13 March 2012

First Friday night ride of the year (to Ramsgate)

Things have been quite quiet in terms of riding at night. Well, that's not including that most days I ride to and back from work at night. But it is in London, so it does not count.

The Friday night ride to the coast (Fnrttc, Brits love their acronyms!) has been hibernating since December, when they rode to Southend. For us, our last ride with them was to Brighton back in September, and we have been looking forward to the next one ever since.

The first ride of the 2012 season was set to be an almost non-stop ride to Ramsgate, in the Southeast of England (in the Kent county). The distance to cover, over 80 miles, with a midnight departure from Hyde Park Corner (or HPC!) in Central London.

I got the bikes ready over the week: lights, batteries, back lights, tyres free of glass, working brakes, gears, warm clothes and all the usual tools, checked. Weather was supposed to be below 10C and misty. Not too bad for this time of the year, as long as there's no rain. Left work on the early side and got a 2.5 h siesta, which really made a difference! We did not manage to get any sleep prior to our night rides last year, meaning sleep deprivation sometime during the night. But this time it was awesome, felt so awake without the need of caffeine.  Siesta it is for all the future night rides!

Past 11 pm and we were on our way to HPC. Roads were relatively quiet from home, although the drunk crowd in Camden made us realise that it was a Friday night. On to Baker St, crossed Oxford St and more drunk folk, via Hyde Park cycle lanes and arrived by 11:45 pm at HPC. We checked in and without further delay we were off with 25 others.

It's normal for people to shout at us asking what the hell we are doing on a Friday night with all those stupidly bright lights and lycra. But this time it was a bunch of Spaniards that were asking each other "éstos están locos! dónde cojones van? deben de ser un club, joder, qué ganas!!! - these guys are mental, where the hell are they going to, they must be a club, what motivation!!!" I replied with a simple "vamos a la playa! - or we're going to the beach". They did not know what to reply. Moments after this encounter with Spanish fellows, we cycled literally cm past Javier Bardem as he walked on a zebra crossing in Green Park at that time of the night.

After a few more cheesy night clubs along the southeast of the river Thames, we got to Bexley and Dartford, none of which looked particularly nice at night. The route ran alongside the A2, with occasional visits to the actual highway. This was a completely new experience for us...but luckily being in a big group and at 2-3 am made things easier. The shoulder was massive, but still, lorries passing by at 60 mph was definitely not the most pleasant experience.

Regrouping at silly hours
We encountered some bumps on the way, which is always nice when is cold at night. I particularly enjoy the view of other bright lights coming up the hills while in the middle of the countryside.

One of the very few hills on the ride
Past 6 am and daylight was back. The final road into Ramsgate was probably one of the best bits of the whole ride, although the fog did not allow us to enjoy the promised vistas of the cliffs as you enter the town. Oh well, next time maybe?

Wide and flat roads, 7 am or so

Lucy's pressing on for a well-deserved brekkie!
Shortly after 8 am, we reached the cafe on the seafront. English breakfast, as is tradition in this latitudes, was eaten within minutes. Having sampled quite a few of these, I have to say this one scored amongst the top with probably the first ever sausage that I've actually enjoyed in such breakfast.

Some seasoned machacas always head back to central on the Saturday morning ride back to the smoke. I decided to join this time as I felt very awake and capable. However, 50 km into the ride I could not keep up  with the guys and the roads at this time were not particularly nice, so got on the first train from Faversham and was home at 1:30 pm for lunch.

Overall, it was great to be out on a night ride, despite the route not being our favourite, with little (if any!) countryside and fast roads. I managed to clock up 180 km for the day (or night), at an average of ~22 km/h, 60 km/h max speed and 7:30 h in the saddle.

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