11 Apr 2015
At Bromley South the numbers of riders steadily increased as we approached the rendezvous time. I think Andrew was secretly harbouring concerns that we might have too many. This has long been a concern for us. What would happen if we had 50 or 60 riders turn up for a ride. During the preceding days there had been a steady flow of registrations arriving from the website and I know Andrew had been contacted directly by others.
I lost count of how many of boarded the train at Bromley, but it must have been at least fifteen. There were other cyclists already on the train having boarded further up the line and when we got to the start line there were even more waiting. Twenty two of us set off up the short hill from Otford Station to the Pilgrims Way and we were joined at lunchtime by one more rider so 23 for the day.
At Bromley South we were also a little concerned that rail staff might prevent all of us taking our bikes on the same train. In the event the platform controller simply encouraged us to spread our numbers along the full length of the 4 car train.
There is a nice little coffee shop on the platform at Bromley South which does good coffee and whilst Bob was repairing a puncture for one of the lady riders on platform 1 I went and bought myself an Americano and a Croissant, this was a bit greedy on my part as I had already had a breakfast before setting off from home. The coffee shop man asked me what it was about cyclists that made us all drink Americano coffee, he said that every cyclist who came in to the shop always asked for Americano. I don’t know the answer to his question, perhaps if you do you could let me know and I’ll feed it back to him.
For many of us this was the first 60 miler of the year. The winter months do not lend themselves to the longer rides – long nights, short days, poor weather, low light, cold conditions, high winds. These are the days that are best suited to making sure our bikes are in tip top condition ready for the summer months. I hasten to add that does not mean we don’t do any cycling, many of us just limit ourselves to the shorter rides.
As we disembarked from the train at Otford there were a few spots of rain in the air, nothing much, but looking away to the west there were heavy clouds being blown our way by a stiff westerly breeze. It was a pretty clear we were in for a soaking at some point but on the plus side the westerly was a tailwind.
It was about 10:15 before we finally got going and by now there was a steady drizzle. Some riders had put on waterproofs, this turned out to be a wise decision. Geoff led whilst Trevor took post as the back marker and Andrew took up a controlling position towards the rear of the peloton.
As Andrew had warned the first part of the ride was the hilly bit and as the weather deteriorated we worked hard to keep a reasonable pace going. In fairness there were none of the Kent mega-hills. At each stop more and more riders donned waterproofs as the rain came harder and harder until at Plaxtol we were cycling in heavy rain. We pressed on, mostly with each of us sunk into our own private worlds as we worked at the pedals.
And then it was over, the rain stopped, the terrain levelled out, the clouds began to clear and we could see the first patches of blue sky and even occasional glimpses of the sun. Before long riders were shedding the waterproofs and the wind was blowing us dry. I could hear conversations starting up amongst the riders, once again we were happy cyclists.
Around Staplehurst we suffered our only puncture of the ride, a couple of marshals stopped with the affected rider whilst the main ride continued at a pace which had settled to a steady rhythm now we were clear of the hills.
Andrew had telephoned ahead to the Bell and Jorrocks at Frittenden to warn them of our numbers and so it was no surprise to them when we pulled up outside in glorious sunshine and having secured the bikes piled into the bar for some well-deserved and earned refreshments.
I am fascinated by the word jorrocks. It sounds to me like something you might wear, “pulling on his fashionable jorrocks he locked the front door and set of for the meeting…” Having searched in Google it would appear to relate to someone called to Surtees and have an equestrian origin; further than that I have lost interest. I prefer my suggestion anyway.
This was the half way point of the ride. We received a courteous welcome and lunches were served promptly. As many of you know we choose a pub each month for the Bromley Cyclists Pub of the Month. So you will need to check back to see if the Bell & Jorrocks has won the April nomination.
Some riders sat indoors, others outside in the pleasant sunshine. We stayed for an hour; probably more actually. We were rejoined by the puncture team and by a rider who had decided to pick up the ride from here. We discussed cycling, the state of the prisons, bikes, the recent deposit box raid, cycling, the raid on the dome diamond, bicycles, the police, the Holborn fire and anything else which seemed appropriate (or indeed inappropriate).
It was gone 2 pm when we remounted and began to loosen those legs which had stiffened up during the break. And so for the next hour of cycling we gradually picked up the pace again. We were not quite under wall to wall sunshine there was the odd puff of cloud in the big blue Kent sky and I daresay that somewhere there was a rain shower, but for us it was sunshine, sunshine all the way. Bliss.
I usually comment on the flora we encounter and it would be remiss not to mention the pretty hedgerows today. The daffodils and catkins which have adorned the roadside these past few rides are nearly over and have been replaced by clumps of creamy dreamy primroses (Primula). I spotted lords and ladies (Arum), the apple and mayflower are almost over but still add colour to leafless boughs. Magnolia trees are in bloom likewise cherry blossom. Ah! England in spring, words fail me.
We reached Hythe at 5 pm and it was clear we would not be able to reach Folkestone by 5.15 so this seemed a very good place to stop for an afternoon tea by the seaside at the Hythe Bay Restaurant and Bar. We loitered for half an hour and then set off along the seafront for the final 4-5 miles to Folkestone Central Station where after a rather hard climb up into the town centre we were in good time for the 6.15 train home.
A great ride organised by the highly talented ride planner: Andrew.
Great ride leading, firstly by Geoff, then taken over by Trevor and lastly Bob to get us to the Station.
Great riders; committed and undaunted by the poor weather in the earlier part of the day.
Pedalling time: 5 hours 21 minutes
Average speed: 11.7