Sunday, 22 May 2022

Brompton Sevenoaks Weald Tour

Last Saturday, my friend of old Mark (King of the Hill) lead his Sevenoaks Weald Tour that started and finished in Kemsing. As it was a Saturday (I rarely do Sunday rides) I was willing and able to attend and by the end of it all, I was very glad I did.

I started in NW8 and rode the not too great distance to Victoria Station where with a few other Brompoton peeps we boarded the train bound for Kemsing. Perhaps like me you have not heard of Kemsing before but it was the station after Otford (the usual start from many a Kent adventure). 


Looking our of the window as the train departed I took a quick photo of my beloved London as it slowly drifted out of view. 


Mark was to join us a few stops in and it was good to see him, Geoff and Ian (who had come all the way from Sheffield). I cannot think when I last saw Ian but it must have been several years. 


Mark had decided on us all starting at Kemsing as it was very much in the Kent countryside straight away. He was right about this and within seconds of us departing, picturesque views started to compete with each other. 


The welcome sight of oast houses with their distinctive architecture appeared within five minutes and many of us had phone cameras at the ready to capture as many of them as we dared. 


There were over 25 riders I think and for the most part we cycled quite tightly packed. I enjoyed marking the odd junction and then cycling back through the pack up to the front to have a go at doing it again. 



Kent is really, really pretty. When on a ride in Kent I always think this and always come away thinking it. This ride had a lovely route that took in quaint little villages, almost suspended in time. 


Mark's last ride into Kent had a complete lack of food stops. If anything, this one had took many! (There is no pleasing people)! The first stop was at the photo below. As we entered the seating area, other cyclists on larger wheels) were also having some refreshment. The sight of some 25 Brompton peeps might have been viewed by some of the clientele in much the same way perhaps a London chapter of a certain motorcycle gang!
 


I stopped to take a photo on a small bridge so that I could use another as the background for my photograph above. The water was calm and all very tranquil. After we had got some refreshments (in my case the rather lovely ice cream you can see in the photo) going back over that same bridge the sluice gates had been opened with water thundering out and through the arches you can see below at quite a speed and force. Sadly. I mum and her three young children (perhaps from a nearby holiday camp) had waded out moments before this happened and stood trapped at the base of one of the arches. People made an attempt to rescue them as we cycled by. 
 




As we cycled on the views just seemed to get better and better. The route was so lovely, I do think that I will have to repeat it again with anyone who will come with me. 


Our Brompton peloton was a sight to behold. There really is nothing quite like being in one or seeing it glide by. For both, it just brings a big smile to your face. The next stop was a branch of Sainsbury's where sandwiches, drinks and various other items were purchased for the simple job of replenishing energy. That done we were off again into the wonderful Kent countryside. 




The next stop was at a vineyard. Being someone who does not drink, it was wasted on me but those who did spoke very highly of it. Geoff and I (Geoff doesn't drink either ) used the time to catch up and plan the odd cycle ride. We talked about the forthcoming Ride100 (which is next week) and our start times. Sadly, it is unlikely we will see each other as I start about an hour before Geoff does. Saying that, I will be on a Brompton and Geoff on big wheels, so you never know?!




Our final stop was a very old pub called 'The Man of Kent.' This was quite crazy inside. I had to bend over to get through the doorway and once inside it was not that better, with low beams. A bag of crips and a cup of coffee later I overheard another ride talking to Mark about the need to get back to London. With only one train an hour from Kemsing back to Victoria I decided to go - along with Geoff and Amy who must have thought the same. 

We had about 10 miles to go and there was to be a steep little climb before we got to the station. With the route in my trusty Wahoo, we set off with about 40ish minutes to get there. Thankfully we did and got the train back. It was delayed a little as someone who was on the train decided to walk onto the track when we reached the first stop. Luckily it was all sorted out and we arrived only a couple of minutes late. At Victoria we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. 


In all I cycled just over  50 miles - including the 47 miles for this ride. Many thanks to Mark for leading and to all the other Brompton peeps for always making these rides so much fun. 


My next ride is the Ride100 next Sunday. As I type, this time next week I hope that I have not only completed the ride but home as well. I have not really carried out any specific training for this ride and hope my fitness and the day itself will me enough. Watch this space for my blog post on that one!

Until next time, stay safe out there people!

Sunday, 1 May 2022

May Day Brompton Bimble

Early this morning I ventured out for a short 10 mile spin on my Cloud Blue. This particular Brompton of mine does seem rather well suited to this task. As usual for this bike I was dressed in normal clothing - apart from the SPD shoes. (More on that later). 

I started off at a very posh garage door in NW8. The owners paint this quite regularly but in all the years I have been past - getting on 35 years - this had been the first time I have ever seen it painted blue. Naturally, I had to stop!


London was quiet with only the odd tourist out and about. I saw a few people on bicycles but I was the only Brompton rider I saw while out. 


The further I got into the City, the less busy things became. I do recall cycling through during that first lockdown and it was perhaps one of the strangest experiences I have ever had. It all felt wrong for such normally busy locations to be all but empty. I am glad to see that things are more or less back as they were. 




I bought a new pair of Ergon grips specifically for this Brompton and they did feel rather comfy. As mentioned pedals earlier, I am considering whether to refit the original Brompton pedals on this bike? If I were to do this I could use whatever footwear I liked, which does appeal to me. I will have to have a think about that one as I have been using SPD pedals for so long I am not entirely sure I could go back to anything else. Watch this space on that. 



Near St Paul's Cathedral, Ludgate Hill was having some resurfacing done. Despite the signs informing drivers of this well in advance, a few didn't believe it until they came upon it. I saw a car doing a very dangerous, rapid and unexpected three point turn almost knocking over a cyclist in front of me and a couple of pedestrians. 


As I reached 10 miles, the air had that smell it gets just before a thunder storm. A few drops of rain did fall but nothing more than this and I was able to make my way back without the need of a waterproof or to take sanctuary somewhere!


Until next time, stay safe out there people!






Sunday, 24 April 2022

10 years of friendship and counting

Early this morning a photo memory came up on my iMac informing me of two memories from almost ten years ago. They brought a smile to my face. 

The photos in question were not the exact ones below but one was of my partner in crime and none other than 'Bumblebee.' The other was of Geoff who I have probably cycled on more nocturnal rides than anyone else. 

Almost ten years ago Bubmblebee and I attended a Monopoly ride that was organised by a small group who were carrying out lots of training for a future charity Land's End to John O'Groats ride on their Brompton bicycles. We met on this ride for the first time on this ride and I think about two weeks later we met up for a London Cycling Campaign ride and became firm friends ever since. 


In a similar way, Geoff and I first met on another training ride not long after,  this time London to Cambridge. Since then Geoff and I have been on countless night rides (and also day rides). I always say that it is thanks to Geoff I successfully completed several Dunwich Dynamo rides and I really do mean it. There may be a time when I have a go at completing one without him but I know I would much rather have him along as well!!


It really is very strange to think that such lasting friendships were established because of a folding bicycle, but I suspect our paths would not have crossed otherwise. I for one am very glad they did. So, here's to several more years of cycling adventures. 

Until next time, stay safe out there people!

Sunday, 17 April 2022

Whitstable!

The night ride to Whitstable is always something to look forward to with this one no exception. Heading off from NW8, it occurred to me that London looked more of less as I remember it before the dreaded C word - a good thing. People were out in force (perhaps boosted by the lovely weather) and the night sky looked clear. It was going to be a lovely adventure. 

There was a protest on Westminster bridge that I think was still ongoing, so I opted for the nearby Waterloo Bridge to cross the Thames from north to south. 



At the meeting point, most participants seemed to be there already. It was good to see the Brompton peeps out in force. I was particularly pleased to see Geoff, who I had not seem for what seemed like ages. 
 

Our ride leader Kim with her trademark 80's leg warmers was busy ticking off names and a few minutes before the big off, went through the interactive safety talk. With that done, it was time to turn on the lights, GPS trackers and let the adventure unfold. 


Progress was brisk and it was great to catch up with friends old and new. It wasn't too long until we had reached Greenwich and not far away the Thames that we would stick quite close to for a good section of the first part of the ride. 




I had decided to just wear a pair of shorts but had packed some leg warmers (not the kind our ride leader was wearing in case you are wondering) just in case. That just in case came pretty quickly and I doubt if I strayed too far out of the NW8 postcode before I was there at the side of the road, doing my best not to make a scene putting them on!


The Thames Flood Barrier in the distance


Again we passed the Woolwich Ferry and again I made a mental note that I must pay this a visit to travel across the Thames!


At Woolwich Arsenal we stopped to regroup and I took this as a queue for a photo opportunity. The 'Assembly' sculptures by Peter Burke always grab my attention as they silently stand to attention. I am sure they were not designed for the intention of the passing Brompton user to park their bike and take a photo, but it does almost seem that that!


Not far from Gravesend we stopped to regroup at the many bus stops there. As per usual I parked my bike up for a photo. Sadly, I think that on this occasion I was one of the only people who did. I am very easily pleased. 

Not far away we stopped outside the former 'Call Boy' pub on the rather lovely Harmer Street with a few of its buildings now having Grade II listings. Sadly, the 'Call Boy' is still very much shut. The fencing around the outside might hint at it being developed but could also mean it is just keeping people out. On the next adventure to Whitstable, if we go this way there may be more happening?



At about 03:50 in the a.m. we had cycled over 30 miles and the halfway stop and refreshments beckoned. It also got a little chillier with a hint of some fog that drifted in little patches. 


Not long after this we arrived at the hall of the Church of the English Martyrs in Stroud. Ride leader for some our ride and all round good egg Tim, was on his own serving rolls and some pretty damned good homemade cakes. The funds from our donations go towards the 'Step and Learn' charity. 
 

As usual I very much enjoyed all of the refreshments but did have trouble staying awake and stringing two sentences together. 
 

After about an hour we said our thanks and got ourselves ready for the final 33ish miles to the end at Whitstable. Many thanks to Tim for another great spread!!

Brompton off-street parking option

As always, I emerged from the sanctuary of the church hall frozen. I had a gillet, a non-waterproof boil in the bag jacket and a neck warmer. All went on! For the forts few miles I still felt the chill and these were to sat on until more or less the end of the ride. 


We passed Rochester and its 12the Century keep and I again made a mental note to pay it a visit. I did this the last time I was this way but have yet to do so. One of the way my brain works is to be able to picture what historic sites might have been like at certain points in the past. This is probably why I read History at university and possibly why I like London so very much!?



The next few miles saw the transition into dawn. The sky was filled with a gentle, swirling fog (that also made things chilly). The sun was suspended in an orange sky and the noise of birdsong overpowered any sounds our bicycles made. It was stunning. 





Arriving at Faversham just before 8 a.m. a few of us took a photo of the rather unique church of St Mary of Charity. Apart from its rather splendid spire it is reputed to have the tomb of King Stephen, thus making it one of the few churches outside of London where an English king had been interred. 


One of great features of this ride is that from the final right turn into Graveney Marshes runnign through to Whitstable, you are allowed to take the last 5ish miles at your own pace and not wait for anyone. With the final right turn pointed out, Kim our ride leader gave us the go ahead and we were off.  

I kept up with Mark and a few of the other Brompton peeps for a good few miles but they went further and further into the distance. These last few miles I enjoyed greatly and I arrived at about 8:30 a.m. Placing my order for a Full English breakfast, it was placed in front of me about 10 minutes later and didn't last long. 





Saying my goodbyes I headed off to get a few photos of the sea and some beach huts before boarding the 9:49 a.m. train for St Pancras. 



At just after 11:00 I arrived back in London, feeling okay and not actually too tired. I arrived back home just after 11:30 a.m.

Don't worry, I only took this photo and then put it back on the luggage rack. 

Another great ride. Many thanks to Kim for leading the ride and her team to Tail End Charlies. Again, thanks to Tim for the halfway refreshments. 

The next official ride is in about three weeks time and is rather different in that it isn't going to the coast at all. I look forward to this one greatly. 

Until next time, stay safe out there people!