Forest Row Bike Club

Ride Report

Tunbridge Wells - 19th February 2017

I announce with immense pleasure that today I was riding so well, I claimed all of the signs, all day, and very easily. Unfortunately, it is with a large pinch of regret that I admit I have just mis-spoken, and nothing could be further than the truth. Mind you, that’s not stopped me in the past. So, although I did have a suspicion that I was going to go OK, I decided to cycle to FR. I was just about to seat myself in my bus shelter when I espied Graham outside the bike shop, and went over to meet him. Blow me down, Trex arrived just afterwards. It was a miracle, well almost anyway, because I checked my watch and can verify that he was 50 seconds late, whatever he may tell you. And he had the nerve to say that my watch must be wrong. Sienna was off skiing in the Alps and Martha had only got back from South Africa during the week, so off we three went to meet Steve at Hartfield.

Almost straight away it became apparent that this was not going to be one of my outstanding days, and as I wheezed my way to the top of Shepherds Hill in last position, a flash bird in a flash car pulled up beside me. I’m used to this of course, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was Martha. Her friend sat beside her whilst Martha described my abject performance up the hill. Of all the places to catch me! In between gasps from me, I’m sure I heard Martha explain that she and her friend had occupied adjacent cots in hospital, shortly after being born. What a lovely thing to be able to say about a friend. I had to go, though, as Graham and Trex had gone on, and I had to catch them up.

Once together again, Trex began to explain the reason why he had pretended to have a puncture two weeks ago. I don’t know what the reason was, as I didn’t listen. He had taken those two weeks to think of his excuse after all, and Graham stated that he was probably absent last week still trying to think of it. So sad.

Steve came up the hill from his house in Hartfield just as we arrived, and we all tootled off together. It was on the way up the hill past Perryhill Nurseries that my body confirmed to me that it wasn’t going to co-operate today. Shortly afterwards, it was decided by I don’t know who, that we would have our customary downhill race from the ex-Sussex Oak. We all set off together, and I was convinced that I was going to win yet again, when at the last second Steve rolled past beating us all convincingly. Well done Steve. Been eating too many pies? Trex sulked and tried to bring the effect of his tyre pressures on his rolling resistance into question. I’d lost interest by this time.

We made our way via Blackham through the lanes to Penhurst, where we took that lovely narrow lane through the grounds of Penshurst Place, up and over the ridge, and were treated to the lovely view over the Medway Valley as far as the North Downs, while trying to keep our eyes on the uneven surface at the same time as we whizzed downwards.

Trex had shorts on again today, and began to complain that he was cold, and that it was to do with the Italian component of his blood. “Well why didn’t you put more clothes on, Trex?”. “I wouldn’t be comfortable”, he replied, “I’m sweating already”. You couldn’t make it up.

We passed through Tonbridge where I was called a criminal by one of our number. I had made an illegal right turn bringing cyclists into disrepute, and I apologise profusely. It was a rash decision taken in the heat of the moment. A mistake anyone could make, and I am sure you will excuse me. We continued alongside the river, and then along an almost deserted lane for a mile or so. At some point we passed a large number of apple trees, all of which had been felled. Was it due to their age? Disease? Someone selling the land for flats to be built? We’ll know in due course, I expect. It’s a shame though, as I remember picking up a lovely sweet apple from the ground there once. Graham sailed past the sign in Tudely. Graham sailed past the sign in Pembury. Trex had a stab at the sign for Hawkenbury, but Graham sat on his wheel and then sailed past him and the sign. This by a man who rode 75 miles on Friday and said he was still tired. In Tunbridge Wells we sat at a set of traffic lights at red for a while. The law-abiding ones amongst us waited obediently. One of us had other ideas. He blatantly rode through the lights in what can only be described as a criminal fashion. There can be no excuse for not obeying the law on a bicycle. It brings cyclists into disrepute and cannot be tolerated. Let that be an end to it. It was a disgrace. I’ll say no more about it. He’s let himself down and the club down. But let’s move on. Unbelievable!

As we entered the café, the cook was slicing an industrial-sized black pudding, and Steve observed that he must be getting Graham’s breakfast ready. We enjoyed a welcome stop, and chatted about all and sundry between mouthfuls, and Trex nicked most of my chips. All too soon we had to leave. Just time to pay a visit to the little boys room across the road in Calverly Park, where Trex waited for us while admiring the memorial to Sir Hugh Dowding, the Officer Commanding of Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain, and who died in Tunbridge Wells almost exactly 47 years ago. As we made our way through the town, a young bloke screamed past us in his car at a ridiculous speed. People disobeying the rules of the road etc., etc., etc. Whilst we were in Tunbridge Wells, Steve reckoned he saw 7 or 8 Range Rovers in quick succession, each costing around £80,000. And they say there’s no money about.

Trex had a little difficulty extricating his foot from one of his pedals. Adjustment of the offending pedal did no good. I reckoned that part of his shoe cleat had become worn, and needed new ones. “No matter, I’ll get my mate to weld a bit on, no trouble”, replied the resourceful chap. He should be able to afford a Range Rover soon.

I was wilting. I kept dangling somewhere behind the others, but Trex kindly held back to wait for me. Sterling stuff. He continued to do this until we reached Forest Row, where he turned off to see his mate. We’d already left Steve back in Hartfield, and Graham made his way home. So finally I could limp up Wall Hill at my own, snail-like pace, very gratefully.

John


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