It's been a month since I attended a London Brompton Club ride, so I'd been looking forward to the one on the 20th Feb - London to Gravesend. It would take the Pilgrims Way for some of the route and having done this as part of the Whitstable ride last year, I was looking forward to it as I recalled that the scenery (once out of South London) was fantastic.
Well, my plans were almost scuppered with my crash on the Monday before hand as it meant that my Brompton is in the shop and getting fixed and that I wasn't sure that a 90Km ride would be good news for my knee. I decided that I'd still risk it with my knee and that I'd turn up my Dawes - I'm not sure anyone could complain to much about me attending on a big wheel bike when my Brompton was in for repairs!
As it turns out, I wasn't the only one using a big wheel bike on the day so I didn't feel to bad!
An early start at Charing Cross station awaited, so I had to ensure that I got to Welwyn station early enough to get into town. Luckily, trains were running fine (though, later in the day when my girlfriend tried to get into London, the trains were getting cancelled and all sorts!) and I was able to get to Kings Cross with plenty of time to meander down to Charing Cross.
I had an amusing few minutes - I'd posted on Facebook that I was the first on at the station when I watched Zoomzoom rock up, look around and post that he was in fact the first before he finally saw me. I suppose I could have gone over and said hi, but I thought it was amusing to see how long it would take for him to see me!
We waited for the rest of the team to catch up. A few nipped to the loo - it's always slightly annoying actually having to pay to use the facilities in stations such as these. Especially when you only have a £20 note in your bag for lunch and the current "going rate" is 30p! Anyhow, trick of the trade is to use St Pancras (if you're traveling to or from Kings Cross) as it's free in there!
When Mr Orange arrived, we departed London and I was able to have a good chat with some of the members I hadn't met before. It's a great sign that those on big bikes are still welcome on these rides - with the occasional light hearted fun ribbing! A sign of the inclusiveness of the club.
Heading out of London, things got interesting once we passed beyond the main city and the scenery gave way to open countryside. Heading pass the Metropolitan Police dog training school, we managed to hit a fairly large hill. A nice descent leads up to it but has a corner at the bottom - I'm a nervous descender anyhow (having disc brakes on my bike helps somewhat though as I know I can stop if needed) but the crash on Monday as well had also left some extra nerves there. However, when I can see where I'm going, I don't mind letting loose a bit! Well, needless to say, in this instance as I started up the hill the other side, John came up alongside me and a car came downwards! So a slower start up the hill than I might have liked! However, I needn't have worried, as it was a long drag up the hill! It did feel like cheating doing it on the Dawes, what with my 21 gears, compared to the Bromptons six but it was still challenging.
This took us up to the highest point of the ride and we were able to look back towards London and see where we'd come from.
Unfortunately, the no tipping sign displayed at the end of this road didn't seem to have been understood or followed based on the hill we'd just cycled up, which was disappointingly littered with rubbish - I'd seen a mattress amongst other items strewn alongside the road. And cyclists hadn't been as considerate as other road users either - I saw a discarded inner tube alongside gel and energy bar wrappers. It's a disappointing trend I've seen more recently. I know roadies don't tend to carry bags to store items in, but leaving rubbish at the side of the road is inexcusable. It somehow managed to get that far in your pockets, the empty wrappers should therefore have more room to go back into the pocket again.
From the highest point, we had a nice incline down the road towards Otford, with a nice downhill section and then some rolling sections along the Pilgrims Way that showed some of the nice scenery around the area.
We got to Otford and have a nice pub lunch at the The Bull pub. We all had to sit outside in the back along with the bikes, though it wasn't a particularly cold day. At this point, the rain arrived, though we were under cover and had a pleasant lunch.
At this point, I received some good news from my brother with the news that I now have a nephew. Whilst trying to answer my phone (whilst I'd been trying to take a picture of my lunch), Uncle Chris managed to snap his knife and fork - it seems that Android still has a few bugs here and there as I wasn't able to close the camera with the onscreen button to answer the phone!
After lunch, there were a few riders catching the train back to London as they had other engagements. I decided that I would call it a day as well, not wanting to push my knee to much as I want to cycle this coming week to work.
Getting to the station, we purchased tickets in time to get the train back into London, with this being the last day I could use my annual travel card from my old job to claim discount!
Overall, it was a nice ride and I'd have liked to carry on, but I didn't want to push the knee to hard and it was raining, so I fancied getting home without getting to damp and sitting on a train damp and cold. It was a good ride and I hope it's run again in the future. It was good to hear that Zommzoom managed to lead the ride successfully from Otford to Gravesend as Mark had forgotten to collect his charging cable for his phone that morning and so it would have been route-less from Otford if Zoomzoom hadn't had it on his Garmin! I had a copy as well, but leaving early meant that I wouldn't have been any help! (I'd also only got the longer of the routes that Mark had planned on the Garmin, so I'd have been doing the extra distance at the end!)