|Date climbed||11th July 2013|
|Elevation gain||254 feet|
It’s one of those hills where you can never really see what lies ahead as there is always a bend blocking the view, and every time the road turns, it gets steeper. After progressively getting steeper it ends up with a very steep section that goes on for longer than you want it to. I’d say it’s as steep as the worse bit of Barn Hill, but it goes on for much longer.
Today I went for a ride with four other cyclists from the San Fairy Ann CC, a well-established cycling club based in Maidstone. It’s the first time I have done a ‘club run’ since I was a boy. I cycled down to Marden and met the other guys there for 9 AM. The weather was very hot – 28°C, with a light breeze. This was the route:
Chatting as we rode I soon re-learned the etiquette of group riding. We travelled through some glorious countryside and wooded areas as we headed for a garden centre in Crowborough, where we stopped for a coffee. By the time we got there I was dripping, due to a combination of the lumpy ride and the heat. I enjoyed a toasted tea cake while others had a more substantial snack. The other guys were all experienced cyclists and had racked up various major achievements between them including JOGLE, London-Cannes, etc.
For this ride I did actually manage to pace my drinking correctly and I had drunk both bidons by the time I got home. Apart from the tea cake all I had to eat were two fig rolls and about 5 JBs. I found this ride to be tougher than I had expected. I peeled off before the end of the trip and took a less-than-optimal route back from Horsmonden, costing me a couple of extra miles. It would have been a lot easier if I had driven to Marden, thus avoiding Barn Hill on the return.
It was a nice ride through beautiful rolling countryside on a sunny day, in good company – what more could you want?
…except to then be able to watch one of the most exciting tennis matches I’ve seen, as Andy Murray beat Novak Djokovic in the Men’s Final at Wimbledon!
That’s Botany Bay, Kent, by the way, not Australia! It was a beautiful sunny day and not too hot – ideal cycling weather. I was considering riding to Whitstable and then ride the Oyster Bay Trail coast path all the way to Botany Bay (those names sound so exotic don’t you think?), but I realised that I would have to ride 20 miles along the coast path shared with other users and the going would be really slow compared to roads. So I decided against it. Here’s the route I eventually took: Apart from a lumpy section between Charing and Canterbury the route wasn’t very hilly. East of Canterbury and onto the Isle of Thanet, in particular, was very flat. [In case you’re wondering why it’s called the Isle of Thanet it’s because in the past it was separated from the mainland by the nearly 2,000 feet (600 m) wide River Wantsum.]
The first part of the ride, the hilly bit, was full of beautiful rolling hills and far-off views. The last 20 miles or so were largely flat and featureless, which didn’t inspire me to stop and take photos. I found this ride quite a slog, which it shouldn’t have been given the distance and flatness. Maybe I didn’t eat enough. I had one banana and two slices of fruit loaf – doesn’t sound a lot really! Because of the warm weather I was determined to keep hydrated – I aimed to drink 2 bidons by the time I got there; by half way I had drunk about half my supplies so I was on target, but I still had too much left at the end of the ride – it’s so difficult to judge. I arrived at Botany Bay at 7pm, just in time for the evening sun to be casting a golden glow across the sands. It’s quite a secluded beach, being sheltered by chalk cliffs. I stayed on the beach for a couple of hours having a barbecue with friends and watched the sun go down.
I can’t remember the actual reason why this all started; I guess I just figured that I could tackle some steeper hills with confidence if I had some lower-ratio gears. So I considered the possibility of fitting a smaller granny ring to my Campag Veloce triple (52Tx42Tx30T) on my Giant TCR 3. I called my LBS …
Cloud and mist earlier in the day had given way to a sunny evening for the Summer Solstice. I went out for this leisurely ride:
It was the first time I had ridden around Brenchley. There is an amazing view from Crook Road where there’s a nice lookout point with benches and a 3D model of the view to help identify things in the distance.
Shortly after that I was enjoying an exhilarating descent down Pixot Hill and had reached 40 mph when I glanced down at my Garmin and noticed that I needed to turn left at a lane that I was already right on top of. There was no way I was going to be able to slow down quick enough to make the turn so I overshot and slammed on the brakes, or at least to the extent to which you can do that on a road bike; which is to hardly any extent at all actually!
Using data from my Garmin I was later able to work out how long it took me to stop – 90 metres. The stopping distance for a car from 40 mph is 36 metres! Actually I could have stopped faster; I didn’t really brake hard until after I had passed the turning and even then it wasn’t exactly an emergency stop. But it still would have been significantly worse than a car.
The best part of this evening was when I came to climb Barn Hill. I was really in the mood for it and went up most of it in third gear and blitzed my previous best time by 33 seconds.
All in all it was un bon solstice d’été.
The weather forecast said it would be dry in most places. Well, it started raining near Marden and didn’t let up until about 5 miles from Hastings. It was only fine rain really – enough to get me a bit damp, but the roads didn’t get wet enough to cause splashing. What I was mainly concerned with is the fact that it made my legs cold and I didn’t want to ask too much of cold muscles, especially my knees.
Despite the rain, and the slight headwind, and the fact that I was carrying a 2.1kg backpack (yes, I did weigh it! I have to measure things) filled with a change of clothes, I beat my previous Hastings run by almost 15 minutes! I am well-pleased with that time. The route was slightly different from the last Hastings run in that I included Stonestile Lane which was challenging enough to be put on my list of tough climbs.
Once in Hastings I got changed at my brother’s house and walked briskly from West Hill down to the sea front. I had a lovely meal with my mum, dad, bro and his gf. Then we went for a walk on the beach. Then walked all the way back again. Then I had to ride home again! I was really sluggish on the ride home after all that exercise. I only had one JB and one energy gel for the ride home (I hadn’t had any food on the ride there), so I had to ration them. JB after 10 miles and energy gel about 8 miles from home. The weather by now was absolutely beautiful – sunny and calm. Some of the evening views from that route are stunning.
The low evening sun really showed off the landscape and in the wooded sections I was constantly aware of the beautiful aroma of dappled sunlight. Eventually I made it home and managed to drag myself up Barn Hill.
When I got home my son gave me a Father’s Day card that he had made (without Photoshop!)
While writing this post I got cramp in my leg. That’s the first time that’s ever happened; it shows how much I pushed it today.
|Date climbed||16th June 2013|
|Elevation gain||336 feet|
About a mile north of Hastings. The first part of this hill is steep enough that I had to be out of the saddle. There was no possibility of sitting down. It’s quite a slog and reminded me of Cob Lane. That means it’s good enough to be on this list. Luckily that bit doesn’t last long and once you get it over with it eases slightly – still no chance of getting out of first gear but at least you can get your breath back and maybe sit down. It continues climbing like that for about another half a mile. Then it kicks up slightly again at the end and you find yourself out of the saddle again.