Plan for 2011

The plan for 2011 is to do PBP in August. In order to qualify for that you need to do a Super Randonneur series (200, 300, 400, 600). And of course I'll fit in as many FNRttCs as I can.

A few things stand out:
  • introducing friends to FNRttC to Southend,
  • maybe a FNRttC from Manchester extended into a ride to York
  • or maybe the Valley of the Rocks 200 in Devon
  • BCM is always a highlight
  • a new 600 in the Invicta or Wessex
  • FNRttC to Whitstable, but I might not be able to do it
  • FNRttC to Newhaven and home, will it be as good as last year?
  • PBP
08 Jan: The Poor Student 200 - DONE
22 Jan: The Willy Warmer 200 - DONE
26 Feb: The Kennet Valley Run 200 - DONE
18 Mar: FNRttC Southend with Mandy and Rob - DONE without Mandy and Rob
26 Mar: The Dean 300 - DONE
15 Apr: FNRttC Manchester OR The Valley of the Rocks 200 - NOT DONE (Work reasons)
22 Apr: FNRttC Bognor - NOT DONE, Easter Arrow instead
22 Apr: Easter Arrow to York - DONE
30 Apr: The Severn Across 400 - DONE
14 May: The Bryan Chapman 600 - DONE
11 Jun: The Invicta 600 OR The Wessex 600 - NOT DONE, London to Brighton 300 DIY instead
17 Jun: FNRttC Whitstable - DONE
25 June: Yorkshire Dales 200 PERM - DONE 
15 Jul: FNRttC Brighton - DONE
21 Jul: FNRttC Newhaven - 300 to Rumbeke - DONE
06 Aug: The West Bay and Back 200 with Jamie - DONE
13 Aug: a 100 or DIY 200 - NOT DONE (can't remember why)
21 Aug: Le Paris Brest Paris 1200 - Frame number 5741 - DONE!!!

FNRttC November 2010

I was supping Madeira wine in Madeira when I looked up and saw this:

A full moon

A full moon now sparks one thought: FNRttC.

I could have done it you know, I could have done it. I could have dropped off my luggage at friends in Brighton beforehand, done the last FNRttC of the season and celebrated Simon getting a London Cycling Campaign award. Then I could have gone round to the friends, swapped bike for luggage and made my way to Gatwick to catch a 1PM flight to Madeira. Plenty of time!!

But of course that would run the risk of a FNRttC ban 2011-2013. Imagine, a holiday, postponed multiple times because of an 'imminent' knee op and several consultations, a vacation you both desperately need, and especially together, you come in from work on a Friday evening and you tell your partner: "I'm off for a night ride and I'll meet you at the airport tomorrow. Don't worry, I can sleep on the plane." No, that would not be right.

Anyway, this gave me an opportunity to be an armchair FNRttC'er.

So, we were sitting on a terrace on the Saturday evening, when I noticed the outdoor wifi hotspots everywhere. The sight of the moon had already made me wonder how it would have gone this time: rain? not too cold? many punctures? any severe mechanicals? how did the newbies get on? would Simon's health and safety routine have been the best ever? did StuAff come off his bike? any pictures up? .... I was quietly going to do a little browsing.

It didn't take long for Sarah to cotton on: "Are you reading about FNRttC or something?". Darn, I shouldn't have pointed out the moon! "Oh, just checking, 5 mins ...." Sarah would carry on chatting on and off. And I would make sure I gave her all my attention. Wasn't good enough though, she still ended up saying: "Am I disturbing you?".

Then I nearly fell off my chair when I realised how I had missed a trick!! The Madeira Cafe!! What a lovely tenuous link! Me raising a glass in Madeira while the FNRttC'ers would have raised a glass in the Madeira Cafe, and that under the same full moon. Now I can feel part of it.

I love tenuous links. I was reading Rob Penn's book: "It's all about the bike". Rob's dream bike needed only one compromise. He could not get a 32-spoke rear cassette hub from Royce and had to settle for a 28-spoke hub. The reason? The maker, Cliff Polton, was on a beekeeping course and therefore no hubs would be made for several weeks. Marvellous!! Sounds like an intensive commercial beekeeping course abroad to me.

And here comes the next tenuous link: from bees back to Madeira

Funchal coat of arms includes four skeps

At Mercades dos Lavradoros

At front of concert hall

At back of concert hall

The Upper Thames 200 - Update

I had wondered if this ride was going to be about 'blood, sweat and tears' or 'banter, scenery and tea'. It was the latter and especially 'scenery'. Scenery normally comes with climbing, but if there is such a thing as a scenery/climbing ratio, then the Upper Thames 200 would have a very favourable score. Have a look at the photos, the link is at the end or here: Clicky.

I'm very envious of 'iddu' who captured an image of a Victorian Water Tank (1895) at Bix. He is right, I rode straight by.

I did however, make a point of stopping off at the Maharajah's Well (1865) in Stoke Row.

This had caught my eye, because the well and its cover was funded by the Maharajah of Benares, 'possibly in response to poverty and drought'. This is such an extraordinary reverse direction of development aid (if I can call it that), that you have to think something personal, political or symbolic is going on. Nevertheless, I'm sure the beneficiaries didn't complain. Stoke Row and Bix are only 6km apart. Water sources must indeed have been scarce.

Benares, or Varanasi, is a special place. It is a special place in its own right, but it is a special place for me personally also. Although the good things in religion interest me, I am not religious. However, I can get a little spiritual. The Ganges and Kumb Mela, I find absolutely fascinating. Can you imagine, in the last Maha Kumbh Mela, held in 2001, around 60 million people attended. To be able to bathe in your goddess, the Ganges, at that time must be ..... I can't find the word. As for me, I had been wishing for something for a long time, a wish I thought was never going to come true. I don't believe in wishes either, but when all is beyond your control what else can you do but wish. So the magical Ganges at Varanasi was going to be the place where I made my wish one last time (which says enough about the outcome!!).

Varanasi 2006

From the Ganges back to the Upper Thames ... There were quite a few familiar faces. I was pleased to link up with LiamFitz, and it was nice of pipsuds to introduce himself. I'm sorry I had to ask pipsuds about three times to repeat his name. The pip was ok, but the suds just wasn't going in. If only he had mentioned his YACF picture is Tintin!! In Belgium, Tintin is called Kuifje, which translates as Quiff. Tintin rides a fixed track bike, that is important to know!

Thank you to the organiser and helpers. With over 90 entrants, the event has some logistics to take care of.

Photos are on the slideshow till the next ride or here:Clicky.

Photo taken by RichForrest

6 Nov - The Upper Thames 200

Let's get the new year going with a 200km ride and one I have never done before: The Upper Thames 200.

Will it be blood, sweat and tears? Or will it be banter, scenery and tea?

The route, going anti-clockwise.

Happy New Audax Year!

Today is the last day of the 2010 Audax season. Tomorrow is the start of PBP year! Happy New Year to all Audaxers and followers!!

Its been a fantastic year with a few new achievements for me.

First Randonneur Round the Year: ie a 200km ride every month.
First Audax abroad: Brussels Paris Brussels 600.
First DIY abroad: Dieppe to Beitem 200.

Here is the year's summary which makes it all look too easy!

(BPB in June not listed)

The PBP early registration rides lead to another super randonneur award.

Tomorrow it will be PBP year!

Phillips Bike

Third time in a year! A photo of Sarah on a bike. You'd think she cycles more than I do.

Thank you to CyclesOfYesteryear for restoring the bike to fully functional order. Paul is an amazing bike guru. Its just a way of life for him. He doesn't talk brands or trends, he talks bikes and fixing bikes so that people can use them for whatever purpose at whatever budget. As I was leaving with a vintage bike, someone else came in with a top Pinarello. The shop was busy, but Paul still helped me get the bike in the car and tie the back door down. It was an absolute pleasure, nothing is a problem. Even, he even replaced the freewheel on a wheel I had taken in at the same time, no charge.

This is now my local bike shop ... its only 10 miles away as the biker rides.

Can't spot the difference? Good!

FNRttC October 2010 - Whitstable - Update

I used to call it 'the wonderful bit between Faversham and Whitstable'. When Simon Legg referred to it in one of his communications by its proper name 'Graveney Marshes' I got a little curious. Why is it there, how large is the area, why is it so compelling ... So I did some googling and rather than answer my questions, I got completely distracted by a war story.

A German bomber had crash landed on the marshes. September 1940 it was. The men of the 1st Battalion London Irish Rifles captured them and took them back for a pint in the pub they were staying at. Oh so British! This battle's 70th anniversary was recently commemorated. Do read the story. The link is at the end or here: Clicky

The pub was The Sportsman. So I had to look that one up of course and found it still in existence, now a Michelin starred establishment. We would have cycled past the building on every Whitstable ride, but I had never taken notice. The pull of breakfast at the Waterfront Cafe is usually too strong at that stage!

This view is the entry page to The Sportsman

Everything about 'The Sportsman' appealed to me, the history, the location, the food .... I had to go and visit. I rang them up a week before the FNRttC and found that unfortunately for me, they are so popular that they are booked up 6-8 weeks in advance. My heart sank, but I pleaded with them: "Its just me, me on my own, I'll sit anywhere, in a corner, at the bar, anywhere ... "

So this is how I came to have oysters again in Whitstable (ok, Seasalter), followed by pork belly and a chocolate mousse sorbet. The wine was good and the Pedro Ximenez Garvey a real treat!

When they found out that I had cycled from London I was treated as 'the special guest' of the day and got truly spoilt. It was wonderful! I had brought a light change of clothes to get me out of lycra, but they said there was no need, anything goes. I met the chef and admired the kitchen garden at the back. I'm certainly going back there, even if its only to sample the Shepherd Neame Late Red.

The journey back to London was dream like. Had a good snooze on the train. I got out of Victoria Station and with fresh energy decided to cycle home. It was like I was doing a 'Lucas Brunelle', speeding along, people could see my 'I'm coming and you're in my way' stare through the eyes in the back of their heads and parted as I got closer. I got home so quickly, my other half hadn't put the coffee on yet!

What about the FNRttC ride itself? Its not always about the ride is it. If I had done that ride on my own, I wouldn't have enjoyed it much. It rained, not too bad, but I did wonder how I ever survived LEL. And I was very tired, taking cat naps every time there was a regroup, and I wondered again how I ever survived LEL. I found it particularly tough this time. I admired the group and especially the newcomers for sticking with it in such good humour. The banter at Andy's and the Waterfront Cafe was fantastic. I got to know a few people a bit better and made some plans for next year which I'm very excited about.

A few more thoughts:
  • Cycling by The Monument
  • Stuart telling me about the Battle of Bannockburn
  • CharlieB's individually wrapped carrot and marmalade cake was gorgeous
  • Having a 'hot' bacon baguette at Andy's
  • A gift from Aperitif which has added to my bottle top collection:
  • Enjoying the post ride Cycle Chat banter, I had no idea so much had happened on that ride!
  • Thanks a million to Simon and his helpers, and the riders, and the cafes
So that is it for this season. I can't make the last Brighton run and the audax season is finished also. What a great year it has been and what a grand finale I experienced last weekend! It moves me what cycling can do for you. But then I do believe that I am 'the Queen of the Tuesday Blues'!

The photos are on the slideshow till the next ride or here: Clicky
Rich P's photos are here: Clicky

Last battle of Britain at Graveney: Clicky

FNRttC October 2010 - Whitstable

Only 4 more sleeps!

On the 26th September, Simon wrote: "I doubt that we'll be oversubscribed, so there's no rush [to register]". 24 hours later there were 60 people on the list. At the last count, there were 113!

Don't people realise that there are hills to climb, that it could be cold, long queues at the Rochester cafe, crosswind by the coast, more queues at the Whitstable cafe then a long journey back to London. And you have to remember also that this is a 'Friday Night Ride', we cycle in the dark, so no scenery to be enjoyed.

What is the fun in all that? Why do people sign up for these things?

Bicycle Film Festival

Really, really enjoyed the Bicycle Film Festival at the Barbican last Saturday.

If you have never heard of Lucas Brunelle, watch this trailer (this is only the trailer!!):

The Anfractuous 200 - Update

Thank you to Manotea, the ride's organiser, for enriching my vocabulary today.

First there is 'anfractuous': full of twists and turns, tortuous. Just a shame that the definition didn't trigger any memories of this being a hard ride.

Then there was 'scoggy' or 'skoggy': in his safety chat, Manotea mentioned a 'scoggy' section, where we should all take care. When asked what it meant, he answered we'd know when we came to it. I believe the word to be a Manotea-ism, to be included into the Oxford dictionary some time not soon.

One of the info controls about the number of dormer windows, also got me thinking I've been misusing the word all this time. But no, I was OK there. Sorry, I can't reveal anymore on this, its the audax etiquette not to 'reveal' info controls ... an etiquette controlled by MattC.

May I add my own Els-ism here? I don't think there is such a word as 'concibel'. I see it as the unit of concentration. If you bundled all the concentration required to complete an audax, you'd get to quite an amount: for packing, for getting to the start, for following the route sheet, for reconciling with the GPS, for cycling in groups, for avoiding potholes, for red lights, for car drivers, for talking... You'd think all this is done on auto-pilot, some of it is, but one moment of distraction, and there you have it. Lost! Where did I get lost? How is it possible! With a perfect routesheet, backed up with a perfect GPS, how is it possible to get lost? Its when you cycle at concibel level 0.

And thank you also to Manotea, for recommending the baked beans at the Waterfront Cafe. I was enjoying that so much, I was thinking of the elimination round of Masterchef. I was hearing Michel Roux' voice: A plate, very well presented. Three pieces of toast uniformly cut into triangles and having the right thickness. Spread evenly with butter which is melting over the perfectly toasted bread. The beans, very tasty with a hint of pepper. This is a dish I would be happy to serve in my restaurant. And then comes Greg Wallace: Salt! Salt, my friend! It doesn't have enough salt ... but I'd happily eat the lot. Only on audaxes can baked beans taste so good!

Breakfast stop

It was very nice to sit outside by the river, for breakfast. It was a very warm day. I was in shorts and short sleeves for most of the day. Just a shame the sun didn't break through. There was a 'scoggy' mist hanging over the countryside all day.

This didn't stop the red kites from appearing though. They were wonderful, and so many of them. The RSPB site will tell you that they have a "mew-like “weoo-weoo-weoo” call which is rapidly repeated". To me they sound like a sheepdog trial with multiple competitions going on at the same time. It was particularly nice to hear them again on the return back into the Chilterns.

Another moment I liked was climbing what happened to be the steepest hill of the day. Male and female pheasants scattered left, right and ahead amongst the lovely woodland. It will now be in my memory as Pheasants Hill, although, Pheasants Hill proper was another mile and a bit away. Tried to look up the climb on Google Maps, but I don't think even the googmobile got up it. Try and Google Colstrope Lane.

The Stanley Spencer Gallery on the corner by the Cookham info control reminded me that I must visit one day.

So here is my reminder for next year: This is a hilly ride. The autumn sunshine can make it absolutely wonderful (2009), scoggy mist, a little less so (2010). However, the woodlands, the Chilterns, the Lambourne, Wantage, Pangbourne area are fantastic to cycle through. Just remember, it is not 'not entirely flat' as stated on the audax site, it is one hill after the other. If I'm exaggerating, its so that by 2011 I at least remember that it is indeed 'anfractuous'.

A few photos are on the slideshow till the next ride or here: Clicky

Barring Mechanicals - Andy Allsopp

There are a few SPOILERS in here! This means, if you are going to read the book, you might not want to read this post.

Don't know why it has taken me so long to pick up Andy's book. I guess LELers are not used to it. You scan the forums and the net for ride reports, because there are always a few goodn's there somewhere. You scan youtube for Damon Peacocks videos, because audaxers know that is what he does. But a book! A book about LEL? No!

So here I am a year later, trying to put LEL 2009 to bed, because the talk is now about PBP 2011. Oh, but what indulgence. I am so pleased I unwittingly had one last LEL treasure to read and thus able re-live LEL.

And I don't know either, why I find so much in this book so funny!

For example, the maps. In particular, the map for LEL Day 2 - Monday. How can a map be funny? Its just a line drawing of a section of England between Thorne and Alston. It is funny because it is so simple! No contours, no shading, no indication of anything happening at all, just a line between Thorne and Alston. And then ... near Alston, a tiny little triangle: Yad Moss! Ha!

Another moment where I was laughing out loud and crying at the same time was in the 'Sanctuary' chapter. Andy describes the Tuesday situation: "The field is wrecked. 20 people have stopped. 33 are missing." Everyone is in survival mode by the time they get to the control. And I could completely identify with Deniece's reaction to the offer of a warm bed: "How far is your house?" Why is that so funny?

"At The Start Line" photo shows Andy with the LongHairedScouser. Hilarious! Just two riders! What is going on? Where is everybody? Then you find out that Andy had left his cycling shoes at home, so had a delayed start whilst his wife went back home to fetch them. Then less than 10 miles in, he has a serious mechanical issue that he would nurse all the way around LEL. You'd think it could only get easier for him after that, but of course it doesn't. Here come Yad Moss and the storm.

What an incredible journey Andy had. He had registered a month earlier than me, in November 2008. By January 2009 I had cycled a 200km audax with 2000m climbing. Andy was happy to finish a 30 mile ride at that time. By May I had completed an audax SR (upto 600km rides), whilst Andy seemed chuffed with his 'five rides over 100 miles', none of which were audaxes.

So how come, with all the adversity Andy had, he still finished 2.5 hours quicker than me?!*!!

Now that is not funny!

A few more thoughts:
  • we were both on a FNRttC in March 2009 in preparation for LEL - Andy's first I think
  • while I was very impressed with the LEL cakes (there were 9 left when I was in Traquair), Andy mentioned 'a LEL cake'
  • Andy's detailed descriptions are very impressive 'down past the mining museum my wife has a bookmark from'
  • most favourite line: "we stand in the rain because we can't remember to go inside!"
  • the journey and the writing style gets you hooked from start to finish
  • the way Andy describes the moment where you hand in your brevet card at the end is also one of my favourites
Very well done, Andy!

FNRttC March 2009
Andy with recumbent

9 Oct - The Anfractuous 200

I did The Anfractuous 200 last year. It had been my first audax calendar event since LEL. I remember it being a lovely autumn ride with excellent scenery. However, my post from last year tells me it was not an easy ride. No 200 is ever easy, really, you should always treat it with respect! Still, I'm hoping for a relaxed day, with time for breaks, chats and photos ...

Profile is below:nfras 2009

"Honey-tasting parties will be the new alleycat"

Would you Adam and Eve it, Bike Snob NYC integrated beekeeping in his cycling blog (Bike Snob NYC - half way down the post):

"I do think that beekeeping is going to be the next fixed-gear. In fact, it's following exactly the same trajectory as the fixed-gear trend--it's slightly obscure, it has an element of danger, and now it has that all-important catalyst, a trend piece in the New York Times"

On a serious note, the profile of beekeeper 'David', mentions that his favourite honey is from the Linden tree, or lime tree. At the last FNRttC to Whitstable, I was telling Aperitif how lime tree honey is my absolute favourite. It is sublime. The honey I extract in August is a very good blend, but once I kept a frame out because I could see a defined area in the comb that looked very different from the rest. I decided to extract it separately, and it turned out to be lime honey. It was beautiful. It is also an unusual honey for an urban beekeeper to obtain, because the conditions have to be just right for the bees to go to the lime trees - and that time doesn't last long. Neither do the bees favour the lime tree, if there are other sources around. But once they are on it, you'd think there is a swarm going on. So, I watch out for this. There are lime trees in the area and when they are flowering, I watch to see if the bees are on it. Then I'll look in the hive for signs of lime honey. Alas, it has only happened once in the last 8 years. I must say also, of course, that no bought lime honey has every tasted as good at the 1/2lb I once extracted. If I could get hold of the same, I would pay as much as £50 for a jar.

The William the Conkerer 200 - Update

The way I got into work today was a better indicator on how this ride went than my finishing time:
  • All the people I come across on my commute to work, were all a little further on their way than usual
  • Had to stop myself from pinging my bell too much as it was getting me into a trance
  • When I got to work, I went straight for breakfast rather than shower first
There were a few familiar faces participating, which is always nice. Anton is a regular now. And Mel eased off to have a chat also: "Don't know if I'll last 8 hours on these handlebars", he said. Can you imagine the banter that followed: "Is that because you're taking it easy today Mel?" Truth is that he wasn't used to the type of handlebars on his newly acquired bike. The 8 hours reference was neither here nor there for him (but it was to us!).

I had given myself 14 hours (pretty much the time limit), but there was a push to finish before dark, so 12 hours wasn't bad in the end for a hilly 200. I only stopped to eat and take a couple of iPhone pictures.

M25 cutting through country side

The other picture was taken at Rotherfield - couldn't help myself.


The day wasn't too eventful, apart from ... not causing a car accident ... but if I hadn't been there, the prang probably wouldn't have happened. I was descending down a hill at a bit of a speed, I braked, slowed down, as I saw an oncoming car wanting to turn right. The car stopped ... bang, somebody drove into him. Ouch. I wonder if anybody saw the aftermath? In Crowborough, I think it was.

Then there was the unknown object thrower. We went through quite a few lanes. I like cycling on these lanes, but there isn't much space for cars to pass. A big people carrier came along and a pesky little child threw something at me through the open window. It was close range, but still quite a good shot I thought, hitting me in my most padded area. I was contemplating what to say, should I meet the car at the T junction. It was going to be 'Good shot', 'You rascal', or both. When taking a break at the next info control quite a few miles further, I noticed half a piece of a digestive biscuit sitting on top of my saddle bag. Very good shot!!

The fuel stop at Yalding was very welcome. We, that is Stephen and I, who by then had formed a groupette of two, both enjoyed the break. Its amazing what energy you can draw, not just from eating, but from the presence of somebody who understands what you are doing. The organiser, William Weir, was there to stamp our cards and provide food and drink.

The route covers some wonderful scenery and picturesque villages. Goudhurst in particular caught my eye, very near Sissinghurst. It is a small village and has an unusual feel to it because of the way the church is elevated above the surrounding, beautiful buildings.

I really enjoyed this ride (3000 m climbing has its rewards) and since Redhill is quite easy to get to for me, I might look out for more of William's rides.

19 Sep - The William the Conkerer 200

Next Sunday I'll be doing an audax I haven't done before and will not do again: William the Conkerer. Why is it called William the Conkerer? And why will I not be doing it again?

Here is what the organiser wrote: "This is a delightful 208km route from Redhill to Battle via Mayfield and then up to the North Downs via Yalding. It is a hilly route with some great views over wide expanses of Surrey, Sussex, Kent and London. It is eligible for inclusion in a Brevet de Grimpeur de Sud claim. The event will run in 2010 only (a different ride will be run 2011)."

There is a nice profile image on William Weir's excellent website: Frere Yacker.

I'm seeing this ride as an autumn equivalent of the Poor Student, except its hillier and its not in Oxford. In fact, the only thing they have in common is that they are 'shoestring' events.

Frere Yacker nicely summarises what a 'shoestring', 'x-rated' or 'basic' event entails:
  • An outdoor meeting place at the start (i.e. no village hall or other facilities)
  • Controls that will (generally) not have a person manning them
  • No-one to meet and greet you at the finish
  • No fixed finishing control – you simply get proof you returned to Redhill
  • Posting the brevet card at the finish using a SAE provided on the day
  • The usual audax comments about the need to be self sufficient, no marshals, support vehicles, broom wagons, rescue service, route markers etc etc.
If you are not put off by any of the above, you'll have a great time! I'm looking forward to it, it will be a challenge and I'll need to prepare rather than just turn up!

Bikes and Bees in One Day!

Bike without chain

And look at that light

Was thinking of Andy Allsopp here.

These pictures were taken at the bike museum in my birth town of Roeselare. My dad and I visited after attending a bee congress. Bikes and bees in one day!

After going round the museum and watching the videos you get a good feel of the excitement around local cycling heros, from Odiel Defraeye (first Belgian to win the Tour de France), Merckx, de Vlaminck, Maertens, Boonen... Barry Hoban gets a mention.

For the Flemisch Bee Congress, three speakers had been invited to talk about why they choose to work with a certain subspecies of bees: the Buckfast bee, the black bee or carnica.

A difficult question being answered by the Prof.

My dad was given an award for his 50 years in beekeeping.

As we left the congress building I spotted this - the notice in the window translates as: "Forbidden to park bikes". I guess they'll get around removing the bike stands sometime.

"Verboden fietsen te plaatsen"

Phillips Bike

The stars must be aligned. I learned about Phillips bikes via Clare Baldings Britain by Bike programs. A few weeks later I come into the possession of one.
I'm quite chuffed with this. Not that I need another bike, especially not one which I'll only use a couple of times a year. I do have visions of offering Hanwell Honey from the bike, at the next Hanwell Carnival. But first, there is the restoration ....
Any advice? Sure I don't have to go to India to pick up a few replacement mudguards?

FNRttC August 2010 - Whitstable - Update

Every time. Every time, it lives up to expectations. What is it about this ride? On Saturday morning, I was asking myself why I don't do this every Friday night. Lots of reasons of course, but one thing is for sure. My other half, who normally has heard enough about rides, this time, was all ears and ... asked if she could meet me in Whitstable next time around. Yes, yes!

However ... next year, the full moon will not be during the August Bank Holiday (I think the Bank Holiday weekend made the harbour atmosphere that little bit more special).

The ride starts with a good dose of night time London, all lit up in different ways: Hyde Park Corner, Buckingham Palace, Westminster with Big Ben, the London Eye, OXO Tower and Tower Bridge. Sights people come from all over the world to see. Then onto the south side of the river, where we go through Bermondsey and onto Greenwich, Dartford and beyond.

I like the spot which marks the boundary between London and 'nearly in Whitstable'. It has a good feel of old London with new generation taking place - the area is called 'More London', as etched into the Water Benches fountains.

These 'Water Benches' are just next to another water feature, which is called the Rill. Its a cut through the paving with water running down. I find it absolutely extraordinary, I like it, but its such a trip hazard!

The Rill
Photo by Tim Hall (see link below)

Next thing you know, you are at Andy's Cafe. At least we all call it Andy's Cafe. While I was queueing I was trying to make sense of its real name:

Maybe the owner used to be Andy Snacks, and the cafe was called 'The Andy Snacks Cafe' (still doesn't sound right, does it). Then the new owner wisely thought to keep the original name, but never proofread the new shop fascia design. There again, it could be rhyming slang that has gone right over my head ...

We went at quite a pace I thought. Granted we stopped a lot for regrouping, but when we were going we were flying. Dawn, sunrise, early morning at the Milton Regis stop (people were out buying papers by then), the thought of breakfast by the sea ...

The location for breakfast can't be better, on that balcony overlooking the sea. The cricket came on on the screen, the bar opened, ... then some people with time schedules started to leave to catch the train back to London, some people without time schedules were settling in, some people with time schedules kept planning to get the next train.

And I went off to the harbour to have oysters and champagne. You can't go to Whitstable three years in a row and not have oysters. It had to be done.

La vie est belle

After half a bottle of champagne, everybody was my best friend of course. The oyster seller explained why I can't take oysters to London, which I thought was marvellous. I couldn't thank him enough for being so honest. £4 for six oysters - fantastic!

I took my time, people watching, visiting the fish market, strolling back to the station eventually ... but would you believe it, it appears from a post on the cycling forum that 'the settlers' would have taken a train after me!

Photos are on the slideshow till the next post or here: Clicky

And there are some fantastic shots taken by Tim here: Clicky

FNRttC August 2010 - Whitstable

Yeh!! Its that time again. Off to do the night ride to the coast. 80 riders are expected and so is the moon - should be fun. I intend to stay on a bit and find oysters and champagne for brunch.

Edit: Found my spot: Harbour Garden Cafe

How can I be so excited about a nightride I've done before? Have a guess ...

Look at this Whitstable forecast - I can't wait!!

14 Aug - The Radnor Roundabout 100

What a beauty!

Beautiful scenery all the way. If you want to get the feeling of being right in the middle of Wales, do this ride. From start to finish the landscape was stunning. I loved it.

It was a nice to ride just 100km also. I took me back to my early audax days, when 100km rides were still a challenge. In fact, I was also on the same bike I used to use, and all that goes with it: no saddlebag but a small backpack, long stops at controls, no lights to carry, just one bottle of water, 9AM start, hardly ever being without company, etc.

At Rhayader tea stop.

The reason for a shorter ride was twofold. First, I had completed a 200 in the area only last Thursday (The Severn to Wye 200 PERM) and it would give me a chance to meet up afterwards with the holiday group of people I was with. The idea was to have late lunch at the Stagg Inn at Kington, a Michelin starred establishment.

The holiday group of people I was with felt guilty afterwards, for having enjoyed such a fantastic meal, without me being there. Don't know why they felt guilty, because it was completely my fault that I had underestimated how long a 100 can take!

When I got to the start in Gladestry, the riders for the 200 were getting ready. Here is the organiser sending them on their way:

When I returned back at headquarters I said that the ride was over too quickly - I wanted more. Ross suggested I'd ride the Tregaron Dragon on the Sunday. No thank you! I heard about that ride - it is said to be harder than La Marmotte!

These rides are part of a cycling weekend organised by Ross Jeal. It should be called the Gladestry Cycling Festival really, with so many ride options, catering, camping, .... All very well organised. Thank you Ross! Ross' site: Gladestry Cycling Weekend

The photos are here:Clicky

12 Aug - The Severn to Wye 200 PERM

This was a beautiful ride through the Welsh border counties of Shropshire & Herefordshire.

To get a feel of the atmosphere watch Clare Balding's Britain by Bike episode 'The Welsh Borders'. But be quick - it will not be available after August 2010 - and unfortunately available in the UK only: The Welsh Borders. It covers the Aston-on-Clun Bride's Tree ceremony (at 3 minutes). And I loved the section on the cycling club the Hitchin Nomads (at just before 17 minutes). Pause at 17:53: that image would make a good Christmas Card. And of course I would agree with Renee Stacey's statement: "Once you've made a cycling friend, you've made them for life".

I was on my own though, the whole day, since I was riding this on a Thursday as an audax permanent. The closest I got to making a friend was when I was stopped on the Ironbridge bridge itself. A guy said he was admiring my bike and that he'd like to start riding rides like this. So we talked a little about racing versus long distance bikes.

There was a comedy moment in the unusual Mistletoe tea rooms. Unusual, because the tea rooms were like somebody's sitting room, with tables and chairs but also sofas, bookshelves, trinkets of all sorts, and tea was served in bone china tea sets. Proper loose leaf tea and everything. Had lovely hot scones with Earl Grey tea and bought a card of a woodcarving showing a cyclist in Wiltshire, with a white horse in the hillside.

Anyway ... a very elderly couple were being taken out to tea by a slightly younger couple. The very elderly lady was struggling, I had noticed. And the slightly younger lady had noticed it also. She asked "Are you allright dear?". This was repeated a couple of times, because the very elderly lady was very deaf. Lets ask the very elderly husband: "Is she allright? Her breathing is a bit laboured!" To which the very elderly husband replied without looking up: "Its her trousers". Next thing I knew, they were asking the proprietors for scissors. Eh?

Getting into and out of Ironbridge was quite fun with some fantastic descents! Ironbridge was busy, I regret not stopping - apart from the chat with the guy.

The photos are on the slideshow till the next ride or here: Clicky

The Severn to Wye 200 PERM

I'll be taking the opportunity to do a couple of rides while on holiday in Herefordshire.

On Thursday I'll be doing the Severn to Wye 200, and
on the Saturday I'll be doing the Radnor Roundabout 100.

Sunday: Route

Sarah does it again!

Camp Bestival brings the cyclist out of Sarah.

I remarked that she doesn't do the distances I do.


I'm not looking too comfortable myself!

FNRttC - Newhaven - Dieppe - Update

This Friday night ride to the coast was always going to be something special. It ran on a Thursday, and not only was it going to the Coast, but to the Continent. With the opportunity for me to extend the ride to Belgium, the proposition couldn't be better.

So 9 people set off from Hyde Park Corner, and two more joined us on the way. We got thoroughly soaked all the way to Gatwick Airport. The 'Fastest way to London' sign, which I kept reading as 'The fastest way back to London', seemed like a good option. Still, the Costa Coffee experience, I wouldn't have missed for the world.

I had started the queue, and when Simon's order was taken before mine, I should have known that things weren't alltogether go smoothly. Instead, I thought, yes, yes, quite right that Simon, our leader, should get served first, how rude of me! In a loud clear voice Simon ordered a cappucino with a raspberry and milk chocolate muffin. That muffin bit was a bit hard for the guy at the till. To help him out we pointed at the muffins which were right in front of us. Mr Quick, who had already put the muffin in a bag, was retrospectively instructed to get a muffin, which caused another bout of confused looks and repetitive instructions by the till man.

But this was only a warm up! 'Four' the till man said/shouted. 'Four?' repeated Simon. 'Four what?' I kind of mumbeld 'must be four pounds', which is a bit odd really. How often do you order two items that come to exactly four pounds? And then, with a look of revelation, the till man shouted: 3.59! Blimey, the price is going down! Go with it Simon! 3.59. It's as if he suddenly remembered that the code for a part he needs to order is not 4, but 3.59. He was not really looking at Simon, but looking through Simon, right through Simon to the other side of the big hall, where on the wall there was an Exit sign.

Anyway, it came to my order, which was a flat white and a point and point muffin. Mr Exit took the receipt he'd just entered and studied it carefully. Then I felt bad, I thought, you see, he's just had a bad start of his shift, realised he's ordered the wrong part for his lawnmower, but now he is pulling himself together, reading, double checking the receipt, making sure there are two items, the right items, all correctly charged, etc ... Then he looked at the Exit sign which I was now obscuring, handed the receipt to me, and asked "Which coffee did you order?". "Flat white". Its printed on the receipt! 3.59, he shouted! Oh really! From then on everybody's order seemed to be 3.59. I was beginning to think this was a candid camera scene. Or we were in a world where there is no expressive laughter. And the joke was on us. They were testing us to see how long it would take for somebody to give up or else get behind the till themselves. 3.59 was just their code for laughing their socks off.

In the mean time, Simon was waiting for his coffee and had said 'yes please' to chocolate on top. As I turned to join the coffee queue, the coffee man asked Simon 'Would you like a sprinkle ...' 'Yes! I said yes before!' Mr Sprinkle put the back of his right hand limply to his forehead, it had been a busy night. 3.59, I could hear from my right!

But it was when Simon, with a click of the heels, on receipt of his coffee, said to Mr Sprinkler: 'Outstanding', that I spontaneously combusted into laughter and Simon did the same.

On the Simon scale of badness from 1 to 10, this whole scenario stood out at 20! Still, we did get served and had entertainment to boot!

All of the FNRttC gang

The ride from Gatwick to Newhaven was wonderful. Titus must have been chuffed that he hadn't bailed out. It wasn't raining anymore and soon it was getting light. The roads were great to cycle on. I trust somebody took a picture of the sun rise, was that at Wivelsfield? We had a puncture stop and during that time, Des kindly let me have a go on his fixed bike. Thanks Des.

The Pitstop Cafe was ideal for our traditional breakfast. And it was great to have so much time. Normally, I watch the clock because you need to get that train back to London. More entertainment, but of a different kind, was provided by the staff. The breakfast was superb, I was pleasantly surprised. We had time to chat, the sun was out, we could sit outside, put my flip flops on. Great!

And then we said our goodbyes, I didn't like that bit, I wanted all of us to go to Dieppe, it was a great group. Not even Aperitif could be persuaded, although I think he was the closest to a 'life is short' moment. Off we went to the ferry terminal: Simon, Tim and Kathy on tandem, Stuart and I.

Hey! More entertainment! If you are going to have a clipless moment, then there is not better spot than here:

Then we were joined by more cyclists, some better prepared than others it seemed. A couple of guys had the full Ortlieb front and back panniers, tent on top. Then there was a guy wearing a casual jacket and trainers. He was cycling to Paris for charity. He was rather concerned about his bike on the ferry. 'Don't worry mate', said Simon, 'they won't nick your bike'. Simon's intonation was disguised enough, but I was in stitches again.

Stuart was a star on many occasions. First directing us straight to the most comfortable seating area on the ferry where those who didn't sleep the whole way could watch a film so bad that it became entertaining again. Then directing us, together with Simon, to the Formule 1. Because we wouldn't have got there with my directions!! Where did I get that address from??

We got to the hotel in time to catch the end of the Tour de France. The belgian Van Den Broeck seems to be doing well. Can't believe Renshaw got disqualified.

After drinks and dinner in Dieppe, we had cheese and wine back on the 'hotel terrace'. 'Bon appetit' someone said genuinely. Then said goodbyes again, because the next day, it was going to be an early start for me to set off to Belgium.

The tailwind made the whole ride effortless, I was cruising in the biggest gear for much of the time. My only worry was where to get water from next, but I only needed to ask wherever I had a food stop. I was slightly annoyed at myself for getting out of the habit of carrying oil. But the mobile shop came to my rescue. The man shook his head from side to side when I asked if he had oil. He didn't have any oil for sale, but he did have oil. Off he hopped from his trailer and got a can of spray, applied it to my chain and 'Allez!' he said.

Mobile shop

The scenery was rolling country side. There weren't any hills to speak of until I reached Belgium where I climbed the Kemmelberg. Smalldean Lane is much harder!!

Rapha has an article on it: Rapha Kemmelberg . I wouldn't call Kemmel nothern Belgium though, its pretty close to the French border. But here is a bit of trivia that might explain why the writer calls it northern Belgium. West-Flanders - which is where the Kemmel is, is the only county bordering both France and the Netherlands. Hence its also flemish, and flanders is often regarded as northern Belgium.

From there I was close to home and didn't take many more photos. I arrived close to 6PM, which was my original ETA, the tailwind helped me get there.

I had an absolutely fantastic weekend, made by the night ride, the DIY 200 ride, the company and my family. Thanks to all.

Photos are on the slideshow till the next ride or here: Clicky