Thursday 5 May 2016

Isle of Wight Randonee on a Brompton

"Thirty minutes until 8.15 !" is what Sleebus posted on the Messenger.

As the hotel's restaurant opens at 8 AM , this would mean our morning meal would be more of a fast break rather than a breakfast. It would also mean that the full English breakfast served on the table overlooking the sea should not be eaten, rather, it should be swallowed in full.

But we did not mind, because we were all in a hurry to get to the start line at 9 AM for the start of the Isle of Wight Randonnee.

Another adventure for Zoomzoom

In an attire matching our colorful Bromptons, we flew out of the hotel like noisy parrots, escaping from a cage in glee, eager to reach a single destination, the checkpoint at East Cowes, to collect our brevet cards and to check in for the ride. The hotel must be relieved to see us go for it guarantees them a chance of peace during the day while we were out and about participating in the Randonnee.

It was a beautiful morning and the excitement was building up.  The streets were now littered with riders in all shapes, shades and sizes, on all types of bike.  The chorus was getting louder as the riders exchange morning greetings and a brief and friendly chat of what's lies ahead.

Class photo IoW 2016

Having collected our brevet cards, one would think that we were ready for the off.  No, of course not, not with London Brompton Club ( LBC ) people.  We still have to do one thing, that is to pose for a class photo.  No matter how far the ride, no matter how much in a hurry we are, we have to pose for photos.  Nice.

And off we cycled.  A flat 50 meter to the corner then right at the roundabout, up the street twisting up the hill and up and up and up.  Oh my lord !, I thought we were here to cycle the island.  I did not realize it was a launching pad to the moon.     

To conceal my slow riding up the hill, I took the role of tail end Charlie, pretending to look after the slower riders which in this case, the slow rider is only me.  This forces the group to wait for me at every turn and at every checkpoint. As the ride progressed Daniel and Neil kept me company at the back of the pelaton until the split point when Neil had to break away to follow the short 55 km route.

The highway to heaven

The ride up to the split point was very nice.  I enjoyed it so much.  The ride followed a clockwise directions, starting from city streets to a suburban roads, then on to a farm and country roads.  Even along the city streets, I felt safe, maybe because the motorists on this island are more forgiving as compared to London's drivers.

Beyond the split point, Daniel and I  kept each other company.  I like Daniel. I will never forget him.  He is full of fun.  He saved me from doom, 2 years ago when I suffered a puncture, my first ever, during a Christmas midnight ride.  He supplied the inner tube because I was stupid not bringing my supplies and tools. I am now a learned man.

All smiles.

We were exchanging the back end place trying to catch up with the group.  I waited for him on the crest.  When he did not appear within few minutes, I decided to cycle back to check.  He mentioned earlier that there was a noise coming from his back wheel so this could be what was slowing him down.  When I reached him, he was already "Messenger-ing" the group to say that he will cycle back to the split point to take the short route instead because he had pulled a muscle.  It was a wise move.

Few LBCers know I am a masseur and I consider myself an expert in manipulating muscles.  Of course, I could have offered Daniel my expertise, but this is the sort of skill that I do not display in public, more so when the muscles concerned are those in direct contact with the saddle.

The group must have stopped or they must have pedaled slower,( as Daniel "messenger-ed" the group to say I was right behind ) , because it did not take me long to catch up with them.

There was no point for me now to assume the tail end Charlie role because really I was in the company of seasoned Brompton riders, the mile monsters, Steve C, James H, Jenny H, Sleebus J and Dr John M.

The mile monsters

Dr John M is considered the most promising Bromptonaut of the year.  His cycling fashion sense is unmatched.  If you are looking for quality cycling kit, no need to go online.  Just look at him.  His color combination matching is not a skill. It is a talent.

Jenny H, needs no introduction.  She is the woman on heels.  And when she is wearing those heels, be afraid, be very afraid.  That means the ride will go over many hills. I always assumed the reason why she could just fly over those hills on a Brompton is because she is lightweight.  Yes she is lightweight but she was carrying a front bag which was 3 times her weight.  God knows what is inside the bag. I dare not ask.

The heels, the bag, the Wonder Woman

The heel, the deadly weapon

These are the sort of Bromptonauts that would cycle 100 km in their pajamas with no second thought about it at all.  In contrast, I would have done weeks and weeks of preparation, bought the most expensive cycling kit, and recited the Lords Prayer a million times, just to get myself psych up for the ride.

We are in heaven

My Garmin indicated 60 more kilometers (of the 110km) to go, which I did not mind.  We were having the best time cycling up and down the undulating landscape of the island.  The terrain and the scenes are so beautiful and interesting. The route was so challenging.  The coastal road along the south west side of the island towards the direction of The Needles is simply breathtaking. And literally, cycle-wise, it will take your breath away as you pedal with all your strength to reach the top of the mountain.  That coastal road is a highway to heaven which if you translate to cycling lingo is a highway to hell. It just goes up and up as far as the eyes can see.

But this was where I have proven myself having a competitive advantage over Sleebus when cycling up the hill.  Not that we were competing.  I just sensed that it was not easy for us to climb up the hill.  Well, really, come to think of it, or even better, imagine it.  Sleebus does not have an aerodynamic body contour, nor have I.  However going downhill, it is another story.  He is the outright winner.  He knows how to take advantage of the gravitational pull.  No matter how hard I try to overtake him, I always come last and behind.

The downhill sprinter

On the way to Yarmouth, although, James and Jenny decided to up the ante by pedaling faster than ever because we needed to reach the finish line by 6 pm, we were still overtaken by the naked man on bike.

A flashback quickly reminded me of the LBC ride I did previously of which I mentioned about full moon.  But at this very instance if was definitely not about moons.  It was a real butt, white and beautiful, displayed, exposed and ready for inspection.  I noticed though that Steve cycled even faster.  I can only assume that Steve wanted to position himself in front of the man rather behind him, and I can understand.

Steve's dilemma. In front or behind.  James and Jenny on closer inspection

The naked man certainly succeeded in getting attention as he was in a mission to raise money for SANDS charity. I admire the man, not for his butt, but for his attention seeking technique.

I, as you can sense, was envious.  My good friends know I am a minimalist but to be honest I don't think I can go that minimum.  I am scared of chafing, although Brooks fans would probably have the answer for me.  But on the other hand, going naked would mean being minimalist and aero.  Interesting.....Now, you have been warned.

At 5.50pm we reached Cowes but we just missed the Chain Ferry linking East Cowes which meant we would not get to the checkpoint by 6pm closing time.  We finally reached the checkpoint few minutes after 6.  It was still open, so we had our brevet card stamped and we received our certificate.  Now I understand why Sleebus wanted us to swallow our breakfast earlier in the morning.  I have forgiven him. 

We have done it.  We have done it on a Brompton.  We completed the Isle of Wight Randonnee.  It was a wonderful day, truly unforgettable. It was unbelievable.

Oh yeah.  We did it.

It was a sweet achievement.  But what made it sweet is because we done it on a Brompton.  Judging from the many funny comments and compliments we get from people, I can safely assume that they think we are a bit eccentric. They maybe right.  For you could only be eccentric doing the 110 km Randonnee on a Brompton.  There is not much difference really with the naked man.  We were equally eccentric. Actually I am suitably sharing this title with a dear friend Susana Luz.  She is full of life and full of fun.  She rode the 110 km route with Gywn, her lovely 7 kg dog in the front basket.  That is a real achievement. 

Safety first, Gwyn the dog wearing Specialized helmet

We congregated at 8pm for dinner at the hotel's restaurant where we joyfully re lived the day's event. We felt accomplished.

As I looked back, I thought of what made this event extra special and unforgettable. It comes down to the fact that I was in the company of beautiful and real people. Yes, I could have done the Randonne on my own, on big bike, but it would not be as fun as being with fellow LBCers and not as challenging as on a Brompton.

Staying a night on the island prior and after the ride also made a big difference. It puts me in a holiday mode and it gave me time to soak it all in.

A day prior.  At a local pub.

What I like about the Isle of Wight Randonnee is that this event has a soul.  It is not a charitable event.  Nowadays those charity events, I find, are really commercialized charity events.  The IoW Randonne is a free entry event organized by the Wayfarer Cycle Touring Club.  They are able to run the event thru the generosity of their sponsors and donations from riders.

Well deserved dinner after the ride.

Well done WCTC.  Thank you. Thank you.

Thank you to my fellow LBCers and their other halves.  We had such a great time.  Nice to see you too Graham P, Chris B and Jack N and friends.  Thank you all for your company.

I am looking forward to another "30 minutes until 8.15 with the parrots" when ever and where ever that may be.