And on the seventh day, cycling was created.
As with most who wake up early on the Sabbath, we put on our best attire, brushed our hair (well, some of us did), and headed towards the house of GOD (Great Out Doors) for a regular Sunday jaunt. It was an orthodox gathering of those who dutifully worship all things caffeinated, lycra-ated and hilli-ated. It was a day like any other. Well, not really, as we had decided it would be a good idea to cycle from Central London to Brighton and back, via Kent. Not only that, we decided it was a good idea to do this on the same day as the Ditchling Road Sportive and Brighton Marathon. Christ-on-a-bike.
The three apostles (Baloo, Sproate and Smell) were joined by a whole host of lovely bro-leurs: Dutch ‘born on a bike’ Marij, Laura ‘cycling the length and breadth of the world’ Scott, and Bruce ‘longest legs ever’ Dalton. Due to the fact that Greengrass was way laid (lucky Mrs Greengrass), for once it was an equal man:woman ratio. Didn't think that was possible, and quite frankly, Smell found this alarming (the whole reason for her joining the club was to be outnumbered by charming lycra clad chaps. Let this be noted to organisers of all future outings).
At dawn we met at Cadence, providing us the chance to have a good perve at other peoples bikes, comparing routes and getting rather too competitive for 8am in the morning. After the coffee machine was turned on and we received our dose of morning communion (albeit mediocre… the mechanic should probably stick to fixing bikes and not making coffee), we clipped in and then faffed over which way to go for about 20 minutes. Taking Crystal Palace in our stride, we passed through the sites and sounds of south London (as delightful as you can imagine), taking to the hills of Biggin, crossing the M25 (always a bit satisfying) and passing into West Sussex. The hours that passed between the Palace and Brighton were somewhat glorious. The fields were ripe with the beginnings of spring, the air was brimming with a giggle of innuendos and the roads were alive with the sounds of bearings passing overhead. 5m stretches of pavé gave Chris the practice needed for Flanders, and groans were heard from Sproate as he looked over all the downhills, lovingly longing for his mountain bike. As they passed through the town of Ditchling, Smell refrained (slightly) from boring everyone with a lecture about the history of British typography (for anyone interested in cycling design and architecture tours, cough cough). But Ditchling is as famous for design and incest (seriously, it is) as it is for one other thing. The Beacon. As we wound our way up the tarmacked slope, congratulated by those who thought we were part of the Sportive, we were greeted by hordes of traffic from top to bottom. Not ideal for those who wanted a PB, but excellent practice for those learning to trackstand.
Legend has it that Brighton is home to a plague of, not locusts, but man eating Seagulls. These blood thirsty gulls (look at its tail) eat their prey whole, leaving nothing but trainers dangling, like trophies, from lampposts scattered across the town. Baloo, Smell and Sproate managed to escape their chips ‘n’ curry clad tallons, however, Laura, Marij and Bruce were never seen again. One gull managed to clip Sproate’s wheel as we fled – however, a quick tyre change and some compelling pump action (Elvis, you would have been proud) ensured the remaining few were on their way home swiftly.
On leaving the promised land of Brighton, the headwind that greeted was nothing short of apocalyptic (and a pain in the arse). The three remaining had their grump on for about the next 20 miles as they headed northwards towards the holy ‘wells’ on Tunbridge. At various points there were even some downhills, but you wouldn’t have known as the biblical winds hit us square on in the face (and wheels). Once past Ashdown forest, and as the sun began to set behind us (Baloo, Sproate, I won’t tell them about our metaphorical bro-mantic hug in the lanes) we picked up pace and continued on our merry way. We were all commenting on how we would continue all of the way, when in our heads, we were all hoping the others would break first. Smell took initiative and ‘pretended’ to have forgotten to charge her lights, and so our journey came to a close underneath the golden arches of Tunbridge. Chaps, it was nothing but a pleasure.