The buzz of people as we trundled into London fields on Saturday evening of the 24th of July, was an awesome sight. Over 1000 cyclists gathered in anticipation for this 190k overnight cycle to the Suffolk coast in the east of England. After grabbing a piece of paper for vital directions and scoffing down a much needed banana about seven of us headed off around 8ish following a stream of cyclists out of London.
I am gonna backtrack a bit here but thought it would be ideal to give a little history regarding this event. The event started back in 1993 when a couple of bike couriers decided to cycle to the coast one summers evening on fixed-wheel bikes. Over the years numbers have grown, due to these guys inviting anyone and everyone to participate. It has always been a “turn up and go” event (unsupported).
It was pretty slow going getting out of London which is understandable, although I seemed to blink and we were in the countryside. I am always amazed at the feeling I get when I realise I have crossed that line into the “country” don’t ask me where that line is, it’s there somewhere, it’s like a sense of relief that overwhelms me. Quite peaceful…I wonder what that means? Strange as I do love living in London, I think I would get seriously bored living in the country, the old toppy Matt will just have to wait!
My bike was stolen at the beginning of July…BASTARDS!…excuse my outburst! These things need to be vented. Anyway as I was saying I had recently invested in a cheaper single speed commuting bike previously I would commute on my racer, no good. Hence the title of this post. My new single speed commuter was the choice of transport. Well the only option I had really. Quite a fetching looking bike if I must say. Blue rims, silver frame and purple crank and hubs…some would say pimpified! I totally winged it that evening, not even taking a spare inner tube with me…I had faith…or just a tonne of luck!
The amount of people riding through the quiet country roads was astonishing…at certain stages you would just look ahead and see a trail or red flashing bicycle lights look behind you and you would see the same thing but little white twinkles. At stages of the evening when the yawns started to kick in there where no red lights to be seen to guide us. Which caused a bit of a panic so I would speed up, probably a good thing as I could have ended up nodding off and flying off into the bushes on the side of the road…if that is even possible…falling asleep on a bike, Nah!!! So speeding up did not help my mate as I kind of lost him. Only realising this after I had confirmed that I was still on the right route, thank god! So I stopped and waited for him on the side of the road waving to fellow cyclists going by…or more like they kept asking if I was okay. 30 minutes past and I decided to try and get hold of him to see if all was okay. I eventually got a text, he had followed a single red light off route and ended up getting lost which, fair enough, was easy to do. This all happened in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Ooooh…I totally forgot to mention some of the best parts, being side tracked by the whole light story. So Justin and I where about 10kms short of the halfway station. We stopped at a pub for last rounds and grabbed ourselves a Guinness each…well deserved I thought and a bit of a carbo boost! We were also waiting for a few other friends who we had been split up from…they ended up at the halfway station before us. So somehow we had missed them whilst enjoying our beverage, fancy that! No matter Justin and I hopped back onto our steads and carried on…missed the halfway house and ended up having to turn around and go back and find it. This was another great sight as we pulled in after midnight there were people and bikes all over the place and a queue for grub, just buzzing! We had provisions so just did a little refuelling and filled up our water bottles and headed out again.
So jumping forward a bit back to the early hours of Sunday morning and losing Justin, we made a plan to meet in the next town as it was quicker for him to get there then try find where I was waiting for him. So I headed on leading a few people with my little navigator map paper thingi. I was doing pretty well and would probably have meet up with Justin in good time. When I was flagged down for a pump by someone who looked familiar…It was the other couple that we had started out with, funny how I bumped into them of all people. Anyway now Justin was waiting for us, so…the tides had turned, the couple had been having puncture after puncture so had stopped to mend a puncture and managed to lose their pump in the process. So it was pretty good timing that I came past when I did, we sorted the puncture and headed for Justin. in the meantime the world around us starting to light up again.
The last 10 – 12miles were really really tough…bum was num, I felt mentally exhausted…my legs actually didn’t feel that bad though considering. There were a few winding hills and I kept looking to the horizon for a glimpse of the ocean but that was no where to be seen. I started to see a few cyclists coming back the other way, this was a good sign as it meant that we were getting closer. Arrival on the beach at 7am was a sight for sore legs…I know I know legs can’t see but hey I am writing here! We pulled up and headed straight for the pebbly beach…I don’t think I have ever seen an ocean so flat. Beside the point we all headed straight for the water, had a little dip as it was pretty fresh, climbed back onto the beach and crashed out for a good 40 minutes, man that was good! Crazy me had to wake up as my journey was not over, I had decided to do the event at such late notice, there was no room left on the buses back to London so the only alternative was to book a train from Ipswich, 30 miles back inland. So I jumped back on my bike after having a chat to Mark a fellow Chaser I had bumped into. The ride back to Ipswich was the longest and hardest 30 miles I have ever had to ride in my short lifespan. One word…OUCH!
I got to the station with no time to spare and zero energy, was really looking forward to a coffee and something large to eat. But had no time for that had to focus on getting on the train. Which did not happen as there were about 40 other cyclists also trying to get back to London. Awesomeness!!! I now had the time to eat drink and be exhausted! The gap between then and the next train was ample time to scoff down some grub. The big plus to getting the train back was the fact that I was home by 2:30pm and was able to crawl into bed with a big ass grin on my face, where as the peeps on the bus would only arrive back in London at about 5pm leaving the beach at 1pm, where as I had left at about 9:30…weight up the benefits and you tell me what you would rather do? I say again I am a nutter…
I would highly recommend this event and will try influence a few more people from the club to join me next year!