Sunday 18 March 2012

Sun, hail, rain, cold and A Hill

Sunday's ride was very mixed indeed.  I started off late as I needed to swing past Evans for a new pair of overshoes.  A tiny bit chilly, but not cold as such and really quite sunny, I put on my compression tights, bib-shorts, a cycling top (stuffed full of gels and bars in one pocket, phone, spare cash, Oyster and a long-sleeved top in the second pocket, leaving the third pocket free for empty gel wrappers), and a pair of skiing socks, I thought I might even be a tiny bit warm with overshoes on top as well.

A new route uploaded into my new Garmin I headed off for a totally different route than the ones I've been doing recently.  Out through Carshalton, Wallington, Coulsdon, Whyteleafe, Warlingham and Westerham and on to Sevenoaks in the end.  Somewhere around Whyteleafe, I got a nasty shock of a climb in my face... Succomb's Hill.  Seriously, what the hell?  Out of nowhere, there's a 25% climb which is narrow, twisty and really busy with cars who don't take kindly to there being a bike on the road, travelling at around walking pace.  I stopped in a private road, (Southview Road, according to Garmin) thinking I was pretty much at the top, to let some cars past and have a drink before carrying on, but I was wrong and there was more hill to go.  I was actually worried I wouldn't be able to clip back in properly when starting at such an incline so instead of pratting about any more, I walked up the rest of the way and even that was tricky.

See the width restriction and gradient signs on the left?
The route was supposed to take me out to Sevenoaksish, round and back again, but... somewhere around Warlingham, the sunny intervals (which were more sunny than interval) suddenly stopped, the skies darkened, the wind picked up and hail came lashing down from the sky as I was on a long fast descent.  With short-sleeves on, the hail really hurt my arms as well as bounced off my helmet.  I got colder and colder and decided to try to make it to Sevenoaks and stop at the pub I'd seen on the route map earlier.

Route I was supposed to take
In Brasted (note, pronounced "bray-stead", not "brass-stead", as I was corrected by a local), I passed the ninety-six degrees cafe (which seems to be rather well known in the cycling fraternity) and for some reason (probably the thought of there seemingly being nowhere safe to leave my bike) decided not to stop there and carried on down the road to The White Horse.  Wheeling my bike into the entrance porch, I saw some other cyclists inside - who, in turn, spotted me and waved me 'round the back to put my bike under the umbrellas in the secluded beer garden in the back with theirs.

Route I ended up with (minus the bit from the pub to the station)
Heaven!  A warm pub, somewhere safe for my bike, a hot chocolate on the way and Phil from the group of cyclists chatting away about triathlon, Ironman and cycling in general.  I don't know how long I spent in the pub with the 4 guys, trying to warm up properly, eating burger and chips and having a great natter, but it didn't matter.  I was freezing cold and soaked through, even with my mostly dry long-sleeved top on as well, and really needed to get out of the wind and rain.  The nice company was a real bonus.  And as I pushed my plate away at the end of eating, with a bit of burger and more than half the chips left (and really there weren't that many of them to start with, though they were really good triple-fried ones), the eyes were all fixed on the remaining chips until one of the guys pointed it out and I told them to tuck in.

When they headed off, I did too, not sure whether I'd cycle on home again or have to find the station and get a train.  As soon as I got outside, the answer was clear - it was still very cold and windy, though the rain had stopped.  I carried on in to Sevenoaks and found the station by chance very quickly.  Home again home again jiggety-jig on the train, to a warm Mr TOTKat, tea and cake.

See the silly bit about 22km in?


  1. Glad you found a safe haven and friendly natives in the White Horse.

    We know Succomb's Hill very well. At the top, you were less than half a mile from the first place we lived when we moved south in 1971. We lived in a flat on Westcliffe Road. We were carless so had to climb up and down the hill via Westhall Road to Whyteleafe Station every day. I used to take the 'short cut' footpath through the Maxwell House Estate which seems to have been replaced by modern houses.

  2. man this english weather makes it so hard to be "prepared " when cycling. I love chats over triathlons.