Sunday, 17 November 2019

Last overnight Brompton ride to the coast?

Friday night is the start of the weekend. Going into central London you will see people letting their hair down - and sometimes a great deal more - as the working week for most has come to an end. I however associate Friday nights in central London with the start of a night ride to the coast and last Friday was no such exception.

The meet up point was was Hyde Park Corner which brought back fond memories as it used to be the start of many of my first foray into nocturnal cycling to the coast. Sadly Dr John looked as if the weather / time of the year had out him off so didn't come. The ride was actually the idea of my old friend Tom, who had left his Brompton Chpt3 at home in favour of one of his usual mountain bikes.

This time I set off with my wallet, plenty of cash and my mobile phone, as did Tom! (Read my recent blog post about a Southend run to find out why this was important if you have not already).

Earlier in the day/early evening it had been raining but as we set off it stayed away. In fact there was very little in the way of rain for the entire ride. It was chilly - well it is November - but Dr John pointing out that almost at the same point last year we had done the Brighton run in short sleeves! For this ride we both had a few layers on and winter cycling gear out in force.

London looked - as always - resplendent. Despite the chill and the earlier rain, it was busy and there seemed to be lots more people out and about than there normally is at this time.

Our pace was conversational and we caught up on things and as always when two old friends get together, took a walk down memory lane. At times the two of us were in hysterics at some of these memories and had to actually stop pedalling.

As soon as we passed Clapham the ride took on a different vide. From this point it was almost as if the urban was left behind. Traffic got less and less to the point that cars etc.., were a rare sight. Climbing up and reaching the cattle grid with views of Croydon was quite eerie as the first of many blankets of fog hung around us. At times it was a little like a Hammer Horror set and our front lights were rendered next to useless at illuminating the path ahead. The light they produced bounced off the fog and offered little insight to what lay ahead. A full moon, dogs howling in the distance and owls hooting all added to this rather gothic atmosphere.

The halfway stop was at just over 25 miles. Tom had brought enough food with him to feed an army and this we ate outside the Scout Hut at Horley. Tom had a pannier rack and bag, in which he had the secret weapon - a 2 litre thermos flask with hot water therein. (This brought back memories of Geoff doing the same on a ride to Burnham on Crouch). After a tea and coffee and some lovely food we were off again.

Turners Hill was about 8 miles from the halfway stop. I ascended pretty quickly but Tom with a massive rear cassette - the biggest ring of which looked like an old 12 inch - meant he motored up with ease.

One of the great things about night rides is cycling along with few distractions. The only thing to hear is the sound one ones bicycle and any nature lurking around either outraged at being disturbed or simply letting you know it is there. At these moments you think about all sorts and have - to use a modern word - headspace.

The moon was our contact companion and as we approached the 50 mile mark Ditchling Beacon was but a step away. Reaching the carpark at the base of the Beacon we readied ourselves. Again I made good time up the Beacon but I simply went at my pace. Tom's incredible gearing meant he could have  almost ascended a vertical climb but he found that he was spinning quite a bit until he found the gear he liked.

We did it. With the Beacon done we cycled the last few miles into Brighton central. This is a very pleasant few miles as almost all of it is downhill and freewheeling. At Brighton we headed for the station where we bought a coffee and a bite to eat. Our train journey back to London was quick and we more or less had the carriage to ourselves for the entire journey.

Back in London we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. Tom invited me to join him on one of his nocturnal off-road adventures as he prefers them to road cycling. That was a maybe from me as I prefer road cycling. Many thanks for the invite and the company.

I titled this as my last nocturnal ride to the coast for 2019. I am toying with the notion of doing one more - probably London to Brighton. I love this route and getting back into London is a doddle. I will have to have a think about this one though. Until next time...

Sunday, 3 November 2019

Brompton brings back Orange!

Brompton recently announced that is was bringing '...back by popular demand..' its ever popular 'Signal Orange.' As you can appreciate I was rather pleased about this.

A few years ago Brompton took the decision to discontinue orange as a colour you could choose to have your Brompton in. At the time I raised an eyebrow to this and could never quite understand their logic. Several months later orange was back as a 'Special Edition' and yours truly bought one. More recently there has also been the introduction of 'Flame Lacquer' that I absolutely love.

I do wonder when Brompton will bring back the option to have a Brompton in yellow? It too has been discontinued and not even available as a special edition. I have a friend who would be very please if they did.

So, if you are in the market for a new Brompton, orange could be a option for your shopping list. Just remember though, there is only one Mr Orange!

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Unintentional 100 mile overnight London to Southend and back!!

Late last week a of friend put forward the suggestion for a an evening ride to Southend. The idea was a simple one. Start off after work from central London and head off towards Southend. Once at Southend we would get the last train - just after 23:30 - and be back at Fenchurch Street less than an hour later. Simple. Can you guess what might have happened?

The meeting point was Hyde Park Corner early Saturday evening where I was to meet my old friend, Tom who was a new convert to the Brompton. His new bike was a CHPT3 and he liked it a great deal but knowing Tom as I do he will probably tire of it and move on to another one in another colour or something totally different. 

I was about to take a photo of my bike - that's what Brompton people do - however searching my pockets and everything else I could not find it! After a momentary fit of the vapours in which I fancied some London footpad had pilfered my phone, it dawned on me that I had left my iPhone up the road in SW7. In fact in my haste I had also left my water bottle and small wallet. This wasn't an issue as Tom assured me he had his phone with him and we could buy anything we needed using it. We headed off.

London was very busy when we set off shortly after 18:00 and things didn't really get any calmer heading east. Tom was loving his new Brompton and it was strange to see him on anything other than his usual mountain bikes.

We arrived at the usual halfway stop, Junction 31 services off the M25 in very good time and things were very different than when I have usually arrived there at about 03:30 in the a.m. on night rides starting at midnight. Then, little is open and no-one is around. This time a great deal more was open and the place was really busy. Tom treated me to a coffee, muffin and sandwich.  We happily ate this content in the knowledge that we were making excellent time. In my mind I was already planning the day ahead. 

Tom is no stranger to nocturnal rides but this was his first on a Brompton. He can normally be found on one of his many mountain bikes - that seem outrageously expensive - doing lots of night trails. His favourite is a London to Brighton route that he claims is more than two-thirds all off-road. On his bike he had a huge Exposure light the brightness of which was astonishing. Pointed down towards the road, so as not to inconvenience drivers, it illuminated the road ahead for both of us.

After the halfway stop the roads were quiet and the simple joys of cycling along in the middle of nowhere, chatting away about all sorts, hearing the sound of ones bicycle working and unseen nature all around made the miles fly by.

We made excellent progress along a tried and tested route and as always my Wahoo made navigation effortless. I was initially worried about the slick tyres on Tom's CHPT3 being puncture prone but my fears were unjustified. They seemed pretty good.

Southend came up very quickly and was extremely busy. The seafront was heaving. There were brides and grooms on hen and stage nights, taxis waiting for customers and generally lots of people out and about. With a train to catch and roughly 15 minutes to spare we headed for the station and the last train to London.

Heading to the ticket machine Tom attempted to pay for our tickets using his phone. This is where disaster struck. After several attempts he was unable to pay using it. Without enough cash between us (I only had £3 in coins) and the last train about to depart, there were few options. Using the last of my money to buy some water and a chocolate bar I reversed the route on my Wahoo - which reminded me about one-way streets - and we were off.

The first few miles felt very strange. I didn't actually feel tired at all and I was thankful that the route to and from Southend was more or less flat. It was as if the ride had just started but the difference was that after just a few miles it was very quiet.

Arriving back at Junction 31 services more or less at the same time night rides starting from London arrive there, seemed very strange. It was a crisp outside and we welcomed the warmth and sanctuary it afforded. We decided not to stay long and headed back outside. Layering up - as we both felt the cold - we set off, only to take the layers off after a couple of miles as they were making us too hot!

We approached the outskirts of central London at about 0600. I was glad to be back! The photograph below - taken with Tom's phone - was on the Millennium footbridge just before we went our separate ways. Many thanks to Tom for the idea, the company and the adventure.

In all we clocked up just over 108 totally unintentional miles. I have often thought about cycling back from one of these rides, with Southend always seeming like the best option as there aren't too many hills, but have never got round to doing it.

As I cycled back, London was empty and no-one was about. I suspect that this will sadly be the last of the night rides to the coast for this year and I will probably have to wait until a few weeks into 2020 before they resume. What a way to end the 2019 season though!!