York to Hull - July 2019
The Fridays remain a beacon of sense in a world that seems to be going mad and it was a real privilege to lead the York-Hull ride and spend the night on the road with you. There are, perhaps, better rides in the UK but I don’t know of any. There are, perhaps, better people to ride with but I don’t know of any.
And on a personal note, perhaps one of the reasons I enjoyed this ride so much was that it was, I reckoned, going to be the last ride I led for the club because I’ve a lot of other things going on such as small adventures, politics, charity work and family. Ride leading is a big commitment in terms of time and responsibility. So this was the final one.
To begin at the beginning: York Minster was as beautiful as always with the only difference this year being some poor sod who’d fallen through the cracks of society having to sleep on the concrete outside the door. There was a short delay I while phoned the few who hadn’t made it to the start. Responses were apologetic and 37 of us set off bang on time through the delightful medieval streets of York – unlike London, we’re in the country after a few minutes. The weather gods had decreed a night to be warmish and dry. As we were to realise, they don’t always get it right…….
The very admirable but under-estimated Nick and I had divvied up responsibility for the ride – he would do all the work and I would bask in the glory. So he was at the front doing the nav because he’d created the GPX track for the night.
The exciting new route shunned the planetary cyclepath from Naburn in favour of perfect tarmac and empty roads and we were really rolling along – always faster than 20kph and sometimes at 25kph. It’s a great thing to be confident of the nav at the front of the ride and I took the luxury of roving back and forth, doing a bit of waymarking and chatting and meeting old friends while making new ones. A few during the night asked why The Fridays came to run this ride and why it exists – the answer is that we keep doing it for two reasons: Simon, who started the club, came up with the idea and we try to follow in his tyre tracks but more importantly, we southerners rarely have the opportunity to ride on such perfect tarmac through such beautiful villages and landscapes and enjoy such a nice reception. The default reaction when we ride out of London is hostility and yelled insults but on this run everyone from the drunks in York and Goole to the teenagers in the deserted lanes in the early hours cheer us on.
We were mercifully free of mechanical problems apart from a recurring flat in one wheel that eventually, at the third halt, proved to be caused by one tiny, almost invisible, piece of the wire mesh in a tyre sticking out and causing a slow puncture. I refuse point-blank to name and shame the rider – a completist of not only the 90-hour 1,200k Paris-Brest-Paris but also the 116-hour 1,400k London-Edinburgh-London - who said her front light had broken after she adjusted it and asked the capable Kim to help fix it. Kim did this by turning the switch to “on”. Cue much laughter.
We arrived at Garthorpe village hall bang on 4am, maybe 30 minutes later than last year but they knew what time we’d arrive as I’d texted them.
A shout-out here for the village hall committee who make sandwiches and provide tea for us for a flat rate of £7 and I’ve never heard of anyone leaving hungry. There’s cake as well, this year tasted suspiciously like homemade – it was certainly better than any shop-bought I’ve eaten. The hall is notable for displaying proudly in the entrance the medal we presented to them last year – it’s framed and hung in pride of place with a caption underneath. A new helper this year was Johnny – who was duly called out from the kitchen for a round of applause and was astonished to be presented with a medal. His short speech; “I’d like to thank the rest of the team, my coach, my mum and dad for being so supportive...” brought the house down.
There had been a few drops of water landing on my face early in the ride but I put this down to sweat as I tried to keep up with the pace set by Nick. As we left the hall about 4:45am it started to rain with more effort and as we approached the grade two listed suspension bridge of Horkstow waterproofs were donned. The bridge was lovely, the rain was not. The planned game of Pooh Sticks – for which several had prepared quite pretty weapons – finished immediately they hit the water, which was evidently not moving at all. We’ll just have to go back next year and see who won – they’ll still be in the same place I think. The rain was becoming quite noisy now, as opposed to the inimitable Nick who was still doing the navigation while enduring in silence both his tooth problem and annoyance at leaving his waterproof at home.
After the bridge we hit the bustling metropolis of South Ferriby (pop 651) and in previous years we’ve followed the busy A road up a long, steep hill at a time when the traffic is building up and moving fast. But this year we had an exciting new – totally flat – avoidance measure involving tarmac, gravel, mud and long grass that goes within a few feet of the sea. This involves some rough track and 200 yards of walking. I knew it would be OK because Paul had not only recce’d it some weeks before and sent photos of the section but also gone to the trouble of riding it that very morning. Kim trying to push her recumbent suffered and in future years I think a handful of riders might like to opt for the hill and the traffic, which would be safe for a small number. But three dozen riders is a different matter.
The Humber Bridge was as magnificent as ever and we rolled cheerfully into Hull to arrive at Wetherspoons at 8:10am, just 10 minutes later than last year. Inside, it was like the bar room scene from Star Wars – all human life was there, including a dozen blokes dressed as babies with one wearing a nappy, plus a different group of men obviously competing in a “bad loud shirt” competition plus those who’d obviously downed a few pints in the 10 minutes between opening and our arrival. It was a fitting end to a great night out.
Thanks are due to everyone on the ride for your good humour and patience although a special mention should go to Nick for the navigation, Anton for travelling up from Sussex to be such a capable All Upper, Joyce for her first session as a very capable All Upper, Greg for helping in just about all places on the route, and Paul for recceing the diversion.
It was lovely chatting to you all, and really touching the way so many came up to shake hands and say thanks. There might have been something in my eye. Maybe it won’t be the last time I lead this ride.
[Photo credit Jenny Hung]