When can I expect the pleasure of your company?

Author Topic: The Never Ending Tour


The Never Ending Tour
« on: June 01, 2021 »
The Velosolo Club was founded in 2013 as a joke. Most often I ride alone. I'm not really one for joining clubs. Ergo, a club of one. However, I also like company from time to time.

I've decided to expand. Consider this an invitation to my Never Ending Tour.

Routes will cover the patch of East Sussex that I'm intimately familiar with after close to 20 years mentally cataloguing every twist and turn: Stonegate on the north, Heathfield on the west, Battle on the south, and Bodiam on the east. All will run in a loop, from Etchingham Station. There will be backtracking, more on some routes than others. This is a bug I'm turning into a feature, as I feel that the same stretch of road is actually two different rides. For the most part I avoid the busiest roads, which means night rides allow me to expand the boundaries.

That's right: Carpe noctem. Seize the night. This idea comes directly from the Friday Night Ride to the Coast, and the Dunwich Dynamo. It's a break from the routine. It's also a proven fact 100% backed up by science that hills are less steep at night (we've got a lot of hills).

Much as I favour moonlight, I'll be running these in the day as well. Sun or stars: choose one or both.

As for distances, we're looking at 30ish miles up to 50ish; more if I throw in another London-Hastings, or Hastings to the Sea. Currently unlikely, but you never know.

Here are three of many possible variations:
(Will come up with better names later.)

The pace will range from conversational to this-looks-like-a-good-stretch-for-spinning-rather-than-talking.

What I can offer
– Mother hen duties. I try to keep track of everyone and generally make sure all is well.
– A modicum, possibly more, of tour guide patter.
– Hills. Some rides will be extra hilly.
– Good weather. Which is to say, I won't be running these when it's nasty out. (Don't know about you, but I've served my time in the rain.) A final determination will be made close to the day. Cancellation at short notice is possible.

What I can't offer
– Full service if you have trouble. Naturally I will make an effort to help if you have a mechanical issue which stops your bike cold, but participants are essentially self-supporting.
– A guaranteed food stop at a pub or cafe. I'll try to organise something, depending on the ride, but on night rides in particular this is within the realms of iffy.
– An operation as incredibly well oiled as the FNRttC. I'll do my best.

This isn't a real club run. This is the luxury version of me advertising that I'm going out and saying "Would you like to come too?" If you do, you'll have to agree it's at your own risk. Not sure that language would pass legal muster, and I may have to expand on it, but basically, you take full responsibility for yourself. Wear a helmet, or not: I don't have a dress code. Bring a bike you think will be appropriate. Take due care. I'm a cautious rider (even in the big city), and often go absurdly slow on steep downhills, for example; don't let that stop you from fully enjoying them though!

With covid a part of our lives, of course we have to be careful. It will be small groups of us who sally forth (I'm not anticipating great uptake anyway), and we must maintain suitable distance. In this respect, night rides are better because it's easier to spread out, traffic hardly being an issue.

I'm just now getting this off the ground, so more to follow. Stay tuned for dates, and more routes.

Oh, and welcome to the site. Although I'll also be posting elsewhere, this will remain HQ.

PS. Depending on your device, links may be subtle. Keep an eye out for words that are, you know, blueish (though there's a violet one coming up). Taking a belt-and-braces approach, I've bolded most of them here.


Close encounters
« Reply #1 on: June 02, 2021 »
Met a chap from the planning inspectorate the other day. He had stationed himself near the Robertsbridge roundabout with a clipboard. When I approached him to sate my curiosity, he looked at me warily and declined to be interviewed. Picture Michael Douglas in Falling Down without the spikey hair, more circumspect than unhinged.

Ray was ascending the relatively gentle eastern face of Brightling and not too put out when I flagged him down to pitch. Then and there he typed NACF into his phone. His newfangled technology took me aback. A device which can access the interwebs, able to fit into a pocket? Whatever next?

Michelle was also headed up when we crossed paths, in her case King's Hill Road. Catching her depleted my respiratory reserves and then some; what could be more welcome than a heavy breathing stranger in a time of covid? Once I was able we had a nice chat, and she threw me a curve ball when she asked if kids were allowed. Have to admit the thought never entered my mind. Her son sounds like a keen cyclist, quite capable of a day ride at least. Fan of Chris Froome, who I understand does a bit of racing.

Two couples older than I, putting them somewhere between late middle aged and early Jurassic. (If you stop by, you're entitled to one free observational comeback. I recommend my hair.) 13 - 70s would be quite a nice range...

Robert was out for the first time in months. Apparently we've met before! Well, some years are a blur, anything's possible. He wasn't interested in night rides. Maybe during daylight hours.

"I stopped you because you're a woman," I told Judith, unashamed of my affirmative action. She didn't yet feel ready, but said her partner might be interested.

Two guys – didn't get their names – in front of Burwash shop. "How long have you been doing this?" Including the first one not yet scheduled?

Mike has done the Dun Run, which is ideal. He was spinning along the crest from Brightling village to the Observatory when we met. He's from Hastings. Will we meet again? Who knows?

Will add more as I meet 'em.

Ignoring the rich opportunities for cynicism and rolling with it

Terms & Conditions
« Reply #2 on: June 10, 2021 »
Please carefully read the following important restatement of T&C.

I'm going on a ride. If you'd like to come along, you're welcome to, at your own risk.

As regards the night rides, my preference by a long shot is a clear sky so that I may navigate by the stars if necessary. Full moon, even better.

I may cancel at short notice due to poor weather or mood, an attack of the covid heebie-jeebies, family emergency, thermonuclear war, etc. For any updates, you'll need to be on my mailing list. Full disclosure: I'll be selling the list to the highest bidder.* Putin has expressed an interest.

Power is information

We shall meet at Etchingham Station @ 01.00. I'll probably be doing the equivalent of pacing in the parking lot, so if you see someone doing large figure 8's, chances are it's me.

Kindly don't get too close. I'd love the company, and have had both jabs so of course am invincible, but the pandemic has expanded my need for personal space. A bike-length or two away should suffice; signal flares won't be necessary to communicate.

*Нет, я не буду
click for translation services
No, I will not.
Seriously, the only way to keep abreast is to let me know your email address. It will die with me.

'Abreast', get it? Horse gets it.

Shakedown cruise
« Reply #3 on: June 12, 2021 »
It was time to settle on a route for the inaugural ride, so a few hours before launch, I did. Here it is:

Set your watch counterclockwise

Could be a shark swimming left or a dragon flying right as drawn by a child, or me, my artistic ability having yet to reach maturity.

36ish miles (59km for those who speak metric, which I really should get around to doing). You might also want to toggle the elevation profile, obvious button on the lower left at the link, and file it away for future reference.

ETD was 01.00 at Etchingham Station's eastern parking lot. I arrived 34 minutes late. Won't happen again, promise.

Velo solo indeed. This might be a good time to go over the revised terms and conditions:

I'm going on a ride. If you'd like to come along, you're welcome to, at your own risk.
Please also read the fine print.

Although I've ridden all these roads, most of them many multiples of times, I've never done this exact route. My estimate was four hours. Sound slow? Hills'll do that. This is no race, and there are things to see, even in the dark.

I missed my first stop, which is no way to run a railroad, but rest assured future rides will include it.

That's where Anthony Burgess wrote A Clockwork Orange. Probably. He lived there when it was written, and I'm assuming he didn't cross the street and set his typewriter on a nice level gravestone at The Assumption of Blessed Mary and St Nicholas.

It didn't take long to hit the first hill, a short down followed by a sharp up. No need to dwell on it.

Next was deceptively haunted Socknersh Manor. This former Tom Jones ~ Engelbert Humperdinck love nest is now owned by a eurolotto millionaire couple who wisely threw a good chunk of their winnings at their closest friends, which is one way of keeping them on retainer.

(Plagiarism alert: I've lifted the previous paragraph from my Hastings to the Sea ride report, portions of which provide further background.)

Onward to Bateman's, which the Kipling family called home a century ago.

The lucky steward who runs the property for the National Trust is now the only resident. There's an exceedingly good sculpture of the man himself up (up, up) in the village.

Exceedingly good saddlebag

"Why ride at night?" you may be asking right around now if not before. It can seem daunting, and anyway, what's the lure? I almost imagine Fitzgerald discussing it with Hemingway: "The night is different to the day." "Yes, it’s darker."

Well, I'll tell you.

I ride at night because it’s there, conveniently out of the way of the usual routine. The paucity of traffic is a huge bonus, but magic moments are made of more than this.

There's the moon, when it's there: those times when it paints the road silver and the mist mysterious, inviting one to dabble in poetry. When not moonstruck, the darkness itself is the draw, a coverlet silencing the day's concerns, yet granting permission for thoughts to drift forever out into space.

Bats and badgers and other nocturnal creatures clock in, which helps rouse you out of any stupor you may have been falling into. Hills become easier. Shrouded in mystery, their summits mere conjecture, they are far less daunting.

I made my peace with this topography years ago. The only thing that puts me off is going downhill at speed, so if you should decide to join me in future, feel free to enjoy them to the fullest extent possible whilst I give my brake levers a workout.

What Stonegate giveth – a lovely stretch dipping slightly closer to the centre of the earth – Witherenden taketh away. Partway up say howdy to Mr Pinball Wizard. I wonder if he's ever jammed with Robert Smith, also in the neighbourhood.

The road to Heathfield offers splendid views over the Weald during the day, if you don't mind often hideous traffic. A daylight version of this ride would run along lanes to the north and add a few miles & bumps.

The Cuckoo Trail is my western anchor. Normally well supplied with dog walkers and cyclists, at half past three in the morning there's only the ghost of Beeching and his infamous axe. I take it as far as the lights marking one of its signal attractions:

That's right, the opportunity to press that train's nose. Next to it is what looks to me without benefit of flash a pint-sized [473ml] electric chair, possibly activated by innocent snoot.

There are worse themes for a garden.

No need to squint

Placid Battle Road offers no spectacularly daunting climbs, but by the time the road to Brightling presents itself, there is a distinct pleasure in saying goodbye. At this point dawn (hence "placid") had well and truly broken and I was riding through mist into the heart of Mad Jack country.

The Sugar Loaf at the Woods Corner turnoff eluded me in the fog. That left the Observatory, Obelisk, and of course,

bike storage locker and sometime TARDIS, ably guarded by nettles in lieu of a Sphynx. There's also the Tower shrouded in trees, but I always forget to look that way and this morning was no exception.

Jack Fuller was a wealthy eccentric spinster (that’s right, I’m appropriating that word for the male sex class too). He was said to prefer the appellation Honest to Mad, but you don’t get to choose your nickname, do you.

As there’s no computer on my handlebars, I judge my speed by other means.

Not one of Jack's, but one would have to be mad to enjoy cycling up this particular incline. (Raises hand.) Fortunately for legs threatening strike action this is what seems like a rare slope downwards, though logic dictates it all evens out in the end.

That's a conveyor belt hauling the gypsum mother earth hoards below. It goes on for miles, too. This isn't the end of the ride, but it is the end of my report – surely you want some of it to come as a surprise...

Approximately four hours after starting, I finished under the watchful eye of a cat who decided two was a crowd and quickly set off for pastures new.

If I didn’t mention a food stop, that’s because there isn't an official one, the number(s) being too small to provide incentive for a cafe or the like to open at what many would regard as an unsociable hour. The natural stop for a bite and a break would be around Heathfield, and I did indeed pause to consume something a reputable dietician would not approve of.

I imagine this folly of a ride will appeal to a very particular sort. You'll know if you're it.

There are no set dates. Most likely we're looking at Saturday night/Sunday morning. This isn't my normal loop: it will only be activated when there's interest. If your fancy has been struck, there is an exceedingly easy way to let me know.