In a quest to find a local cycling group that enjoys cycling and doesn’t go too over board with the lycra I managed to find one on Facebook for one of the local Universities. They do a ride most weeks it seems and this goes from a fully lycra’d up fast ride to a more casual “no one gets left behind” more social ride. A bit of a dilemma as riding in a group on a casual ride is the sort of thing I quite like enjoy, keeping pace with everyone else and not killing yourself to achieve it was sometimes nicer than being on your own. The only problem comes when you stop and have to talk to others and that’s when being on your own is nicer, I’ve concluded I am not really a people person.
I had kept an eye on this for a number of weeks until a night ride was mentioned. Doing night rides is totally different to daytime rides , the darkness adds a lot, changes the whole environment and feeling as you bike along roads you might go along every day in the daylight but in the dark your senses are much more alert, you have the adventure of being out after dark, and while you may be in a group you can also isolate yourself – and I quite like that idea.
While I must confess I’m not a University student and even when I was a good 15 years ago I was at the University on the other side of the road, infact not really even a real University but a Polytechnic just recently renamed to look like a University. We all knew the truth and maybe if it had not been the case that I had to pay to submit to two different clearing companies to apply (PCAS and UCCA) to both Uni and Poly (around £15 for each) I may had gone to the much more recognised Uni and not the pretend one over the road. That is all beside the point however as it was pretty clear that my student days were a long time ago, number of piercings per person was two, people with long hair and beards was high. Number of friendly people however was everyone and while there was talk of assignments yet to start and essays still to write (oh how being a student was so care free!) people were more than happy to have me in the group and chat, being the ‘people person’ I clearly am I probably didn’t take the best advantage of this friendliness shown towards me. A mixture of people and bikes, from full lycra and carbon frames, to dreadlocks and bikes that were clearly used every day.
The day had started with drizzle and I had already written off the idea of going out in the evening and gone to work on the Highway as normal. If I had wanted to make Brighton for 7 after work I would really need to go straight from work, and so my choice of biking in the rain on the Highway was my way of saying the night ride for me was off. Then, during the day the rain turned to sun and warmth leaving me pondering if I could bike home, change, get the Royal out of the shed and make my way ten miles down the road for Brighton. I decided if I had a good ride home I would try my best to get to Brighton in time. After work I was presented with a misty sun and no wind at all, the ride home was good. I got changed, swapped bikes, faffed about and finally got going with just 30 minutes or so to get to my destination for the start of the ride.
We waited around for late comers and then made our way through Brighton seafront before turning inland and the uphill journey all the way to the Dyke. Riding in a group I find helps no end and the uphill part (which was really all of it) never came into it as you just keep going with all the others. After a while we had gone through the mist and out the other side where the evening sun and blue sky was hiding. Fantastic and dramatic views all the way to be finished off with us all sitting on the (damp) grass at the top looking down over Sussex. General chatter until the sun had finished going down, it started to get colder, and a mention of the pub was made. At this point I decided it was time for me to make my way back home and leave “the kids” in the pub for the evening.
The ride home was mostly downhill but also against a slight wind, my new brakes being put to the test and a rare moment to use the top gear and really get some speed. I was back home before I knew it.
Having met the group I’m pretty sure I would go on another ride when I see it advertised. I have the problem of living a good 10 miles or so from the normal starting point but that’s not a real problem.
One thing which was different on this ride was my use of the clips on the pedals which is something I have not used a great deal as I have not got on with using the front of my foot to pedal instead of the back of my foot. It uses a whole load of different mussels and over time I am sure you get used to it, just I have not really kept with it. When using the clips and the front of your foot it does give you benefits of down and up strokes and being slightly on tip-toes all the time allowing you to give a bit more power. I think of it as a 4-stroke engine instead of a 2-stroke one! Tonight I used the clips for most of the ride and got on pretty well although I am feeling it a bit now. You have to really be in the ride mood I think, sometimes you just want to plod on (most days actually), some other days you want to feel a bit more connected to the bike and get moving.