Saturday morning is usually my lie in - its not often that my alarm will get me up at 6am in the morning on a Saturday as well as the work week! However, this weekend was different as I left Wimbledon on a train at 06:21 to get to Trafalgar Square. Why would I get up so early? Because of a bike ride!
The LBC have run a ride to Whitstable now for the last three years. I'd wanted to do the ride last year but missed out. I decided that I wouldn't miss out again.
There were two options for the ride - the first, starting from Trafalgar Square and cycling the whole way or two, meeting up with the London riders at Otford and getting to Otford via the train. I decided that the London start was for me, hence my early start. London to Otford was out 48Km along the 129Km route so we needed to make tracks to get there for 10 when we were meeting the other riders.
I was first to arrive and waited for Mark and Orange Brompton to arrive before we set off on our way.
The route from London wasn't to bad and it wasn't to long before we got out in the countryside. I was testing my Samsung S5 as a navigation aid, along with the Ride With GPS app. I'd recently sold my Garmin 800 GPS as the plan was to use the phone - I'll write a review of that separately. However, in short it worked fairly well.
Once we got into the countryside, we thought we'd be in some trouble as the hill we intended to cycle had a big sign saying the road was closed. Taking a risk, we followed the road and our original planned route. As it turns out, there was no reason the road should be closed and we passed on with no ill effect.
We arrived in Otford and stopped at a nice little tea shop - where upon I realised I'd suffered perhaps from the Londoner's mentality and I'd forgotten to bring any cash! It seems that everywhere it London takes card these days so I tend not to carry any cash, so much so, I actually don't have a change section in my wallet anymore as I use a Flipside Wallet!. Mark kindly lent me some cash so I can have a scone and drink before we moved on and met the rest of the gang, ZoomZoom, Brian and James, at the station.
The weather up until now had been nice and sunny, but there was a decline in the weather for a bit, with a misty, damp air coming down.
In fact, at one point, we stopped to cross a road (and waved at the passing car heading to the wedding with the bride in) and ended up putting our rain jackets on, only to have to take them off at the base of the hill as it had stopped raining! I can't complain as the rest of the weather was reasonable and the mist burnt off the closer we got to the coast. One learning point to take away from this route was that I'd seriously underestimated my layering and I suffered for it along the route. I think I need to look at the purchase of a long sleeve top, like my Vulpine Merino one but one that's a bit lighter weight than that.
A slight change of route took us out on to some trails, rather than road. Initially, this gave us some really good views and we stumbled across a barrow.
However, the trail came up to a gate that led down to a farm and a sign stated that it was private access land. Not wanting to get on the bad side of a farmer, we decided to take a detour. This detour led through a footpath, that ended up quite muddy. Now, a spot of cyclocross or off roading is a good spot of fun in my eyes, even if it's not really suited to the Brompton. I enjoyed the first section immensely, speeding down a field past some horses that watched us go by, amused. The number of gates we had to negotiate made life tough, and then we came across the wooded section - the mud in here was more cloying and sticky and rapidly gummed up my Brompton tyres. Unlike some of the others (ZoomZoom and Orange), I kept my Brompton on the ground - I ended up actually dragging the Brompton at one point where the amount of mud on the rear wheel prevented it from turning!
However, we preserved and got back on the road. Soon we got to the weir over the River Medway and shortly thereafter on to our lunch stop.
Lunch was an excellent little pub that Mark had pre-booked us a table but we ended up sitting outside as the weather wasn't bad.
Moving onwards after lunch, we carried on. I'd hasten to add that the "undulations" that were mentioned were more like hills. In fact, this ride ranks as the third hilliest rides I've recorded on Strava (beaten only by the Tour of the National Forest sportive and the London Bikeathon). We came to Hollingbourne Hill which was a pig of a hill and I'm afraid to say, I didn't make it to the top. On the last steepest section, I ended up having to get off. However, little did I know that I was almost at the top! If I'd known how far off the top I was, I think I'd have managed it but alas, I failed to conquer it. Maybe next time. However, I've got some more climbing practise in July when I ride London to Brighton again.
Brian suffered a mechanical issue (a broken spoke) climbing Hollingbourne Hill. However, no other major disasters befell the group (other than the mud on Orange's and ZoomZoom's bike) which was lucky. Brian successfully made it to the end of the ride without the rest of the spokes causing trouble.
Finally, we made it to Whitstable.
A quick chippy supper was had on the beach (disappointingly, the chips were a bit poor and we didn't have a time for a 99 before heading to the station!) We didn't have to much time before jumping onto the train to get back to London. Myself and James caught the Javelin back to St Pancras, where I was able to cross the road and catch the train to Welwyn from Kings Cross with only a minute to spare! The others joined us for the first stop and then changed at Faversham to get back into Victoria.
The whole ride was really good, though I was pretty tired at the end of it. I've not really done a long ride since January this year when I did the Evans Sportive so this was a long ride to get back into the swing of things.
Overall, I'd like to thank Mark for the excellent trip he'd organised and to the others for coming along. It makes a difference cycling with others!