A View From The Back - London to Whitstable Ride Report April 2019

We pedalled from London to Whitstable in April 2019.  Here is the report from one of our regulars, Stuart Affleck.


I’m an old hand at this Friday Night Ride thing- I’ve lost count of how many I’ve done since my first in 2009, but it’s well over 100.  But the ride to Whitstable was a little unusual for me. I was hoping for a very uneventful evening and to see lots of red lights all night. Yes, really. That’s because I was the ‘All-Upper’. A simple, but important job. Keeping the ‘tail-end charlies’ company as they help deal with punctures and other mechanicals and offering gentle encouragement to those who struggle and ensuring waymarkers get back on course by calling ‘ALL UP’.


South Bank, Friday night. Seventy or so riders have gathered, and hopefully paid full attention to the important details in the safety talk. The first part of the night was pleasingly uneventful for the most part, a chain drop in Plumstead about the only incident needing our help. Someone takes a corner a bit quickly and goes off the road, but is unhurt. Nothing too taxing. But, with a ride of this size, that wasn’t going to last….


We get all the way out to Dartford before we encounter our first deflation. Work was well under way when we get there and we’re soon rolling again.  On our way after that, to find another rider’s front derailleur is no longer working (metal fatigue on a spring, no way to sort this on the road) but he’s good to carry on. As we get out into more rural lanes past Gravesend, a couple of riders with less powerful lights lose a bit of confidence and are also tiring a little, so they take it more slowly. Not a problem, we stick with them.


We arrive in Strood for a much needed break, and our hosts Tim and Angela have, as always, produced a fine array of food. It soon, for the most part, disappears. The bread pudding seems a little less popular, but that just leaves more for me, and I need the calories.


Just after 5am, on we go.  Past the cathedral and the castle, and the army tanks, a couple of short but steep climbs, and we’re back onto quieter roads.


On into a lovely Kent morning we skirt the marshes by the Medway north of Sittingbourne and enjoy the sunrise over the Sheppey Bridge before we get to Faversham.  I feel the need for speed and am relinquished of my duties as ‘All Upper’ so I can be part of the Graveney Dash. Those who want to carry on taking it easy, just do. Whereas those who know the way to The Waterfront bar, and feeling like racing, aim to get to the front of the queue for breakfast. Six or seven miles, no turns, great fun. Even in a headwind! A long way short of my best time, it was hard work into the wind, but it still felt great. And the breakfast at the end tasted good!


But the best part was seeing everyone making it safely to the end, fatigue and mechanicals didn’t stop that. They rarely do.

And for those of you who wonder about the practicalities of night riding, Mat Wills' Facebook post should bring a tear to you eye.