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


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!

Monday 11 April 2022

The Cobble Monster makes a welcome return

Yesterday was the return of the 'Cobble Monster' after a three-year absence.  The Cobble Monster used to be called the London Classic and despite not being around for a few years the tried and tested format had not changed. This is ride along lots of London's cobbled streets - Paris-Roubaix style and ride up some challenging hills. 

Setting off early from NW8 it looked set to be a lovely day. Naturally, I stopped off to take a few photos on my way.

The start point was Brixton Cycles. There were a few less riders that I remember the last time I did this event however I am sure that many had already started and even more would do so later on. Mark (King of the Hill) was there as was the familiar face of James and after getting ready we ventured off in search of the first cobbles of the day. 

A bonus for this particular version of the Cobble Monster was that it would end at Herne Hill Velodrome and finishers would able to complete a lap of the famous circuit. This would open from 13:00 so in the interests of not arriving too early I encouraged Mark to stop and take the odd photo. 

We didn't have to cycle too long before we hit the first cobbles and it was at around this point James and some of the Clarion Club members he was cycling with. 

Our route took us near Smithfield Market, where I had been the day before and Charterhosue Square. Seeing that Florin Court was just at the other side I headed off for a photo. This building was used as Whitehaven Mansions, home to Hercule Poirot in the television classic staring David Suchet. 

Our route was a good one as look as where possible along quieter roads  with the many cobbled streets that still exist in London being rather plentiful. 

We stopped for a cup of coffee in East London. After ordering a coffee, while waiting I was eyeing up a rather tasty looking blueberry cake. As you can see this was ordered too and all consumed with some enthusiasm. 

The route took us towards Wapping and over one of the many bascule bridges. I really do like these a great deal and again I passed this way not that long ago. 

Heading back south across the river Thames meant that although there would be a few more cobbles, some of the hills would soon come into view. 

We made a slight detour to the house of the members of the Clarion Cycle Club. There we were treated to a lovely mug of coffee and biscuits. All very much appreciated!!

We passed St Nicholas Church in Deptford with its skulls guarding the entrance. There is a rumour that the skulls were the inspiration for the Jolly Roger on pirate ships. Very unlikely but a good story nonetheless. 

Most of the cobbled streets had their stones positioned in fairly uniform fashion. One street had them all over the place. 

All round good egg James is a bit of an ultra endurance cyclist. He has completed the Pan Celtic Race a few times I think and is not only taking part in a version of this in 2022 he is also tackling the Transatlantic Race! Sometimes me traversing NW8 to SW7 can be a a bit of an trek so how James manages, I do not know!

The last of the cobbles resembled something form one of those Hovis bread adverts. After taking a suitable photo I made my ascent. 

The first time I cycled up Canonbie Road I was shocked at the little kick after you got past the first turn. I have cycled up (and a few times down) this one quite a bit and it rarely fails to disappoint.  One reaching the top, turning round there are some greta views of London. 

With the hills all but done the last few miles were quite flat as we made our way to Herne Hill.

At the Velodrome we were given a brief safety check and allowed to complete two laps. This was great. After going up on the high banks for a while with a phone in my hand taking photos, I decided that the flat safety zone was my happy place. 

A jerk chicken meal could be bought and it was lovely. Mark and I ate this as we watched other riders take their laps of the famous velodrome. 

Saying my goodbyes I took one last photo of the Velodrome before making my way back to NW8. In all I clocked up 45+miles - possibly a little more. As always it was a great event and it was great to catch up with familiar faces and see some new ones too. 

I do hope that the Cobble Monster returns for next year and if they manage to finish at Herne Hill Velodrome again, that really would be the icing on the cake. Many thanks to the organisers, the lovely people at Brixton Cycle and Herne Hill Velodrome!

Until next time, stay safe out there people.