A little over a month ago, I wrote an inspiration blog post that I wanted to do one of the Friday Night Ride to the Coast rides, but that I thought it might be a little beyond my abilities and that I’d need better legs for it. But still I decided that I wanted to do one before the end of the summer.
And then the very helpful Jurek commented that the Southend-on-Sea ride was the easy one, and so that was decided. Unfortunately, after looking* at the FNRttC website the Southend ride was not very far away at all – Friday 4th May. Conveniently my birthday fell over that weekend too so it felt like a good way to celebrate – I even had a few days off work booked beforehand and the bank holiday afterwards for preparations and recuperations! A cheque was despatched for insurance and the like, I gave my bike a thorough look over (i.e. I kicked the tyres and nothing fell off), I packed some essentials in a pannier such as extra layers and some spare batteries for lights, and on Friday afternoon I departed for That London.
I’m not very good at packing, I have to admit. In a rush, I totally forgot to put any drinks bottles, even empty ones, on the bike as I left. Fortunately I had a few hours to kill in London before midnight so I met up with a friend in town and headed over to Look Mum No Hands! for coffee and to purchase a couple of drinks bottles. The lady behind the counter was even kind enough to wash them out and fill them with tap water, so I was sorted.
As for the ride itself, well I have to be honest: I don’t remember a great deal of it. I’m terrible at guessing numbers but I’d imagine maybe 50 bikes or so, including a few tandems and folders, and a very pleasant 55-ish mile route through east London and the Essex suburbs out to the seaside.
From my hazy memory of place signs this is vaguely where I think we went:
(Edit: the above is now a proper, gps-magicked route courtesy of Tim. Cheers!)
At various points we saw wildlife (a few foxes in the suburbs), wild life (maybe a dozen or so police, a couple of vans and a helicopter dealing with a fight in Romford), plenty of water including a rather swollen ford (thankfully with a foot bridge) and a beautiful red sunrise as we left the food stop in Stock. I must mention the excellence of the family who manned the food stop at stupid o’clock, supplying delicious cakes to hungry cyclists. Nom!
The second leg, from Stock down to the coast, started with a bakewell-fuelled burst of energy. Which was well-needed because this was where the real work began. The climb into Rayleigh was tough and needed all but the last two of the emergency jelly babies to get me up, but then it seemed to be mostly downhills and flat riding pretty much all the way into Southend. We were incredibly lucky that despite an ominous weather forecast, the rain held off until we had reached the cafe for breakfast. I did, however get a soaking trying to find my way around Southend to a train station, eeek.
And from there, it was pretty easy – train, dry out, tube (with a bike! Cue disapproving looks from people with massive trolley cases..), another train, nearly fall asleep and miss my stop, lucky escape at Swindon and then home.
* It seems I didn’t look at the website very well, based on my worries about my legs and it being so soon. Writing this, I’ve realised that there is a “Genteel” ride to Southend-on-Sea – flatter and slightly shorter – on June 29th. I may or may not be there, depending on life, but if you’re interested then read the website and email Simon on the email address you’ll find there. I’d wholeheartedly recommend you do – they’re bloody good fun.