A bit delayed, mostly because I forgot, but also because I've been ridiculously busy: last weekend, I joined in with the Friday Night Ride to the Coast clan again, this time for Manchester to Morecambe, largely on account of it being somewhat more convenient than any of them there London ones, but also because a YACFer passed away last year having had a heart attack on the Manchester-Morecambe last August, and I wanted to go along to pay my respects, as whilst I only vaguely knew him, I did remember him being extremely kind to my family and I years back following my dad's death.
Ahead of the ride I offered to do a 'ride-in' from Stockport to the city centre; one person took me up on it, and we met halfway from my house to the pre-meet meeting point of the pub on Piccadilly station - conveniently, he even suggested a spot very close to where I was planning to remove myself from the main road, so as to avoid cycling through Longsight on a Friday evening (which, for those who are fortunate enough not to know, is a free-for-all: motorists will stop suddenly and open their doors without looking in the mirrors, not even at the side of the road
; pedestrians emerge from behind parked cars wearing clothes not terribly suitable for lighting conditions, also without looking where they're going. Drivers will pull U-turns, without using their mirrors, and absolutely nobody except bus drivers treat traffic lights as anything more than an advisory. It is generally best avoided.)
After an hour or so in the pub eating chips and watching people arrive from various bits of the country, we negotiated the traffic of the city centre and headed to Albert Square, the start point of the ride, getting there at about 23:40. There was a short safety briefing about riding in groups and along unlit country lanes in the middle of the night, and then not long after midnight, we all saddled up and headed off into the night…
Apparently the road up to Bury - our first stop, for a moment of silence for Alan and laying flowers in his memory - was "a long uphill slog", though I can't say I really noticed. Which was a really nice thing, given I usually profess how much I abhor hills :)
We took a rest there and were warned about the long hill to follow; this was more noticeable, though not as difficult as I was expecting. Up to that point, I'd been in the very front group of riders; I did slip behind a little here, but was far from the last to the top. Almost as if all the cycling this year has actually helped me get fitter, or something ;)
At the top of the hill, there was a regrouping, and the phrase "Quick health and safety announcement. We have a steep descent now, with a 90 degree bend at the bottom… good luck." was uttered, to most people's amusement. This was one of the things that got texted to various friends and my mum who had asked for or who usually get/send me texts during their silly bike ride adventures; one of whom was damerell
, who texted me back to whit: "The great Jobst Brandt said to me once "you descend like a maniac" means "I could not match you". So it is praise when I say it, you descend like a maniac." My reply, to him and the others, was a simple: "Nailed it."
Of course, what wasn't mentioned (or perhaps it was and I was too busy texting to hear - more likely, if I'm honest) was how after the 90 degree bend, the road went directly uphill again, in the fashion that you can't use any speed you built up descending as momentum for climbing, so it's a tough job getting up there. I also nailed that, however :)
At the top of this third climb - and we're talking somewhere between 2-3am here, there was a pub in the middle of nowhere, with people outside it chattering away, one of them trying to control a large dog which I had initially thought was gunning for us cyclists - only to be informed later by one of the other riders that actually, it had its eyes on a wild roaming sheep who was being very daring and standing stock still on the other side of the road as if to say "I dare you!" to the hound. It definitely added something to the final push up the climb…
That one was more difficult. In fact, just as the person I was riding next to was saying "kimble
is fearsome on the downhills, but we all catch her up on the… oh." - she calmly and silently powered past us… on a recumbent.
By the top of the moors, we stopped for a longer rest and to admire the views, and then hammered down the main road to the middle-of-the-night stop in shape of a McDonalds, where I confused the staff by asking for hot apple pie rather than something… less vegetarian. I'm guessing they're not used to serving apple pies at 3am.
The ride was… bumpy, after that. Up but then down, up again, down again… all on pitch dark country lanes, often in silence, just enjoying the ride and quiet company. In Longridge, we regrouped, caught our breaths, did some casual astronomy, and made friends with a black cat who was quite
curious about happening upon 23 cyclists at 5am.
We hammered on, pausing again to regroup in Inglewhite, where I picked up another answer for the British Cycle Quest - incredibly, the planned route took us right past the location and when I emailed the ride leader ahead of time to say "soooo can we have a rest there so I can write down the answer?" his response was "actually, we usually pause there anyway…" (and all that despite not knowing of the BCQ!)
The next pause point was a short discussion over sticking to the route or following a coastal cycle path, which I ducked out of to hide behind a conveniently placed wall for a comfort break. Cue, as we saddled up again, my regular complaint following such breaks about how wonderful bib shorts are for comfort and warmth, and yet awful when it comes to a need to relieve oneself mid-ride, and more importantly my cycling wardrobe's awful lack of halter-neck shorts, a newish invention by dhb that make me go "why didn't I
think of that?!" and "why are dhb so damn expensive?!" - and they aren't too bad, compared to, say, Rapha, but still rather out of my price range, on the whole.
The group had decided that the coastal path was likely to be dry and not muddy, and thankfully were right, as that's the route we took from that point most of the way to Morecambe itself. The views across the bay to the fells in the Lakes as the sun rose above them were utterly stunning, and frankly, I would cycle all the way back to Morecambe again just for that view.
From there, we rode along the cyclepath to Morecambe, and the final kilometre of the ride along the promenade to the infamous Eric Morecambe statue, which I was informed I had to pose not just next to, but climbing on, for the "forumites on a statue" thread:
(Thankfully, it was not a con!)
The final 7.5km were ridden from Morecambe back into Lancaster, where I ate breakfast from a plate bigger than my face, and then sped off to the station to play bicycle jenga with kimble
(who showed me that, much to my amazement, it is possible to hang a recumbent up on the daft bicycle storage space on the old Virgin Voyager trains).
The journey back home from there was fairly non-eventful, despite a slightly antagonistic fellow passenger, who looked directly at me as we got on the train in Preston, before parking himself down on the quite uncomfortable fold-down seats positioned in the bicycle space, leading to the following conversation:
"'scuse me, please could I put my bike there?"
*grumbles unintelligibly, doesn't move*
"This *is* the bike space… and this is a bike. You're not a bike. Please can I put my bike there?"
*shuffles over one seat, grumbles unintelligibly again*
I put my bike in the bike space, strap it in, and take a seat on one of the nicer, vastly more comfortable seats opposite.
(And, an hour and a half later, this conversation:)
"Why can't people just RIDE their bikes anyway? They're not ACCESSORIES."
"Mate, YOU ride 120km through the middle of the night and then resist the urge to get a train home, I DARE YOU."
After that, it was… really quite peaceful. I slept the remaining 10 minutes into Manchester, cycled across the city centre, and then hopped on another train home, just about staying awake, walked in the house at about 2pm, and went to sleep on the sofa leaving my brother to explain to his friends what I'd been up to :)