London to Brighton, September 2019
Long standing club member Tim Decker rode the FNRttC Brighton edition with his son, Matt - a FNRttC first timer. Here’s Tim’s report.
Finally a night ride from London where the promise was for a dry, warm night with a slight tailwind. I suppose 2 out of 3 isn’t bad (more of that later).
The word about ‘The Fridays’ continues to get around and we had around 80 people on the ride down to Brighton, with a significant number of new riders keen to see what all the fuss was about.
There was certainly a buzz at our meeting place and we attracted the normal interested questions from several passers-by. Where we were going and what charity we were riding for? Why do people automatically assume that if you are doing something a bit adventurous that it must be for a charity? I suppose they can’t believe that anyone would do anything as ridiculous as riding overnight to Brighton just for fun. If only they knew.
After the customary briefing, including the shouting of “easy”, “stopping” and of course “bollards”, we were off. Well actually, everyone else was, but I stayed behind to escort a couple of latecomers.
I eventually left the South Bank about 35 minutes later and set about chasing the rest of the pack down. Normally this wouldn’t have taken long, but the dry roads obviously kept the puncture fairy at bay and despite a rather brisk ride we didn’t catch up until Portnalls Road. Fortunately, the group had paused there for some bike fettling, so we had a short break before we set off on the first big hill of the night.
This was soon followed by Reigate Hill which would be the most fabulous descent if it wasn’t for the cat eyes, traffic and a level crossing at the bottom. After a regroup, a very kind Eddie Stobart HGV driver blocked the road for us as we set off. As I rounded the corner of the one way system I smiled at the chorus of angry drivers beeping their horns at what must have been a delay of all of 10 seconds.
My reward for having to wait behind at the start was the opportunity to lead a small advance party through the ‘badlands’ north of Gatwick to the Burstow Scout Hut. This was the part of the route where it really felt like we had arrived in the country and I am glad to report that we managed to keep the group together and not get lost. The aim of our break-away was to even out the tea and cake queues. This worked quite well. It was nice to be greeted so warmly and I would like to give a big vote of thanks to the volunteers for serving up such fabulous grub in such quick order. I was further rewarded by having enough time for a quick nap.
As mentioned earlier, the forecast had been for a warm night. I think weather forecasters should be made to sit in a warm scout hut for 45 minutes and then go outside just wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Like most riders I donned every single item of clothing I had with me and it was still freezing….well actually 4 degrees C, according to Garmin.
Of course, by the time we had ascended the climb up to Turners Hill it was necessary to remove a layer or two. We re-grouped by the village green and it was clear from the muted chatter and laughter that people were really enjoying this ride. There was also a lightening of the eastern sky with the promise of a lovely sunrise ahead.
The descent from Turners Hill and the rolling roads onto Lindfield were an absolute delight and the miles just seemed to roll by. To the west the moon was starting to set as to the east the reddening sky was promising a fabulous sunrise.
After regrouping outside the butchers in Lindfield we were off again knowing we were approaching the big climb of the ride. Slugwash Lane was a nice as ever although the pace slowed considerably as people stopped to admire the rising of the sun over the still fields.
And then we were at the foot of Ditchling Beacon. Nervous first timers and experienced riders alike were chatting happily and being warmed by the rising sun when I arrived near the back.
And we were off, some going for PBs, others happy to spin their way up slowly. One rider, Sam, loved it so much he went back and did it again. Nigel, who hadn’t been able to make it due to train issues the night before, waved to us all as he went down to the bottom, not wanting to miss out on the fun!
I’ve ridden the Beacon several times and still get caught out thinking I’m into the final corner only to find there is still further to go. I clearly wasn’t the only one and a few riders ran out of low gears and/or energy and decided to walk, which of course is often quicker than riding.
There was a great party atmosphere at the top as we waited for the last few riders to reach the summit in triumph. This time it wasn’t cold - it was a lovely morning and the views back to the north were fantastic.
From there it was (almost) all downhill all the way into Brighton and a real chance to pick up some speed for the final few miles.
I missed the final blast along Madeira Drive, as Matt and I had to go west for a little in order to reach our 100 mile target. This worked at really well as the queues at the Wetherspoon’s had dissipated and we got served our celebratory pints very quickly before relaxing on the lovely warm veranda.
I have been doing Friday Night Rides for nine years and I have to say this was one of the most perfect. The weather was kind, the company friendly and supportive and the sunrise sublime.
I think our club has a great future and look forward to many more rides.
Photo credits: Tim Hall, Claire Geary, Tim Decker