Saturday 2 March 2013

Richmond to Box Hill and Back

This is a ride I had been looking forward to for some time and all week I had been thinking about it. I started the day at St John's Wood where I parked my car. I then cycled to Kensal Rise to catch the train to Richmond, which was of course the meeting point. I didn't manage to catch the train I wanted and had to wait 16 minutes for the next one. As I waited on the opposite platform I saw a train in the distance that definitely wasn't part of the usual North London Railway stock. As it rolled past I soon saw that is was an Orient Express train bound for, well I am not sure where. I saw people sat at tables with white tablecloths draped over them. Lights in the shape of candelabras and a buzz of excitement on the faces that zoomed by. I took this as a lucky omen. 

Luckily the assembled Bromptonians where still tucking in to the remains of coffee at the meeting point and shortly after 09:30 we set off. The pace was brisk but more than manageable. Before long we found ourselves in the familiar setting of Bushy Park. The sight of a peloton of Brompton bikes induced open staring from the many joggers, dog walkers, roadies, cars and other occupants of the park.

Maintaining a good pace we started to leave behind the urban landscape to be replaced with the rural idyll in all its glory. The scenery, even at this time of year was beautiful and every so often the sun penetrated the cloud cover giving a hint of Spring and teased us into replacing the adjective 'beautiful' with something more suitable.

As we approached Epsom town centre the first unfortunate event occurred. A mobile food outlet titled, 'The Green Machine' was spotted by Mark W on his very own, 'Green Machine.' I suggested that he should try and get a photo of this and moved on further down the road. Unbeknown to me poor Mark had an SDP pedal incident but he soon got back in to the swing of things.

Our first big stop at was at Headley Store. I am not sure if this had been 'village shopped' like so many themed pubs but it was, well, rather quaint. It sold a bit of everything and reminded me of the sort of local general store that is often used as the unofficial tuck shop. Thankfully it also sold hot drinks. After ordering a lady came out with a tray containing a pot of coffee, a tea pot and milk. This was brilliant and it missed 10 out of 10 only by the absence of proper cups and saucers.

After refuelling we were off again. There is no hiding from the fact that this ride had lots of hills, however they were more than manageable and I would go as far as saying that anyone who had been on the rides I have mentioned in my blog entries up to this point could easily cope with it. I suspect you may already realise that I really enjoyed this ride! 

Eventually we reached the start of Box Hill proper. This had been the venue for some thrilling racing during the Olympic Games. A few photos at the bottom and after a few words of encouragement we set off.

At the start of the famous Box Hill.

The ride up Box Hill was breathtaking. It is a winding road, the surface of which was brilliant - perhaps due to being resurfaced for the Olympic races. David (who's fitness is quite incredible) was off first and maintained his position for the entire ascent, closely followed by yours truly. Our first scalp were the riders of two rather expensive looking mountain bikes. To be fair being heavier and having huge off road tyres didn't help but in our favour they were considerably younger than us. Our second scalp at about the halfway point proved to be more satisfying. A tall chap on what looked like a very expensive carbon fibre number was passed! The Brompton is great ascending hills. There were of course other roadies who made going up Box Hill look easy. A peloton of three riders all on the same bikes and in the same all in one lycra outfits, tore past and their pace was incredible. As we cycled, reminders of the Olympic races could be seen in 'Wiggo' and 'Cav' written in large white letters dotted up the road surface.

At the top was a large cafe that was very busy perhaps due to a number of races - cycling and running - which had been taking place. I was very happy when the question, 'do you do a bacon roll?' was met with a reassuring, 

'of course we do, love.'

The Box Hill Cafe.

Brompton parking area.

A few more photos and we cycled the short distance to the stunning views. When I told people at work that I was going to Box Hill at the weekend a few told me with some excitement that it was mentioned in Jane Austen's, 'Emma.' Not wanting to disappoint I took out my Fuji X100 to get some shots of the view.

Lovely isn't it. The view isn't bad either.

I took this one with the iPhone's panorama feature. The first time I have really used it.

More arty shots of the view.

Bromptonians taking in the view.

After a good rest we were keen to get going and the return pace was excellent. We were making great time and all able to maintain a good 18-20mph on the flats in bursts. I suspect the overall average pace wasn't higher due to the hills and negotiating traffic in the more build up section of the route.

After Epsom my new hub gear which had been faultless decided to lose a few gears and my 6 speed turned into a 4 speed. I suspect my cable might have been brushed by my foot when pushing off. I stopped to make some adjustments only to see Alasdair on his new Brompton with Alfine 11x speed hub going like lightening on the other side of the road. He was going to join us earlier in the day but caught us up, turned round and joined us. Being a bit of a technical expert I asked him to have a look at the linked hug cable.

Soon we were off again and after a little more tinkering, I found the correct setting and my 6 gears were restored to me. I was back in the game. It wasn't long after this that Mark had his second unfortunate even of the day. At a mini roundabout, stopping suddenly to avoid the rider in front who had stopped suddenly, Mark went in to the back of this bike. He went over and cut his shin knocked his elbow I think? I didn't see it happen but thankfully all was okay and we were soon off again.

For the final section, David made an executive decision to cycle back to Richmond via the Thames. This was welcomed by all. The sun made a welcome appearance to reward us for a good days cycling.

The Thames with a hint of sun.

We made it back to where we started out in wonderful time. A few of us decided to get a final coffee before heading off back home on the train. We sat outside and had a well earned rest. As the many shopper passed us by I bet they wouldn't have guessed that we had cycled over 45 miles and ascended Box Hill. 

As I type this blog entry I am still buzzing by a very enjoyable days cycling. I don't feel tired and my legs do not ache. This was an excellent ride and route. I would go as far as to say it one of my favourite rides so far. The hills are manageable and I would love to do this ride again. I would imagine that in the Spring or Summer it would be stunning. In hot weather as long as one had plenty of water the hills would still be okay. 

A very big thank you to David for organising and leading the ride. As always a ride like this is enhanced by the company and it was great to ride with some familiar faces and a few new ones. Hopefully if we go on this ride again I will almost certainly have my new Titanium Orange Brompton. The prospect of taking it on this ride fills me with nothing by great excitement. 

You can see the ride data and map by clicking on the link below which my Garmin Edge 200 recorded during the ride. If you get the chance to have a go at this ride I highly recommend it!
Richmond to Box Hill and Back Ride Data

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