Sunday 15 September 2013

London to Southend on a Brompton...OMG!

Friday night through to Saturday morning will go down in my memory (to use common parlance) as an OMG moment. It was of course the London to Southend cycle ride and it was going to be one I would not forget in a hurry.

I set off for Charing Cross where I was due to meet fellow Bromptonian Geoff a veteran of many a Brompton adventure and as I did in Altura over trousers and waterproof jacket two thoughts came to me. The first was that it must be winter as I was now wearing my winter outer layer. The second was that I was getting incredibly wet in a very short space of time. A third thought which I will state now was to wonder how wet I might become after a few hours?

Things must have been pretty bad as I felt compelled to travel with normal people on a tube train to Charing Cross so as to preserve the waterproofness of my clothing. I sat opposite a lady who enquired about my Brompton and before long she engaged me in conversation. When she found out that I was cycling to Southend with the weather the way it was she said, "you're nuts." If truth be told I was happy with this comment and the reaction my impending cycle ride induced as it was quite possibly true. I gave her one of my blog address cards as she was toying with the idea of buying a Brompton.

Arriving at Charing Cross just before 23:00 on a Friday night is always an interesting experience. The floor inside the station was deadly in its slipperiness. This did not stop young ladies and those who had seen better days risking it all in heels so high they must have added at least 6 to 8 inches to their overall heights. One ladies walking was rendered useless by such heels and had to be assisted by a friend who was not much better. They tottered along the station until one did the most spectacular slip and cascaded on the floor. Then like a baby giraffe, once down she was unable to get up. Eventually she managed to do so before mincing off into the distance.

Thankfully Geoff arrived not long after and we set off for Hyde Park Corner. Outside the rain was falling heavily and I was glad I had decided to take my winter waterproofs! It was also the first outing for my new Ortlieb Airflex 11 backpack. In this I packed another pair of Altura over trousers, a DHB waterproof jacket and a pair of socks. I also took a leap of faith and packed my beloved iPhone 5 in the zipped compartment. More on how it got on later.

At Hyde Park Corner I saw the welcome sight of fellow adventurers David, Anne, Amanda, Guy and newcomer Ian. As we waited under the arch there was a mild muttering of going AWOL by some as the rain was beginning to pour down heavier than before! After a safety talk we were off into the semi cold wetness. As I set off I fancied I could almost hear the words of the lady I met on the tube train...

I had again decided to take my Titanium Orange Brompton with me. If you have been reading my blog posts you will already know that I now have little fear of it getting wet or dirty. (I can always clean it after the ride). Again I enjoyed the riding position and discernible weight saving. The new Ergon grips were an excellent addition. They were extremely comfortable but proved to be great in the wet weather conditions. There was not any point during this wet ride where my hands slipped or felt as if they might. I was very impressed with them.

When riding along I decided to tighten the shock cord around the neck of my waterproof jacket. Unfortunately, the cycling action meant that rain was still able to travel down my neck and I knew that my top half was going to be slightly wet. The over trousers seemed to be working okay and my legs felt dry.

Rain! The rain was heavy and consistent from meeting at Hyde Park Corner at 23:30 until the stop point at Stock at just after 03:30 some 33 miles later. There were times when it really came down but it did not let up at all! Rain, perhaps blown by the wind seemed to come at you from all directions. Travelling too close to those without mudguards meant that water travelled up! There was little in the way of sanctuary.

You may think that it sounds like hell but actually it was still great fun. I enjoyed it and the challenge of cycling in such demanding conditions. I have written before that I am one of those people who do not mind the rain at all. If anything I quite like it. Yet again our little Brompton bikes coped really well in these conditions.

We reached a small ford which in different weather conditions we might have cycled through. A height marker indicated that it was approaching a metre in depth at its deepest point. No one needed to be told to walk their bikes over the small footpath that took us to the other side!

At just over 33 miles, just past 03:30 in the a.m. we reached Stock and its Village Hall. There we were able to have a good rest, some lovely refreshments and the chance to dry or change in to some dry clothes. I changed my top, waterproofs and socks and was very happy that I did. As for my Ortlieb Airflex 11 rucksack it remained totally waterproof. No signs at all that there was rain and everything bone dry. It was mightily impressive!!

Stock Village Hall. Isn't that Peter from the Tweed Run?

This rucksack by Ortlieb is totally brilliant!!

Just before 05:00 we set off again. On all of the night rides I have been on this is perhaps the time I look forward to least. It isn't anything to do with the weather or the remaining miles but coming from warmth I always feel cold for a good few miles. This ride was no exception and I felt frozen for the first couple of miles before I had warmed up properly. The next time I go on one of these rides I am going to take an extra layer just for this part of the ride, to be taken off when I've warmed up sufficiently.


Are we there yet?

The rain eased off slightly after rest stop but was still constantly falling. Southend was not that far away and at the pace we were going at we would reach it at approximately 07:00. With dawn breaking the usual sound of the dawn chorus was absent as even the birds did not venture out. Before long we started to smell the sea air and Southend was but moments away. Cycling along the sea front we saw lots of lovely houses that possessed stunning views. To our right the sea with sailboats, gulls and in the distance the famous Southend Pier.

The sea!

A dog taking its owner for a walk!

At just after 07:00 we reached the welcome sight of The Rose Restaurant, the staff of which had got up early to open for business just for us. After having breakfast we headed off for the train station for our return to London. After one stop we said our goodbyes to Geoff while David, Anne and I proceeded to Fenchurch Street.

Back in London we said our goodbyes and headed our separate ways. It was still raining but had got heavier again. It seemed like a fitting end for this ride.

I really enjoyed this ride. The conditions were perhaps the worst I have ever cycled in but it still remained a great ride. These rides do seem very pure in their make up. Meet at London and by morning you'll be at the coast. They are quite addictive and although cycling together in a large group is great fun, the times when you are on your own with the rear light of a fellow cyclist quarter of a mile in the distance is also appealing. Looking at the ride data my average moving speed was just over 12 mph. I think this is pretty good when you take into account the large number of riders and the conditions we cycled in.

Yet again another great ride. Many thanks to Simon and his team of Tail End Charlie's for making sure we got where we were meant to safely. It was also great to ride with my fellow Bromptonians and again hopefully show that our little wheeled wonders can cope with all situations.

For many the onset of winter might curtail the adventures of many a cyclist. For me and my fellow Bromptonians it marks the start of perhaps one of the most enjoyable periods - the run up to Christmas. There will be many more adventures to come so keep reading. I would also say, don't let the weather put off your cycling adventures.

Rainy London to Southend maps and ride data


  1. Well done mate - i've just ordered my Ergon grips on your reccomendation! - I take it there is no other way of removing the foam grips other than to 'cut' them off carefully?

    Laurie -

    1. Good Laurie you won't regret it. It took me ages to replace the standard grips and I cannot think why it took me so long. An instant improvement. Yes, the best way to get the old ones off is cutting them off.They should come off quite easily.


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