05 February 2013

Ride report: The Man of Kent 200 km audax (permanent version)

We are still enjoying a reasonable window of warm weather (for February, that is!) and so I took advantage of it to get my February 200 km  ride in. The Man of Kent sounded like a good one to do: not hilly and most of it on quiet lanes, in Kent (duh!), an area we don't often travel to.

A short train ride dropped me in Tobridge, the start of the ride. Without delay, I got my ATM receipt and started the first leg of the audax: a 53 km flat pootle to an small town called Charing.

An scenic place to take the train from: Shard tower
The lanes were completely deserted and almost totally dry, which made for a nice few hours of quiet riding. I always find the first two hours of any audax somehow difficult, as the prospect of a long (winter) day on the bike does not sound too appealing. As I was on my own this time (Lucy's still opposed to riding long distances when is cold out and I did not fancy any of the calender events) I had to try and put all the bad thoughts off and get going with it.

Nice deserted roads at the start
My aim for this ride was to finish below the 10 hour mark, so since the beginning I tried not to waste time with unnecessary stops. Also, I intend to ride the notoriously hilly Bryan Chapman Memorial ride, a 600 km route that traverses Wales South-North twice. Any time not spent eating or riding is time wasted on sleep! I have to somehow maximise my time on the bike to then afford some time sleeping.

In Charing I struggle to find an ATM or anywhere to get a receipt from at first, so I retraced my steps to the village shop that was at the entrance of the town. Audaxing does weird things to your body and appetite, and at 9:35 am, I fancied a can of coke, an apple and a banana. 

The next control was only a mere 20 km further East, to a town called Bridge, to the south of Canterbury. The roads were still quiet, but the routesheet recommended taking the A252 towards Bridge, a potentially fast and busy road. There was an alternative, on the Faversham road and then lanes, so took that option instead. Just after Charing, I was confronted with the first hill of the day, which was most welcome given the cold.

Rolling hills ahead on the way to Bridge
As I was pedalling along a nice country lane, I spotted two cyclists that looked like potential audaxers out on a ride. The organiser of this ride had mentioned two other guys will be riding the event on the day as well, and that I might bump into them...I got excited to find some company so was quick to ask if they too were doing the "Man of Kent" ride. They seemed a bit confused for a second, surely, as they were not aware of the other rider (i.e. me!) doing the ride. But yes, those were the guys!

Despite the fact that I was keen to have some company for a while, they had started much later than me and only set off from Charing and somewhere else after that, so were in for a long day. They also seemed to be taking it easier than me, so I pressed on on my own after a short chat with them.

Quiet lanes to Sandwich
Sandwich was my next control in the east coast of Kent, which takes its name not for one of UK's favourite lunch, but from Danish "sand place or camp on a beach" or "near the mouth of the river". It's also a well known town within the Pharma world as it used to be Pfizer UK base and where Viagra was discovered, apparently.  The seafront did not seem that accessible unless I took a detour, plus it was quite windy, so decided against it. An old lady recommended it though, along with the trail that heads down to Hythe, so perhaps I will return here sometime in the future. 

Leaving Sandwich meant heavy cross-winds all the 20 km down to Hythe, my next control. Traffic was still light, so it did not matter that much, but it worried me on the leg back up to Tonbridge. The arrival into Hythe was rather nice, with some good views of the sea and a quick descent down the Hythe Downs to sea level.

People fishing at Hythe seafront
At Hythe I made a quick diversion to have a look at the sea. It always feels nice to sea the water, and actually, the place itself seemed more pleasant than the average English town in the South. I refuelled with a rather salty bacon sandwich and a tea on my way out of town. I was making good progress up until now, but it would all come to a halt soon.

Leaving Hythe implied hills, which were welcomed to warm up at first. Once on the flatter sections, the wind was quite strong, surely around 30 mph or more. Even on the flat, I had to make use of my small ring and it did fell like an uphill, all the way to Ashford, my next control. My average dropped dramatically and I sort of gave up completing the ride under 10 h.

Flooded fields
Approaching Ashford meant some heavier traffic, but I was soon done with the receipts and back on the lanes headed for Headcorn, my last control. The sun was starting to set at 4:30 pm which afforded some amazing colours in the horizon, and as always, this was the highlight of my riding day. By 5:00 pm I turned all my lights on and pressed on back towards Tonbridge.

This does not justice, but it really was one of my best sunsets while on the bike
The wind died down on the last 20 km of the ride, possibly helped by the forested areas I encountered before Tonbridge. The clouds looked threatening for quite a while - it looked like rain was imminent. Legs were still feeling good so kept the speed up to try and avoid the potential shower.

The famous Kent houses
Getting into Tonbridge was uneventful, except for the last bit of road B2017 with its evening traffic. Although it was not too heavy, it really is annoying to be hit by powerful car front lights coming towards you, leaving you partially blind for a few seconds.

I got my final receipt just a few minutes past 6 pm, which meant a ride of over 10 h, but not by a lot. I blame it to the strong winds coming from the north on the penultimate leg, and also, a lot of faffing looking for appropriate controls. I reckon I could easily do an under 10 h ride if on a group or on a calendar event with manned controls.

Big collection of receipts as proof of passage
All in all it had been a very pleasant ride that I highly recommend to do either as a permanent or as calendar event. Luckily, my February ride is now out the way, and do not need to worry about the coming bad weather. The stats were as below:


  1. Well done, good report. I have just become a dad so goodness knows when (if) I'll get my 200 event in!

  2. Many thanks Tim - congratulations on your big news. Hope you can find some time to fit that 200 (and oncoming ones) in!

  3. Have just done the calendar for this route. Brrrrrrrr