Wednesday 29 October 2014


I found myself in one of my favourite locations outside of my beloved London namely, Whitby.

Whitby is in North Yorkshire and travelling in one of the things you see from a considerable distance is its ruined Abbey.

Not far from the ruined Abbey is the weather battered St Mary's Church. Both locations and Whitby itself will forever be associated with Bram Stoker and his most favourite work, 'Dracula.'

Whitby was where Dracula landed in the ghost ship Dementa. Fearing that sunrise was imminent, Dracula transformed into a huge black dog and ran up the 199 steps leading up to the Abbey and church. 

Whitby is also famous for a softish black gemstone called, jet. Lots of little jewellery shops sell some lovely items and I usually try and persuade Mrs O to buy something. 

During this time of year - the run up to Hallowe'en - the shops are suitably kitted out in cobwebs, pumpkins and the like and the streets are lined with Goths. Some of these are new recruits while others are old hands having been there back in the 1980's. Some of the outfits and effort people go to is quite amazing. 

Captain Cook the famous explorer lived in Whitby and a couple of his most famous ships were build there. The house he lived in is now fittingly a museum. The statue overlooking the harbour is very popular!!

One of the very refreshing aspects to Whitby is the shear number of unique and independent shops. One can become somewhat jaded with boring multinational chains and those at Whitby are a refreshing chance to experience something different. 

In case you haven't guessed, I am rather taken with Whitby and even though I have visited several times I have yet to be disappointed. 

Sunday 26 October 2014

St Crispin's Day 100 mile Night Ride on an Orange Brompton

The St Crispin's Day night ride has been around for a number of years but this was going to be the first time I took part.

It is a unique ride insofar as it takes place on the weekend where the clocks go back an hour - essentially for daylight savings purposes - and this hour change means that one actually gains an hour and you go back in time. So if you finished at 10:00 with the change it would be 09:00. St Crispin's Day is a day most famous for the battles that took place on it - 25th October - the most famous of which being Agincourt in 1415. 

Being 100 miles it should have been in my thoughts the proceeding week but having done lots of night rides in the past, I felt quite confident. Looking at the route - which was essentially flat - it didn't really hold a great deal of fear or trepidation but 100 miles is 100 miles and needed to be respected.

As so often on big rides I arranged to meet my Partner in Crime Andrew at Hyde Park Corner under Wellington Arch. We would then cycle to the start about 30 minutes away. Also around were Jenny, Samantha and a few other brave souls. We made our way excitedly through the still busy London traffic to the start at a boathouse in Chiswick. 

I don't think Andrew would mind me writing that he was a little nervous about this ride. If he competed it successfully it would be his longest ride and his first 100 miler. I had every confidence in him and knew how much this meant to him. Would he do it?

Riders getting ready for midnight

We signed in an got our special St Crispin's Day hats and passports. The passports would allow us to get food at the various stops and be stamped at certain points to prove that we had clocked in as it were.

There were quite a few Bromptonians out in force - which was a great sight. One bike in particular - not a Brompton was being ridden by Brompton owner and gent Tony, caught my eye. It was a Pashley Guv'nor. I have always admired these bikes from afar but seeing one in the flesh made me want one. It was a stunner and I was drooling over it for 99 of the 100 miles!

Before long the familiar faces of David and Anne came into view and Anne wasted little time in distributing some rather fine flapjacks she had made!! We waited for the stroke of midnight for the off. It came and with little fuss, riders started to leave for the adventure that lay ahead.

The excitement and anticipation building 

Our little group of Bromptonians started to thin out and near Buckingham Palace we regrouped. Rides of distance inevitably do this and everyone lives at a pace they are comfortable with. David was chief navigator. I have to say that the signs the organisers had painstakingly placed at strategic points were useful but nothing compares to the navigational prowess of David.

Near Buckingham Palace I am drooling over Tony's bicycle!!!

The ever cool David

My beloved Orange P type serving me well

David set a blistering pace. I had been worried that it might be a slow 10ish mph pace but David certainly had other ideas. It was a pace I liked. I was not sure we could sustain it but we were already averaging over 13 mph. This meant that the inevitable, where the group thins out was going to and did happen.

My Partner in crime was on the pace for well over 20 miles and was looking supremely confident. Would he be able to keep it up?

Stopping for fuel

By the time we had reached the outskirts of Windsor the group had thinned considerable. At Eton we stopped on the bridge over the River Thames. As I gazed out at the river I saw a swan with its head tucked in, fast asleep and floating along. It was quite surreal. This was magnified when another two swans floated out from under the bridge doing the same.

The Thames at Eton

Further up were some bins and shrutting along was perhaps the biggest rat I have ever seen nosing at the discarded rubbish. My first instinct was that it was a cat! As we set off and passed said bin, I was extra cautious. If that rat had of come anywhere near me, I would have surely showed myself up!

The bridge at Eton

It was a warm night and I had a hard time believing that it was the end of October. This served to make things more enjoyable. I fancy the ride would have been an altogether different experience in the wet! My Proviz 360 - the ultimate night riding jacket as far as I'm concerned - had to come off as I was starting to overheat due to the mild conditions.

David continued his brisk pace. We missed the cake stop as we could not see hide nor hare of it. After a quick rest we pressed on. At about 65 miles we reached the main stop where we would be able to pick up a special bottle of St Crispin's Day wine. We also got a hot meal - a rather tasty chicken stew. This I ate with enthusiasm.

Special St Crispin's Day wine

Sadly it meant we had to say goodbye to David who sensibly was going to wait for Anne. With Chris taking over the role of navigator we said our goodbyes and were off.

Sanctuary before another 35 miles

Our pace didn't really change a great deal and we were now averaging a far from shabby 14 mph. We cycled along in a purposeful peloton and I would be telling a falsehood if I wrote that it was not satisfying passing several roadies in full lycra on lighter bikes, with more gears and a greater price tag. I feel we certainly did our bit to show just what a Brompton could do.

At 88 miles we reached the cake stop that we had missed the first time round. Our average pace had moved slightly to 14.1 mph and it was to stay at this level overall for the entire ride.

The cake stop finally found

A rapid pace for a Brompton 

The last few miles had a few hills. I write hills but they were more like inclines. I suspect after competing so many miles up to this point, any incline felt harder than it should. Pressing on we reached Richmond. At exactly 09:28 I passed the 100 mile mark. (Officially with the clocks having gone back it was 08:28). It was not long now until the finish.

With the back of the ride broken we reached the road leading to the boathouse and with 102.43 miles recorded we...I had done it. It was 09:38 (or 08:38) and after getting my passport officially stamped I could finally state that I had competed the St Crispin's Day Ride and clocked up another 100 miler.

With the queue for the bacon roll quite long, like Chris I decided to head for home. Using google maps and my iPhone I navigated my way successfully without getting lost. With my journey to Hyde Park Corner, the start point and my ride home, I clocked up over 128 miles - the highest tally yet. My ride home was very slow but more because I was studiously listening to the spoken directions than feeling fatigued.

As for my Partner in Crime, did he complete the 100 miles? YES!! I was happier about this than I was about doing it myself. I knew he could do it!! 

This was a highly enjoyable and well organised event. Special thanks to Rob and his team at St Crispin's Day Night Ride. They were friendly, helpful and everything just worked. Thanks as always to David for his company and navigation, Anne for her flapjacks and Chris for the navigation for the last 35 miles. Many thanks to those I rode with too.

Would I do this again? Yes! If I could sign up now for next year I would. I didn't find it overly taxing for 100 miles but this was a good thing. I will definitely be back next year!

Wednesday 22 October 2014

100 Miles Overnight

On Saturday evening I will be embarking on a 100 mile sojourn in the form of the St Crispin's Day night ride.

I will be far from alone and several other Bromptonians will be taking part as well. A ride of 100 miles is always a significant amount to rack up. So far I have done this three times. First was the Dunwich Dynamo. Second the dreaded hills of the gruelling Mitie Revolution and more recently London to Felpham (although the 100 miles included journeys to and from the ride). 

The St Crispin's Day night ride although 100 miles will be a fairly easy 100 miles. I say this as it is relatively flat throughout. (A few killer hills would have suited my tastes more). 

I am really looking forward to it and hopefully the weather will remain as clement as the current forecast. 

In the meantime I am doing nothing in the way of preparation and merely going to turn up and enjoy!

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