Hayes (Bromley Borough, South East London) to Brighton with Bigfoot Cycle Club
So, the 12mph group set off from Hayes with 19 people, many of whom were the same familiar faces from the training rides in the weeks leading up to today’s big day. I can certainly say that, not really being a morning person, I felt like a zombie on 2 wheels en route to the café from my flat. Not even the adrenaline or energy powder in my water bottles seemed to wake me up. This all changed once we began that gradual but warming drag up the familiar Layhams Road and it felt like the engine was finally starting to warm up by the time we had reached Chelsham, before dropping down into valley through Woldingham School.
My bike was sporting new brake pads and new tyres, but the excitement of fitting these the night before the ride meant I’d forgotten to check the rest of my bike, and only now noticed the front mech struggling to shift up to the large front chain ring. Through fear more than anything else, I told our ride leaders of the mechanical, and said there was little that could be done. So I decided I’d have to make it to the fuel stop with only 8 gears and a big ring.
Thankfully our route found the gap through the North Downs which meant there were no major inclines to worry about before our fuel stops. Once we made it to our first stop at the Bell Inn just past the quiet Surrey villages of Bletchingley and Outwood, everyone seemed glad to take the opportunity to take on fuel. Up to this point we had averaged nearly 14 mph from the start, but there was still some climbing to come. After a short while the faster kids also arrived at the Bell, buoying us into a hasty exit, only to find once we were mobile that we had misplaced some stragglers in the pub. It was our Lantern Rouge Steve “Sticky” Bunn who then instructed our ride leader to meet at the next stop, so we wheeled onwards through the picturesque villages of Smallfield and Copthorne, before the slow climb south towards Turner’s Hill.
Thankfully, after a bit of a grind, we all made it up fairly comfortably before a quick dash down through the woodlands to the quaint Sussex village of Staplefield. My relief was all too evident when I found Craig, mechanic from Panagua Bikes, who fixed my bike in double quick time. The cake, rocky road bites, flapjacks, endless bananas and energy drinks were in plentiful supply, all served amongst the back drop of a village cricket match and a classic car meet outside the Victory Inn. As if by magic, our Lantern Rouge appeared, and had successfully mopped up those who’d been dropped.
Back together, we set about counting down the miles towards the final ascent. After passing through Twineham, we noticed Devil’s Dyke slowly come into view. As it ominously grew larger upon approach, so did the appearance of traffic, as well as some Bigfoot Club riders heading in the opposite direction. I can confirm they looked worryingly fresh, making me wonder what was in their water bottles?! However it also seemed to spur us on knowing only one climb stood between us and the sea. We smiled at the Chinese Students waiting at the bus stop just before our focus turned to job in hand. We all got slightly splintered by the traffic and the initial incline on Saddlescombe Road was relatively comfortable at first, before gradually steepening, until the right turn onto Devil’s Dyke Road. Fast moving traffic meant I had to stop to give way and struggled to get restarted on what appeared to be the steepest ramp on the climb. A deep breath and a small zig zag before finding a low gear and we all found our rhythm up the main ramp before slowly spinning our way out onto flattening summit, which seemed to cut through the open expanse of the green plains. We regrouped outside the Golf clubhouse, admired the view before a quick photo before enjoying a fast descent down to the promenade and the Meeting Place Café, bathed in sunshine and invaded by cyclists. Many thanks to the Ride Leaders, all volunteers and Adam Shepherd for a great day out.
Riding time 4 ½ Hours, Total time 6 ¼ hours.