07 July 2011

Cycling in the southwest of England

On Saturday 2nd of July I finally managed to cycle in the southwest, an area that is pretty much unexplored for us, in favour of the south/southeast and north of London. This time I joined some of the people that we cycled with down to Brighton on the night ride.

The day started, as usual, way too early for me. We had agreed to meet by 7 am in Waterloo, meaning 6 am wakeup! We got the groupsave and attempted to get on the first train down to Winchester, but the very kind southwest train staff said that no more bikes on said service, and so on to the next one. Fortunately this was only running 5 min after the original one, so we all met up in Winchester by 8:45 am. By 9 am we were on our way out of this little town, and on to a bit of a dodgy roundabout, where we found an amazing bike path following the valley of the river Itchen. Beautiful rolling countryside surrounded by crops (which included Xmas trees!). For the first 1/3 of the ride we barely saw any cars, and the ones that we did, were surprisingly nice to us, waiting after the peloton until it was safe to pass

The peloton itself was formed of interesting folk. 4/9 had titanium bikes (split between Van Nicholas - one of my ever dreamt ones, Enigma, and Burls), the rest were carbon framed, one american military version of a folding mtb (riden by Will) that weighed in at 20 kg or so! and my not-so-cool aluminium Canyon.

We carried on past Selbourne, where we stopped to take a view of the landscape. In the distance we saw the Geodesic domes of Oakhanger, looking like random sized golf balls scattered across the fields. We had seen these stuff already near Cromer,in Norfolk. The whole area is big on military camps, and in fact, Tim, the organiser, had spent a good deal of time here. About 30 miles into the ride we had our first stop. Of course, everyone had a tea (we are in England!) while I downed an orange juice.

We then sped up a little and were soon entering the Surrey hills. At this point the average came up to 23 km/h, which seemed kind of easy to maintain when in a medium size group. The pub lunch was very nice, along the river, in a spot that will be packed in the Olympics when Cavendish et al fly past the area. Soon after the lunch, we hit the second hill...Ranmore Common. It got pretty steep at times, but the roads were empty and stimulating.

Box Hill and its Zig-zag road was next. This hill will be "climbed" 8 or 9 times by the pros on the Olympic road race. It was a gentle incline, that put all of us to shame when we saw a real lady machaca no wearing lycra, with crappy shoes, with a very old fixie (including saggy chain) going up the hill at a very reasonable pace...yes, on a fixed gear! I had to congratulate her! We encountered tons of fellow cyclists resting on the grass, taking in the atmosphere of the place. We took the group photo with the nice views in the background, went for a speedy downhill and were soon crossing the M25. After this the ride only got worse and worse, passing through Kingswood, Outwood, Chipstead Valley and Coulsden. And then into Croydon! This was certainly the worst bit, and took us almost 2 hours to get home.

All in all, it was a very nice ride (thanks to Tim Decker for organising and for some of the pictures shown here) except the last bit past the M25. I managed to put in 160 km, with an average of 22.1 km/h, maximum of 54.5 km/h and 7h 6min on the saddle. The overall climbed totalled 6000 feet, which is not bad at all!

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