Friday Night Ride from Reading to Oxford (and back) Ride Report

Dogtrousers

Kilometre nibbler
It was great to get out on my first FNRttC* for a very long time.

Meet up was outside the station in Reading, for a midnight departure as usual. There were 20-odd of us, five of us on Bromptons. Unlike the traditional London starts there was no two hour suburban slog to get out of the metropolis. 15 minutes or so of not too challenging urban riding was enough to get out of Reading, followed by about 10 miles of uphill, occasionally challenging.

Oxford was quite busy even at about 3am. Usual shouts of incredulity at a group of cyclists riding through. Short cobbled section. So that's why they don't race Paris - Roubaix on Bromptons. The planned food stop was a washout - McDonalds was open only for drive-through, and you need a proper vehicle to order drive through, and a bike isn't proper. But fortunately there was a service station nearby, a positive Aladdin's cave of sandwiches and pastries, with a coffee machine to boot. , Far better than McD's all round.

The ride back in the early sun was stunning, lovely views and some wildlife (unfortunately mostly squashed on the road). We had a bit of a hiccup when we lost the tail of the ride, soon retrieved, but apart from that all ran smoothly.

I've missed that.

* Foldy Night Ride to the Chilterns
 
But you didn't introduce yourself! Is it cos I is not Brompton?
Glad you enjoyed my local roads - I enjoyed seeing many of them in a new light. Hope breakfast was more successful than the Scottish Restaurant stop (I had mine on the patio, no dangerous vehicles in the Q 👍 )
 

StuAff

Silencing his legs regularly
Location
Portsmouth
Well, that was nice. Definitely a massive improvement, in both weather and result, on Not Getting To Maldon In Non Stop Rain. There was a reason I didn't do the usual write-up on that one (OK, lots…). Not a single mechanical, slight navigational error by my fellow TEC Greg (who, like myself, had the route....) the not-exactly-awful worst thing that happened, which was very nice.

To begin at the beginning…usual routine before a ride on a work night went a bit unusual. Thursday, brought most of the gear in as usual. Friday morning, picked up the train tickets, bought pre- & mid-ride food (given I'm not that keen on McD anyway, let alone with the uncertainty of whether it would be open to us), again as usual…then checked the train situation. Ah. Entire SWR network kneecapped by signalling problems at Surbiton. Initially, the 1217 train of choice (one an hour) was showing as delayed, but with time enough in hand. Check again at 1140…65 minutes late. There might be a train into Southampton Central & a change there for the Airport station, if it's not running late and I can get on with bike, but that would give me only 20 minutes for lunch before starting work at two. So Plan B(ike) it was. Rolling at 1150, made it to work (20.1 miles away) at 1325. Job done.

Still didn't know if there would be trains after work. SWR were advising to avoid travelling if possible, and delays kept mounting. However, Basingstoke-Reading services were running as normal. Keeping tabs on the National Rail app from time to time, things got more positive, as SWR cancelled & shortened services to get things less abnormal. The 2138 train of choice would be running, and when I got to Basingstoke, there would be a train to Reading in plenty of time. As it happened, the late shift made a couple of minutes (?!!!) and round to the platform in plenty of time for the…2108, running over half an hour late, but that would stop at Basingstoke, unlike the 2138 which was a couple of minutes behind it. Plenty of time at Basingstoke to eat sandwich deal #1 before the next trains to Reading. Try my luck with the earlier non-stop (and cycles only with reservation) service- nothing in the bike spaces, staff didn't say no, so into Reading 2250. Phew!

Unsurprisingly, I was the first person at the rendezvous point (about as quiet as it ever was in my experience, i.e. not at all quiet), but I was soon joined by most of the group. Michael had already withdrawn, and one other no-show, which left twenty, I think. Greg had overslept but made it just before midnight. So, off we went, pretty much bang on time. Good start. Also good, I seemed to have cracked the quandary of navigation with the Garmin eTrex. I had a GPX track displayed on the map, and loaded up a GPX route (oh, and the file on the phone as backup). Didn't get a nice easy visual cue of something like 'Left turn on Bloggs Road in 250ft', but did get regular beeps at course points and marking turns, countdowns to next coursepoint, and a green arrow pointing forward when on route. Not perfect, but that's a big help.

We were quickly out of the town and into the countryside. Terrain, as I knew from previous rides, was rolling with the odd taxing climb, certainly easier than much of my usual riding. The altitude steadily rose for the first ten miles, then dropped sharply, the following stretch being much flatter with a couple of climbs before getting to Oxford. As @Dogtrousers has noted, Oxford was anything but dreamy, though as photogenic as ever.

And then, on to Abingdon. Greg's tummy must have been grumbling because he was keen to get to 'lunch'. Unfortunately, McD was closed to us. I am somewhat bemused, as a cyclist and biker, when like any motorcyclist I'd be welcome on my scoot. There would be nowhere to safely carry my order, and no-one could ride a drive-through no hands (not that I can ride no hands, full stop). When on a bicycle, carrying it on the bars would be much safer, and I could just drop it in a pannier. But, no, that would be 'too dangerous'. Pish. Fortunately, for those who hadn't brought food, a nearby garage was open and well stocked (didn't go in but looked almost as good an option as Parkfoot in West Malling).

By this time, a beautiful morning had arrived, and there were plenty more photo opportunities, we certainly weren't rushing. @matticus (good to see you again) peeled off for home. Greg decided to make sure we didn't rush by taking a wrong turn onto the A3074, instead of crossing that road towards Woodcote. Titus doubled back to retrieve the 'breakaway'. The rest of the ride was thankfully uneventful, and we were back into town pretty much on the dot of eight as planned. Some headed off for the station or to home, the rest of us to breakfast. Most went for the greasy spoon option on one side of the street- and seemed pleased with the choice- but I went to the other, and a healthy yet hedonistic take-away porridge (with raspberries, dates and almonds), a large cup of tea and a pain au chocolat. After a short tour of interesting parts of the town centre (some I'd never seen in my time at uni, others were newer, like the Banksy), back to the station. Went for the via-Guildford option, back home just after noon.

Thanks Titus and everyone else. Hopefully Whitstable will be equally blessed by the weather gods!
 
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