14 club riders travelled to and around the Isle of Wight this year. Tim Williams doesn’t remember much (for various reasons) but gives us a high level on what happened…
Having been on several memorable club rides in the past, just the mention of an Isle of Wight ride during a B-Ride was enough for me to volunteer to lead the organization of the next adventure. The island at the bottom of England has a special place in my heart having spent a lot of my childhood holidaying at my grandma’s house in Freshwater. Even the drive down through the New Forrest and approaching the Ferry at Lymington takes me back to my childhood and the journey that I did dozens of times sitting in the back of my parents’ car.
The only downside to this event in the past was having to leave at the crack of dawn and slog back again the same day (and usually in the same bib shorts) after having ridden a very sweaty 60 ish miles. The weather forecast for the weekend was looking fantastic so me and my ride buddy, Richard Jaros, had a master plan – drive down the day before and stay over so that we would feel invincible for the ride. What could possibly go wrong? This is where we decide to skip this part of the story and fast forward to the next morning…
I was sitting in a field in my pyjamas at 07:15 when the first text message came in: Where are you? The riders who had gallantly got up at 4am, loaded their cars, collected their passengers and made the 2hr+ journey down the country had started to arrive! But where were the organizers? Surely they would be standing at the entrance of the car park welcoming each car load of riders with a congratulating look on their faces? Richard and I had to work fast if we were going to start this ride properly. That was not too difficult, even after a few too many beers – as a regular cyclist you just fall into the automatic process that you go through each time you get yourself and your bike ready for a club ride. We were at the ferry terminal in less than 20 minutes, mainly because the campsite was pretty much next door!
‘I don’t think they noticed,’ I said to Richard after I’d got everyone where they needed to be prior to boarding the ferry. 13 RLSCC members each with a bicycle – apart from two hangovers, the IOW ride was off to a good start. So where is the missing rider, you may be thinking? Well, it’s quite normal to have late additions to an event like this and as our ferry was now fully booked, Parmjit had taken the earlier crossing. He was waiting with a big smile when he saw us rolling off the ferry in Yarmouth.
Before we knew it, we were off on a clockwise adventure around the island. There was a feeling of being somewhere special. The road surface was better than what we were used to and the surroundings felt different – like the hedgerows – are hedgerows on the Isle of Wight cut at a different height to those on the mainland? And this is when the riders start the familiar habit of riding alongside each other to say hello and how are you. There was a surprising (even a slightly scary) moment when Tim (the other Tim) greeted me and I thought that a lorry driver was saying hello out of his cab window! It was actually really tall Tim (who has a very long seatpost) cycling at a higher level! The two Tims laughed and for a moment I forgot about my deepening hangover. The next memorable moment was the chain bridge at Cowes. The rides in the past had always avoided this so I was curious to see it. I had honestly thought that it would be a flat raft that we pulled ourselves across on and oh how wrong I was! A small version of the mainland ferry without a top deck crossed what was basically a river. It cost £1 each! Before we know it, we were there. A steep ramp on the other side caught a lot of people out who had ridden onto the ferry in their big ring (including me).
The hangover was causing a real sweat and I was out of water already. As luck would have it, at the next junction there was a small shed on the other side of the road. ‘The little cow shed’ was like a mini ice cream parlour that sold anything dairy related. I filled my water bottle with an ice-cold full fat milk – which was really nice and just what I needed. Honestly, there is something really special about drinking a cool milk on your bike on a hot summer’s day – you should try it.
Joe (Hordyk) had been given the important job of organising lunch and this did not disappoint. At about 13:30 we stopped for lunch in Bembridge at a café called Framptons. Joe had found the perfect place as we could store all our bikes out the back and we had the outside area to ourselves. The sun was beating down and we asked if we could have the canopy pulled over. The waiter said that it was quite difficult to do as it required some climbing skills and this is where Marco (not known for his climbing…) climbed up onto the roof. Good job as we’d have been burnt to a crisp over lunch. We were on two tables. I found myself (maybe by chance) on the teetotals table. Watching the other table ‘cheers’ with their large lager shandies made me feel like I had made a good decision for a change. We knew things were going to get harder after lunch. A break before the climbs was always a good reason for having lunch but there was a bit of anxiety (well, I will admit it) about the climbs. Especially around Ventnor. Ventnor is on the South side of the island and described as the English Mediterranean and Mayfair by the Sea. It is built on steep slopes down to the sea. Writing about that now I don’t really remember the climbs so they can’t have been that bad, can they? I also don’t remember much about getting lost, but we did. And I thought that was it for a one-group ride as we got split into three groups. But we did get it back together, eventually.
Then there was the famous ‘mechanical’. Joe’s front tyre had a flat and it was one of those more serious problems with tubeless that put you off going tubeless (if you are not a tubeless person) and are not easy to fix. Luckily for Joe, there were many engineers to help. I took the long stop opportunity to have a good lie down in the grass. The mechanical made us miss our ferry but luckily that was not a problem. The most memorable thing about the last leg was the view. The Epic view on the Military Road on the south west of the island. 50mph and white cliffs bigger than you have ever seen – it was quite exhilarating. But big downs usually mean big ups and there were some long slogs still to do to get to Freshwater Bay. We were starting to flag and we had the help of an enduring Horacio (Hernandez Castan) to tow us a line.
I remember waiting for the ferry at Yarmouth. It was busy. Marco really wanted to swim in the sea at some point during the ride and this was his last chance. We watched him and I think he almost did but I was relieved that he didn’t as you don’t want to be swimming around in a busy harbour.
Back on the mainland and it was time for that well deserved celebratory drink at the Ferryman, the ferry terminal pub. This is the time to have a few beers (not the night before…). 63miles, 1.3km of climbing. Time for bed, I thought.
The route – with thanks to Paul Macey. Check it out and download it here https://www.strava.com/activities/5642726977
Thank you to Tim Williams for writing the report.