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Recapping a bike ride around the Isle of Wight. Part one of two...
It might be you feel this post is about a bike. Although the Brompton folding bicycle features heavily, this post is mostly about two friends who’ve known each other for over 20 years. Who thought a bike ride would be a good way to catch up and share an adventure.
Me and my friend Phil live on different continents. Normally we get to hang out with the Hells Nerds during the eagerly anticipated, almost annual rides in the United States. And we managed just that earlier this year in California. But as a bonus catchup we decided as Phil would be over to see family, perhaps we’d go for a winter bike ride. Although Phil does race cars and motorbikes in the states, we are here as riders not racers. Vélo-flâneurs, taking a holiday from society, while also observing it.
I suggested we do this trip on Bromptons because you can’t always get larger bikes onto public transport. With limited time we’d need to do that to get to where we wanted to ride. Also, if the weather changed dramatically we could jump on a bus, boat, seaplane, hovercraft or train. Continuing on in style.
These compact and quirky machines are also fun. A unique piece of British design and engineering that hasn’t changed much since Andrew Ritchie invented it in the 70’s.
Plus a trip with challenges is an adventure right?
Thankfully Phil was up for the challenge and on arriving in London, he popped to a Brompton Dock and hired one for £5/day. This sounded to me like an introductory offer to get you addicted, but it seems that £5 is the standard rate everywhere for these bikes.
Looking at what other rental services offer, a fiver a day to go where you want with no restrictions is a bargain.
Meanwhile at my house I was making final preparations to my own bike. The S3L-X The one bike I’ve owned longer than any other.
We met at Waterloo station and took a train south. A few hours later, with bikes at our feet, we were sat on the ferry to the Isle of Wight. Why there? I’d never been and it looked like somewhere you could get a handle on in a few days.
There was no hurry as we disembarked and unfolded our bikes. We only had a 15km pedal to an Inn we’d booked further round the coast.
From the off, the route took us down a wooded track flanked by water. Low flying swans skimmed the surface and we were all smiles down minor roads, then up and along hilly cliff sides.
It was the first time I’d felt I needed more gears on my Brompton. Three is enough back home in Cambridgeshire. But these were bonafide hills and over the next few days I’d be reminded that Brompton had a six geared option. Something I’d pine for.
Phil has some serious bikes back in America, but this was his first time riding one of these. He seemed to be having fun at the same time as taking the piss out of its little wheels.
The weather was amazing, and our choice of clothing seemed to have worked. Phil was in wool cycling trousers and I was in stretchy jeans designed for outdoor sports. I’m sure you get more eye contact when not wearing lycra. And it’s nice to meet people along the road.
A pristine sky, cold air, frosty ground, and finally a downhill to the Three Bishops Pub.
We checked in and while waiting for our beds to be made up, they added a complimentary breakfast and poured us an ale. Stood at the bar, I chatted to David Icke’s plumber, Jason. Icke is a resident of the Island. As is Benedict Cumberbatch.
Once settled in, the evening finished with pies, wine, pudding and conversation.
This was the only accommodation I had booked, so we needed to think about where we might end up the following day. One of the benefits of travelling off season is that there should be plenty of options when it comes to finding a bed. Even for last minute planners looking at phone maps over a bottle of wine.
This was a tough day. Glad we had a massive veggie brekkie to power us though.
The ride into Ryde will be remembered for a long while. 46km is not a hard ask on a road bike, but my fen legs struggled. (People who live on or around the low lying Fens are not used to any kind of hill climb.)
Again, three gears felt one too few. There are so many instances when four gears would have done the job. Six would have been perfect. Luckily we had all the time in the world for slow going. Just as well. Landslides had us climbing cliffs to bypass impassible costal paths. Sweating up and coasting down. But with red squirrels in the trees and hawks in the air, it was more fun than it sounds.
If Phil was struggling it didn’t show. But with jelly legs I was pleased to roll in to Ryde and check in to the Dorset Hotel.
Cheap, basic and friendly, we dumped our bags and bikes, washed and headed out to eat our body weight in Chinese food. I then got talked into watching the Holland/Argentina World Cup game with mulled wine and Guinness. Phil is big into football but I only watch international games. This was a good one.
Back at the room the heating was off but I risked washing an undershirt and shorts. The weather so far had been amazing but there was talk of a cold front coming in. As we retired to our overly soft beds, we discussed the possibility of making it to the ferry the following day.
Thanks for reading so far. In order for this to appear in your inbox without cropping, I will post the last two days in the next email.
Please feel free to comment, like, share etc. The next instalment will be along soon.
See you out there.