Forest Row Bike Club

Ride Report

Tonbridge - 17th August 3008

Dunno why I was so tired, because I'd gone to bed 12 hours before, yes 12! Anyway, there I was lying there in that dreamy half-sleep, half-awakedness, listening to Paula Radcliffe on my radio alarm, crying about not winning an Olympic medal, when I realised that today was Sunday. And it was 10 past 9!!! Good job I'd eaten late, well, just before I climbed into bed actually, and had a shower last thing too. So, on with the bike clothes, scrape the teeth, and then off to Forest Row with a banana in my pocket for breakfast. I espied a couple of cyclists up ahead of me. No problem, I'll catch them up in no time and leave them well behind before FR. Gasp, gasp. Well, maybe not in no time. Gasp, gasp. Blimey, I'm not going to catch them at all. I could just make out that they were wearing East Grinstead CC tops. "Posers" I thought as I let them slip away into the distance. It was just then that I caught sight of another, somewhat less hasty cyclist, and a few seconds later I pulled alongside Gordon, whizzing down the long hill into Forest Row. I had been talking to him about, now what was it?, oh yes, me, me, me, for about five minutes, when he told me I had better wait 'til the bike shop, 'cos he didn't have his hearing aids switched on. Some would say he was very wise. As soon as we got there, he went and hid somewhere. "I'll get you later," I thought.

And there already, or within a few minutes, were Jane, Ron, Rob Russell (remember?, the fella with the rear-view mirror on his glasses?), Steve and Zoë. And for an extra treat, Christa and Don had come to see us all, despite the fact that they were still too busy to be able to come out with us. They both looked exceedingly well, however, and it was lovely to see them both. Well, Christa anyway.

Soon we were off, upwards of course, this time Wall Hill Road. Gordon said he'd have gone straight to Ashurst Wood if he'd known, and not done the whizzing down the main road earlier. Some people! Now, Zoë had gone off a trifle early, and whilst we were climbing the hill, it appeared from some distance below that there was someone else riding behind her. Racking my brains as to who it could be, it transpired that it wasn't one of us at all. Zoë had attracted another cyclist, but unfortunately, he had completely ignored her when she stopped at the top. Why follow her all the way up and then blank her? Beats me. Was it because he hadn't been able to catch her? Funny lot, cyclists. Anyway, I engaged her in conversation. (I'm learning this art at night school. Apparently it involves listening to the other person in between bouts of speaking. Strange.) This is how I discovered that Zoë had played three sets of tennis the afternoon before. How then did she have the energy to cycle up hill and down dale to Tonbridge without complaining? Blowed if I know. I did notice, however, that all her bruises from her horrendous fall a while ago have now gone, except one, which she refused to show me. I'm pleased for her that she has no lasting effects though.

Down and up, past the pigs, and right onto the main road, left, down and up again, and then right, along past Basings Farm. (Got that?). It was during this part of the journey that I attempted some more listening. This was how I learned that the lovely Jane and her husband almost went hungry recently, when she waited nearly an hour for two appetising oven-baked potatoes to be ready whilst she prepared an equally appetising meal to accompany them, only to discover after all that they were still completely raw. Beans on toast saved the marriage. (If it was only as easy as that!). We also swapped notes about salads and how they can be both interesting and satisfying. Don't believe it? Then look on our website for more info. JaneandJohnsinterestingandsatisfyingsalads.com. You'll be amazed.

Ron had forbidden us to take the cycle path from Penshurst, but I must confess, the road was just as picturesque and pleasant. Even the lane which was hemmed in on both sides by unclipped hedges, along which Ron didn't stop complaining about lanes which are hemmed in by unclipped hedges. It's one of Ron's bête noirs. Time flies when you're enjoying yourself, or so I'm told. And after an inordinately lengthy period, we arrived at our destination. Tonbridge is a lovely, characterful (is that a word?) town. It is just a pity that it is so full of cars. Nevertheless, it is still worth a meander round, as I have discovered in the past. So finally we entered the café by the roundabout, where last time we'd been welcomed by the manager even though we'd been dripping rain all over his floor. He was just as friendly and welcoming this time. (He obviously didn't remember us). Massive breakfasts later, we emerged into the warm air to unlock our bikes and be on our way. "Sit down, John" ordered Chairman Ron. "We're having a competition to see who has the brownest legs". Jane was the judge, and spent what I consider to be an excessive time inspecting all of the blokes' be-shorted lower limbs. I thought it was well out of order until Jane declared me the winner of the brownest, (and most shapely) legs. I made the last bit up, of course, but I was still very pleased with myself 'til some wretch said my tan was only dirt. Sore loser.

"Did you pay for your food?" asked Ron suddenly. Blimey no, and I hastily turned back round to see the café proprietor waving a rather large bill in my direction, and a fierce cook just behind him waving a huge machete. I immediately coughed up loads of money and pedalled away to the strains of "You're banned for life" ringing in my ears. I didn't like that place anyway.

Has your bike got disc brakes? Well mine has, and I had to buy some replacement brake pads for them the day before this ride. Whenever I have to buy something like this, I usually try to think of the most inflated price that anyone has the barefaced cheek to try and charge, then double it. Usually I'm then in the right area. Well this time I was still wildly out. £32 it cost me for four postage stamp sized specimens the thickness of a wafer. I ask you. Not that I would ever moan about it of course. So it was with some surprise and not a little disappointment that I overheard Ron and Jane discussing introducing a No Moaning Day once a month. And this from a bloke who complains about the hedges every single week! Incessantly!

We made our way back along the cycle path which started behind the swimming pool in Tonbridge, past the lake in the very pleasant park, through the woods, across bridges instructing cyclists to dismount, (we didn't), and through metal barriers designed to let only pear-shaped people through, but not honed athletes with bikes. Strange for a dedicated cycle path. And so to Penshurst, where I learned a very interesting piece of information. Mum's the word, so I want you all to keep this to yourselves and anyone else you know. Gordon is a vandal. In the beauteous village of Penshurst, he not long ago mistook a flimsy shelf holding up a couple of flower pots for a sturdy bench which would support a strapping cyclist. Result - cracking sounds, smashing sounds, and thuds, swiftly followed by said cyclist breaking the speed limit whilst exiting said village. Disgraceful behaviour. Things had deteriorated even more by this ride, when Ron hit upon the idea of creeping up behind a certain Penshurst Vandal who was struggling up out of the valley, and hanging onto his saddlebag. This caused an enormous groan, followed by a look of hatred as PV realised that Ron was the cause of his suffering. I decided that Ron was a complete bounder for doing such a despicable thing, and reinforced my opinion when I discovered that he'd told Gordon it had been my idea. Is there no depth to which some men will sink? The heart had gone out of me after this accusation, but Ron was over the moon despite his appalling behaviour. He began to take advantage of us on every hill, especially as we ascended the climb to The Surrey Oak, where we have held the downhill race and Christmas Lunch in the past.

Gordon declared that he was going to go into the pub to replenish his water bottle. A likely story. After which he, Zoë, Steve and Jane took the Wimp's Way back home, leaving myself, Rob and the infamous Ron to return via the hilly route.

And so we did, finally arriving at Forest Row, where Ron The Cad invited Rob and myself for a coffee at Java and Jazz. "Oh well, he's not so bad after all" I thought as the hot beverage soaked into my body. Until he suddenly upped and went, leaving me with the bill.

John.


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