The Embankment was buzzing, there was quite a party atmosphere that I took in while pushing my bike along the Embankment from Blackfriars. There was a light-hearted vibe, not the usual aggressive drunkenness. There were lots of familiar faces at the start and many people were catching up with news. The light-hearted vibe continued as we rode out of London. I remember not too many years ago there was so much abuse from drunks that I wondered whether I ever wanted to do this again.
We crossed the North Downs and left London behind at Farthing Down. That's a fairly long, quite steep climb on a very narrow road. Having arrived at the top we could hear incoherent yelling, seemingly from a driver caught behind the back of the ride. We were expecting more of the same when he finally reached the top, but that never happened.
Then down through Bletchingly to regroup at Outwood, where the windmill was invisible in the darkness. Around about here I found a rear light in the road. I picked it up and when we got the the Burstow scout hut I hawked it around but no one would claim ownership. This is the second time that this has happened and I've returned home with a functioning, but useless to me, rear light. Maybe I'll try to araldite a Cateye mount onto it.
Burstow scouts had set tables outside so some of us took our sandwiches al fresco. Great hospitality as always. After this we rode through the dawn. Low lying dips with spectacular banks of mist that were remarkably chilly to ride through, and a coral sunrise took us to Ditchling Beacon where the sunny morning took over.
I skipped breakfast, as is my usual way, and headed homeward back over Devil's Dyke hoping to complete my first imperial century since the start of Covid. However I lost the will to go on, and the temptation of Three Bridges station was too much, so I hopped on a train there, 15 miles short of the century. Once on the train I met a bunch of Fridays who had spent the morning eating breakfast and relaxing rather than slogging up Sussex hills in the increasing heat. I think they made a right decision there. By this point I was struggling to stay awake so had to stand up all the way home to avoid dropping off. Once home I shut my eyes for a minute before getting out of my cycling stuff - that turned into three hours.
Thanks Martin for opening this thread, shall now feel compelled to complete a report. This may take a while; suffered on the SMRbtH after too much sun, too much rehydration and too much carrying leg warmers, arm warmers etc and wearing the Fridays fleece, while crawling back over the Downs towards Steyning in glorious 26 C sunshine.
Far too hot for riding, and there's some race or other on telly anyway, so time for a report as I watch that. As @rb58 has just suggested over on FB, can Adrian be in permanent charge of weather selection for Friday nights please? Dry, warm (though usual pre-dawn crispness), tailwind (and also mostly tailwind for those SMRbtH riders heading west). Oh, and She We Do Not Name seemed to have stayed in bed, not one mechanical of any kind whatsoever.
Back to Friday. New Railcard having failed to arrive before departure for work (it naturally got delivered that day...) I had to buy a full-price ticket (?!!!). In a bizarre change, the usual service was listed as being three minutes early, for that day only…and it promptly left Cosham pretty much bang on the normal time. No, me neither…Usual checking on how the services were running…problems in Bournemouth area causing delays. Which was nice. Seriously. The 2138 Waterloo service became a 2158, so rather than the usual dash, I had time to get my kit from the pannier- on the bike ready to go- & change in a non-moving room in fairly leisurely fashion before the ride round to the station. What wasn't nice- mask compliance down to 50% at best on train. Why 'freedom' will be short-lived…
Unsurprisingly, I was one of the first at the NT. Good to see @CharlieB for the first time in ages. Also nice, @wanda2010 brought her new- well, she got it last year but it was its FNR debut- custom bike made by Caren Hartley. Red. Beautifully made. Shiny. GRX Di2 (ooh). Peachier than a large bowl of Peach Melba, and unsurprisingly Sonia was grinning a lot. Zoomzoom Brompton had swapped his Canyon carbon roadie for a Factor VAM (I think), which was also extremely nice. My only complaint was that it wasn't a 56cm frame As for my own bike choice, had been leaning towards the Viner (for, relatively speaking, ease on the Beacon), but went for the Litespeed again. Fat tyres are so much better on grotty roads, and a laden rucksack is not nice on a hot day (I wasn't going for a train home if I could possibly avoid it)…
For the most part, Adrian had selected a now-traditional route south- down through Clapham (alongside rather than through the Common, thus avoiding the very awkward turn), Tooting Bec Common, Mitcham, Coulsdon. Farthing Downs rather than Portnalls Road & Chipstead (cattle grids providing more reason for 35mm tyres), then Bletchingley and Smallfield.
Scheduled time at the Edifice was 3.30am. We made it at 3.20. The Burstow scout group did their usual, fine job at catering for us. No need for cash, we'd all paid up front. Generous food stocks and enough for seconds (yes, need you ask?). A bit of ribbing from Titus about The Luggage (I declined to rise to the bait, remind him I'd miss the ride otherwise, or point out his two bags were almost as big as my pannier). Onwards at 4.10 or so, and I was not alone in donning a jacket or other additional layers (the last time I didn't on this ride, I walked on the Beacon…).
Slugwash Lane was off-menu (its condition was always sketchy in places, Adrian deemed it now dangerous) so instead we headed westward. At that junction with the Volvo garage, where, when I marked it on the Martlets ride, three riders decided to head straight on but eventually responded to my calls of 'LEFT!!!', we headed straight on. Instead of Crawley Down, Turners Hill, Ardingly, there we took a swing west towards Crawley & Three Bridges, then south through Balcombe, Ansty and Hurstpierpoint. From there, south east towards the Beacon.
Ah, the Beacon. Time for a quick refuel (SIS caffeine shot- rather bitter taste but they seem to work), take the jacket off, head up...and find I'm not going to be able to kick off from the car park, even if I hadn't been on the big ring (Pog could probably speed up on his, natch). Oops. A quick spin down the road to turn and get a bit of momentum before the initial kick…and the usual ten or so minutes of spinning. And a bit of overtaking. Progress was steady. The 32t sprocket of last resort got used, it doesn't always, but that's why it's there. No walking. I made it up pretty much on the dot of seven. We were all at the summit and enjoying the splendid view by 7.15. Some **** on a MTB complained about having to pick his way through us. Then, the usual speedy run down to the A27 bridge, the grind up to the golf course, and then the drop to the beach, where (praise be!) the lights were favourable for once. We were at Madeira Drive by 7.45, where those who were preferring to head for trains or a ride home and skip breakfast parted ways. Three 'locals' turned out to be from Chichester. Practically local to me…
East to the Marina and Wetherspoons. Usual mostly-efficient service, usual OK breakfast. I felt no fatigue, no aches and pains, so the thought of taking a train never passed my mind. Having further caffeinated (tea, then a white coffee, then a double espresso) I said my farewells and headed west at 9.30 or so. Rather than doing a 180 and going back through the Marina and along Madeira Drive, I opted to go up to the A259 and back west from there. Usual slog along the front. I stuck to the road rather than play Dodge The Oblivious Numbskulls on the shared path (Brighton motorists, the Green Party or cycle lanes do not cause congestion, you do, and you hold me up), avoiding a couple of suicidal peds, before getting to Hove and at last rolling at a nice steady pace. At no point was I going to get anywhere near the speed of Transcontinental vet Ingrid from my LBS (who'd done 17.5 mph average from Pompey and back during the week), but despite the heat and a slightly sore big toe, I was comfortably moving along at 12-15 mph average, Southern Failways weren't getting any business from me. A couple of motons- first on the A259 roundabout at Climping, someone decided that they had priority and made a left turn in my path (no harm done but not the point), then in Barnham, a plank in a Toyota iQ (car smarter than driver) pulled out straight in front of me. Despite looking. Fortunately, I had enough room…A stop in Chichester for a call of nature and to adjust that shoe (feet swollen in the heat, probably) before the last stretch home. Back at 1340, 108.7 miles done. Tea, and then a nap.
I'm not doing Cambridge-Kings Lynn, so I'm going to eagerly await reports of what will doubtless be a cracking ride, the first installment was. Back for London-Cambridge, and (fingers crossed) Manchester-Blackpool and Bristol-Barry- these are dependent on train ticket availability, as yet unavailable (yes, not on sale, at all)…Shoreham? Winchester? Yes, and yes, obviously. Thanks everyone. Gold star to Adrian, impeccable job leading, TECs, and my fellow waymarkers- a veritable glut of volunteers stepped up to the plate.
Apropos of nothing, but an apt coincidence: my booking reference for Friday's train tickets : L3FNRB98. FNR should be obvious, ditto the B…ride down just short of 98km, and Simon (Ride Leader Emeritus) had an account on here as Simonl& a half.
Well, that was tremendous fun, to borrow a phrase. As usual, I would add.
The standard for my ride compilation is to follow the downloaded route to act as an aide memoire. Sadly, I have been unable to download the route from my ancient gizmo (likely cause: operator error) so will rely one hundred percent on my unreliable memory, therefore this could be briefer than usual. Some may say this is not sad at all but a blessing.
The Victoria concourse was quiet, as was the train in these plague ridden times and no more than five minutes late after some Southern Fail/Thameslink faffage. As was the short trip up to the Wellington Memorial in time honoured fashion. Along Birdcage Walk more folk were strolling around, enjoying the balmy evening. Crossing Westminster Bridge the Eye was lit up in garish pink like a studded giant front wheel. Noise level was increasing approaching the National Theatre, more of the convivial populace. In the distance I saw a phalanx of red stars, The Fridays were gathered and greetings exchanged.
We set off and took what I think is a now routine route out of the capital bypassing Clapham Common, through Tooting and Mitcham Commons, down to Coulsdon. Customary delay at the right turn lights by The Old Vic assisted by poor observation and driving. Pockets of pubs and bars were doing brisk business - plenty of peeps out celebrating so-called Freedom Day a couple of nights early perhaps? Regular shouts of 'where are you going?' from both the inebriated and sober. Blue lights and/or sirens seemed greater than normal to me. Were law enforcement and medics busier or was it the unfamiliar to a rural dweller?
Instead of the Portnalls ascent, we took Ditches Lane to the top of Farthing Downs. Looking left, the view of twinkling lights below is always wonderful, crossing the two cattle grids less so. Fewer white lights in the dark sky, yet a persistent one was in fact Jupiter, as I was informed by one of our astronomy experts. Down and up and down some more, along some of what must be Surrey's most poorly surfaced roads - not that Surrey has a monopoly of this, as we would discover later - to The redecorated Edifice.
Even during the warmest nights, I always feel chilled on departure, so donned leg and arm warmers plus a wind gilet, following prior email 'extra layer' advice from Our Leader. There was a faint glimmer of light on the horizon. Crossing the A23, more blue lights on the otherwise empty dual carriageway below, we were soon in the countryside and the dawn chorus chirped up. It would not be long before that faint glimmer would develop into a strip of light blue. Taking the B2036 south around Balcombe, through the ess bends of Cuckfield onto Hurstpierpoint. A horse grazing the dewy grass to the right of another horse, still resting under a tree, with the morning light shining through the lush leaves and plenty of sheep in the rolling verdant fields. Dipping into lower pastures, strips of morning mist floated just above the grassy tops. Way before Balcombe, I had stopped to remove all the cool climate kit at the end of a long drag which left me warmed up and at the back with the TECs again. Shortly after Balcombe I was surprised to see half of the group scattered along the road in small clusters, all looking east, most with phonecameras held high. It was a good, but not amazing, sunrise however in the far distance I saw the attraction, the Ouse Valley viaduct. A lovely piece of victorian engineering, apparently the second longest viaduct in england and constructed with dutch bricks. Something wrong with english building blocks?
A right turn took us down New Way Lane and then Underhill Lane. Both only single track, gravel in the middle, high hedging, so caution required - especially latterly as we were riding due east into low, bright sunlight. At the dog leg junction between the two lanes made a perfect re-group stop. Above the Jack and Jill windmills and below the remarkable architecture of the north end of the Clayton Hill tunnel. Underhill Lane is most appropriately named as it runs almost 3 km below the South Downs and leads to the bottom of Ditchling Bostal, the road to the Beacon. Down into second bottom gear and up the hill at a gentle pace. Easier than last year but my days of revelling in the descent to make a second ascent are long gone, so laid down soaking up the ever stronger rays and having a chat.
We quickly rolled down the lane, over the A27, down again, up and over by the golf course and rolled some more, passing the El Capitan mural, past the Pavilion onto the seafront. The channel was brightly shimmering and the sky was cloudless. A lady crossed the shingle having completed her morning swim - and some folk think The Fridays are crazy.
No punctures, no mechanicals. Appealing variants on the 'traditional' route. Almost perfection. Thanks to all for being part of The Fridays - it is you who make this so magnificent.
Ah. So that was @Dogtrousers with a torch at Burstow. If we wore badges we could put faces to names.
Not much to add that hasn't been said already.
19 degrees as we left London, so a light dew on saddles as we emerged from the scout hut was a surprise. The garmin said just 8 degrees; most people were suddenly wearing an extra layer.
The Crawley route seemed easier than Turners Hill, then towards Balcombe, the land filled with light. Dawn is my favourite time to ride, with the fresh air, cloudless skies and picture postcard views, all was right with the world.
Even Ditchling Beacon seemed easier than I remembered, if a little slower than previous visits. The view from the top - one of the best in the South East; a little hazy looking to the north, but a crystal clear view south to the windfarm out at sea ( which extends to over 22 miles away).
Then the usual mad dash down into Brighton past the reluctant Gatso (nope, not a flicker), and a finish adjacent to Palace Pier.
An awesome, fantastic ride, and an excellent route from Adrian.
Closely followed by a well-earned breakfast at Spoons. That's where I looked at timetables and noticed a number of train cancellations, so I set off on the Brighton/Crawley cycle path.
The cycle path was very exposed to the sun, so I diverted onto shaded lanes - Warninglid, Hammer Pond, Colgate, Faygate, Rusper and back into Surrey. Called it a day when I reached my folks' place, and got a lift home from there.
150 km done; my 2nd longest ride of all time. More to come!