In our club the first coastal training ride of the year was always to Brighton. We would set out from South East London at about 9.00 am on a winter Sunday morning and go off through Beckenham and pick up the old A23 trunk road in central Croydon. Very little traffic would have been about and a bunch of up to twenty strong had no problems in keeping in a compact group mainly riding two abreast with all riders taking their turn on the front. The intention was to keep up a good pace (probably just under evens - 20 mph) and unless someone had a mechanical there would be no stopping despite bottles never being carried on the winter bike. This was also the days of fixed wheels and this seemed to have a levelling effect on an individuals performance within the group.
The northern section of the A23 had no major climbs and once we were through Crawley the downhill sections of Pease Pottage and Handcross meant that the younger and fitter of the riders (that included me and others of my own age) could do some really fast pedalling and put some of the older and stronger sloggers under a little pressure but at this early stage of the ride there was no splitting of the group as it was recognised that there was still a long way to go. It was not the same on the climb over the South Downs into Brighton which could turn a bit competitive but usually we would arrive on the sea front as one unit.
|Fully equipped for the Brighton run|
Believe it or not on this first ride we would all go along to the toilets on the promenade and have a quick shower and change into dry underclothes (we would have been wearing knee length ex army trousers with a variety of sweatshirts, jumpers and ex army jackets as this was long before the days of proper cycling gear being available) and despite of the cold our efforts would have us ringing wet with good honest sweat.
Two roads back from the Prom there was a Joe Lyons Teashop and most of us had double egg or double beans on toast washed down with several cups of tea as our carbo loading, though we thought we were just having lunch.
Whilst the ride down had been ridden with much enthusiasm when you exited from the dinner stop you all knew that the hard part of the ride was about to begin. The homeward route was via Burgess Hill, Haywards Heath, Turners Hill and finally to Godstone where we would meet up with the non racing members Clubrun at the famous Mrs Curds Tearooms. The return journey had been nothing like the ride down and what had started out as a very tight bunch ended up as ones and twos all looking much the worse for wear. Again double egg or beans and the magic cups of tea brought about an amazing recovery by most and the climb out of Godstone over over North Downs Way always ended up with a "Burn Up" in the dark narrow lanes until a truce was called at Biggin Hill where we would split up to struggle home. In my case back to Rotherhithe with just my brother to keep me company.
I have never bothered to work out the exact mileage but I can assure you it was a very long day out but one I wouldn't have missed for the world. The legs on a Monday, after such a ride, were like lead but we were assured by the senior members in the club that these rides were essential to prepare us for a season of ten and twenty-five mile time trials. Thinking about it perhaps that was just their idea of a joke!!!