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FNRttC to Southend
riot girl
ladyjulian
Yesterday morning I was up at 5.30 to get to court in Manchester (more of that later, if I can write about it without getting grumpy).  So what makes more sense than to get back, have a couple of hours sleep and then do the Friday Night Ride to the Coast

It started out rather inauspiciously with C & I sleeping through the alarm clock and having to make a mad dash for it from Paddington.  Fortunately for us, other people's trains had been delayed so the ride was setting off twenty minutes late anyway.  We were on the tandem, and were awarded Tail-End Charlie duties.  I rather like doing that, you get to spend time chatting to whoever's at the back and avoid any potential sprint-for-glory moments at the front. 

As we set off it began to heave with rain, and didn't really stop for a couple of hours.  The rain brought all the road skog to the surface, and that brings out the Puncture Faeries.  They wisely ignored our Marathon Pluses but a few riders were on skinny race tyres, and the Faeries do love those. 

The ride got slightly separated at one stage just before the halfway stop.  One chap - Kevin? - had a flat, and we stopped to repair it in a bus shelter.  He put in a new tube, but there was an ominous hissing sound.  He thought he could probably nurse it the couple of miles to the stop, but had barely clipped in before the tyre was totally flat again.  Back to the bus shelter.  Another tube in, back into the frame, bike turned the right way up and - BANG.  Time for another tube.  I checked the rim.  Adrian checked the rim.  Pippa and I checked the tyre and she gave it some darning-needle attention.  There was nothing there that could explain the flats, so another tube in, got it pumped up and away we went.  Half a mile down the road - BANG. 

We pulled into a layby, wheel off, another tube in.  Simon came back to see what on earth we were doing.  We were nearly ready to head, so he started moving, and - BANG.  Still nothing in the tube and no obvious problems with the rim or spokes, but we were running out of tubes and it didn't look like this was fixable.  And it was 3.45am and we were on a road somewhere near Rainham.  By an amazing coincidence, a taxi came past, light off and obviously going home, but pulled in when I flagged him down, and despite being on his way home (and in trouble already for being late!) agreed to drop Kevin off at Rainham station to wait for the first train of the day.  What a fabulous chap.

After that, it was a quick sprint for Thurrock services, where we learned that all was not entirely okay.  One rider had gone into the back of another and there had been a bit of a pile-up, with a rider called Andrew at the bottom of said pile up.  He'd landed on his elbow and had seemed okay at first, but at the services went into shock and may have chipped his elbow.  Ouch.  Paramedics attended, and he, his bike and The Other Tandem's Stoker (who knows him from work) headed off towards home.

After the stop is the rather nicer part of the ride, where we eventually get out of the last sprawl of London and into something approaching countryside.  Just before Mucking (on Butts Lane, fnark) there was another flat, this time a double-flattie effort from Topcat, and so C, kimble and I stopped to wait.  By the time it was all repaired and we were heading, we'd all forgotten the route, and ended up taking a slight shortcut.  Adrian explains it thusly:

From Stanford-Le-Hope they went ENE to Coringham then turned NWN to Fobbing and the seven dials roundabout before Vange, effectively doing two sides of a triangle. We took a much more direct route between Stanford-Le Hope and the roundabout. Because they were riding steadily so we could catch up, and we were riding more briskly to catch up, we more than made up the time loss from the Topcat double deflation, and ended up in front. 

By the time we worked out what had happened, we were only 10km from breakfast, so we agreed to meet everyone else at the cafe.  I rather like this bit of the ride - riding along by the estuary you can see the sea and if the wind isn't against you, zip along.  In a smaller group C & I were able to play silly buggers on the tandem and sprint along the coast road (42kph on the flat) before arriving at a giant breakfast.

By this time my bodyclock was starting to object to the combined early Friday start and being awake all night, and as soon as I'd got the right side of a full English breakfast, I was starting to nod off.  Charlotte, kimble , Rachael and I made a bid for London.  The trains from Southend Victoria are off duty from Romford, so we went to Southend Central and on to Fenchurch Street.  Rachael was now riding the tandem solo, her stoker having gone back with an injured Andrew, so we had two tandems plus a solo on board, blocking the vestibule.  Fortunately the train wasn't busy, but we were suggesting to people that they should use the other doors (for their convenience, I didn't give a stuff if they wanted to cram themselves in with us), which caused an early morning Special Brew drinker to try to pick a fight on the way out (I think he thought we were demanding exclusive use of the carriage, rather than trying not to get in everyone's way.  This is what early morning Special Brew does to the brain).  I'd have ignored him, personally, but C saw his game and raised it, and eventually he came out with "And I bet you vote Conservative!" - ooh, wounding.

Back to Ealing via an unsuccessful trip to Chiswick to the phone shop, and one fried egg sandwich later I couldn't keep my eyes open and went for a short nap.  The sort of short nap that turned into four hours deep sleep and meant I missed kimble leaving for the Midlands - sorry!  Next time I do one of these I will try not to be in Manchester the previous day, and then my body clock might be slightly less like the Dali melting clock...

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Gosh! Sounds like fun and torture, all in one! ;)

Hope you had fun despite the lack of sleep, and hope the guy with the elbow is okay!

why on earth did I have a HUGE case of Bike envy when I read this blog?

apart from the eggsy sammich is all sounds so wonderful.

I'm obviously ill

* flounces off sadly *

Because the idea of riding through the night, with a full moon above, no traffic and quiet apart from the whoosh of wheels on tarmac, sounds so appealing? :)

Yeah, and then you get a ride like last night :)

Awesome.

Tim: Now I remember why I find the idea of night rides worrying. If you can't lock the bike up where you are, grab a KFC and a taxi to the nearest tube station, then it starts to make me nervous.

*resolves to conquer fears*

Thank goodness for tandem solidarity

I have to say it was greatly appreciated when you guys took me back to Hyde Park in convoy. I looked sad and lonely enough as a lone person on a tandem but being lost in central London as well would have been too much to bear...

And I did wonder how you guys got to the cafe before me.

Thanks!

(Anonymous)
Hey Julian.

Thanks for pulling TEC duties on the night. Sorry I didn't get a chance to catch up with you and Charlotte. Literally, as it turns out, towards the end :)

Hope to see you soon.

Andy (on the Furai).

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