24 October 2011

London (Bromley) to Rye and back: a 200 km ride

Back in August I made a note on my diary. I would ride from Bromley (southeast London) to Rye (East Sussex) and back, totalling 200 km, with a bunch a machacas from the Friday Night Rides.

Time had come, and weather could have not been better for this time of the year. Although with a fairly chilly start, around 6 degrees when I left the house, the temperatures warmed up as soon as the sun came out. I took my night riding lights since we were expecting a couple of hours of darkness towards the end. Off I went, making it to Victoria station in less than 25 min! I should've ridden to the start, especially given that it was a Sunday morning and that would have meant little traffic...but on the other hand I am quite bad with directions and did not want to get there late (this is not Spain, and people are actually on time!). Despite that, I was, as always, the last one to arrive, just 5 min before the official 8 am start.

The route we took looked like this (thanks Martin!)
After 45 min of riding, we went past Biggin Hill aerodrome and down the North Downs, crossing the M25 into Westerham, where we collected two more riders. From there on it was a relatively hilly (for the Southeast standards) ride, without much faffing.

Around Biggin Hill airport in Southeast London (all pics courtesy of Adam)
At some point we relealised that we were running a bit late for lunch (again, this is not Spain, and lunch was booked for 1 pm, kitchen closing before 3 pm!). We pushed it to Rye in the last 30 km, forming a mini-peloton of 5-6 riders. Slipstreaming is actually amazing, they say it reduces in about 40% the amount of effort you need to put into the pedals...and I truly belive it. We were riding at almost 40 km/h on the flat, and while I was at the back, I could keep up without any problem and having to freewheel at times! Completely the opposite when I took the front: I was completely spent after 15 min...but then someone else gave me a relay!

Quick stop to regroup after the hill
All in all, I managed to stay at the front with the strongest two machacas (one of them a Paris-Brest-Paris 69 h finisher!!), although at some point got quite concerned about wasting all my fuel for the return leg. Most of the roads we took were B four numbers (in theory, the least busy of the roads, not counting the proper country lanes) and a few A three numbers. Not my personal preference, but the advantage is they're usually better paved and a lot faster to ride on. In fact, one of them had just been re-surfaced with fresh tarmac, and we really flew on that section. Good tarmac makes a difference! We eventually got to Rye on a lovely sunshine afternoon, got a bit lost finding the pub, but did it in the end. I was really craving for hearty meal, but knowing how upset my stomach gets while on the bike, went for a light soup and chips (again, adapting fast to the British culture!). The rest did, of course, have the fish and chips, another tipically British stereotype that is completely true! Oh yes, and pints. I still have not reached that stage, and reckon I would have been tipsy with an empty stomach after a 568 ml of beer intake.

After we left Rye, gone past 2 pm, we rode on quieter roads along the canal, until we made an abrupt left turn on to yet another steep shortish hill! At that point, Adam, the photographer, peeled off to catch his train back. My camera was playing up, so could not take many pictures unfortunately...

You can tell that's steep! especially after lunch

The ride back was bumpier than I had anticipated. Maybe it was because of the >100 km on the legs already? The scenery was beautiful though, passing through a lot of farmlands, plenty of apple/pear trees and some cute typical Kent houses.

Kent houses and their funny pointy roofs

Towards the last quarter/stage of the ride (still got that audax mentallity from our last audax 200) I was feeling pretty knackered, and quite hungry. Not sure if it was me, but the ride seemed to be getting hillier and hillier, and we still had another 40 km. I ate my last banana and a cereal bar, and that gave me boost for the next few km. The group kept splitting, with some riders heading East. The sunset was fantastic though. We turned our lights on and carried on cycling along quiet lanes. I started to feel a bit better, maybe it was because you cannot really tell how fast you ride at night, and with the excitement of it, we crossed the M25. One of the riders was local to the area and took us on a few diversions/shortcuts to avoid the last few hills as we were all feeling the legs. Without delay, we were back on the A21 into Bromley.

It was just past 7 pm and I was there waiting for my train back to Victoria. So glad I did not have to ride another 30 extra km, as I was feeling quite sleepy and hungry: not a good sign. My predictions came true, and after I headed north from Victoria station and into Camden, the semi-bonk hit me. It took me more than 45 min to get back home. I ate everything I found on the fridge, showered and went for a greasy pizza and Tuborg beer! Really need to eat a lot more next time!!! Oh well, another 200 km route in the pocket (or under the belt, as they say up here!) and a fantastic ride in good company. I even got some good advice for my hopefully first PBP.

The stats said:

- 2300 m climb (7500 feet)
- 220 km for the day
- ~24 km/h average
- 63.4 km/h maximum speed
- 9 h riding time
- 6 bottles of water

Special thanks to Martin for planning the ride, and to Adam for taking the pictures.

Went to bed at 10:30 pm as we had planned a mountain bike ride in the Epping Forest on the following day...

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