Sunday, 12 June 2011

The Black Horse Ride 2011 – it rained!

9am, June 12 2011 – meeting on the A23.
Call it what you will: Sod's Law or Murphy's Law; either way it amounts to the same thing – that life just doesn't add up. For months we'd had the best weather imaginable, just check back on past posts for cloudless skies and bright sunshine, but on the day of the Black Horse Ride 2011 (12 June 2011) the heavens opened. It rained ALL day. It was raining before we set off, during the ride, on the ride home and then probably throughout the night. Looking outside now, at 0704, it looks as if it's just stopped.

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!
We met at 9am outside the converted Exchange Bar pub, which is now an Indian restaurant, on the A23 and then cycled for 20 minutes to the Black Horse pub where we were miles too early. They were setting up the raffle stand and we were the only cyclists there so we registered and then just hung about until something happened. The tea was first, followed by the bacon butties (we had three each) and then there was more hanging about looking at grey skies and slowly realising that it was going to be a repeat of the 2009 ride.

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!
My brakes were still playing up so the ride's mechanic adjusted them, but they're still the same and they make a lot of screeching whenever I pull up. Effectively, then, I just had a front brake and eight (rather than 16) gears. With bad weather I was taking my life into my own hands a bit, but being a seasoned rider, I figured I could handle it.

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
On one occasion, Andy and I had turned right into Punchbowl Lane but missed Tilehurst Lane on the right because there was no sign indicating that we had to turn into it; instead we hurtled down Punchbowl Lane and eventually hit the A25, which was not very far from the pub. I admit that I did consider just turning right and heading for the Black Horse, but thank the Lord for Andy who, fortunately, always does the right thing. To be honest, though, I wouldn't have gone through with it as I prefer to do the right thing too and, besides, I wanted my free burger and pint of Young's. Had the weather been nicer, we would have enjoyed another pint, I'm sure.

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.

1 comment:

  1. Matt, You had me at "Free beer and food" !! Looks and reads like a good time. I saw a public television show tonight about a severely autistic man who could play piano like nobody else. He was born prematurely, and so was given massive oxygen treatments which robbed him of his sight, and somehow turned his brain into a musical supercomputer. Anyhow, they showed him playing in Redhill, and I blurted out, "Hey, I know where that is!" Do you know of this guy? Amazing talent. Also, I was looking at a Google map of your area, and saw Sevenoaks! Well, I have a ski/mountain bike park about 4 miles from me called Seven Oaks Recreation. Strange coincidence or what?! Keep the riding up, and lift a toast to the West for me sometime, as I'll toast you guys from here. Later!