The riders in the group have ridden continuously, each week, throughout the seasonal festivities, customary damp, freezing cold and various Covid-19 exercise restrictions. The three official rides, with a limit of six riders, in this period included rides from Offham to Four Elms, Wateringbury to Chiddingstone and East Malling to Bredgar (which was the group’s Xmas ride in the traditional attire). The riders have also been riding in “buddy” pairs along routes, created using the RidewithGPS application, which are shared in advance via the B+ Group’s WhatsApp messaging medium. The buddy rides have included outings from Wateringbury to Tenterden, Blue Bell Village to Oare Creek, Wateringbury to Biddenden, Marden to St. Michaels and Barming Heath to West Peckham.
All the distances on these rides have been over 40 miles, ascents mostly exceeding 2,500 feet, at a mean average of approximately 13.4 mph. During the cold snaps, the riders have opted to avoid stopping for usual breaks, as taking on board take-away refreshments outside results in the rider’s body temperatures lowering significantly in a short time. While the take-away meals at the Café in Four Elms were delicious the riders were thankful to have Ide Hill to climb immediately afterwards in order to regain warmth and feelings in numb toes and fingers!
The numbers of riders during this reporting period have decreased for various reasons, which include broken shoulders, pulled hamstrings, contracted Covid-19 virus, Surrey residency travelling restrictions, adhering to various quarantine instructions and general whimping declines, with claims of “its too cold”. Anita Clifford, Richard Ramsden, Emma Shaw, Jonathan Engwell, Neal Corby, Arian Cole and Tony (Sherpa) Palmer have formed the backbone of the group during these uncertain times. So, a warm welcome to B+ Group newcomers Maria Marchesini and Tim Holloway, both of whom have now become SFA members.
Surprisingly, we have been cursed with very few punctures in the last two months. Testing our luck, we have ridden down too many lanes full of debris, including sharp flint, on climbs and slopes, which needed great care. Equally, crossing over river flood plains, the flat lanes often contained many puddles, with camouflaged potholes, and also some small lakes.
During this very wet winter, we have been most fortunate on the mechanical score, on one hand, riding through the quiet back lanes, however; these challenges have invariably reduced us to a crawl sometimes and damp feet! Ram Lane, a typical example, through Little Chart Forstal, is picturesque during clement weather; however, on this ride it was more like a soggy assault course with tyres crunching through the wet gravel. Thankfully, drier weather is on its way (hopefully).
Distance of 47.25 miles at 12.8 mph with elevation gain of 2,885 feet.
Mark Eyres and Steve Medhurst decided to join our regulars in Marden to make a compact group of 8 to take on the weather today. We decided to keep to the planned distance, despite the high winds, as we were sure to get a tail wind at some stage. It turned out to be wishful thinking in the end…
At Lilly’s Café (or Caff) the wind was still in full force, so inside dining was the only option. Arriving a little earlier than 12 (by design), the place was almost empty.
The return journey was much more eventful. With much improved weather, the sunshine and a cooling breeze helped with the ascent north towards Benenden. Then the scariest thing happened. A car raced around a bend ahead to almost take out the three amigos, namely Pete, Richard and Adrian who were waiting for the rest of us to catch up. A loud screech of rubber on tarmac, finally stopping inches (yes inches) from them…
Continuing onward, the wind picked up again, head-on from Headcorn back to Marden, keeping our average down. The stats were 40 miles total at only 12.9mph average, and 677m of climb. I enjoyed the ride and the company!
On a very overcast and misty day eight riders turned up at Marden sports club. Unfortunately, when riding to the start Pete came off on the corner of Pattenden Lane whilst avoiding a white van. Luckily he only had grazes but his brand new Cannondale, which had only been unpackaged the previous day had scratches and a bent deraillier. His new clothing also had some new ventilation holes ! Not to be deterred he joined the fairly flat looping 33 mile ride to Headcorn aerodrome café. Due to the poor flying conditions the café was unusually empty. A few muddy stretches on the return ensured Pete's new bike looked a bit second hand by the end ! A total of just under 50 miles with an average speed of 14.1.mph.
Seven riders turned out at Headcorn for this very cold and frosty ride to Bredgar Café. Lot of ice present so ‘steady as we go’ was the plan.
Straight up Ulcombe Hill to start, which was a nice warm up! We then headed towards Langley Heath and onto Back Street up to Bearsted. We then headed up Water Lane which was very icy in places, but common sense prevailed and we all got to Pilgrims way safely.
Our ‘loveliest’ hill of the today was next, Hollingbourne. Such a nice feeling when you get over that last steep bit at the top. From the top, a fantastic 3 mile descent down to Bredgar Café. However, Tony, Pete and Paul, decided to make it a 5 mile ride as they over shot it!
A very good café, with great service and quality food.
Our ride home was to loop round Tunstall, and head back up to Bexon lane and then up very pleasant climb to Wormshill onto Stede Hill. Crossing the A20, we headed up to Grafty Green and then the fabulous long downhill and flat run in to Headcorn.
Despite several sick notes, eleven hardy stalwarts ventured out on a grey and breeezy day from Aylesford to Rodmersham. No doubt it was Tony's impromptu route climbing up Warren Road to reach the top of Bluebell Hill that enticed these stalwarts. An interesting climb in that it was difficult to avoid back wheel spin on the green road whilst dodging the unwelcome cars ploughing down the single lane.
The weather conditions deteriorated after the break with the temperature dropping at least 5 degrees centigrade and the wind strengthening into the stalwart's faces.
A distance of 42.3 miles at average speed of 12.5 mph and elevation gain of 2,651 feet.
The first ride of the decade and seven riders set off on a route that promised to work off the Christmas excess. As we made the climb up to Frant two deer appeared from the verges and narrowly missed Phil's wheels; not sure who was more startled. The route to Ticehurst took in a new loop via Stoneygate which we all agreed was one to do again.
After the stop at the Dale Hill golf club the climbing continued and by the time we got back to Brenchley we were all pretty cooked. We covered 37 miles at an average speed of 12.7mph and over 3,300 ft of ascent.
Brian led six riders from Barming, on a fairly flat route (as claimed by Brian), to Shorne Country Park on a grey but dry day. On the return, Tony announced that Buckland Road was a new route for the group. Brian stated that the reason for this fact would become apparent in about ½ mile. Lockyers Hill is a beast of a climb with 1 in 4 gradient, particularly in damp slippery conditions, and a 4 X 4 insisting right of way. Perhaps, a better challenge for the Summer.
A distance of 40.61 miles at an average of 13.8 mph with an ascent of 2,572 flat feet.
This was nothing short of an epic outing today. If dodging the showers wasn’t enough (which we did very successfully), the wind strengthened progressively as we approached Grain. We had a welcomed break to fix my puncture along the way, every one chipping in to hasten getting us on the road again. The wind was brutal, just pedal-standing at times… Still, the coffee break was excellent, but the trouble was that we had to go back into the wind afterwards, to get home.
The totals are about 40 miles at 13mph average, 680m of ascent. A very good average under the circumstances, as we had 2 minor crashes in the bargain!
Report by Tony Palmer
The hard overnight frost and mist put this ride, planned by Gary Pearce, in jeopardy; however, eight riders, with a strategy to keep to main roads to avoid ice, warmed up nicely after ascending Wrotham Hill. The group received an unwelcome cold shock, however, as they dipped into a pocket of freezing mist in Valley Road Fawkham. Goggles became misted immediately and Garmins repeatedly warned that the group were off course. Luckily the fog disappeared after Gravesend to reveal a bright blue sky over the Medway Estuary. A distance of 41.25 miles at average of 13.6 mph with ascent of 2,325 feet.
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