Forest Row Bike Club
Lindfield: 25 February
I’d been to a party, and because, as the Irish would say, I had of the drink taken, I slept in my car rather uncomfortably, being 6ft.2ins. and owning a matchbox car. The rain battered the roof all night, and the dawn broke to reveal that I’d apparently parked in the middle of a lake. I rowed the car to the shore, and drove to chez moi to collect my bike and change into some less smelly attire. Now, I know you won’t believe this, but just as I was about to leave, I looked out of the window at the front of the house, and noticed that it had begun to rain quite heavily again. Oh joy! Something made me turn round and look out of the back window, and lo! I swear it was not raining there. Even after I rubbed my eyes. That does it, I’m sticking to lemonade in future.
As I arrived, Ron, Brian, Peter, Gordon, Jane and Martin chatted as Graham adjusted the saddle on Kate’s new bike, and Andrew wondered what he was doing with all these old people when he could have still been in bed. Kate’s rain top came on and off and on again as she tried to decide what the weather was going to do. I thought she was going to wear it out.
Once we were all ready we headed towards Chuck Hatch to the consternation of Gordon, who reckoned that as the destination was Haywards Heath, he had spent all night steeling himself for an ascent of Priory Road. Martin explained Ron’s Theory Of Navigation, which, basically consists of, i) Decide where to go, and ii) Set off in the opposite direction. Martin seemed a bit miffed too, because as he has lost oodles of weight, and his face now looks like that of a little cherub, he was hoping to show us all how fast he could make the ascent. Anyway, off we went, and soon we were swishing along roads which were always wet, sometimes running with water and often covered with mud too. Peter was looking pretty fit too, having just come back from yet another trip, this time to North Wales. Does get around, doesn’t he? Gordon had a different bike with him, with tricky handlebars with the gear levers readily to hand on the bar ends. He said that he ought to be fitter since he has been riding a bit faster with us, but doesn’t feel like he is. I reckon he is fitter, its just that it doesn’t always feel like it at first, because all that happens is that you tend to ride that much faster and so you feel just as tired. That’s my theory anyway. Keep it up, Gordon.
We hadn’t got far along the road when Ron’s bike started making an awful noise. Despite several short stops to investigate, it wasn’t clear what the problem was, until he explained that he had spent most of the day before servicing it. No wonder, Ron. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. In any case, it wouldn’t shut up for the rest of the day, and the same goes for Ron.
Andrew was feeling a bit frisky and kept whizzing up the road. I decided he needed bringing down a peg or two, so we kept having little sprints for telegraph poles and trees and things. I tried to make it look like I wasn’t bothering, but actually, he made me try more than I would have liked. I’d better make the most of it, ‘cos next year he’ll be a year stronger, and I’ll be a year older. Not fair, is it? During a lull whilst I was hovering off the back of the group, we began a long descent from the top of the Ashdown. I built up a terrific speed and hurtled past the rest at a rate of knots. They’ll never catch me now, ha ha. Bashing along at top speed, I couldn’t believe it when Graham fairly rocketed past me into the distance. B****y hell, it must run in the family.
Soon we turned into the main street of Lindfield, and I was delighted to see both sides of the whole length of the street festooned with crocuses. Spring can’t be far. Almost at the top of the street, tucked back from the road, and next to The Bent Arms PH was our destination, where a crashing noise greeted us, and we looked round to see Kate sprawled on the pavement. She’d grazed her knee and torn her trousers, but she’d also landed on her hand and bruised it quite badly. She’s not a bloke, though, because she didn’t make a fuss at all. Just dusted herself off.
Inside, huge sandwiches were served, except to Graham, who had a hearty beef stew and couscous, which he looked quite smug about, as no-one else had noticed that on the menu when we ordered. As we were leaving, Andrew fixed his eyes on a £20 note that I put on the table, so with bravado I pretended to give it to him. He’s not slow that lad, and instantly grabbed it and it disappeared into his pocket. I attempted a hollow laugh, but my fear was obvious.
On the way back, Jane asked me if the back mudguard on her new bike could point upwards like mine, because she was still getting mud all up her back, and I wasn’t. I explained that it would be easy to do, but although it would keep her back clean, it would mean that other people, for instance Ron, would be splashed even more. “Oh good, let’s do that then!” said Jane, and we had fun watching Ron get covered even more the rest of the way home.
The way back for me consisted of a lot more sprints with Andrew, including a short series when we put the bikes in their lowest gears and pedalled as furiously as was possible. A short distance seemed like a mile each time, and when I realised I wasn’t going to beat Andrew at this, I decided it was a silly idea and called it evens, despite him beating me hollow. Well, no-one said life was fair, Andrew. Anyway, it didn’t help to hear Martin laughing his head off at the sight of an ancient pair of legs trying to imitate an aeroplane propeller. (By the way, did you know that in the early days of bike racing in England, it was a traffic offence to be seen “pedalling furiously” on a public road, which gave rise to cycle racers using very high gears in an effort to appear to be going slower?).
Soon we were nearing home, and Jane and Brian turned off, then at the top of the Ashdown, I noticed that Peter has already left to get home in time to meet his ladies at the circle dance. Where does he get the stamina? Then it was Gordon’s turn to peel of to East Grinstead. Next we left Martin as we passed his house, and that just left enough energy to race Andrew down Priory Road into Forest Row, where I was soundly beaten again. The brat!
Now, here’s a new wheeze to try. Why not invite all the remaining riders into Java and Jazz where you suggest buying them all a coffee. Then order the largest cup of coffee that you can, then suddenly exclaim that you have made a mistake and haven’t got any money. Now who would have the brass neck to do that? Ron wouldn’t, would he? Oh, wouldn’t he? So, all the rest of us made feckless gestures pretending to try and find our wallets, and Graham lost. Thanks, Graham. I like to think that I did at least have the tiniest of excuses because Andrew, budding mogul that he is, still wouldn’t give me back my £20 note. I was by now getting into a cold sweat. Once outside again, I tried to use my superior weight to bully it out of him, when he feigned a punch to my pan-flat, rock hard stomach, which reminded me of another intersting, (at least to me) fact. One of the stage acts of Harry Houdini, the famous escapologist, was to get someone to punch him in the stomach as hard as they could. This was so well known, that one day in the street, a young boy recognised him and punched him in the stomach by surprise. The blow ruptured his spleen, and he died from the injury. Not a lot of people know that. Including Ron.
Once we had downed the coffees that Ron had erroneously promised us, we parted for home, and had a final nice surprise when Graham, Kate, Andrew and I met Val, Jeanita and Hazel zooming along the Forest Way in the opposite direction on their way back home too.
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