Amazing night, ace route. Thanks guys!
It started relatively mundanely, compared to what was to follow, getting out of London directly. The feeling that we were doing something different started when we passed through the towns with the 11pm drunk shouty people doing what is normal to most. The cycle paths that followed felt new. Then it really started to feel like something special was coming around the crossing of the Medway with long quiet dark lanes and views from the new elevation to the south which continued as we hugged the side of the hill that makes part of Pilgrims Way.
There was one very short section of steep downhill with deep loose stoney gravel which you'd need to be very lucky to make it down, but otherwise everything else was rideable. Very close to the limits of fixed on 25s though. Some lovely pre-dawn lanes followed which we reckoned would also be great in the day, but without any cars. Lots of pub options at the regular little intersections with my favourite pub name being The Dirty Habit.
With all the climbing finally done we stopped for some finely brewed coffee while watching the new moon/light rise from the east.
It was flat and misty through twilight and more lanes and awesome light onwards to Romney Marshes before heading more south west with the destination finally dead ahead, along some beautiful narrow cycle paths. I realised John's tourist pic of the beach was not misleading as we arrived with the low sun. The tide was way out so we could easily walk to the middle to be surrounded by the vast expanse of sand to enjoy a can of JD and coke. We needed supplies though. So decided to head on, heads down to Rye before the toughest climb of the ride when we were at our most depleted. At that point, on fixed gear bikes, it was fucking hard. But at least Hastings' offerings of cheap beer were plentiful and close by after that, and made for a super relaxing time in the warm sun on the beach.
My memory of the whole trip feels like that was only half way, with the train and more beer and chat back in London being what makes these rides. So grateful to be able to have these opportunities.
Glad after all this time I finally made it to Camber Sands.
The last few years leading rides I have at times felt like a bus driver. Going somewhere on a route I didn't know was the perfect way to close off my distance riding in this country.
The reason for lighting out directly down through Dartford was to avoid all those lumps behind south London prior to hitting the unknown section after the Medway.
I was suprised how useful the paths along the motorway were. Mostly fine and quick but I'd recommend leaving early if you wanted to ride this in the day. For full-on countryside prior to the Medway you could follow the first half of the Herne Bay route to the M2 bridge.
Three of us, all with the route plugged in meant the last few hours I could happily trail along. The density of the fog down by the coast was something I'd never seen before in the UK and the fight between it and the sun rising behind us was truely magical.
Fixed on 25c was equally exhilarating and terrifying on some parts of the Pilgrims Trail with a few bumpy climbs and heavily rutted descents. Most people would probably prefer gears and big tires.
All of the hills on the route were managable. The one before Hastings though, must be 'easy' on a road bike but absolutely not on fixed! Blasting down the otherside made it worthwhile though.
After that we had a picnic on the beach and a quick hassle free train back to town.
This is the best ride I have been on in a couple of years.
Good to hear that you could end in a high.
If I was still in London I’d definitely give that route a go.
It was nice to redo part of the route and recognise some spots again as I rode from Maidstone to Dover last Friday. Starting from Maidstone at 9pm I rode the Pilgrim's Way in the dusk rather than night and can confirm the views are very lovely and the gravel just as fun. Later on the view over the Folkestone Eurotunnel terminal was something to behold too.
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