Ok, everything didn’t really go wrong, but a lot of things did. And it all started so well.
When I say it started well, what I mean is it took about half a mile before the first low speed, slightly ridiculous topple off of a bike followed by red-faced embarrassment and under-the-breath swearing.
Anita, Lauren and I planned to set off at about 9am and ride the 29 miles to Ashford. Depending on the time when we got there we’d either cycle back, catch the train back or carry on and head to Dover (only another 20 miles) before catching the train back.
We made it to the top of Bluebell Hill in record time (and there were some actual bluebells on it this time – Spring has most definitely sprung) and then cut to the left and went onto the North Downs Way / Pilgrims Way through Detling, Thurnham (unfortunately the place we got married, The Black Horse, wasn’t open when we got there so rather than grab a drink we simply carried on), Hollingbourne, Lenham, Charing and Kennington before ending up at Ashford.
Pilgrims Way is occasionally tarmaced, more often not, very up and down and sometimes quite rutted. Unfortunately about ten miles from Ashford, and with no real reason, the front wheel on Anita’s less than two week old bike (and yes, I did check the spoke tension and that the wheel was true when assembling it) turned from a normal round wheel into something a little less useful. Unless front wheels that wibble wobble from side to side are your kind of thing…
Here, take a look for yourself.
Fortunately it’s fitted with disc brakes, so that still worked fine, but we did have to take it very, very carefully for the last ten miles into Ashford. I’m not sure if it got any worse or not, but once there, rather than risk it we decided to jump on the train home after first checking a local bike store to see if they had a suitable replacement in stock. If they had, that would have meant something went right, so guess what..?
So… A short walk to Ashford International Station, tickets purchased, we got on a train to Ramsgate with the intention of changing there and heading back to the Medway Towns. What we hadn’t realised (and the guy behind the desk in Ashford who quite happily sold three tickets to people who clearly had bikes with them didn’t think to mention) was that there was engineering works from Rainham and a replacement bus service. A replacement bus service that wouldn’t accommodate bikes… What we also didn’t consider was that the train would be FULL of people coming back from a day out at the coast. It got so full that I got off the train in Birchington-on-Sea and decided to cycle back home. 40 miles away.
Not too long after hopping off (and leaving Anita and Lauren on the train as their bikes were in the bike area next to the loo, so weren’t in the way) I got a message from Anita saying she’d pick me up in Herne Bay. That was only 6 miles down the coast, so I said I’d meet her at the large seafront car park in Whitstable, about 15 miles away. So I plugged along the North Kent Coast on beach paths, old railway tracks, quiet roads and promenades. Anita and Lauren got to Rainham, Anita ordered a cab home, picked up the car, went back to Rainham to get Lauren and the bikes, took them home and then came back out to get me. More than three hours after I got off the train and two hours after I’d reached Whitstable. We’ve now been home for a grand total of two hours and have to go back out to pick up the keys for Anita’s work so she can open it up at 6am tomorrow morning…
I have been on easier ride days, but it was fun, it was more than half of the first day’s route in May and I think I ended up doing about 45 miles in the end, which is my longest ride since July last year.
I didn’t manage to track the bit from Birchington to Whitstable (because of a flat battery on the mobile – Anita had my portable battery and lead on the train), but here’s the map of the main ride and some photos.