|9am, June 12 2011 – meeting on the A23.|
Andy and I were alone this year. Nick was on holiday and Jon wasn't doing it, leaving the founder members of No Visible Lycra to ride their third Black Horse event together. We started in 2008, which was a sunny ride; then in 2009 it poured down (and was really unpleasant), last year was fine and this year was a wash-out.
|Our bikes in the Black Horse pub garden – note how early we are!|
Fortunately, I'd decided to bring my waterproofs – I nearly didn't – but the trousers were already in my rucksack. Phew! It could have been so much worse.
|Free beer and food – arguably the best part of the entire day!|
We set off at 11am on a shorter, 36-mile route, which pleased us all considering the weather. The waterproofs negated the rain and even the fact that I had no mudguards – and was spitting rain all over the place – was irrelevant. I stayed dry throughout the ride and Andy and I didn't stop (apart from occasionally checking the route). In fact, while most of the route was fine, there were a couple of places where the signage was non-existent, leaving riders grouped together at T-junctions, consulting maps and wondering whether to turn left or right.
|Enjoying a pint of Young's bitter|
We ended up walking the bikes back up Punchbowl Lane in search of the elusive Tilehurst Lane and, on finding it, sped off towards the pub, reaching it at around 1430hrs. We crossed the line together, collected our vouchers and headed for the bar. I've said it before and I'll say it now, a pint of Young's Ordinary Bitter after a long ride is probably better than most things. I got the beers in and Andy went for the burgers and hotdogs and for about half an hour we sat there, waterproofs still on (because it was still dribbling down).
Burger and onions, hotdog with onions and mustard and a pint of Young's Ordinary bitter. Seriously, you can't get better. But then, of course, it was time to go home and the dilemma of should I get the train or cycle home raised its head. If the latter, then I'd have riden the best part of 60 miles. Andy was definitely cycling back and I thought that I might as well join him, even if he was turning off the A23 to head for Caterham and had a much shorter ride.
It was, to put it mildly, a horrible ride home. Having waved goodbye to Andy, I set off along the busy A23 in the rain, which was getting heavier. It was the most unpleasant ride and by the time I reached home I had that shiny look about me, which said 'drenched'.
It was 1655hrs when I pulled open the garage door, rested the bike against the garage wall, took off my crash helmet and padlocked the bike. When I entered the house a cup of tea and a freshly pressed pair of pyjamas were waiting for me, plus a quick game on a flight simulator. What could be better? I come home soaking wet, tired and weary and I'm given hot tea, biscuits, pressed pyjamas and a blanket. Top banana, as they say.