Our journal has been a bit quiet of late, that’s not to say the pond has been stagnant, certainly not the case, we have just been a bit slack. We should have really written up our trip to the Battle On The Beach earlier in the spring (which was awesome by the way, every event should have a time trial through a beer tent) but unfortunately the boat sailed on that one and behind the scenes we’ve had a fair bit going on so it kinda got lost.
We had originally lined up a lap of London in the Spring, but it snowed and we thought better of it! At the time we didn’t realise or take the time to research that it was actually a thing but then we noticed London Revolution and the Smoke Ring. Both of those are two day events and, well, we’re not keen campers, so one day, one ride was more our bag. We lined it up, did a rough route (despite a lot of input from you guys on Twitter, thank you by the way) and we were fortunate this time to get a dry, warm day.
The route we had planned was around 20 miles from Blackmore to Tilbury and then a little shy of 140 miles from Dartford round and back to the village. A fair punch, but not completely ridiculous however you know it’s going to be tough when half the riders drop out on the day before. That left just two determined, silly, or stubborn Ducks.
Welcome to the mega loop!
These things do require a least a little planning, but in fairness it’s never easy to really be overly accurate when 1) Roads are far away from home 2) There are loads of motorway junctions involved and 3) You are using a Garmin that just wants to throw a curve ball every 50 miles regardless! So knowing there would be a few hiccups along the way we blindy followed the purple line on the screen! An early start was compulsory and leaving the village some familiar roads took us to the Dartford crossing via the pretty plains of Orsett. Going through Tilbury to the Dartford bridge was less picturesque but essential as this was where a lovely (but silent) man in a Dartford River Crossing van would take us across the Thames and into the garden of England. Here we shared our ride with a retired gent who was riding into the Surrey Hills for a couple of days and staying in a YHA. The dream is indeed still alive!
8am Dartford Crossing. There are better views.
We’d decided to attack this loop clockwise for a couple of reasons. Mainly the prevailing wind should be behind us from the North Western corner back home and also that the section through Kent has the most elevation, so it was agreed it was best to get this out of the way early. For fear of having to be picked up from somewhere near Brands Hatch.
The sun came out almost the moment we arrived in Kent and early layers were shed, some rolling hills and some steep efforts allowed the industrial area by the river to be quickly forgotten and our proximity to the motorway became totally unnoticeable.
Determined to get a few miles under the belt early we kept a decent pace but with a long day ahead there was certainly no racing up hills. We passed some big groups going in completely the other direction to us, maybe they knew something we didn’t? Skirting the ridge line of the north downs taking in part of the route of the King Of The Downs sportive that would drop us down through some epic woodland lanes and into Godstone and Redhill to pick up the A25 that enabled us to eat a few miles on a long a straight road.
We didn't try the new taste of summer. Maybe next time.
What goes down must go up. Pebblehill Road is ridden by people who either have got lost looking for Box Hill or by people who have got lost looking for Box Hill. We’ve ridden it once before, lost looking for Box Hill. Strava reckons it tops out at 12% which in fairness was enough for us at this stage in the game. The turn towards Box Hill and Headley brought us onto the Ride London route and finally a turn northwards at around 7pm on the clockface and roughly half way on our journey.
Early chat in the ride involved two stops and an easy pace. Over halfway we had averaged 18mph and stopped only for water and Red Bull. We weren’t going to stop for another hour at least. Onward to the M4 corridor (and beyond)!
It was while riding across a footpath near the A30 it was clear we had gone wrong. It was while we were on the A30 looking to merge onto the M25 that my bottom started to twitch like a rabbits nose. So if you do try to follow our route give it a check. Preparation is key. We went through a few unnecessary housing estates and occasionally our purple line went straight through peoples gardens. If you are to follow our route do check it. Preparation is key.
Gerrads Cross for coffee. But still essentially on the wrong side of London.
It was a while after this point that we broke our record for distance to a café stop where we stopped 101 miles into Jungs café in Gerrads Cross High St who served bowls of chips and all day breakfasts which was certainly good enough for us at the time! This proved to be well timed because as we moved further away from the river the roads got quieter again and we skirted the narrow roads of Chilterns which again provided some short sharp gradients that tested tiring legs. It turns out that there are significant chunks of the route that were really, really pleasant to ride through. Kent was super as were lots of Surrey, Hertfordshire and Essex. But there are certainly bits that weren't. Mainly around the Thames corridors and the north sections near the M1 to the A10. The lakes around Thorpe were a bit tricky to navigate and I am sure there is a better way through parts of that than the route we took. But as we moved around the clockface things got more familiar. Firstly there was a sign that read "Hertfordshire", so at least we were entering an adjoining county and then we got closer to Enfield via a road near London Colney where I swear I Ieft a piece of my soul.
Do you have any Monster? And a drip?
The descent into Enfield was nearly as joyous as the pint of Red Bull we had each acquired at a nearby Tesco express. This was beginning to get a bit Audaxy ad I was getting flashbacks of 24hr Jet garages. Enfield turned into Epping and the roads now were essentially local. The climb into Epping forest to Upshire took another soul, but it seems souls can be restored with Haribo and cans of Monster. We crossed the M11 almost exactly 10 hours since we left and 145 miles in. Ten more miles through familiar territory and we were home and dry (if a bit salty). Our whole route had taken us a shade over 10:30hrs with 8:52 moving time and 156 miles. But we won’t be trying to beat it. Well at least I hope not. It did however look really funny on Strava and in honesty that was really the main goal of the day.
So with that in mind the route we took is here it's not perfect so do check it especially around the A30! It's also not loaded with cafes so you might want to pack some food! Either way this is certainly a bit of fun and a pretty big day out! (and it looks really funny on Strava)