Sun 29 Mar 2015
With the clocks changing to summer time, coupled with the fact that I cleaned my bike yesterday (an extremely rare occurrence) I had little doubt that we were in for some rotten weather. I was not disappointed.
Where Gary and I usually split our group and take half each today we had just enough for a single ride. Gary led with me as lantern rouge (though we swapped later).
So there were eleven of us departing Hayes at 1015. (0915 in old money), it felt very early – which of course it was. There was a fine mist of rain. The clouds were low and very grey there was almost nothing nice about the day except of course the riders. We had lovely riders today they were full of enthusiasm and ready for the challenge. Gary led at good steady pace via Fox Hill and Nash we were soon in the Kent Countryside and heading for the Downs.
The hedgerows in many places were beginning sprout lovely fresh green shoots, which covers the damage done by the modern hedgecutting methods which seem to leave the bushes shattered and split to shards.
We were doing OK until we got to Washpond Lane when under particularly heavy rain we had our first puncture. Gary and I got to work, we could not find the offending sharp which had caused the problem, but spent a long time searching for it. Then the pump misbehaved and we couldn’t inflate the tyre, and then to add insult to injury when we eventually did succeed the valve unscrewed from the tyre with the pump attachment so we had to do it all again – pants!
Eventually after about half an hour we got going again but had not progressed more than a mile when the puncture fairy struck again, same rider, other wheel. Fortunately she had a further tube so once again Gary and I got to work. It was a lengthy change, cold fingers, soaking rain and stiff breeze did nothing to speed things up. Once again we were completely unable to locate the breach in the tyre or be convinced that we had identified the offending foreign body. By now all were all quite cold
We restarted and pressed on to the top of Titsey Hill where Gary briefed the team on the state of the road and other hazards to be faced on the descent (poor road surface, steep, narrow lanes and double white lines) we rattled our way to the end of Pilgrims Lane where we took the sharp left. But once again the same rider had a puncture. Back wheel again, fortunately she had a tube, but it was another lengthy repair. By now other riders were beginning to suffer in the wet and cold and we had some discussion about how we might abort the ride and return to Hayes. We were by now nearly half way round so we more or less had to complete the route just to get back. Some riders were keen on going back up Titsey and straight back to Hayes. Gary and I were not comfortable with this. Titsey, as said above, is narrow and steep, we convinced the team to stay with it and come up Hogtrough. We pressed on along the undulating contours of Pilgrims Way. The rain was merciless.
On the final approach to the dreaded Hogtrough riders were warned to select their lowest gear, that once the turn is made you are committed and if you aint set right you’re a goner. By now Gary had relieved me of lantern rouge duties and I was leading. The hill just grinds on and on, it’s not as steep as Vigo but longer, much longer. Most riders did exceptionally well and cycled up or if they did walk I didn’t see it. On arrival at the top I learned that as we had turned onto the hill there had been yet another puncture – and you guessed it same rider. We were out of inner tubes now. I sent most of the riders on to the nearby Tally-Ho to get warmed up and I waited to help escort the breakdown on foot to the pub where we could do the repair under cover. It was a longer walk than I remembered from last weekend. On arrival at the pub we found Andy who had been trying to rendezvous with his friend Rachel on our ride since we set off. Andy was freezing having been waiting in the cold for ¾ hour. But there was worse Rachel and four others were missing having not arrived at the pub. Gary started work on the puncture, another rider had offered her spare tube, but unfortunately the valve was too wide to fit through the wheel so it was out with the patches and a repair job was done. Meanwhile I set off back down the ride to locate the missing team members. Fortunately I had not gone far when I found three of them, they had missed the turning. Two had decided to press on with Spencer’s ride who they had all bumped into.
We had a warming drink and some had chips at the Tally-Ho. The staff were welcoming but I think the other customers (and there were quite a few) got a bit cheesed off with our constant opening and shutting of the door letting blasts of cold air, as we popped in out whilst repairing the bike.
By now it was gone two o’clock and a decision was made to cut short the ride and head for Hayes. This meant we still did most of the route but skipped the bit back up Rushmore Hill.
The return to Hayes was pretty uneventful. The misbehaving bicycle tyres were no further problem under threat of death from their owner who pledged to replace them at the earliest opportunity and anyway by next week-end. I must say I think this is a wise decision, and full credit to the rider, a lesser mortal would have been very demoralised.
As a special treat I led through the Farnborough Park housing estate. There were some appreciative sighs coming from behind me.
We arrived at Hayes at 4 pm and were very pleased to get there.