Author Topic: Hello darkness, my old FNRttC


Hello darkness, my old FNRttC
« on: July 21, 2019 »

Making all stops to Mare Tranquillitatis

I blame the moon.

50 years ago, Neil eclipsed Buzz to take that first small step for [a] man (he/him/heroic, I’m going to unabashedly say, being something of a fan of the phlegmatic Ohioan). I wanted to mark the event in some way. Having recently embraced my newfound biphasic nature, I’ve thrown myself whole-heartedly into night rides. Hello darkness, my old FNRttC.

This would be my first in ages. I even had to sign up with The Fridays again, not to mention Cycling UK for the insurance. Altogether most irregular for the committed velosoloist.

The weather forecast was, not to put too fine a point on it, horrendous.

I don’t normally go out in the rain because frankly there’s no need for me to. But Eastbourne beckoned; or at least this ride did, “heaven’s waiting room” (there’s competition for the title) holding no particular attractions. The promised hills were a big draw.

Though a lot of people normally show up at these gigs, I was still a little surprised that 30+ others had also said Fuck It to the rain.

I was riding my Langster.

Last spotted being unceremoniously N-1’d

This was not my first choice for the promised conditions. That would be my straight-barred and steadier-as-she-goes Litespeed, unfortunately indisposed. Still, I’d gussied her up for the event, treating her to a new chain and the rare treat of a wash.

Deciding what to wear had consumed a good deal of time. As someone who usually fears overheating over overcolding, which is a word I feel completely comfortable with, I finally decided on a well ventilated jacket last seen on my end-to-end; an equally retired jersey allowing for much adjustment of zip and sleeves for fine-tuned temperature control; lycra shorts also long since forgotten since the move to a less tailored look; a lightweight hood; waterproof socks; and a nice pair of sealskinz gloves discovered in the loft at the last minute. And that’s enough about costume. It was all pretty comfy for quite a long time, though in the end, the rain will win, as it nearly always does.

Tim Decker gave his talk, which I confess not giving my undivided attention, familiar with the routine. He did surprise me by mentioning we’d be going on the Cuckoo Trail, which with its traditional debris I reckoned to be a haven for the puncture fairy.

Tim deputises a puncture fairy assassin

At the start I recognised Nigel, who came along on my jaunt to the America Ground; Patrick Piper of the Hastings Pipers, man|machine in Gore-Tex shorts providentially delivered that morning, just barrelled up from the coast; the equally indefatigable Jenny Hung, excellent ride documentarian from The Fridays’ Facebook page and admitted member of the #bromptonmafia; and Adam, from times past.

The London bits of these rides are one of the chief attractions. My pre-ride ride was somewhat ruined by Algerian Africa Cup celebrations, which yielded a nightmare of buzzing scooters and revelry guaranteed to irk this non-sports fan (I don’t even follow the Tour de France). We scooted through London ourselves. I was buzzing. I even went up one of the hills twice, for the pure fun hell of it.

Everything was going pretty well until the steep descent into Titsey, our North Downs-ramp.

Thomas Gresham of Titsey Place, originator of the phrase "tits up",
or so I shall inform Wikipedia

Never a big fan of lleh morf sllih (no, that's not Welsh), this one now slicked with rain and being reverse-attacked on my least confidence-inspiring bike, as it got steeper, I gripped the brakes tighter and tighter until forward rolling motion finally proved too much: I dismounted and walked. Can I safely call this a FNRttC first?

It was dreadfully embarrassing, especially given that I was also being shepherded by Tail End Charlies who take their tail end charlieing very seriously – even more so than in Simon’s day, at least from memory; though that may have been a case of Simon knowing that I’m fine if left to my own devices. Still, I was touched, especially when one of them refused to accept my apology for being such a sissyphus, which is not a typo and possibly not a goer. I wondered what information had been relayed to Tim at the front: “Houston, you’re not going to believe this…”

This changed the complexion of the ride, as I now feared the downhills to come. I would also rue not fitting new brake pads.

The halfway point at the Scout’s hut couldn’t come soon enough. Neil Armstrong was an Eagle Scout, btw, so when he said "The Eagle has landed," he didn't just mean the lunar module.

It was with brake-lever fatigued hands that I pulled my sandwich from my saddlebag, followed by a cookie. This humble baked good was actually a big event for me, my first big dose of sugar in over 8 months. I also had Pop-Tarts in their space age foil wrapper, just like the astronauts carried on Apollo 11. Or should've.

Nutritional requirements: YMMV

I surveyed the damage in my waterlogged saddlebag: 1 camera, screen wrecked thanks to an unsuccesful attempt at waterproofing using sandwich bags. (Electronics and water don't mix. Who knew.) Damp phone which fortunately survived. Completely soaked end-of-ride shorts, packed for a planned relaxed breakfast at a cafe in Hastings. 1 old Roman coin (doesn't everybody carry one of these?), extra damp. The obverse is [checking authoritative texts] some Roman guy, while the reverse appears to be Mercury, the god whose portfolio includes keeping an eye on travelers. Or perhaps I’m being fanciful.

We were witness to a car accident soon after relaunch. Though a minor fender bender, hearing two cars smack together never loses its auditory shock value. I couldn’t help but wonder if the driver had been rubbernecking our armada.

Kidds Hill had me practically Cheyne-Stokes breathing, which was infinitely preferable to white-knuckling it.

After we hit Uckfield

"Call the manager, Extinction Rebellion are in the forecourt"

I relaxed considerably, being on home ground or close enough. The Cuckoo trail was fine, except I had to stop about 50x to empty my clearly golf-ball sized bladder. There was a breakaway group which seemed to relieve Tim when they finally got around to breaking away.

The final stretch into Eastbourne was somewhat dystopian.

I caught the train to Hastings to keep a promise to myself

"This would be as bad for you as it is for me"

and watched, while defending my sweet sweet reward from seagulls deaf to reason, as a woman attempted to teach her grandson to ride a bike. One small step.

Needless to say, there was no moon on view, buck or otherwise. That was OK. Safe landings all around.

– “Look up! You’re brain training,” advised Mrs Coffee Cup to the boy. “He just steams into everything,” replied nan.
– I shall never take this bike on a wet night ride again
– and probably skip rainy rides in future. I’ve served my time.
– A rictus of terror telegraphed through the neck and and shoulders and down to the death grip on handlebars can apparently bring on TMD.
– I remain a less than ideal FNRttCer, being far too introverted to shout the usual polite warnings, [DATED REFERENCE ALERT] including “Car up!” Or "Car Front!", as I heard it last night, which is easier to process in the heat of the moment.

Cow up! Also saw poor Mr Toad making his precarious way across the road. Wonder if he made it to the other side.

Puncture tally: 9, not including my ego.

Three men and a bike

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