forecast was not wonderful but this rarely dampens my enthusiasm for these rather addictive night rides to the coast. The meeting point was Hyde Park Corner as per usual.

When cycling through Hyde Park I was rather keen to test out the capabilities of my new front light - SON Edulux II - powered by my SON hub dynamo. In fact earlier in the day I had rushed to the quite brilliant 'Phoenix Cycles' in Battersea to have it fitted. (I write more about this soon).  My new Edulux II proved to be rather good. It was brighter, had a wider beam and a greater reach than my former light and I was suitably impressed. I had high hopes for the rest of the ride.

The meeting place

Quite soon I was joined by David, Anne and later Geoff. We were to be the only Bromptonians to take part in the 70 miles from Hyde Park Corner to Felpham. David was also sporting a new Edulux II and I suspect like me he was itching to see what it was like on the open road.

Edulux II a brilliant light

The ride started bang on midnight and soon the welcome sound of cleats clicking into pedals was resounding as we exited Hyde Park Corner.

The weather was pretty good to start and the threat of rain as soon as we started didn't materialise until much later on.

As you can see from the ride profile recorded by my Garmin 810 (see below) the ride was by no means flat and as such I loved it. It was demanding enough at times to keep one on ones toes in terms of gear selection.

At various points the ride would stop for the tail to catch up. Sometimes I was at the front and sometimes (especially if talking too much as I cycled along) I was towards the middle. The tail end Charlie's did a splendid job of ensuring everyone kept on route safely.

A huge downhill came at Reigate Hill. This lengthy section of road was approached with caution by yours truly. I had no intentions of travelling down this at 30 mph at night and with cars still very much around.

At just over 30 miles we reached Faygate and 'The Cabin.' The good people there opened up especially for us and provided a sandwich that could only be described as mid 1980's public school tuck shop.

Geoff succumbed to a puncture and proceeded to make a swift repair outside. As we started to get ready for the off the weather took a slight turn and light rain could be detected. In the distance a flash of lightening and the deep rumble of thunder set off a chorus of, 'oh no!'

It wasn't too long until the rain fell, light at first and then gradually heavier and heavier. There was a strange stillness to the early hours of the night. Little in the way of wind, rain and a general dampness pervaded everything. Stream started to ride from riders jackets and when we saw glimpses of countryside illuminated by the light of the moon, there were large pockets of fog swirling into mini clouds. It was quite eerie.

When the rain really came down many of us stopped to put on over trousers and these remained for much of the ride.

As always on a ride like this, there were sections where I was cycling on my own, following a red tail light of an unknown rider in the distance. I have to say that my new SON Edulux II front light performed impeccably. The light was bright, travelled quite far down the road and also had a wide span. I didn't require any other lights for the entire ride and that included cycling in pitch darkness into the unknown at 18 -21 mph. It was brilliant and worth every penny.

Geoff repairing his puncture

Because of the weather our route was expertly altered by our ride leader Simon. This was a joyous occasion for me as it mean we would have to ascend the infamous Burry Hill. (I have to say however, I didn't know this as I was cycling up it).

We stopped just before what looked like a fairly steep road. David was off into the distance, closely followed by Geoff and Anne. As I cycled along it struck me that this was quite a hill. I also struck me that it seemed to go on and on. Before long I had bottomed out on the gears and was motoring as best I could. It was hard and my thoughts turned to Ditchling Beacon. Whatever this hill was (I didn't know its name as I cycled up) it was as bad if not worse!

As I cycled along I asked on of the other riders what on earth this hill was called. A shout of 'Bury Hill' between deep breaths was heard. After what seemed like an eternity and several false summits I reached the top. As I I had done it! Bury Hill was conquered without a foot touching the ground.

By the time we reached the rather pretty Arundel, the rain had stopped and it was light. We made our efforts toward the final pouch and the last few miles.

My Garmin said 69 miles and we had reached Felpham. As we approached Felpham the weather looked kindly upon us and we were treated to some sunshine. Part of our route along the sea front was walking only as a recent storm had displaced much of the shingle beach onto our path.

Beach huts

The Lobster Pot awaited and soon we were standing in line placing orders for a quite wondrous breakfast - well earned by all after our nocturnal cycling adventure.

Breakfast orders!!

David, Anne, Geoff and I ate outside as it looked so lovely. As I had pre-booked my ticket to London I could not really hang around too long. With my goodbyes made Geoff and I headed for Bognor Regis railway station only a few miles away. 
This tasted as good as it looks!

I put the details into my new iPhone and Geoff bravely followed my navigation. With voice commands informing me I should travel, 'west' I headed in the only direction that looked feasible. Luckily we made it there and I was triumphant in my short navigation! 

Our train was prompt at 09:26 and Geoff and I managed to get some good seats. I got off at Clapham Junction while Geoff continued to Victoria. As we got to the station the heavens opened and the rain started to fall quite heavily. 

I have to say that my 'Proviz 360' was something of a revelation. It has been my favourite jacket since the kind people at Proviz sent it to me for review. (I have yet to give it back and have vowed that they will have to come and prise it out of my hands before I do so).

Many riders offered high praise for this jacket. It really is quite astonishing in many ways with the entire jacket surface being reflective. Some likened me to a ghost as I gave off a slivery-white glow. The picture below sums it all up for me. Other jackets are rendered almost inadequate by comparison.

This jacket just puts others in the shade!

In addition to the reflective qualities the Proviz 360 performed really well as a waterproof and kept me dry in some rather persistent and occasionally heavy rain. I just feel more confident out at night wearing it and I cannot see myself using anything else now.

This was another wonderful ride. The idea of cycling from Hyde Park Corner to the coast, all overnight is nothing short of genius. I have now been on quite a few of these rides and I do love them. They are addictive and there is something very special about them. There is one more of these for this year - Southend - at the beginning of November. I greatly look forward to that.

A big thank you to Simon and his tail end Charlie's and to David, Anne and Geoff for their ever welcome company.

Felpham map and ride data