I’ve been keeping an eye on the local CTC groups with the promise to myself that I would go on one of their sunday rides sometime. It has been quite some time since I have biked as part of a group, I like the idea of travelling alone to your own time and interests – I can understand how these people who bike around the world on their own quite like things. However, numerous people who bike around the world on their own they do hook up with people for the odd country or two at times. It’s good to have a mix of things.
Living right on the border of two counties means there are both the West and East Sussex CTC groups that publish rides, but also I am covered by Brighton group and Adur group, if I don’t mind a small ride to get there then even Horsham group are reachable. I’m not a member of the CTC, maybe I should be. I never too sure about joining groups who “campaign in my name” as quite often I’m never quite sure what I’m meant to be campaigning for. I noticed this a lot with Tamba, not really related to bikes, but as a parent of twins I was constantly being informed of various rights that were being campaign under my name. I don’t think I agreed with a lot of it or even cared – I soon forget about renewing my membership. Likewise with campaigning bike groups, I am not sure I really agree with the time and money that might be under my name. Any problem with cycling in the UK will never be resolved by a group like the CTC, instead it needs all that use the road to treat each other nicer, unfortunately the UK has a pretty bad entitled to culture which means everything is me, me, me, chav, chav, chav – the roads and behaviour on them simply reflect this. So I’m not sure, maybe I will join up as apart from campaigning in my name, they do have regional groups throughout the UK who do organise a lot of rides and events. In particular, the Brighton group organises the Brighton Breezy ride, open to all and a great day last year – they seem like nice people, plus having been around since the dawn of time I am sure maybe they have campaigned for all sorts of things which are now taken for granted. In particular, they are against compulsory helmet wearing, I’m starting to warm to them.
Having kept an eye on routes each week it was not long until both a free weekend and an interest route came up with again Brighton group. Their planned trip was to a local farmshop/cafe just north of Horsham, somewhere I had seen other cyclists praising in the past but I’d never been. It turns out that cycling, and espically cycling in groups, is a good way to find small cafes and farmshops selling good food and cake. In the interest of science, I had to give this a go.
I misjudged my time, making it to the meeting point (a children’s farm 15 miles away that has a good cafe) over an hour early. So early that the cafe was not even open, I sat outside and waited and watched as families started to arrive for farm based children’s parties, the cafe opened and slowly cyclists started to arrive. Unfortunately, none were related to this CTC ride until finally a couple of touring bikes arrived. I introduced myself, even got into quite a bit of conversation as breakfast was eaten. I was already liking this, while not a most sociable person in the world I was liking the idea here of having a journey to make (ok, to a farmshop cafe 20 miles away) but having a journey rather than just a ride.
We did in the end set off, waiting for others to arrive. It seems normally a small group would appear but today only two members had made it out, I made it up to three. I had no idea of the route so I was following the leader along the normal mix of familiar and totally unfamiliar small roads. The pace was good, not over stretching and time to look around at the surroundings instead of a marathon to keep up and keep going.
I have found recently, rushing and trying to time yourself is a bad habit when you are on your bike. It’s an exercise thing, pushing yourself further all the time for consistent improvement, but it is also a bad thing turning a relaxing journey into a challenge for each mile. The nice thing on the hybrid each day to and from work is that it is not a fast bike, I sit up and beg and have a choice of “only” 15 gears. I can’t go frantic as working in an office it doesn’t look good to turn up looking like you have just taken part in the Tour de France. On the odd occasion I take the Royal to work (sunny days when I’m feeling happy first thing in the morning, it is then a rare occurrence) I find I’m racing myself and it’s not even a racer (but does have 21 gears). It’s not good.
Well it is good, at times. Everyone likes to feel the speed especially down hill or with the wind behind you, effortlessly riding in time with the cars making their way through the rush hour. However, if you find yourself with one eye constantly looking at your speed, at your ETA as shown on the GPS, then the journey is no longer a journey but an obsession. I have found myself watching the ETA time countdown to the next way point and by the time I have reached my destination I have found I can’t remember much of the journey apart from watching numbers. It’s not good for you and it defeats the object of cycle touring.
So the GPS has a nice big display of a compass along with your current speed and your ETA to the next way point. When a way point is reached it puts on screen a big arrow and tells you to turn, you obverse and do what it says. The speed and ETA is too much of a distraction, so this time I experimented with just the display of the little man walking along the proposed route. It seemed to do the job. It was nice to know you are going the right direction (the scale changes depending on your speed I found out) but you stop obsessing about speed and time, starting enjoying the ride and the route instead.
Along the way to the farmshop one of the two CTC members split off back home while myself and the other bloke continued to the the cafe. It was quite clearly near Gatwick airport going by the low planes overhead every 5 minutes or so. We arrived and were met by a small country cafe with a field and children’s garden toys. By the size of carpark constructed in the next field it showed it must be popular by the size of the many home made extensions to the small cafe confirmed this. We were lucky, it was quite empty, although during our time the number of cyclists coming and going showed it was an essential stop off.
I ordered steak pasty and a bit of each salad (plus a cup of tea), it reminded me of Food for Friends back in the early 1990s in Brighton. I wasn’t too upset when it all came to £10 just for that, I was expecting some good food. Just to compare, early 1990s at Food for Friends I used to get change from £5 for a meal and cinema afterwards…. I suppose actually you cannot compare when there is a gap of 24 years.
Money was well spent. Steak pasty and a bit of each salad meant a large plate of different home made salads, nothing from a back and no wilted green bits of leaves but instead everything fresh and tasting very good. Certainly worth the price and even through the plate was a big one, and filled, it did not take long to make my way through it. With good food, some interesting conversation, we was a good hour before we set off back home.
As with all journeys it seems, the return journey was uneventful but nicely not a slog or effort at all. We took the wrong turning at Partridge Green (I thought it didn’t seem right) and ended up on the main road back towards the coast, not the A23 but still a busy minor A road. All the same, neither us seemed too worried about it and we put our heads down and carried on.
By the end of the ride I felt like it had been a good day, nothing to proof on speed or distance but instead a good chance to meet and talk to new people and at the end feel like it had been a journey for the day and not a race or a challenge. I shall keep an eye out for the next ride when I have my next free weekend. I might even join up.
Number of miles: 67.5
Top Speed: 38.1mph
Average Speed: 12.8mph
Number of different salads on a single place: 4