2015 will not be known as a year that I did much biking, apart from to and from work each day which doesn’t really count as enjoying yourself. I took days off, but the weather was pretty bad so nothing happened. Things were looking up this bank holiday weekend and so decided I would go out regardless of the weather. I thought I could do with some experience with being sociable and so I looked up local rides.
The Adur CTC group would be meeting at Shoreham airport for a ride up to a farm shop the other side of Horsham that I remember did very nice food. I thought I would go for this, but at only a week after a jet had crashed and killed 11 people during an airshow at the airport I wondered if you could actually get there or if everything would be locked down. I had a go at sending messages to the CTC group, but possibly a bit late in the day. I would bike to the airport and if access was possible and there were a group of cyclists waiting, I would join in.
After the short ride, the airport looked open for business and so carried on to the terminal building where I met 4 people that all looked like CTC members. A quick introduction and we set off. The thing I like about the CTC is their sensible attitude about cycle helmets, the fact that strapping a bit of polystyrene to your head might not actually help a great deal when a lorry runs you over. This way of thinking was apparent today as the majority of cyclists in the group didn’t have the polystyrene hat, a long time I have seen the balance like that and a welcome change.
While the airport was open, roads around it remained closed which meant the main cycling route out through the Downs to Steyning would not be an option. The alternative would be to go across the old toll bridge and along the Downs Link to Steyning, a bit bumpy but a suitable alternative. A bit spooky going over the bridge, which since the crash has become a make -shift memorial for those who died the previous weekend. Public grieving and all that, it seems to be the way these days, something that seems a bit uncomfortable and false, for people (who sadly have died through no fault of their own) that you never knew. I blame Diana…
The ride out was… bumpy, but we soon made it to smooth road again. The day had started off looking a bit dodgy weather wise but soon it was hot and sunny. For a couple of weeks that had been mostly winter rain and wind, a summer feel felt a bit strange for once. The pace was steady but slower than I would normally be riding, but it was relaxed and friendly, able to “talk and ride” instead of just one of the two.
A stop for a mid morning break at a local farm attraction was a chance to get to know the others a bit more and to generally chat. The idea of these CTC rides, I have grown to understand, is more about the destinations than racing about trying to get fast times. A day out with friends who all happen to like bikes. Seems a good idea to me, and nice to talk generally of past trips and adventures. A lot with cycling and clubs (as with everything in life it seems) can sometimes be more about who has the fastest, lightest, most expensive…… I don’t ever see that with CTC groups and rides which is nice.
It was decided to ditch the idea of the farm shop lunch (a bit of a pity I thought) but instead go to a nice pub instead near Burgess Hill. We set off, with one of the group turning back as they only fancied a short ride for today.
At lunch, more chatting and discussing, interesting tales of trips to India, to Wales, to the Lake District… all by bike. I quite fancied all of that, although the story of the monkeys watching you while you go to the loo might be a bit off putting for any future trip to India.
The trip home was good, a tour of the de-registered roads of Burgess Hill, put out of use since the bypass was opened quite a number of years ago. A good deal for those on bikes or horses, a hidden abandoned kingdom. Amazed at how quickly roads get overtaken by nature once they are put out of use… I’m sure I heard a zombie from the bushes and a saw a hand try to catch me… I cycled a bit faster.
Nearer home we got back onto the Downs Link in order to get back to the airport. Normally I would follow the old path and cross the busy road, it is sometimes a bit tricky which is why I understand the reason for extending the path down one side so that it can go under the road and back up. This was the chosen route for today, the first time I had followed it (going down and back up…. always seems a bit alien to me, which is why I cross the road direct instead normally). A nice route however, makes it a lot safer for all and especially families with children.
We got back to the airport and by now the bridge was crowded with visitors viewing and leaving flowers to the memorial on the bridge. We walked through the crowds and onwards to the airport. A sobering view of the road closed off in the distance with police still on duty. A favourite spot for people to view the airshow, a natural place to spot or pause on a popular route used by those on bikes.
A small stop at the airport for a wee, goodbyes, and back home. A relaxing day’s trip with a friendly group.