Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Brompton Rehab!

The Brompton World Championships for 2013 is now over. This had been an event many have been looking forward to a great deal. Of course, now we have experienced the high of heated competition many are now experiencing the tale tell signs of a low...a lull...a desire to capture that high again. 

As I type this blog entry not even a week has passed since the Brompton World Championships and yet many Bromptonians are already planning...plotting even what they will and will not do for 2014! Some are going to try to make their bikes lighter (I've been there)! Others are contemplating a training schedule so arduous professional riders might wince. Many are on diets to get rid of a few excess pounds and there are a select few who will tinker with their gearing, chain rings and sprockets to gain the perceived improvement in performance. 

I could not possibly comment where I lie in the above but I will say I think I am having mild withdrawal symptoms from being out on my Brompton. Of course the cure is easy. I simply need to get out and ride. There is something quite magical about riding with several Brompton riders in a peloton. At the Brompton World Championships this was easy - a necessity perhaps. I am lucky in that I have several rides already in the pipeline where there will be several Bromptonians only too happy to ride in a line, hugging each others rear wheels riding in a blur as bystanders watch in amazement.  

You will have to keep reading my blog to see what changes manifest with regards my Titanium Orange Brompton but I can report I have more than a few plans. The Brompton World Championships 2013 may well be over but thoughts turn to 2014. I am going to have to double my efforts so that I am ready. 

Cycling is addictive. There is something about it that just gets into your blood and takes hold. Add a Brompton into the mix and things get magnified further, distilled into something more concentrated and unique. Am I suffering from withdrawal symptoms? Yes, I probably am but I am not alone and I wonder how many of you out there feel the same?

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Brompton World Championships 2013 - Awesome and then some!

Some of you may be wondering why I am using the word awesome? It is perhaps not a word that trips off the tongue easily for yours truly but I had to use this adjective to give you an idea to describe the Brompton World Championships.

As many of you how read my blog know I entered what is called the Brompton Treble. Two of these events took place yesterday with the Brompton World Championships taking place today.

I arrived at Goodwood Race Circuit early as I wanted to avoid traffic. Registering brought home the realities of what I had done. The Treble is definitely not for the faint of heart but occasionally being made of sterner stuff I decided all those months ago that the Treble it would be.

My race number which had a timing chip attached to the back was cable tied to the front handlebars of my Brompton and I proceeded inside. I was soon greeted by a few friends some who had come to watch and others like me embarking upon the Treble.

Heavy rain had been forecast for Saturday but it only started to rain when I was making my way home. The sun was out burning off the initial cloud that drifted gently by. We were allowed out on to the famous track for a few laps. I was very grateful for this opportunity as familiarising oneself with the lie of the land is always a good thing.

I cycled at pace and luckily for me my left knee didn't seem to be complaining too much. I could feel that it still wasn't 100% but it was pretty close to it. I found the circuit very agreeable and was enjoying myself. By the time I had completed my third lap I had just about figured out where I'd have to put the power in to get over a gentle but sustained incline.

Just after 11:00 a.m. we assembled for the Sprint. This was the first part of the Brompton Treble. Our bikes where lined up in a row of 12 as you can see in the pictures below. The Sprint (as were all Brompton events) timed which meant that it might not be the first past the post that gets the fastest time. The first few heats went out and then in was my turn...




Sprint line up




Sprint getting closer to starting




I took care getting clipped in and cycling off. The knee felt okay so I made it work a little harder. I found myself out in front for most of the 500 metres or so. Towards the end I was passed by a couple of riders but I felt I'd put in a good performance. Laurence a bit of a Jedi Master was in this race and was the fastest Veteran for the heats! He went into the final later on and looked to be in good form!!

A medal was placed firmly in my hands by an ever enthusiastic member of Brompton staff and I hung it proudly over one of my handlebars - which seemed the done thing. Regular readers will know that I love receiving a medal and it just makes an event more memorable.

After this we returned to the paddock to chew the fat for a while and await the Eliminator, the second of the three events making up the Treble. The Eliminator was an unknown. It had a few of us nervous. Riders would go off in a group of 20 and all complete the first lap. At certain points on the second lap the last two riders would be told to back off their pace by a motorcyclist. There would therefore be only 6 riders who would complete both laps at full pace.





The paddock




The home straight





Famous timing



There were lots and lots of exhibitors and companies showing off their products. One familiar face was the highly talented artist Zabou who was just starting her live painting of 6 portraits of Brompton riders from around the world who had submitted their photos online. Once completed I believe the artwork will go on display at the Brompton factory. It was good to see Zabou and her work again. She is a familiar face on the IBikeLondon rides, one of which featured her work. One of the paintings is going to be of my friend Ian and I think he was pleased about it!





A talented and familiar face from IBikeLDN




In the Brompton area the prizes for the fastest male and female were on display and my eyes were drawn to the medals. Lovely isn't it. For a few brief seconds I fancied that I could win that there medal. Reality is a cruel mistress. It soon dawned on my that to have this placed around my neck I would not only have to give up work but somehow engineer a secret motor to power my Brompton.





The prize



Soon we made our way to the start of the Eliminator. With the rules clearly explained we got ready. My mouth felt dry. My heart pounded slightly and soon it would all begin.





On the start of the Eliminator





The 20 getting ready for the Eliminator



We were given the go and we were off. The front riders went off at a tremendous pace and were soon so far ahead that catching them up would be impossible. My aim therefore was not to be the first person to be eliminated as I crossed the line for the start of my second lap.

I got about 3/4 of the way round the second lap and I turned to see the riders behind me slowing their pace as the motorcyclist referee came alongside. I had at least succeeded in my primary aim. By the time the motorcyclist came up alongside me I knew my fate. Like an Officer in WWII, for me the war was over. I cycled back to the start/finish line and was given my second medal by a happy Brompton staff member. I was very pleased!! Two medals.

I watched a few of my friends compete in their Eliminator races before saying my goodbyes. Day one of the Brompton World Championships was brilliant. I throughly enjoyed it and looked forward for more!

I didn't wait long as today was the big one. This is the cycling event I had been gearing up for...training all year for. The Brompton World Championships is the greatest cycling event bar none. Well...the Tour de France isn't bad I suppose but apart from that this is it!

Upon arrival I was greeted almost instantly by a friendly gentleman who had come from Germany for the race. He had parked next to me and he soon established that I was Orange Brompton. He kindly said that he was aware of my blog and took a photo of me.

Heading towards the paddock area I saw lots of friends from the Brompton Club. It was great that we were out in force. There was much discussion about the circuit and before long we decided to place our bikes on the start grid. I was one of the first in my group to do so and it looked as if I'd be in the first wave to go!














As we waited for the safety and instructions talk I saw some rather fabulous outfits and bikes. Many had put a huge effort into colour coordinating their bike to their outfit. I thought everyone looked great.





Aero wheels!




Lovely hats




Another lovely hat and outfit




One particular couple stole show for me. The two Smurfs looked wonderful and the lady Smurf in particular had the best outfit for me.




My favourite!




After the safety talk we returned to our bikes. It soon dawned on me that not only was I in the first group I was with the likes of Gavin Morton (a very speedy rider to say the least), Michael Hutchinson (3x winner), Julia Shaw (former winner) and Issy (3rd last year) a lady who I met first on the London to Cambridge ride with the Small Wheels chaps. (I remember thinking on that ride that Issy was like lightening).  I asked Issy if she'd get on the podium again but she was too modest to comment

I must confess to being a little unnerved by this but soldiered on. As I walked back to the start line, from which we had to run to our bikes (more of that in a minute) I strolled a little taller as quite possibly spectators might view me as a serious contender as I was in the first wave of riders.





In the first wave!!!




Safety talk


We waited. I waited. Before long the air horn was sounded and we were off. Now, as I have written before a gentleman doesn't run and as such I walked to my bike as if I were partaking in the gentle stroll  in the Cotswolds. I reached my bike, unfolded and moved towards the start. Pressing my Garmin Edge 510 as I passed the timing mat I was off.

I knew that heading off too quickly would be disastrous. This was a long and demanding circuit. It was fast! It was also windy and I knew that this might be a problem. I passed several riders and was desperately trying to find someone to draft. The problem I found was that there were riders either too fast or too slow. I eventually found a gentleman wearing a silk scarf who was just about faster than me. We began to use each other. At times he would be ahead and I would be up at his rear wheel and vice versa. (I was later to shake the hand of this gentleman and we thanked each other. I didn't ask his name sadly).

My Garmin was telling me that my average speed was hovering between a mid 18 mph and a low 20 mph. For the first couple of laps I tried to make sure it didn't get any lower. My trusty Garmin was a brilliant assistant in this regard.

At times there was a strong headwind that meant changing down a gear to try and compensate. It made things pretty tough going. As I headed into the start of the home straight my friend Mick could be heard shouting encouragement along with a few other kind hearted people who simply shouted 'Go Orange!'

I think on the start of the third lap I was passed by Mark (King of the Hills) who was setting a scorching pace within a peloton of five or so riders. When they passed I joined the back and kept up with them for a few hundred metres before having to step off. It was not long after this that I lapped my partner in crime iCrazyBee. As I went past I dinged my bell and got a reply. From where I was looking my riding partner looked pretty good and was motoring along with the best of them.

With the end in sight I tried to get down low and pedal as hard as I could. The race was over. Perspiration was pouring and I obtained my medal. I was rather proud of myself as I had a feeling I might had broken the 30 minute mark.

The race results were out pretty soon after the last riders finished and I had beaten the 30 minute barrier and got a time of just over 29 minutes 50 seconds. I was very pleased! I was even more pleased when I realised that I had improved my overall position from last year by almost 240 places. I had come in the 160's this year. Last year I was placed just over 400! Issy won!





Issy on the podium as winner!




There has been some bemoaning the fact that the venue was changed from Blenheim. I don't know the details of why Blenheim was not chosen and would not care to speculate. I suspect that Brompton might have been searching for a suitable venue in a short space of time. Goodwood was a different circuit. Some people have commented that the scenery at Blenheim was better. I have to say that in the two Brompton World Championships I participated in at Blenheim I was too focused on the race to be bothered with scenery.

This was an awesome event! I loved it. I would have preferred it to have taken place in August. I'd love the Marathon or something similar to come back but this was a brilliant couple of days in every way. As always Brompton excels at putting on these events. It is of course a team effort and I write the word 'team' as so many Brompton staff were out in force supporting the event. However, whoever Brompton have organising this event they/he/she are excellent at their job/s. Their partners Orbital have also done a good job.

If Brompton decides to have the Brompton World Championships at Goodwood next year as far as I am concerned this wouldn't be a bad thing. Brompton may look elsewhere in the future and this would be an exciting prospect too. If it is Goodwood next year I will look forward to it greatly.

The great thing about this event was of course catching up with friends. In addition it was great to meet lots of fun people from all across the world with the common ground of a Brompton Folding bike. Our little folding bikes are more than just personal transport they are a conduit to fun! There is also something in what Brompton MD Will Butler Adams said when he addressed the crowd after the winners had been announced when he alluded to an event like this making bicycles in general more popular. 

Of course with the Brompton World Championships 2013 over there is only one thing left to do! There is only one thing for us all to talk about. The preparation and training for the Brompton World Championships 2014, the greatest cycling event starts now!! 




Friday, 26 July 2013

Tomorrow The Brompton World Championships Starts!

The Brompton World Championships starts tomorrow and having a rush of blood to the head when registering for the Queen of all cycling events (as I did last year) I will be taking part in the Brompton Treble. 

As I did some last minute shopping I thought to myself, these people don't know that tomorrow I will be participating in a international sporting event and that I am therefore a world class athlete? My wife and daughters soon brought me down to earth with a bang with words like ridiculous when I attempted to explain my 'international' sporting status and whether it would be appropriate to wear a Union Jack on my T-shirt?

I didn't need to do too much to my Titanium Orange Brompton and will definitely take it with me tomorrow regardless of the weather. So far I have read four different weather forecasts all with different assertions about what tomorrow's weather will be like. (The weather is a particularly British preoccupation by the way. Talking about the weather and commenting about it is not only an ice breaker for all social situations it transcends all social backgrounds). 

I am looking forward to tomorrow greatly. The two events taking place tomorrow, Sprint and Eliminator  will be over relatively quickly and I hope that I put in a good performance. It will serve another purpose namely to familiarise myself with the Goodwood circuit. This might provide some assistance for the Brompton World Championships on Sunday. 

In true Terry Thomas sprit I was debating brining lard cakes, donuts, cream cakes etc.., and offering them to faster members of Brompton staff, who will also be participating. Of course I won't do this as I try where possible to live by Queensbury rules. 

Well, it is time to head off to bed and try and get to sleep. Even though I have an early start I know it will be as if I am a 9 year old boy on Christmas Eve! The Brompton World Championships starts tomorrow and this could be my year!?

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Preparation for my 3rd Brompton World Championships

Saturday marks the start of the Brompton World Championships and you could say I have been looking forward to it all year. If truth be told I was looking forward to it as soon as I finished the 2012 event! It is the highlight of my cycling year bar none.

As I did last year I will be participating in the Brompton Treble. This will involve two events on Saturday - Sprint and Eliminator and the big one - the Brompton World Championships on Sunday. It is going to be a very different event. Blenheim Palace is no more and hundreds of Bromptonians will descend upon Goodwood motor racing circuit.

I really enjoyed the Blenheim Palace circuit. It was a demanding mix of flats, hills and descents. The route was also interesting on the eye. I don't think that the Goodwood circuit can compete of this front but I actually relish the change. Goodwood will be fast and flat out and be demanding in different ways to Blenheim. Many Bromptonians have bemoaned the move away from Blenheim but I say a change is good and keeps things interesting! Who knows in a few years Brompton may decide to choose another location?

My Titanium Orange Brompton is almost ready for its first outing in race conditions at a Brompton event. Part of me says that I should really use my Original Orange Brompton for Sunday but I love my Titanium Orange Brompton so it will have to have a rest day.

I have taken off the Kojak tyres I had on my bike and replaced then with a brand new fresh set. These have bigger logos and look great! I have also replaced the original inner tubes that came with the bike for the better Schwalbe AV4's.

My knee is almost back to normal but as I wanted to go on a few gentle training rides that contained hills I decided to take off the 54T chainring for the 50T. I will decide later tomorrow whether or not the legs are up to the 54T. I must say thought that I really like the 54T and when my knee is 100% I suspect I will be putting it back on. All that remains for me to do it to give the bike the once over, clean and lube the chain and I should be ready.

Saturday is going to be an interesting experience and I am really looking forward to the Eliminator event. I suspect Sunday is going to be quite special as the number of riders is set to increase. Although the Brompton World Championships is part of Orbital Festival at Goodwood I would say that Brompton bikes and Bromptonians will dominate.

If you are racing or spectating and we haven't met please introduce yourself and say hello. I am sure that you'll be able to spot Mr Orange among the hundreds of riders!

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

270,000!

I passed the 270,000 mark for page views at some point in the early hours of this morning. As always I am very pleased.

I'd like to again thank all of you out there who have supported me in a website copying my posts and pasting them on a site that contains dozens of other people's hard work. 

Lots going on this weekend so keep reading as believe me I will have a great deal to write about!

Monday, 22 July 2013

Annoyed.

I have recently been informed that there is a Brompton website that merely copies my content, that of my partner iCrazyBee and a few other Brompton specific bloggers.

The annoying thing is that we have been told if you stray on to this site and click a link to something I...we have written it will not count as a page hit for us but for the person living off our hard work.

This blog is and has always been an online diary of my cycling adventures on my Brompton bikes. It has been a journey some of you have shared for years and some just a matter of weeks. You out there matter to me. Your kind words and comments have kept me writing and I have done my best to inform, amuse and entertain.

I have a demanding full time job, a wife and two children and do my best to find the time to blog as quickly as I dare. I have been advert free and do not make a penny from this blog. I know that my friend iCrazyBee would probably say the same. I don't think it is right that someone like a parasite is feeding off my...our hard work.

So this is a plea directly from me and my fellow Brompton related bloggers to read our efforts (however awful) via our blogs and not via anywhere else.

As you know my blog can be reached at:

myorangebrompton.com

 Please don't read it anywhere else and especially not at www.bromptonclub.co.uk

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Sunday Morning Ride

Last night I arranged to meet my good friend and riding partner iCrazyBee for an early morning ride. Apart from meeting at the Royal Albert Hall there was no particular set plan of action.

Shortly after 08:30 we headed off for a couple of laps of Hyde Park. The early morning start meant that the sun had not had the chance to shine through as it would do later on in the day. As a result there was a nip in the air when compared to our recent glorious weather.

We cycled towards St Paul's' Cathedral and crossed the Millennium Bridge that leads to the Tate Modern. From a distance there were dozens upon dozens of tourists walking very slowly over the bridge all going in the same direction. There was not a soul to be seen anywhere else. This looked liked a scene from 'The Walking Dead' and for a brief few seconds was quite menacing.

Once on the bridge we took a few photos. I had my new Ricoh GR which I am still loving and as usual with Ricoh GR cameras still finding out new features and functions to play around with.





A cloudy start to the day




A photo I have taken many times but my first with the Titanium Orange Brompton










After the bridge we headed to 'Look Mum No Hands' where we both had a rather tasty breakfast. After chewing the fat for a while it was back on the bikes and the short cycle to the heart of the city.


A lovely breakfast taken with my iPhone




If you are ever in London one of the best places to visit early on a Sunday morning is the city. During the week this location would be unbelievably busy but on a Sunday it is all but empty.

The Gherkin is a particular favourite of mine and I always like taking photos of it. Depending on the time of the day you can often take photos with all manner of reflections in them. 





A strange piece of art near the Gherkin

















After we both took loads of photos of various buildings we said our goodbyes. I continued to take a few more photos of the Lloyds Building before heading to Temple Church and then back to South Kensington.

The Lloyds Building



The more observant of you will notice that my original Brompton pedals are back on my bike. These are going to stay on until for the foreseeable future. My knee, although feeling almost back to normal, most certainly isn't 100% yet. 

As much as I like the clipped in pedals and can see their benefits if they - for me at least - induce knee pain they just aren't worth having on. On the way home I got chatting to a couple of roadies at a set of traffic lights. One of them was an America gentleman who also owns a Brompton (but back in New York where he usually resides). I talked about the Whitstable ride and my knee pain. The American chap said that Speedplay Zero pedals are pretty good as they offer lots of float for ones foot to move. He said that he rides a bike like Donald Duck (ankles inward slightly) and he is able to move his foot around a fair degree. I know that my feet are positioned in much the same way. After demonstrating this on the pedals he had fitted to his bike they certainly did allow more movement than SPD's. This will require further investigation.

This ride was exactly what the doctor ordered and I am certain that it did me some good. The Brompton World Championships starts on Saturday and I am going to slowly ease into some light training. 


Sunday Morning Ride Part 1 Maps and Ride Data


Sunday Morning Ride Part 2 Maps and Ride Data

Saturday, 20 July 2013

More Additions to my Titanium Orange Brompton!!

Okay the first addition isn't an addition to the bike at all. As a means to making my cycle shoes more supportive I bought a pair of green Specialized Footbeds. These are inner soles which have various grades of support. I went into a Specialized shop mid week and was told that these were the ones for me. They actually work rather well at supporting the foot but time will tell if they aid my poor knees.




Specialized Footbed



The first proper addition is my new 54T chain ring as you can see in the pictures below. This was recommended by a cycling Jedi Master called Laurence. I wanted this as it will help on the long flat straights at next weeks Brompton World Championships.

Fitting it is simple. Unbolt the old 50T chain ring and bolt the new 54T on. It fitted perfectly and looks rather good. A new slightly longer chain was needed but the whole process was fairly simple.









The addition of the extra 4x teeth will serve to make the top speed that bit more. Having tested it out briefly today I can say that the top end speed will be slightly more than my 50T and the middle gears look quite useful. Even on a hill the gearing is such that only a little extra effort is required. There is a small change but nothing too dramatic.










The old 50T chainring to be put back on at a later date.



As I posted a few days ago I fitted my new Ergon grips and I must say not only do they look good they really do perform well in making ones hand position more comfortable. I really like them and will definitely be getting a pair for my Original Orange Brompton.
















I have a couple more additions but they won't appear before the Brompton World Championships. All I can say is that I am looking forward to putting them on the bike.

Unable to do the Dunwich Dynamo!

Regular readers will know that last week I went on a 80+ mile ride from London to Whitstable. It was a great ride and afterwards I suffered not ill effects...at least I thought I hadn't.

On Monday morning I felt a tightness in my left knee. It was as if my knee had been overworked and was rebelling against the possibly of being put to work again by cycling to work. I decided to rest it for a few days in the hope that by today I would have recovered enough to go on the 120 mile Dunwich Dynamo I had been building up to and looking forward to all year.

I have to say that things did look better towards the end of the week but this morning I made the decision to abandon all hope of attending this year. As I type this my knee feels okay but I suspect it will be a few more days yet before I can say it is back to 100%.

Reasons? Well my first thought goes to the clipped in pedals. At 80+ miles this was the longest journey I have made on them and I cannot help but put two and two together. I don't think that on the actual ride I overdid things or used incorrect gears for too long. I have to point to the cleats and their position on the shoe. More specifically the left shoe.

It was disappointing not to go today. My heart was telling me that I could quite easily cope. My fitness and stamina could cope quite easily and my knee was feeling good. However, my head was telling me that if this knee pain took the best part of a week to go away (almost) going on a 120 mile ride would not be a smart move.

In addition to this the Brompton World Championships is next weekend. This is THE highlight of my cycling year and there is no way I'd want to miss it!! Not going was the right decision, however disappointing it may be.

I will miss the camaraderie of my friends, the challenge and the buzz of being one of a few thousand cyclist who attempt the Dunwich Dynamo but come next week when I am on the start line of the Brompton World Championships all this will be forgotten. Anyway there is always next year!

Thursday, 18 July 2013

I Finally Get New Grips for my Titanium Orange Brompton!

One upgrade I have not bothered with until now all the time I have owned my various Brompton bikes has been the grips. Many deride the stock Brompton foam grips supplied with the bike but I have not really had too much of a problem with them.

After last Saturdays ride from London to Whitstable and then cycling home thereafter brought my decision to finally upgrade the grips to the forefront on my mind. I didn't suffer too many ill effects but the palms of my hands did have a few mild aches so I thought I'd take the plunge. 

As far as grips are concerned many of my fellow Bromptonains opt for those made by Ergon. Having seen them in action on many a ride and liking what I saw and heard I ordered some. I went for the  GS1-L with the 'L' standing for light. The grips are a little over 100g but the the comfort they offer makes them a welcome addition. 









They are very comfortable and instantly you feel that your hand is better supported, in a way the stock grips are unable to compete with. I also like the fact that this particular version apart from being lighter than the standard Ergon's they are all black. 

Fitting them was a fairly straightforward affair but I did need to cut the end of the grips so that they would fit. This wasn't too bad but I up have covered the sins of slight uneven cuts with black tape which actually makes things rather neat and tidy. The grips have bolts on the end which when tightened do keep he grips perfectly in place. 









Now that I have taken the plunge I will almost certainly order another pair of Ergon grips for my Original Orange Brompton. In many ways I don't know why I didn't do this sooner? I have had a thing about keeping things as original as possible but of late I have been seduced by the Dark Side and gone upgrade mad. 

I was looking forward to using these grips with their extra comfort on the 120 mile Dunwich Dynamo this Saturday but I am now all but certain I will not be able to go unfortunately. 

After Saturdays 80+ mile ride to Whitstable - the first big ride using clipped in pedals - I have been suffering from a rather tender left knee. Strangely the day after the ride I felt totally fine with this tenderness making itself known on Monday. I have not been on the bike all week and even today it is still there. 

I suspect that it is due to a number of factors but put it mainly down to my cleats not being fitted or positioned well enough on he left shoe. I will se how it goes as I have a couple of days left things are not looking hopeful. The last thing I'd want to do is to miss the Brompton World Championships due to injury so I will be very sensible and only ride this Saturday if I feel okay. It will be a case of we'll see...


Monday, 15 July 2013

260,000+ Page Views

Overnight I passed 260,000 page views. Asa always I am rather pleased at yet another milestone being passed. I now look forward to approaching 300,000!

Thank you out there for your continued support!

Sunday, 14 July 2013

The Perfect Cycling Day? London to Whitstable

Yesterday I rose early for a days cycling that I had been building up to for some time. It was a days cycling that I was mildly reticent about. 80 miles is a considerable journey and if you have read my blog during the last few days you will already know this.

The meeting point was the north of Trafalgar Square at 07:00 and I was fashionably 10 minutes late. Mark and Geoff with their respective green and red Brompton bikes waited for my own Orange Brompton to complete the famous 'traffic lights' colour scheme.

As we set off a very nice American gentleman took a shine to our bikes and liked the Kojak tyres Mark and I had fitted to our bikes. He asked us where we were going and the distance. When we told him Whitstable some 80 miles away it was a bit of a conversation killer. He said that he had done similar distances on a road bike but on a Brompton...

With little fanfare we were off with Mark navigating our passage to Otford some 29 or so miles away where we would meet other members of the group who didn't want to cycle the full 80 miles. As we cycled off I wondered if the people viewing us riding in a perfect 'traffic light' peloton would believe we were going to be cycling 80 miles on our beloved Brompton bicycles?

Progress out of London - perhaps due to the time of the day - was good. Mark, Geoff and I have a very good cycling relationship and we are able to maintain a comfortable and purposeful pace that is slightly faster than when we are riding in larger groups. As such we were making good time. We treated ourselves to a few water stops and although the sun was yet to make its presence felt, the foundations were set to make this day a scorcher.

After heading past Dulwich it was if we were transported from the urban to the rural and the English countryside opened up and welcomed adoring views.

Mark had informed us that he had bought us a small 'Beet it' organic stamina shot to aid our progress and after about 10 miles we drank it down. As it was mixed with lemon juice it was refreshing, tart and served to perform the phycological boost we needed.










The preceding 10 miles were quite demanding. There wasn't a steep hill to ascend but the gradient was enough to make things very hard work. Progress was thus slow. When cycling through this section conversation was muted as we focused on maintaining a rhythm needed to progress forward without expelling too much energy. After what seemed like an eternity things seemed to level off slightly and the last nine or so miles in to Otford were as past paced as we dared.

The views were quite simply stunning! My photos taken with my iPhone do not convey how pretty things looked to my eyes. As one cycled along it was as if the views obtained of fields, farmhouses, colours and valleys through gaps in hedges were competing for one admiration. They seemed to get better and better the further we cycled.










Adding to the beautiful views was an abundance of wildlife. Red Admiral, Peacock and Cabbage White butterflies flew on their seemingly random flight paths. A lone Cuckoo could be heard calling in the distance trying to be heard about a combine harvester making bails of hay. Buzzards and Kestrels flew high overhead while Wrens, Yellowhammers and Sparrows darting in and out of the hedgerows.

Our target was to try and get to Otford by 10:15. With an average moving speed of 14.1 mph we managed this with time to spare so we retired to a cafe which overlooked a lovely village pond. There we sat for a good half an hour or so to charge our batteries.





The Pond










Otford looked rather good and it was a shame that we were only passing through. With water bottles filled up (with ice) by the kind ladies who worked at the cafe we made the short journey to Otford railway station where the remainder of the group had travelled from London Victoria. We had Richard and Charlie (on their first club rides), Fernado, Clara, Anne, David, Guy and my partner in crime iCrazyBee join us. With Mark, Geoff and myself it made 11 of us in total.





Otford Railway Station



With sun cream applied again we headed off almost immediately up a steed hill. This was to be the flavour of the entire ride. Hills appeared at regular intervals and I was glad of my clipped in pedals which did a great job of make things a little more manageable. More about hills later.






I am so glad I bought these!!




With a larger group there was no way that we could sustain the brisk pace set by the 'traffic light' trio in the first half. Still, look at the ride data the average moving speed was still a respectable 12.7 mph so considering the hills so if which took an age to climb I think we did pretty good.

As for the first half of the ride out of London the views were quite simply stunning. Each view seemed to get better and better and if time had been on our side stopping to take some landscape photos with a good camera would have produced some amazing photographs. We were cycling through Kent and its moniker 'the garden of England' was wholeheartedly deserved.











One other observation was that the fields tended to be on a huge scale. The photo below captures only a small portion - perhaps less than a tenth of the size of this one field!
















Little villages, picture postcard in their looks popped up every now and them and I relished the opportunity to stop and wait for the slower riders so that I could take in the atmosphere. The photos below show a village where time had stopped perhaps in the 1950's. There were very few cars and I expected to see Miss Marple out doing her errands and viewing these people on strange, small wheeled bikes with suspicion.















At the 50 mile point (50 miles for the 'traffic light' three who cycled from Trafalgar Square) we said goodbye to the gentleman that is Geoff. He unfortunately had to be elsewhere for another engagement. We said our goodbyes on an incredibly busy roundabout until next Saturday when we attempt the Dunwich Dynamo!

At the 24ish mile point word spread from those with mapping Garmin GPS units that there was a hill on the route not far away that looked like a vertical ascent. We set off thinking that this could not be wholly accurate. Little did we know...

I started up a steep incline with confidence and made good progress. I had to pass a few riders and it is best to go at the pace you are comfortable with. Often, some of these riders will then pass you. It was not long until I had bottomed out of my gears with nowhere to go. With perspiration flooding from every pour I dug in and tried harder. This hill...mountain surely just seemed to keep on going. I had already made up my mind that this was more severe than Box Hill and even made Ditchling Beacon seem tame.

As Mark, David and Guy went into the distance with perhaps 300 metres to go I could not pedal seated any more. I tired standing and pedalling as the chaps in front were doing but failed dismally. I stopped and unclipped. I walked the remainder to see the three chaps prostrate on the floor taking in lungfuls of oxygen. Perhaps having already cycled over 50 miles at this point my legs weren't up to it?

Mark, David, Guy, (I  think) Anne and perhaps Fernando made it to the top without a foot down. They did really well. (I must point our again that Mark was on a 54T chainring)! As we waited for the other riders speculation mounted as to the name of this hill. There were several suggestions but my far the post popular was suggested by David. I cannot write what it was christened by David but did agree with it!!

Later we found out that it was in fact Hollingbourne Hill. This is slightly over a mile long with a 10% gradient. It was horrendous! This by far was the most difficult hill I have cycled up yet. I would go as far as to suggest that it may have been an uncharted mountain. I write this as my ears momentarily started popping - surely due to being at altitude?!

A lesson from this for me personally is that I must gain more confidence and skill at riding out of the saddle. This is especially true on the steepest of hills. I will have to practice at Richmond Park and test out my efforts when I next tackle Ditchling Beacon on an overnight ride.

Unfortunately not long after all this drama Mark sustained a puncture on another hill. This was phoned through to the few that were ahead. We took sanctuary here and watched the world go by until the group tending to Mark's puncture returned.






The view from the place of sanctuary



We lay down on the ground and had a rest. I gazed up through the trees while lying on my back. As I did verses from Wordsworth's ramblings about clouds felt more poignant.





Clouds



Just checking the repair


As we progressed ever forward there were lots of signs that hinted at the significance of the route we were taking. Many road signs referred to pilgrims and one 'Pilgrims Way' was the route taken my many Christians on the way to the shrine of Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. There were a few old timber framed houses many of which might have provided a bed for the weary pilgrim on his/her way to Canterbury.












A rest point for pilgrims in the Tudor age?




At about three miles from Faversham we waited for slower riders and the decision was made to stop where we could and treat ourselves to an ice-cream and stock up on water. At this point I drank the last of mine! While waiting in the opposite field two Jack Russell dogs - one brown and white and the other a chestnut colour - barked furiously at us (having chased away several horse also in the field. The conversation soon turned to whether you were a cat or dog person. Many of us including yours truly came down on the side of the cat. I remarked that the Jack Russell was well know as being a biter but were really all mouth and no trouser.

We set off and I was forced to eat my words. As we cycled past the field containing the two dogs they ducked under the fence adjacent to the road and proceeded to run and bark at us. The brown and white dog bit at the heels of Guy who was having non of it. The chestnut coloured animal took a run up directly at me and jumped at least half a metre in the air. Its teeth bared I looked to see if there was any sign of a foaming mouth as the vicious little beast went for my feet...

Now, I am enjoying the clipped in pedal but it is early days and I am not 100% efficient when unclipping at speed. With this near feral dog coming at me I wobbled, unclipped my right foot with the intention of defending my honour. The only thing that came out of my mouth was 'be gone rat!' Luckily it sensed more movement behind me and ran off.  I clipped back in and I am not too proud to say that my acceleration from this danger zone was faster than that of the two Brompton World Championships I have participated in.

Near Faversham a local Co-op provided the water and the ice-cream we needed. As we entered the air-conditioned surroundings my thoughts came out aloud when I said 'lovely air-conditioning!' I even gave the poor shop assistant a thumbs up. I suspect he may have thought we were care in the community but I cared not. Like a Viking raiding party we plundered not for gold but water, soft drinks, energy drinks, ice lollies...anything cold!!




Faversham Co-op!


Before long we could smell the sea air and eventually see it. We had done it! Some of us had done 79ish miles and some 49. We sat along the sea front taking in the views and what we had accomplished in one day.




What a view - well worth it




Some of our group partook in fish and chips but I favoured an ice-cream. A nearby seller gave me the largest ice-cream i have ever had. The picture below was taken after some time. I was assumed that iCrazyBee went to the same seller and got one a third of the size!






A titanic ice-cream

















The last time I was at Whitstable was during the night ride. Then Whitstable was quiet and devoid of activity. When we arrived the place was a hive of activity and all the beach huts were occupied by their owners.




The famous beach huts





















Some of us wanted to get the 20:09 train back to Victoria so we headed off to the nearby railway station. The fact that the ticket office was closed and no staff were present did not provide the warning of what was to come...

We waited and we waited. Notices said cancelled, delayed and then nothing at all. Alternative routes were looked at but options were limited to say the least. One of our group Charlie knowing that he would not make it home in time set off to find a bed and breakfast hotel  so he could spend the night and return early the following morning. We later found out that he had no luck and had to spend the night under the starts on a bench by the sea. As time progressed the station platform began to get busier and busier. Eventually a train was set to arrive at 22:09 some two hours later than the one we wanted. It was late and rolled in at about 22:15.





The platform gradually filling up



This train was packed solid and there was standing room only. This was fine for me as I hate public transport at the best of times and have always had a problem with crowded tube trains, trains and buses. I suppose it is one of the reasons my Brompton bicycles are so important to me!

The seats to the left of where I was standing were taken up my a large group of young boys and girls perhaps 16 - 18 years old. Their noise and language was not good and added to this many of the boys were bare chested. I don't care how hot it gets, for me this is vulgar at best and renders the participant to be viewed as common at best and well known to the police at worst.

This group of friends had an argument between themselves which resulted in two of their number walking to the next carriage. Within a few minutes one of them came back to inform that someone had started with John. Of course the boys got up to defend the honour of their friend, encouraged by the screams from the girls.

I could say that it was like that scene from Romeo and Juliet where bands of young men are fighting in the streets of an Italian city but I cannot. What followed was like the worst Jeremy Kyle or Gerry Springer television programme.

The train stopped and did not move until the police arrived. Later, Mark told me that a member of our group (who is a police officer) may intervene and require his assistance. (Luckily both didn't have to). Mark and I laughed at this as we speculated what would have happened if he or I were asked to assist in this situation. I can say that I would be next to useless. In my mind it would be like Dr. Leonard Hofstadter and Dr. Sheldon Cooper trying to assist.

The announcement came to disembark the train we were on for another on the opposite platform. We did sat on the train and waited. After several minutes we were told to disembark this train for the one we had just got off!!

On the original train we set off and at the next station were told to get off get on another train that was on the same platform? In other words the train we were on! It is all too confusing to write any more about but I can say that we eventually got to Victoria!




On the train!




Forgetting the train debacle, this was a brilliant ride. The weather was glorious. The route demanding and more importantly the company was good. I had asserted that I would never go to Whitstable again (due to the trains) but I almost certainly will. These things happen and luckily owning a Brompton I am 99% of the time able to unfold and cycle away.

Incidentally when I arrived at Victoria I said my goodbyes to everyone that had made it there and proceeded to get lost. My intention was to head for Hyde Park where I knew the route home. I ended up at the Houses of parliament and got a round of applause by some drunk tourists who shouted 'allez allez!' as I rounded a corner.

All in I cycled close to 95 miles. As I write this I don't actually feel that bad. There are a few very mild aches on my legs where I have used different muscles than I normally do because of using clipped in pedal but apart from that I feel pretty good. It certainly gives me some confidence that I can do the 120 mile Dunwich Dynamo this coming Saturday.

You can view the map and ride data by clicking on the links below.


Trafalgar Square to Otford mape and ride data

Otford to Whitstable map and ride data