Lockdown life has been a long and arduos process. We’ve been through the fads and flashes in the pan. Jigsaws, old Wrestlemania's, a couple of Royal Rumbles, we learnt to juggle, thought about getting better at playing the guitar, thought about learning Spanish (we didn’t learn a word), hosted quiz nights, even dabbled in home baking. We've been there and potentially done it or done it badly. At one point we were very motivated and getting quite good at homemade flapjacks but after a while the amount of butter that was being consumed in The Duckhouse was becoming quite frightening.
Solo riding in the sun was indeed quite satisfying, plotting new routes, going to some new places (Southend) and generally we escaped being abused on Strava for being socially irresponsible. Generally. However as lockdown has grown to basically further lockdown and the likelihood of any sort of racing or events have disappeared further into the distance our Strava feed has turned into a frenzy of average speeds and KOM’s. So we knocked the baking on the head, filled our pockets with Soreen and used our new found Strava subscription and the very useful heatmaps to plot another circumnavigation of the nations capital.
Here we go again
Now the current pandemic has a couple of knock on effects to route planning. Firstly using the QE2 bridge back seat of the car taxi service thing is out of the question and it the Tilbury ferry also had to be parked as they didn’t want non-essential journeys. Cycling between counties, probably rightly, has been classes as non essential. So having had some dubious reports of using the Greenwich tunnel as a means of crossing the river we opted for Tower Bridge as our method to cross the Thames.
Early sunrises fool you into thinking that it’s later than it is. Dalston at 6am is pretty quiet. But then it was 6am; even though the sun was well and truly out and our day was in full swing. The benefit of doing a big ride with the first forty miles stop-starting through a city of traffic lights means that you get to do the first forty miles stop -starting through a city of traffic lights. So two and a half hours in we were out. Out of London anyway! This is probably kinder to the legs than going through Kent. But that's purely anecdotal evidence.
Readers to the journal will know that this journey has been done before in The Duckhouse. Back in 2018 we did our first orbit of London following the London orbital and it certainly took its toll on us. But enough water has passed under the bridge and we have learnt from the experience. However clearly not every lesson had been learnt because after months of unbroken sunshine and fine weather we picked a day with a 20mph easterly and a forecast of heavy rain in the afternoon. It's days like this where a sensible man would sack off a rain jacket in order to save a bit more space for spares and Soreen and we did just that; it would have been clear to outsiders that we were still potentially too carefree. Framebags aren’t something that have been purchased as yet by this limited company but for anyone reading we will instagram for freebies like everyone else.
The highest point on this particular lap of the capital came around Woldingham, 850ft above the river Thames, twenty miles from the center of the capital and fifty miles into the ride. We were surprised to see that this was a much higher point than the highest point we would reach in the Surrey Hills with spectacular views all around as we descended down to the weald before taking the A25 to ride through Surrey and back up the north downs. It was only after this high point at Headley Common where we would make our first stop at a petrol station just outside Leatherhead. With Cafes not being open there isn’t a huge amount of choice but what do you need in life that a Shell garage can't provide...?
Two bikes. One garage.
And then you learn something new everyday. I didn’t know that banana Soreen was vegan and normal Soreen is not. Both however are excellent and by now a few lunchbox size portions had been consumed. The key to these big days is eating frequently and basically ignoring hunger as an indicator of having to eat. Just eat.
With the wind changing to hit us more from the side our ride turned north when we experienced our first shower. 100 miles from home you have made your bed and you just hope there aren’t any bed bugs about to bite. The shower never got heavy enough to soak any clothing and we clearly got away with that one. The bed bugs didn’t choose to bite and this shower passed. On reflection we were a bit fortunate and luck could have easily been against us. As it was we rode through it and onwards, navigating the lakes around Chertsey, Windsor and moving towards the M40 corridor skirting the Chilterns and allowing the wind to carry us back east.
A little before this point another error was realised and our Garmin told us that it didn’t have enough battery power. We knew that screen brightness had a huge knock on to battery life but did we check that particular setting before setting out on a ten hour ride? No, no we didnt. We’re renegades. Masters of our own destiny. We don’t need things like common sense and double checking to ruin the vibe of this merry roller coaster. If we subconsciously wanted to get lost three hours from home in the rain then we would.
Getting totally lost seventy miles from home wasn’t high on the agenda. Fortunately with screen brightness turned down the old boy lasted quite a way until its eventual death just shy of Potters Bar before an excellent branch of Tesco Express where final stocks could be replenished.
Same two bikes. Now at a Tesco near Potters Bar.
Had the blank screen come half an hour previous we would have been lost but by chance where we lost our map was just at a point where we were beginning to know where we were. A quick check of the phone confirmed that the road we were on would lead to Enfield and then after the obligatory bit of getting lost trying to get across Lea Valley we eventually emerged from Gunpowder park at the bottom of Mott St, at 143 miles into our loop. That was as welcome as a fart in a lift but we got up and over it and through High Beach into more familiar territory.
Fortunately the wind carried us home. Fortunately it didn’t hail on our heads. Fortunately jelly beans are cheap and Soreen is an excellent, convenient and measurable source of carbohydrate. One portion every 45mins and keep pedaling. Water as needed. See how far you get. Always prepare; apart from when you don't and then just fly by the seat of your pants.