Posted on Thursday 6 April 2017 by Martin Hayman
It was Nick Bloom who introduced me to the delights of the Chilterns and beyond, into Oxfordshire, where some of England’s most picturesque villages are to be discovered.
When I first joined CTC I accompanied Nick and our American friend Rory Rhodes on several traditional and well-honed Audax rides here and elsewhere, and one year, to my surprise, placed mid-table in the AUK Tourist Competition (I did not know I was entered into it by default). In fact the first blog report I posted here was the Muswell Hills 200k event, which I found hard pounding.
Events moved on and in recent seasons I have preferred shorter, faster days out with the 4* gang. But this last winter illness prevented me from riding at all. My first return to a ride of any distance was at Nick’s invitation on the traditional Amersham—Waterperry out-and-back.
Nick, Linus, and I bunked off midweek from Marylebone station and enjoyed a glorious day of spring sunshine, lingering so long at table over a proper knife-and-fork lunch at Waterperry Gardens that I actually fell asleep. All was well for the bike, even on the day’s only climb, the steep ramp back up into Long Crendon — a location used in Midsomer Murders and many other screen productions, and looking picture-postcard perfect.
With 80 pain-free km covered, I was emboldened to try a club ride the following Sunday but still didn’t feel up to the 4* gang’s pace (even though Jon McColl billed it as a transitional ride for those wishing to get quicker), so opted for the 3* Heavenly Herts, Linus’s first ride lead for a long time. Something of a novelty in the calendar, this was described as a ride out through north London to discover gravel roads, byways, bridleways, and mud tracks at a less frantic pace.
Was I in for a shock!
With the addition of Roger Fretwell and a new young chap called Ian, we numbered 4. Linus led us out from our RV at Kentish Town station into Herts via quiet roads through Enfield, a pleasing outbound variant on the A1000 through Potter’s Bar (map here). Soon we engaged in the offroad gravel sections around Broxbourne. There are many of these extending west of Hertford to Essendon, and Linus had researched them very thoroughly, stringing together no fewer than 19. The battering, even on 42 mm tyres, was more severe than I expected. How come I thought heaving my steel banger round the gnarliest trails Herts had to offer would be easier than skimming along in the slipstream of the 4* roadies?
I put this to Jon afterwards, but he disabused me of the notion: A great ride today. 11 out as billed as an easier 4*. 90km run off at 25kph. Very tight group too. So here they all are, pictured at Megarry’s Tea Shop in Blackmore and looking just like roadies do. “I’ll be back” — vows the Man Who Wasn’t There!
Back in the bush, my exertions were not at an end. After a traditional pie-and-a-pint lunch at the Five Horseshoes in Little Berkhamsted, I opted to cut my ride short, not fancying any more gravel segments. Homeward bound on the A1000 I tagged on to a bunch of Islingtons and was soon lashing along in a double paceline, eventually surrendering to let them forge on. But they were never far off and eventually on the approach to Finchley my mad traffic skillz prevailed and I was first to pull up at the lights at Tally Ho! corner before peeling off for Temple Fortune. So ha!
As a return to the Sunday club run, it was pretty intense. And yes, by the time I got home to Kilburn, I was well and truly cream-crackered.