England : London Friday Night Ride to Whitstable, 21 August. Ride report.


Silencing his legs regularly
The Fridays' lock down rides continue to broaden. After starting with loops, some end to ends, like London to Ashford a couple of weeks ago…and now this, the first of the old favourites to return. Brighton on the 14th…

New abnormal post-work routine. Changing in the changing room at work, 2208 train because there's no 2138 (and now-usual inner fuming at people for whom mask-wearing is just too much bother), then over to the NT and a select gathering. As for Ashford, two groups of six. I was again in the second group, led by Ross. Kim was leading the first group, scheduled to leave at 2345, we were supposed to be off half an hour later. As it happened, Kim et al left slightly late, ride leader having slight issues with her new GPS, and we left about 0010.

First part of the route was pretty much stock for our destination, with a diversion to see the Mandela Way T-34 tank. There were a few slight variations, though- there was a few stretches where Ross took the opportunity, with a smaller group, to take us a quieter way that just wouldn't work with fifty or sixty. There was one gate that would have been very awkward indeed. We also avoided the usually glass-strewn (& hangout of dubious-looking yoof) underpass at Plumstead, pausing instead over the road from the 24hr McDonalds for calls of nature.

On we went, through Bexleyheath, where Greg suffered our one and only mechanical of the night, a punctured rear tyre. We quickly sorted that with collective effort. Then Crayford, Greenhithe & Gravesend. Suburbia, with a bit of dual carriageway- a pass by an Asda lorry bringing back memories of a pass by one of its colleagues a decade or so ago, with an FNR rider drafting it (a hell of a rider, on a hell of a bike!). A couple of times, we paused, through concern we might catch up with Team Kim. After Gravesend, finally into actual countryside.

And then, onto the (socially distanced) halfway stop, at the usual spot, the church hall in Strood. And a mystery. Where were Team Kim? We had, despite the pauses and easing the pace a bit, somehow overtaken. This did at least mean any concerns that there would be no Victoria sponge left for the second group…er…became, would there be enough for the first group? Well, there was no problem, as Tim knows his target audience and there was more than enough to feed a dozen lycra locusts. Including bread pudding, nom…Kim et al turned up about fifteen minutes later (if I remember correctly), and we had the answer: there had indeed been a few navigation issues, resulting in some bonus hills and bonus mileage. Been there, done that, will do that again…Nonetheless, they were all grinning from ear to ear.

Team Legwarmers again got a head start, and when we set off we decided to make sure of that by pausing for photos of the forlorn Soviet sub (sadly, it looks best as a silhouette). Up the hill past the castle, through Gillingham, and back into countryside. A rather beautiful dawn rose. A modicum of moisture (a shower that barely passed muster as such). On to the traditional pause at Upchurch, then the rather glorious stretch on Raspberry Hill Lane, before we bypassed the joys of Sittingbourne. On to Faversham, and then the best bit. The breakfast…er…team training ride. Normal sprinting service, for those inclined, will return another morning. On this one, we were holding back, because there was no point getting to breakfast too early. As it was, it was a smidge under 28 minutes for the Strava segment (6.78 miles), compared to my best time of 19:30. So not racing, but not exactly pootling either…

We arrived at the Beach Cafe- no, not the Waterfront (usually opening at 11am, and they weren't going to open early for a dozen) just before eight, and our hosts were ready for us. Again we'd got there first. Team Kim turned up when we had our drinks and were waiting on the first food. Yes, they'd done some more extra miles and some further extra hills, ending up with 74 or so from the NT compared to 66 for us. And still grinning! Breakfast was absolutely superb, will be more than happy to return there. Over to the station with Greg and Gordon- Gordon was going on the St Pancras service, Greg joined me on the Victoria one. Having consulted the timetables, I reasoned that it was going to be quicker to take the Southern service home from there than to go on to Waterloo. Back into Fratton just before one, and a well earned nap.

Thanks everyone. Next up, and up, and up, the IOW…
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Random geezer
Great write-up Stu. Really captures the mystery of night riding.


Senior Member
I think the Whitstable ride is the one I miss most. Used to really enjoy the sprint across the marshes, the most memorable being when myself and RB58 started at the back and hurtled past the main group to wide acclaim to shakes of heads for our insanity.
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