Saturday, 20 June 2015

London to Brighton Bike Ride Pt 1 : Before

I was sitting in the coach, smiling. It had been a good day.

"Mind if I sit here?" asked a fellow cyclist.

She sat down next to me.

"What did you think?" I asked.

"It was brilliant..."

I agreed, "Yes, and with a real sense of achievement at the end..."

We carried on chatting, but I must rewind to the start.

It hardly seems possible to have packed so much into a single day, but it was the longest one, after all.


Yes, I've assembled all of my materials for a kind of Wallace and Gromit 'New Trousers' start the following morning. Sports gear, breakfast, spanners. The water bottles are in the fridge chilled and ready.

There are bananas.

I'm ready to go to the pub to meet the others.

I'm standing looking up at the sky. It is what I call 'car wash rain'. I decide to retrieve a better waterproof from the boot of my car. Then walk along the road to The Mason's Arms. I've taken my stripped down wallet, which I'd prepared for tomorrow's bike ride. Folding cash and one debit card. No Oyster Card.

So I have no choice but to walk the ten minutes or so to the pub. Using a 137/452/44 wouldn't normally enter my head for such a short trip, but the rain, which was on - let's say - setting 8 has just moved to a 9 - Fire Hose.

I notice that I'm now the only person walking - everyone else is sheltered in doorways, the petrol station, under railway bridges. I'm glad I picked up my waterproof with the hood with the wire in it. I'm now a little walking rainproof canopy on the way to the pub.

I spot David straight away, drinking something Balham-hip which starts with the name Sierra Nevada. I'm thinking beer with a story, gold rush, Lake Tahoe?

David is mildly amused at my appearance. I notice the pub mainly contains people in shorts who look as if they have been, or are on their way, to barbecues.

There is that moment of pub silence as they register my bedraggled appearance. I make for the bar. Two separate people ask me:

"Raining outside, is it?"

They know the answer.

I get my beer and we chatter whilst waiting for the others. Eventually John arrives in an understated version of my wet appearance. He'd managed to get a cab for the last part of the journey.

We all look at the menu. We are still waiting for three more to arrive at seven o'clock.

"They'll be late" we hazard.

David is the expert on cycling and says we should eat something pasta or pizza based. The menu looks delicious, but is more skewed towards Ash goat's cheese, salmon with wilted garlic spinach, samphire, Chalcroft farm burgers with Cholla buns that kind of thing. Normally it would be perfect, but this evening we decide to cross to the nearby Italian.

Our remaining group still haven't arrived. We get the text explaining they have only just left. They are an hour away. The rain, don't ya know?

So we move to the Italian. Get a lovely window table. Order starters. Eat them. Order pizza and pasta. Still no sign of them. A phone call. Complicated.

They are bringing their bikes on the train. Into London worked fine. They are now in the deep tube network. On the Victoria Line. Bikes are not allowed on Victoria Line Trains. The first driver notices them board.

"Will the person with the blue bicycle please leave the train"

The driver refuses to move the train until they leave. Passengers glower quietly. The scene of eviction has probably made their early evening. Especially as one of the bikes has mudguards and panniers.

Another train. Same story. Rule of thumb is inside the Circle Line permits folding bikes only. Back in the Italian restaurant we muse how they got their bikes down the very long escalators.

They renegotiate their way to the surface. Two of them are Londoners. The other is from Norfolk.

The two Londoners lead the way. They get lost/separated.

That's when they phone.

We decide to tell the restaurant waiters that they are cycling in from Essex. The entire restaurant is impressed.


We ask for our main courses. They arrive.

Just as...

The others finally arrive. They are all very bright. Orange. Yellow. Bicycle-y. We go outside to greet them. Hugs all around.

The staff and people in the restaurant cheer them. Everyone knows about this epic journey from Essex.

They are only one-and-a-half hours behind schedule. It's great though - they've arrived and we diners are all feeling well established. The three latecomers decide to go on to their hotel before joining us for something to eat.

We order pudding/coffee.

But enough. This is still the build up to the ride.

There's another event in their travails when they order a minicab from their hotel (1.4 miles from the restaurant) and it shows a starting price of £12.

But lets's skip over all of that and move to the now rapidly approaching dawn of the ride...(tbc)

No comments: