Thursday 28 May 2015

Just Brompton it. An 80 kilometer ride to Whitstable

Should I go or should I stay ?

I could not answer this question hence, I only signed up at the every last moment. In fact the ride has already started at 7 am, 23 May 2015 from Trafalgar Square for a 130 kilometer ride to Whitstable via Oftord, when I sent a text to Mark Woolard, our ride host, to tell my intention of joining.

Zoom zoom enjoying the seaside at Whitstable

This ride is brilliantly designed.  There are 3 meeting point options to choose from, actually 4.  The first and the earliest is at Trafalgar Square, the second is at 9.22 am at Victoria Station, the third is at Otford Station at 10 am and the fourth is at Whitstable at 5 pm, if one only wanted to join for the fish and chips.

I very much wanted to start from Trafalgar Square but the thought of a 50 km ride to Otford, then another 80 km to Whitstable made me wake up to my senses.  The longest distance Zoom zoom and I have done was a 100 km ride with a stand-by support car parked at home.  At 130 km ride that stand-by support car would need to be an ambulance.

Our first brief stop to get my breath back.  Brian wiping sweat on his forehead.

So I proceeded to Victoria Station instead to catch the 9.22 train to Otford.  I was so pleased to see that Brian Bowditch  was already there.  Soon, James Houston arrived in black shorts with matching soft textured collarless shirt looking so summery and relaxed, clutching a paper cup of coffee.

I thought, how dare he, looking so cool as if he is only going for a 5 km ride around the block. In contrast  I was wearing my best waterproof shoes, a shorts over a nano flex bib tights, a Cyclo-cross designed jersey over a base layer, a £2.50 sun glasses I got from Sleebus Jones on prior ride, and a helmet over a hat with large sun visor.  I was fully covered and protected.  I looked ridiculously over the top.
Allington Lock (Photo pirated from James Houston Collections)

Our train arrived on time at Otford Station and as we were leaving the platform, I received a text from Mark saying they will be arriving in 10  minutes, so be ready.  At 10.10 am,  Mark, Orange Brompton and Chris Salter arrived smiling as if they just cycled from around the corner.  There were no hint what so ever that they have already cycled 50 km from London.  Only then it struck me that I was in the company of the pros.  I was expecting that they will have at least half hour rest, but no.  After a quick "hi" and "hello" we were off to Whitstable.

I have met them all before on previous rides and I always enjoyed their company.  I will never forget Mark because he is the very first London Brompton Club (LBC) member I met in person.  The first LBC ride I joined was hosted by him. That was when he did the Thames Chaser ride. I was also very pleased to see Orange Brompton for I did not know he was joining.
Ohh no!!!  Private Road, no public access. (Photo courtesy James Houston)

It was also nice to see Chris for I wanted to talk about his "kiss and tell" encounter with Tannus tyre.  I just fitted a Tannus tyre to Zoom zoom so I was interested on his insight. We also chatted briefly about Strava versus Ride with GPS.

Chris is a very likable bloke.  He has this shy looking baby face, delicate creamy skin and his hair is minimalist in style.  He was wearing an apple green shorts with matching black top, fully color coordinated of course, with his virgin white Brompton.  He looked refreshingly energetic and sporty.  I was able to scoped out that he is very happy settled with his girl friend from Wimbledon.  I believe wedding bells will shortly be ringing.  I can just imagine Chris and his bride arriving at the altar on Brompton bikes. So for those LBC people who are single, you have no chance now.  Chris is sold.

The likeable Chris (Photo pirated from James Houston)

The first kilometer was an interesting uphill ride to joint the main thru road.  We were full of life, full of energy and full of enthusiasm knowing that we are all together now to tackle the second part of the ride.  We were  like bees carelessly flying about enjoying the countrysides, sometimes in cluster, most times in single file.
This is heaven. Photo by James Houston

It was a beautiful day, well for me anyway, because it was not sunny.  I prefer cloudy days than sunny days.  There was a threat of rain farther along the horizon, but this never really eventuate.  It was a perfect day for cycling.

The beautiful Kent country side ( Photo published without permission from James Houston)

English countryside is understatedly beautiful.  The wild flowers are in bloom, the meadows are green and the trees are in a hurry to display its new leaves.  And I think these are some of the reasons why this particular London Brompton Club ( LBC) ride is so special for it provided the chance for one to be closer to nature.

Actually, it was too close to nature than we would have wanted, when we found ourselves deep into the forest. This happened when we did a slight diversion, after we found the Coldrum Stone Circle, (which in itself is a wonderful find of the day), as the road we were following suddenly came into a halt in front of a gate with a sign saying private road, no public access.  Instead of cycling back 5 kilometers we opted to take a short cut through a footpath. It was the longest short cut I experienced with LBC ride.  So much fun though.
If this stone can only talk.  Our best find of the day.

It looked alright in the first few meters but as we walked and pushed our bikes along, the mud became thicker and thicker and thicker.  I said to my self, this is not true, this is not happening. It is just a nightmare. But Zoom Zoom is loving all these.  He wanted me to ride or push him faster.  In many section of that foot path, I have to lift Zoom Zoom up otherwise he will be totally submerged in mud.

Mud.. Glorious mud and more mud (Photo courtesy James Houston)

It felt like forever when we finally reached the sealed road and by then I was half a meter taller due to the amount of mud that stuck to my shoes. This was despite me being very careful.  I intentionally followed  Mr Orange foot steps literally and precisely for I know he is good at keeping his bike shinny clean. But in the end, it looked like Mr Orange was 10 centimeter taller than me as his cleat shoes collected more mud.

I was right behind Mr O. Carefully following his steps ( Photo by James Houston)

I noticed though that while we were traversing along this muddy lane the sounds of the wild life were in full falsetto.  I could not quite figure out if they were angry with us for the disturbance or they were hilariously laughing away for the entertainment we were providing. Because come to think of it, it is not very often that they see 6 guys on Bromptons with matching mini O bags and in color coordinated attire, tip toeing along the mud creating temporary havoc to their habitat.
Oh yes.  I need help with Zoom zoom. (Photo stolen from James Houston)

We stopped for a lunch break at Kings Arms.  It never ceases to amaze me why pubs are commonly named Kings Arms or Queens Head.  I have yet to see a pub named say, Queens Butt or Kings Tummy or any parts of the body more interesting than just arms or heads.  I don't normally eat lunch on rides but this time since it was a long one I decided I needed some food for fuel.  I ordered coronation chicken baguettes.  I can only assume it was called coronation to make it sound a bit royal. It was nice and the serving was generous.
Lunch break.  Much welcomed lunch break.

We were off again pedaling along the country roads.  Wonderful country roads.  All I can remember was that every road seems to be uphill. I could not remember anything flat, except when we finally reached the peak of Hollingbourne Hill when Brian laid flat on his tummy on the grass as a reward for comfort as he conquered the hills. As I mentioned in Facebook, that Hollingbourne Hill is not a hill, it is a mountain. It was so much fun though.  This was the climb when I thought I lost my lungs.
We made it, thank godness, to the top of Hollingbourne Hill. (Photo nicked from James Houston)

It was nearing 5pm when we reached the seaside of Whitstable.  But 10 kilometers prior to that along the seafront, the sea breeze was deceivingly strong.  I was in first gear all the way through.  James slowed down for me to catch up.  We rewarded ourselves with a nice fish and chips as we recollect the day's wonderful ride.

Should I go or should I stay?

I have million reasons why I could have easily stayed. My Zoom Zoom is brand new and I was not used to it yet. It is an S type while the previous one was an M type.  I just fitted a Tannus tyre and I was not sure if I will get on well with it.  Doing an 80 km ride straight away seems to be not the best thing to do.

I missed it last year and I did not want to miss it again.  I got on well with the S type and the Tannus tyre.

It was a wonderful ride.  It was fantastic.  It was a great day and I enjoyed every moment of it.  That is one thing I like about an LBC ride.  Specially the long ones, there is no dull moment.  There are always some surprises.  Really it is a world of of entertainment better then Netflix (that is if you manage to stay alive from exhaustion).  And it gives me a chance to be with the beautiful and crazy people of LBC. 
No talking please.  We are having fish and chips (Photo begged from James Houston)

Thank you Mark for leading the ride.  Thank you Brian, James, Chris and Orange for your superb, crazy and inspiring company.  I was particularly inspired by Mark, Orange and Chris for riding the full way from London to Whitstable.  See you all again soon.

I was so glad I did go.

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