Saturday 26 March 2022

The Cobble Monster returns

A great little cycling event returns after a three-year absence next Sunday and I for one will be taking part. 

The event was originally called 'The London Classic' but changed to its current 'Cobble Monster' a few years ago. Sadly it disappeared for a few years but I was pleasantly surprised to see an email pop into my in box informing me it was back. Th

The event is inspired by the Paris-Roubaix which features participants overcoming several cobbled sections. Not to be outdone, the Cobble Monster features some the the best streets in London that have retained their original cobbles as well as incorporating some rather significant hills. In addition to this, the event tries to raise funds for the Evelina London Children's Hospital - a great charity. 

Normally there are loads of Brompton riders ready to have a go at this but for the moment at least I suspect that I will tackle it alone. 

The revitalised event has a slightly changed route. It will start at Brixton Cycles, run through the West End and then some of the East End's finest Cobbles. It the moves to some of the classic lung bursting hills, before finishing at the Herne Hill Velodrome. 

I have to say that I am very much looking forward to it! The first time I took part in this event was way back in 2013!

Below I have put some links to a few previous event to give you a flavour of what this event is like.


Hills with the London Skyline in the distance.

Until then, stay safe out there people!

1st time doing this event

2nd time doing this event

Monday 21 March 2022

Being prepared or overkill?

Many of you out there ask what is the most vital piece of kit you take on longer rides. Apart from the obvious, spare cash, mobile phone, spare tube, CO2 canister and some tools there is one piece of kit I have taken with me on every such ride since 2013!

Back in 2013 I was on a lovely night ride from Kew Gardens to Box Hill and back. One of the highlights was that after ascending the famous Box Hill, there was the charms of a country and western themed pub that sold rather good burgers. It was back then that a chain snapped before I even reached Box Hill and after this a wowed that I would always take a spare just in case. You can read that blog post by clicking HERE.

I know that some of you out there reading this might think that this is overkill. I would have done too until the above happened. I am happy to report that it has neither happened since nor has it befallen anyone I have ridden with. 

So, while some people take a small length of chain and a chain splitting tool, I opt for an entire new chain. I suspect the trauma of it all was just too much and I didn't want a repeat. 

What do you think? Overkill or bing prepared?

Until next time, stay safe out there. 

Sunday 20 March 2022

London to Southend first overnight rode for 2022

My first night ride to the coast was back in 2013 and since then they have become a firm favourite of mine. I have lost count of the number that I have taken part in since then but they always cause a little buzz of excitement - the first in the season perhaps more so. This one was London to Southend and the weather was set to be kind in terms of chances of rain. 

I made the short journey to the start point near not far from the London Eye and decided to take a photo to mark the occasion. Naturally I could have taken many more but decided against it and resisted the temptation. 

At the meeting point there were many familiar faces. Jenny, Sam, Chris, Lisa, Charlie, Stuart, Greg, Bob and ride leader (and now Brompton owner) Ross. Later on Dr John made an appearance. 

With the moon full in a cloudless sky, Ross gave his rider stalk that included the ever popular interactive safety instructions and we readied ourselves for the off. 

Being only 55 miles, the off time was a little off the traditional stroke of midnight, perhaps as we might have arrived at the halfway stop and end too early. 

We made very good progress and the moon illuminated our way throughout the night/early morning in a pretty much cloudless sky. It occurred to me that it would make for very good night photography and sure enough I saw several people dotted around with tripods doing just that. 

We stopped briefly at St Dunstan's Stepney which has been a place of worship for over a thousand years. Part of our route took use on part of the route use Brompton peeps have used for years for our rides hugging the Thames near Wapping. This also has an abundance of cobbled roads and reminded me of the 'Cobble Monster' that will be returning in a few weeks time featuring lots of cobbles too. 

St Dunstan's

Our progress was very good and there was an absence of mechanicals or punctures for the entire ride. The absence of rain really does help with that. We arrived at Stratford in very good time and it was an interesting location to stop at. One lady was having a heated exchange on her phone and whoever was on the other end was definitely for it. That person on the other end actually turned up and was told face to face what she had told him on the phone and as she proceeded towards him he turned heal and was off! Not long after that four police officers arrived but anticipating this the lady was last seen running in the opposite direction. To my knowledge she evaded them completely. 

This was a new route for Southend however some of it seemed to me part of the old route to Burnham-on- Crouch. A couple of hours into the ride and the urban more or less gave way to rural and the absence of street lighting was the sign for me to turn on my extra front light. 

Sanctuary came in the very welcome form of the 1st Doddinghurst Scout hut. This group of scouts formed over 110 years ago and the funds raised from our halfway stop will go towards some new lighting. I have to report that the homemade cakes and sandwiches were excellent and I do hope that if we go to Southend again, we will pay them another visit. 

We stayed inside the warmth for about an hour and of course most of the Brompton riders brought their beloved bikes inside rather than leaving them outside as the big wheeled riders had. The bonus of a folding bicycle I suppose. 

When we made our goodbyes to the lovely people at the scout hut, perhaps as usual, I (along with many others) started to feel the cold. I put on a couple of neck warmers and decided that I would try and pedal faster in order to warm up. This took a while and although I did later take off one of the neck warmers, one stayed until I boarded the train home!

The route took us to the same little ford that we cross on the Burnham-on-Crouch route. We were warned against trying to ford it and there was no way my beloved Brompton was going through it. Perhaps urban myth, but I am sure someone needed to be rescued from the middle of it as it was that deep after heavy rain on a previous ride!?

I took the helpful little path to the right of it, happy in the knowledge that no Brompton bicycle would be harmed by a rush of blood to the head and cycling through it!

As we progressed there were a few inclines and one fellow Bromptonian on a rather lovely P Line quite simply raced up each and every hill. Anyone thinking 4x gears may not be enough, might have to think again. 

For this ride my beloved Orange Titanium came out to play. I really do love this bike and have been itching to get it out again for ages. 

Part of the appeal for these nocturnal rides is the transition from night to day. Birds start singing and the sun makes an appearance. Slowly it can be seen rising from the horizon, casting wonderful colours - often orange tones - and it is one of the reasons I like these rides so much. 

In addition the scenery as you go by and little villages and interesting buildings are also something to look forward to seeing. 

One these rides you do meet all sorts of people. Very often catching up with friends is very much on the cards but you have the chance to have a chat with however is cycling at your side. 

Our ride leader Ross also had a very good eye for a photo and I took one of him taking a photo of the riders with the moon in the background. 

With the back of the ride almost broken we cycled the last few miles into a slight headwind. It was going to be a beautiful day. 

We regrouped on the same high street we always do before making the last final push to the end of the ride. 

In the distance the remains of Hadleigh Castle could just about be made out. Build after 1215 on soft London clay it has suffered from subsidence over the years. Hopefully its Grade I listed status will preserve what remains. 

With the famous mile-long pier in the distance we had made it to Southend. The end of the ride was at the Beaches Cafe a little way past the pier but with some great view of it and the Thames Estuary. 

With a photo opportunity not to be missed I lined things up and then waited for Dr John. He decided to stay for breakfast but as per usual I decided to head for the station. 

I got the first train to Fenchurch Street station and the 55ish minutes flew by. Trying not to nod off was a real struggle and there were times when I was abruptly woken from my slumber. Once at Fenchurch Street I made the journey home and was back well before 10:00 a.m. so I was very pleased.

This was a great start to the night rides to the coast and I already look forward to the rest. Many thanks to Ross for leading the ride and the Tail End Charlies for their vital shouts of 'all up!'

Until next time, stay safe out there people!

Saturday 19 March 2022

Kent Hills from hell on a Brompton!

If you are here having read the title of this blog post, you were not perhaps expecting to see my Orange Brompton gently leaning against a farm gate with beautiful views of the Kent countryside. You might expect something altogether different. I suggest you read on. 

The ride leader for this one was my friend of - I think - almost ten years, Mark (King of the hill). We have always got on rather well but at times on this ride I was actually beginning to think he must hate me! 

Moving on, for me the ride started early last Sunday morning. Being a family orientated sort of person, the weekends (and especially Sundays) are normally reserved for all things family. As such I rarely go on Sunday cycle rides. Mark had told me about this ride ages ago and I had told him that if it were raining I would not be going. Having a good look in the direction of the Albert Memorial at 08:45 in the a.m. I surmised that if it did rain, there wouldn't be much, so I cycled the short distance to Charring Cross. There I boarded a train to Otford - the meeting point. I more or less had the train to myself, so I settled down to the 30 minutes or so the journey would take. 

Getting off the train I heard always enthusiastic voice of the lovely Samantha who shouted out, 'Orange.' She ad a few other riders including Jenny (The Mile Monster) were on the same train as I but at different ends of the train. Heading outside we saw Mark and the rest of the Brompton crew, crazy enough to embark on this adventure!

We regrouped and has the obligatory group photo and then we set off into the unknown. 

The Kent countryside is beautiful and one feature are the remains of former Oast houses. These distinctive buildings were used for part of the brewing process where hops were dried as part of the brewing process. 

The first few miles saw us follow the tried and tested route that Mark uses for his Whitstable Winder - always very popular - that sees many of us cycle to Otford from London and then onto Whitstable. 

The rain stayed away for much of the ride but ominous clouds in the distance almost foretold of the adventures that were yet to come!

Mark's route had three hills as being particular features of the ride. The first consisted of a lengthy off-road section that was steep and difficult to negotiate. Rocks, gravel, mud, stones, tree roots and everything else lay ahead and it made it hard going. 

About half way up a smallholding had several pigs who actually followed as I made my ascent. As they followed they were very vocal and it was as if they were saying hello. Perhaps they thought they were being fed? Regardless, they all came over to say hello and a few fellow riders also stopped to take some photos. 

Again the scenery was wonderful and I could not help but take the odd photograph. 

Our lunch stop was at a local village tearooms but a quick search by mark revealed that it would shut by the time we got there. Having only had a bowel of cornflakes for breakfast and with the peanut bar I had brought as a snack long gone, I was a little hungry. 

With nowhere else open we descended on a small, quaint pub. The welcome was friendly but they could not serve us any food as we would have needed to let them know about us coming beforehand. Oh dear!

For a short time the owners dog - please do not let looks deceive you - looked to me as if it could make a lung at an unexposed throat at any moment!

So, I ordered a coffee and a packet of crips! These I ate with abandon in the full knowledge that it was possibly all I would have until much later on!

When we went to leave, the rain that had been predicted to fall, started to fall. The impact of this was lessoned somewhat by the distraction of Mark's new pair of waterproof chaps. These were a garment that reminded me of something a cowboy might have worn. In fact I am pretty sure that such a garment was once worn by Dolly Parton (at the height of her fame in the mid 1980's) when performing at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee!

Those of you from the UK might get the reference when I say that I suspect the performer Danny La Rue wore something similar as well when singing a Country and Western version of 'On Mother Kelly's Doorstep!'

Almost immediately after the lunch stop - if you can call it that - we came across a road closed sign but being Brompton riders we simply carried and wheeled our bikes through the gaps in the various fences. 

York Hill was a beast. It was long and steep and it got to the point where my legs said, no more. I walked up the remaining 200 metres or so. York Hill has the distinction of being one of the oldest cycle races. The full climb is 0.8 miles. It is one of the steepest climbs in the south of England and once a year it is crowded with spectators watching competitors make their ascent. 

Toys Hill was if anything worse. The same thing happened and I could feel my energy levels sapping. I was starting to slow down, Thankfully Peter had a spare energy bar that se kindly gifted to me. This I consumed with a frenzy. After a few moments, its wonders seemed to do their thing and I felt a little better. Mark lived up to the moniker I gave him years ago, King of the Hill, and got up everything without a foot down. Jenny I think more or less managed the same!

With a few miles to go until we returned to Otford, Mark phoned ahead to the lovely tea rooms there and we were told that sandwiches, a selection of cakes and hot drinks would be waiting for us to buy. It was all I could do not to shed a tear upon hearing this news. We made it to Offord and made staring for the tea rooms overlooking the little pond. There I had a tuna sandwich and a cream tea. Devine! That done it was off to the station for the train back to London. 

Brompton adventures are always memorable and this one was no exception. Many thanks to Mark for putting the ride on but I feel I will need several months before I repeat this one again!

Until next time, stay safe out there people!