This was the first of what I hope will be many summer bike rides with the chaps from work. Having been assured the route would be "an easy one", I set off from my home to London Bridge station in high spirits. From here I got a train to Sevenoakes train station for a bargain price of £10 return. For anyone planning that wants to know, trains to Sevenoakes are very fast (20 minute ride at most) and frequent, every 15 minutes, even on a Sunday.
I was greeted at Sevenoakes by the rest of the group, and a puncture......I hadn't even started the ride, and already I had substituted the rear inner tube. I still to this moment have no idea how this happened, considering it was fine on the train. But, after a breif time in the pits, I was ready to make progress up the category 5 climb that was awaiting us from the very start.
The months of training speeding in and around the streets of London on the push iron felt like it had paid off. Despite the relative severity of the climb, and considering it was still very early on a Sunday morning (for me), I, along with a number of the group found it suprisingly easy going.
The rest of the route was incredible, involving a number of quick declines, that seemed to take ages. This was so nice, compared to the declines on the C2C I did last year, which were so severe you had to be on your brakes the entire way. Not an enjoyable way to go down a hill you just spent around an hour climbing! The views were amazing in parts too, which made a change from the concrete jungle that is London city centre.
The biggest challenge was the last of the three climbs, as we headed back to Sevenoakes. We had been warned of the severity of the climb, when asking a local woman which way to go, after the GPS we were using got a little confused. I had promised myself that I would not get off my bike and walk at anypoint during the ride, as I did that alot on the C2C and felt like I had not really achieved anything. The climb itself was so long, I think the average gradient was around 4.5% (full details available on the "bike rides" page), which doesnt mean alot to me at the minute, but I promise you this it was a decent climb. By the time we got to the top 3 of us (including me) had made it without getting off, from a possible 7, but there was no shame at all in walking. In fact, we were so chuffed all had made it to the top without passing out, as each one of us made it (walking or cycling), the members already at the peak gave a round of applause to the individual coming into view!
The ride overall was really relaxed, involving three trips to pubs along the way (the majority of us stayed away from the alcohol). It was exactly what I had hoped it would be, considering I havent done any real long distance rides up until now. It was also a real good confidence boost, because I had got to the top of all three climbs without walking. It took around 3 hours of riding to do the full distance, but it wasnt really about the time for me, the group was so varied in terms of riding ability. It was about enjoying some cycling away from traffic lights, cars and random pedestrians that walk in front of you and with a group of people who were there to enjoy a cycle in the country.
There is also another ride in the diary for later in the month.
I want to make a special note about a guy called Chris from work, who I have watched grow into the ultimate competitive cyclist. When he first bought his bike, he stated he would never become a guy that raced on the way to work, but over the month he has had his bike, he has bought virtually every accessory to ensure he is quicker than the rest. He gave me a sprinting lesson at times during the ride, and for that I am proud of him ;)