Posts Tagged 'FNRttC'

Next FNRttC: 28 May 2010 to Whitstable

The next Friday Night Ride to the Coast (FNRttC) will take place on the night of 28 May and will run from Hyde Park Corner to Whitstable.  It’s a nice route, about 70 miles (112 km) in length, with lots of ups and downs but no single large hills.  There will be a mid-way stop at Andy’s café in Rochester.  The café at the destination is on the Whitstable sea front and has a balcony overlooking the beach – it’s a delightful place to find yourself early on a sunny Saturday morning!  (It also serves alcohol)

A forum thread for the ride is now open on CycleChat.

The ride is free but registration is essential.  Lights, spare inner tubes and common sense required.  Email fnrttc@yahoo.co.uk to get your name down.

I won’t be able to make it to this one myself, but I encourage you to have a go if you haven’t ridden one of these before and are keen to find out what it’s all about.  Get registered early, as interest is high over the summer months and places are limited.

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FNRttC: The episode in Essex

I’d been rather looking forward to this ride.  I’ve ridden the Friday Night Ride to the Coast (FNRttC) to Brighton a couple of times, Bognor Regis and Whitstable, but never to Southend.  It should have been pretty easy going as it’s both a short and flat route.  The recent weather had also been quite promising so perhaps we’d have a nice dry ride.  However, most of my hopes were dashed, aside from returning home with no mechanicals – that much worked out for me!

I managed to get a couple of hours rest after work, then surfaced about 20:00 to eat and get ready to go.  By 22:00 the rain had started falling.  The forecast said that there should be minimal rain between midnight and 7 am, but I decided to wear my waterproofs and long finger gloves in case it persisted.  In my pockets I had some energy food, phone (which I was going to mount on my handlebars, but decided not to due to the rain), some money and debit card in a plastic ziplock bag and short finger gloves for later.  I slapped a Race Blade over by back wheel as the roads were very clearly going to be rather wet.

The rain had stopped by the time I left the house, but started again almost immediately, continuing right across Richmond Park and up through Barnes to Hammersmith.  It eased off again as I continued to Hyde Park Corner where a number of FNRttCers were already congregated.  More started to arrive and everyone huddled under the Wellington Arch as the rain started again.  Things were already not going too well.  A number of people had called up to say that they were going to be late with transport issues or punctures.  One of our regulars and most experienced Tail-End-Charlies (TECs) managed to sustain two punctures on the way to Hyde Park Corner and in the end never made it, despite us not getting away until 00:25.  One of my old university friends, Alessandra, did make it along though.  I hadn’t seen her for a few years, so it was nice to meet up.  She, like me, was keen to make a decent go of this ride and cycle the return leg, pushing the total distance to somewhere near 200 km.

We set off in the rain past Buckingham Palace and Westminster then along the Embankment.  We continued through the city and into east London, stopping and regrouping riders every few miles.  The rain stopped but the roads were still very wet.  We kept heading towards our half way stop at the Junction 31 Services in Thurrock, progressing fairly smoothly.  However, there had already been a number of punctures keeping the TECs, Charlotte and Julian, busy at the tail end of the ride.

Rather than spending my time going up and down the group on way finding duties as I usually do, I rode with Alessandra.  It was her first FNRttC, but she is by no means a novice cyclist.  In fact, I think she was finding it a bit slow going.  There are far more traffic lights and intersections to negotiate on the Southend route than there are on some of the other routes, so the opportunities to ride for nice long uninterrupted stretches are limited.  It was nice to catch up with her and we had plenty to chat about along the way.  We were riding side by side about two miles from Junction 31 when we heard a call of “Easy” being passed back from the front of the pack and everyone in front of us slowed down very suddenly.  We passed back the call and and applied the brakes, but unfortunately someone behind me didn’t.  I was ploughed into from behind with quite a force which sent me flying forward and I landed on the road on my right side with another bike coming to rest on top of me.

I once had an accident in which I realised a collision was about to take place and had a split second to prepare myself for it – not much, but knowing what’s about to happen sometimes allows for a slight readiness.  Getting hit from behind was a complete surprise and there was nothing I could do as I lunged forward and hit the deck.  Someone pulled the other bike off of me and I got up slowly, my predominant concern being for my bike.  I’d just been off it for three weeks fixing it up and that last thing I wanted now was to have to fix it up again.  Then I concentrated on myself for a few moments.  Sore knee, sore hip, sore arm.  My head didn’t hurt but I rubbed a hand over my helmet anyway to see if I could feel any cracks.  My arm was hurting the most though, just below the elbow.  There were no problems bending it, my wrist or my fingers, so that was a good sign.  I was a bit shaken up though, lost for words, I wasn’t really sure what to say or do next.  Alessandra and Ian, one of the guys I rode back to London with after the Brighton ride in March, helped me to check the bike over quickly.  The wheels were running true, headset was straight and solid.  Simon, the ride leader, rode past and asked it I needed an ambulance, but I said no.  I was shaking quite a lot, but managed to get on the bike and ride with Ian and Alessandra the remaining couple of miles to Junction 31.  The shaking reduced a bit as we went, but my right arm was hurting and I couldn’t put much pressure on it.  I rode most of the way one-handed.

I got a cup of coffee and a sandwich and Alessandra got me a bag of ice to put my arm on.  My hand and fingers were a little numb and tingly, so I think I’d hit a nerve as well.  I started feeling a bit better, or at least I thought I did.  In hindsight, I was actually very jittery and was being propped by a hit of post-crash adrenaline.  At the time I was thinking that I should be able to push through to Southend, but take the train home rather than ride.  That turned out to be over-optimistic.  Once I’d finished eating, taken the arm off ice, had it strapped up and then visited the bathroom, I sat down with no real activity to keep me occupied.  At that point I quite suddenly started to feel a bit funny.  My friend Rachael, who had been helping me out, saw the colour drain from my face and asked if I wanted to lie down.  I said no, but then very quickly changed my mind as I started to feel faint and my head started spinning.  I felt like I wanted to throw up and pass out simultaneously, so Rach took me over to a corner to lie down with my feet up.  The adrenaline had worn off and shock was setting in.  I started shivering and didn’t start feeling any better after a little while so Simon called an ambulance to come and check me out, just in case.

I spent a while in the ambulance with the paramedics, and started to feel slightly better after a while, but still very fragile.  They determined that I had no obvious injuries, other than the scrapes and knocks that I’d already identified, but they left it up to me to decide whether or not I wanted them to drop me at the hospital for an x-ray on my arm.  As I could still move all of the joints in my arm and hand I decided not to.  I was feeling sore and sick and didn’t want to be sitting in a hospital in Essex when I would be much more comfortable at home.

The rest of the group had departed Junction 31.  Simon had waited to make sure that myself and my bike would be looked after whatever the outcome of the paramedics’ visit.  Cathy had also stayed behind to see that I was ok, leaving Rachael to ride the rest of the way to Southend solo on the tandem.  Simon called a taxi which picked up the three of us, my bike and Simon’s bike.  We headed back to Kingston via the Dartford Bridge, M25, Chessington and Surbiton and I got home about 7 am.  Simon was very good, giving my wife a call shortly before we arrived to let her know what to expect.

I got home, still not fully out of shock, but starting to feel a bit better.  The lack of sleep and having been a bit wet and cold hadn’t helped much.  I lay down in bed and my wife brought me a cup of tea.  My little girl was lovely and sat next to me stroking my head gently.  She’s so wonderful.  I think she was a little shaken by the situation too as after I had dropped off to sleep she had been recounting what had happened, making a few assumptions as she went: “Another cyclist rode on top of my daddy”; “My daddy cried and cried and cried”; “My daddy needs a wheelchair now”.  It’s touching to know that my little darling was so concerned, but young minds can so easily imagine up the worst.  She was corrected though, and reassured that everything was ok and that I would be feeling better soon.  I have such a lovely family!

I got a few hours sleep and then got up for a while.  I was mostly just achy, but my elbow was a bit more sore.  Having put it on ice had certainly helped prevent swelling.  The whole arm was achy now though, including the upper arm which hadn’t bothered me earlier.  Just under the tip of the elbow was a very tender spot, not very big but with a sharper pain when touched.  I suspect that I’ve chipped a bone in there, but it doesn’t appear to be serious.  I can still move the elbow easily enough.

I had a quite sedate weekend after that.  Back to work today and I have some scrapes and bruises and I’m keeping my arm strapped up for the moment, but I’m alright.  If the suspected chip of bone is still bothering me in a few days then I’ll have to decide whether or not to see a doctor about it, but in my experience there’s not much that can be done about that sort of thing.  I’m sticking with the more upright Brompton for a few days until I can put a bit more pressure on my arm.  Then it’s back to recouping my fitness.  Again.

So it wasn’t such a successful ride for me and I only got to see Alessandra for the first half of it after having dragged her out for the night.  But I’m still a big fan of the Friday Night Ride to the Coast and will be back for more.  They are well organised social rides with a nice bunch of people, and I think this is only the second crash they’ve had in about five years, so they have a pretty good safety record.  The next ride is to Whitstable at the end of May.  I don’t think I’ll be  able to make the next one as I’ll be overseas, but I’ll post the ride details soon for any of you who are keen to take part.  Don’t let my experience en route to Southend put you off!

Thanks to everyone who came on the ride, helped me out after the crash or has wished me well!

A few extras from the Southend ride:

YouTube video by Andy Allsopp:

A few Photos by deckertim

GPS map of the route from redfalo

FNRttC tonight: London-Southend

Tonight’s Friday Night Ride to the Coast is heading to Southend-on-Sea.  A group of about 75 of us will depart Hyde Park Corner at midnight for a nice social ride to the Southend seafront, stopping for half-way refreshments at Junction 31.  The Rose Restaurant will be opening early for us at 7 am, and no doubt some of us, having enjoyed a nice breakfast, will take off in search of an adventurous route to return home by.

There’s a risk of light rain, with heavier showers tomorrow, but on the whole the weather shouldn’t be too bad.

Wheeled Weenie and Cathy, after last month’s success, will be riding tandem again, and one of my old friends from university will be joining us for the ride.

Wheeled Weenie and Cathy in Brighton after riding the April 2010 FNRttC on a tandem. Notably this was the first time either of them had ever been on a tandem!

As for me, I’m just hoping for an absence of mechanicals!

FNRttC: March 2010 to Brighton Photos & Videos

YouTube video of the ride to Brighton (9:40) by Andy Allsopp:

Video by tdr1nka

Photos by topcat1

Photos by Tim Hall

Photos by clivedb

Photos by zigzag

FNRttC: London to Brighton and back

Friday 26 March saw the biggest and smoothest ride in the recent history of the Friday Night Ride to the Coast.  This write-up is a few days overdue – I’ve been a bit sleepy and a bit busy since Saturday to get this written, so sorry for the delay.  Anyway…

I got home from work on Friday and settled down for a couple of hours sleep.  I never get any real sleep when I try so early in the evening (even after avoiding caffeine all day), but lying down for a rest does help a bit.  I got up about 20:30 and headed downstairs for a double espresso and pasta with tuna, then checked the weather forecast.  On Thursday, Metcheck had been forecasting a dry night with a very light southerly, which was quite favourable, but during Friday the forecast had started to indicate rain.  It was still showing some rain, but not terribly much. That kind of forecast makes it difficult to decide what to wear and what additional clothing to carry.  At least I knew how cold it was going to be – no less than 4C.  The almost complete cloud cover would prevent it getting any colder than that.

By the time I’d had a shower it was 22:00 and had started raining quite heavily outside.  The rain only lasted a few minutes, but it meant that the ground was going to be wet and more rain could be coming, so I slapped a race blade over my back wheel.  I didn’t want to carry a bag with me so I set about organising my pockets to squeeze in my waterproofs, phone, keys, money, short-finger mitts and a bunch of gels.  Spare tubes, CO2, other tools and things were safely stowed in the little bag under my saddle.  Just one more espresso required.

I set off for Hyde Park Corner about 22:40, riding across Richmond Park and up through Barnes, Hammersmith and High Street Kensington.  The crowds were already building up under the Wellington Arch as dozens of cyclists arrived from around London and the local railway stations.  This FNRttC was a little different to usual.  About 60 regulars were attending and escorting a contingent of 65 riders who were fundraising for the Martlett’s Hospice.  This made the ride an official CTC event rather than an informal ride, so everyone had to sign in.  We had a quick safety talk and then set off at midnight around the Hyde Park Corner one-way system, through little roads to Sloane Square and across Battersea Bridge towards Clapham Common.

A field of 125 riders is a lot larger than the FNRttC had seen before and given that half of the participants were new to the concept of night riding, with some on heavy and/or dodgy looking bikes, one could be forgiven for having a little apprehension about whether or not the ride would run to schedule.  The rides routinely arrive at the coast an hour behind schedule with half the number of riders, so how was this one going to fare?

Against the odds, this was probably the smoothest running FNRttC to date.  It must not be forgotten the Simon Legg is quite a legend.  He had beefed up the group of Tail-End-Charlies (TEC) so there was a high level of expertise available to anyone who suffered a mechanical problem.  Canisters of compressed CO2 were in abundance to speed up puncture repair (perhaps this should become a permanent feature).  There were plenty of wayfinders at the front of the pack ready to give directions at intersections and mark significant potholes.  Riders were appearing on Madeira Drive in Brighton by 8:00 am, which wss right on schedule.  It couldn’t have gone much better!  Let that be a lesson to my pessimism.

I did my share of wayfinding along the route and marked a big pothole in the middle of Lonesome Lane, just south of Reigate.  Standing in the middle of the road signalling for riders to go either side of me, I felt like I should have been blowing a whistle and holding a little triangular flag above my head, like you see in front of traffic islands in the Tour de France.  I was really impressed with all of the riders I saw coming past me while I was wayfinding.  Even towards the end people were looking fairly fresh and smiley.  The half way stop at the scout hut in Horley was instrumental in keeping both spirits and carbohydrates high.  The Martlett’s volunteers pouring tea and coffee, and providing sandwiches, cakes and bananas were marvellous.  It was a well deserved rest for everyone and well-timed as it came just before Turner’s Hill.

To the half way point there had been two drop-outs.  One was a Martlett’s girl who was clearly struggling from the beginning and ended up in the minibus (or sag wagon) early on.  The second was Charlotte, who I recognised from the ride to Bognor Regis in August 2009.  She had been riding a brilliant looking penny farthing, but had come into mechanical difficulty after one of her cranks fell off after descending Reigate Hill.  Despite some attempts, it was unable to be fixed so she unfortunately had to pull out and ride the sag wagon the rest of the way to Brighton.

There were some other interesting bikes on the ride too.  One enormous contraption fabricated from at least three bike frames set the rider about two and a half metres above the ground.  At the other extreme, a recumbent trike with a swept back windshield placed the rider’s head lower than the height of a 700c wheel.  My friends Wheeled Weenie and Cathy rode the whole route on a tandem, the first time either of them had ridden on such a bike.  Quite an achievement.

The tallest bike I've ever seen approaching the summit of Ditchling Beacon

The weather was dry the whole way to Brighton and it wasn’t too cold.  There were several stops along the way but none were too long.  Everything flowed nicely.

A few miles before Ditchling, I noticed that my front tyre had lost a lot of air.  It wasn’t flat, but was quite soft.  I decided to top it up and keep going.  By the bottom of the Beacon it had gone down again, so I stopped to change the tube and then it was up the hill.  I’ve ridden Ditchling Beacon a few times, but this time was the hardest I remember.  My fitness is just not what it was before the winter and it was quite an effort getting up there.  I resolved at that point to start featuring more big hills in my training.

After the Beacon, it was a nice ride past the golf club and down into Brighton for a full veggie breakfast (with hash browns) at the Madeira Café.  There I got chatting and managed to put a lot of faces to names I was familiar with from the CycleChat forums.  It was nice to meet lots of new people.  I also managed to meet on this ride another Willesden CC member who lives not far from me in Twickenham.  He noticed my club jacket while we were preparing to depart at Hyde Park Corner and came over to have a chat.

After some breakfast and chit-chatting, a bunch of us, about 12 I think, got ready to cycle back to London.  At that point I discovered that my front tyre was gone again.  It looks like a little flint stuck in the tyre must have been poking through to the interior just enough to cause a slow leak in the tube.  So I changed the tube again and with no spares left, we set off north.

We ascended what must have been one of the steepest streets in Brighton, up under the entrance to the railway station, and continued from there towards Devil’s Dyke.  Going down the other side of the Dyke was fun and I clocked about 75 km/h!  The route we took followed some beautiful little country roads that were a pleasure to ride through after having been up all night.  But there were a lot of hills and one of our number bonked half way up one of them, opting to stop for a long rest before finding the nearest railway station.

We stopped for a while in a little village and grabbed some food and drink to keep us going, then we jumped onto an A road and picked up the pace past Crawley and Gatwick.  The group then split with four of us heading north-west and the others heading north-east towards Bromley and central London.  We said our goodbyes and Mistral guided us back onto quieter roads towards Dorking.  Along this stretch we encountered our first rain since leaving Hyde Park Corner the night before.  As it got heavier we stopped to neck some more gels and put on our waterproof jackets.  A little later the rain had stopped and I was starting to get a bit hot in the little sweatbag I’d zipped onto myself, so off came the jacket.

With Box Hill towering upwards on our right, we diverted left and took a nice narrow country lane towards Stoke D’Abernon.  We started to see a number of other roadies out for their Saturday training rides.  Mistral told us that there would be one last hill that is a little steep but not too long.  This last hill resides on Chapel Lane and its gradient is over 20% for a good portion of the climb.  After almost 200 km and no sleep, ‘not too long’ felt like it would never end and I had to summon every last bit of will power to keep myself going.  I got to the top in one piece and took a good long breather while waiting for the others.

We rode past Stoke D’Abernon towards Cobham and past the Chelsea FC training grounds.  The road inclined slightly as we approached a bridge over the railway line and then disaster struck.  As I put on a little acceleration, I heard a massive clunk, my back wheel stopped spinning and I couldn’t move the cranks.  I managed to unclip and get off the bike without falling.  My first guess was that one of the rubber straps from my mudguard must have gotten caught in the spokes, but on taking a look it was in exactly the right position and the straps were well clear of the wheel.  I took a closer look and then saw that a spoke on the non-drive side had snapped up near the rim and flown into the chain.  It had then been wrapped around the underside of the cassette and gotten trapped between the chain and one of the jockey wheels causing the derailleur to bend out of shape.

A non-drive side spoke snapped at the rim and wrapped itself under the cassette, becoming trapped between the chain and a jockey wheel and causing the rear derailleur to bend out of shape

I couldn’t believe it.  Not only was I almost at the end of the ride (about 20 km remaining), but the wheel was almost brand new, received from Planet-X in late February.  I really didn’t expect to get broken spokes so soon after buying the wheels and in normal riding conditions.  I’ve even been extra careful in avoiding bumps and potholes since getting the wheels as I haven’t wanted to cause them any damage.  I was gutted.

The four of us all stopped and had a think what we could do.  We removed the derailleur, which was bent well out of shape.  We managed to get the broken spoke out and then set about shortening the chain with a view to me riding single speed the rest of the way home.   That was no good though.  The wheel was way out of true, so that was the end of the road for me.  I thanked the guys and plodded off towards the railway station, which fortunately was quite close by.  A 20 minute wait got me onto a train to Wimbledon where I grabbed an espresso, switched trains and then walked home from Norbiton.

I got home about 17:00.  Recovery drink?  Bit late for that, should have had it just after I stopped pedalling.  Had a shower, got into my compression tights and cooked some more pasta to go with the remaining tomato/tuna sauce from the night before.  Visited Wiggle to see what a new derailleur was going to cost me.  I could always try bending the current one back into shape, but I don’t feel too comfortable with that.  Maybe I could use this as an opportunity to upgrade from 105 to SRAM Rival or Force (or maybe Red, are there any specials on?)  Of course I’d need to replace the shifters in that case (how much are they?  Hmm, quite a lot.  Been awake too long, starting to imagine silly things, spending money I don’t have.  Better stop looking before I press Buy.)  Felt sorry for myself and set my Facebook status accordingly.  Maybe I’d get some sympathy.  Opened a bottle of Gran Bombero, the older, wiser sibling of my favourite El Bombero.  That’s nice.

Managed to stay awake until 21:00 and even thought for while I might be able to have a cosy evening in with wife, wine and a film, but that was delusional.  My head hit the pillow and I was out in an instant.

Mechanicals aside, I had a great night/day out.  The FNRttC was phenomenal, the weather was ideal, the ride back was fun and I made some new friends.  It couldn’t have been much more enjoyable!  The Martletts riders were an inspiration and the charity director who came and shook all of our hands on Madeira Drive was overjoyed with the success of the event.

But I now have a broken bike.  I emailed Planet-X telling them what had happened.  Dave Loughran got back to me saying that they get very few problems with their Model B wheels but that he’d like to take a look at it.  I’m going to get the wheel and broken spoke boxed up tonight and sent back to them.  I hope they’ll be able to fix it up under warranty.  But for now, I’m off the bike.  I’ll keep you updated!

The route we took from HPC to Brighton can be found on Bikely.

Registration for the next FNRttC on 30 April is now open.  The route is to Southend-on-Sea.  More details here.

Andy Allsopp’s London-Edinburgh-London Adventure

I just received in the post my copy of Andy Allsopp‘s book ‘Barring Mechanicals – From London to Edinburgh and back, on a recumbent bicycle‘.

Andy is one of my friends from the Friday Night Ride to the Coast (FNRttC) and I met him properly in November 2009.  As we rode through the night towards Brighton, in cold and wet conditions, he was telling me how he had ridden his recumbent from London to Edinburgh and back in July 2009.  It wasn’t just something he’d done for a laugh, but was an Audax event that takes place every four years and draws cyclists from all over the world.

Andy Allsopp: Barring Mechanicals - From London to Edinburgh and back, on a recumbent bicycle

An Audax, or randonnée, for those of you not in the know, is a non-competitive endurance cycling event in which participants aim to complete an unmarked route within a set time limit, collecting stamps at ‘controls’ along the way to prove that they’ve followed the course.  The London-Edinburgh-London (LEL) is Audax UK‘s flagship event with a distance of 1,400 km and a time limit of 116 hours and 40 minutes, which is a bit under five days.  The LEL is a ride that I have recently found myself thinking about quite often.  I haven’t really taken part in Audax events before, but I did enjoy a bit of cycle touring when I was a teenager.  The next LEL is in July 2013 and I think I’d like to have a go.  Watch this space.

Bits of Andy’s story I had already read in his LEL forum thread on CycleChat, but it’s nice to have a printed copy containing a foreword, which gives a bit of history that I wasn’t aware of (and mentions a few familiar names), and a number of pictures and charts.  It’s a good read, so if accounts of heroic two-wheeled battles against Mother Nature, mechanical failure and sleep deprivation are your sort of thing, then go and buy it!

I’ll be seeing Andy and the rest of the bunch on tomorrow night’s FNRttC.  The destination is Brighton and this month’s edition is a rather special one.  This is the first time that a FNRttC is being combined with a charity fundraiser.  Martlett’s Hospice are sending 65 riders who are all taking part to raise donations for the charity via sponsorship.  They will join 60 of us more regular FNRttCers as we depart Hyde Park Corner at midnight and pedal to the south coast via Sloane Square, Clapham Common, Reigate, Horley and Ditchling Beacon.  Whilst this is a nice social ride for us regulars, it could be a big challenge for some of the fundraisers, so our job is to provide technical support, guidance and most of all encouragement.  The Hospice is putting on mid-way refreshments at a Scout Hut in Horley for this one rather than us making a café stop.

Although I’m not fundraising for this ride, some of the regulars have decided to and I’ve sponsored Greg Collins.  If you would like to make a donation to the Hospice, you can find Greg’s Just Giving page here.

I’ve been keeping a good eye on Metcheck for the last week to see what kind of weather we’re going to be in for tomorrow night.  It’s gone from extremely heavy rain all night, to less than a millimetre, to constant but moderate rain and a headwind, to the current forecast which is for no rain at all and a very light, near negligible, headwind.  That’s quite a nice prospect, so I hope it doesn’t change again!  Whatever the weather though, it’s bound to be a fun and memorable ride.  The last FNRttC I did was in November and it was very cold and we got rained on very hard.  One person from work who I had convinced to come along had to abandon half way and two others made it to the end but didn’t seem too impressed.  It was still a memorable ride, though maybe for all the wrong reasons.  Wet and cold together are not so fun.

But, of course, if Andy Allsopp can find it in him brave the elements day and night for 116 hours solid, then I’ve no excuse for being bothered by a little spot of rain!


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