Looking out the window it was dark, raining and close to 9:30pm, not that I mind riding in the rain too much and I absolutely love riding at night, but I knew what was ahead, and there was little chance of backing out now. It was my idea writes Andy Trisconi-Smith
This aforementioned level of trepidation was due to a few of us attempting to ride to Ashley Cross, just outside Bournemouth on the sunny (we hope) south coast; give or take 130 standard miles from the start point.
So I set off to the garage to load up my steed for the ride with enough food, drink and warm clothes to get me through the worst of the conditions
The meeting point for the ride was moved from outside Richs emporium of bicycle goodies On2Wheels to a drier and coffee serving warm house, thanks John. Simon and Martin were already there and itching to go so after a quick beer (hic) we saddled up for the obligatory start photo where the rain was abating slightly
We set out into the night out of Bourne End heading due south to join up with little back roads west.
After 20miles it was time to stop to refuel and have a wee stop, and being nearly midnight there was only us and a few chavs in beat up old Astra’s giving us a backing track of wheel spinning as we supped our various energy drinks and ate a bite or two of supplies.
As if by magic the rain stopped as soon as we set off again, now it was still wet on the ground and thanking my mudguards for staying dry as puddles still pock marked the roads but there was no denying it they were getting drier.
Im not sure what we were drinking at the first stop but it seemed to set of a chain of events that would blight us through the rest of the ride, an almost comical inability to ride for more than about 10miles without having to stop yet again to empty full bladders. I blame it on energy drinks myself
Another couple of comfort breaks and the stars were shining through but this opened up our vision to the horizon that was slowly getting higher, and while eating a mini roll at another stop we discussed that we wont be going up there, nah I said it must go round the hill. Oh how wrong I was, what a climb on a fully loaded bike which required a lot of grunting, swearing and general discomfort the type of which I haven’t felt on a bike since last time I did a time trial.
But we all made it to the top congratulating ourselves before zooming off down the hill as reward.
Unfortunately for Simon, being the first to descend this was actually not the right way, so shouting to turn round he grudgingly climbed back up the hill to join his slightly merry companions, but not at his misfortune you understand.
We carried on through the hills which after the first push were not as bad as the first leg stretcher but still an effort to keep temperatures up.
Approaching a T-junction the trusty sat-nav told us to go straight on into a little track, as mountain bikers, although on a motley selection of road bikes, this looked inviting enough and turned out to be great fun motoring along on loose gravel, through a small gap in a hedge back to the road again to a handy petrol station, which closed still afforded us the pleasure of water to rinse dirty bikes.
By this point we had covered 60ish miles and were getting a bit tired and although we had plenty of wee stops on route we needed hot drinks and some warm food. Luckily Winchester services was a beacon in the night if only we could find it.
Its up this road somewhere said Martin, now ive given this statement enough times on rides to know it means, it might be but we will go look anyway.
The problem with motorway services is they are designed to be accessed from the motorway which also means they are difficult to get into from the non motorway side.
Thankfully Google had sent one of their camera cars up this tiny road so we knew there was a gate and just hoping it would be open we carried on up the ever degrading surfaced road until it became a rutted horrible mess
The gate was located and turned out to be taller then John, which if you haven’t met John is very high, and unfortunately locked.
Being the only way in and cold and coffee starved we dumped the bikes in a hedge, now this was at 4am so we could have left them on the “road” with the lights going and they would have been safe, and lightly hopped over the fence.
Warming up with Hot sandwiches and tepid overpriced drinks for an hour in the deserted services brought life back into our bodies, we again steeled ourselves to the now 5am cold back over the fence and to the bikes, and with a bit of faffing we were ready to go again
Not before I changed into my warm winter gloves I had stashed in my panniers, that would have been if I had two left hands…. Luckily Simon had a spare pair to save me from putting back on cold and sweaty gloves
As the light began to dawn on a beautiful clear blue sky, jackets were stashed away and spirits raised and then we caught sight of the perfect rest stop, a boot sale in the middle of nowhere.
Again loading up on caffeine, sandwiches and for John some type of fried baguette, having a laugh at some of the locals, shades were donned for the final blast across the forest
As the sun peeked through the trees the speed picked up and up, until we were on an open section of forest with the sun beaming down, we could have been in the team time trial each taking turns at the front if it wasn’t for the panniers and lights still blinking away after having been forgotten with the dark long ago.
Eventually we backed off thinking this was a crazy idea after some ten hours of riding and settled back into cruise mode.
Reaching a junction unsure of which way to turn we carried on down this sublime winding tree lined road, with a gentle downhill gradient, way off course, but it was worth it and as we discovered when we headed back to the track if we had stayed on course it would have meant another off road hammering for tired bodies that we all agreed the detour was worth the ride and lack of bumps.
Out of the forest and we were approaching the outskirts of Bournemouth and into some heavy traffic which at twelve hours in was a test of nerve and concentration.
Luckily we were soon lost again, how many times have I been to Bournemouth and I still managed to get lost, it didn’t last long and we could soon see the sea.
The beach was finally reached, and time for the end photo, we rolled along the promenade to Ashley Cross and the chance to get off the bikes after fourteen hours from door to door to reminisce and bore my poor wife Lisa with tales of our epic adventure over monumental plates of food and a couple of cold beers
Its now to cold to repeat again but we will be back for another go next year, sorting out our navigation issues and a better stop location than the services to rest our weary bodies