Well I don’t know about you, but I book the day off and sneak off for some riding in the sunshine.
It seemed like the perfect opportunity to explore a new area I’ve been looking at. The North Downs had offered a good ride when I’d hit the Surrey hills and I was eyeing up the Eastern end of the ridge, which looked near enough for an escape without spending more time in the car than on the bike. I bought a route guide, as a shortcut for finding the best stuff, paid the Dartford Crossing charges and made the drive to Kent early on a Wednesday morning.
Just under an hour later I was in Meopham (mɛpəm, because I was confused too), I parked by the delightful village green, got ready, checked the early directions and swung onto the bike and up the first lane.
With a new guide book, and one from a publisher I’ve not used before it takes a ride or two to work out how the feel of the book fits with your view of a good ride. Sometimes the level of technicality is way out from what you want, sometimes the writer enjoys a brutal climb, or shies away from them. In this case I rapidly went from “this is a little tame” to “*%$£ me this guy is a sadist” as the ride went instantly from a cruisy sunken lane to a massively steep chalk climb. The book claimed it was slippery in the wet which I imagine is a massive understatement having ridden on ice-like wet chalk before.
This climb was followed all too soon by another brutal ascent as the ride jumped off and on the escarpment. As if I needed warming up in the high twenties heat this was doing the trick and I had sweat pouring off me. Everything calmed down for a bit as some time on the ridge then a road descent put me on some super singletrack for a few kilometres. There would be more steep climbs to tackle before the end, some time lost in the woods above a motorway and then some lanes and tracks back to the car. Much of the ride was in sunken lanes within a tunnel of trees, which wasno bad thing as the day heated up considerably
Overall there were perhaps one or two super fun descents, and for most of the ride I felt over-biked on a 140mm full susser. I have an inclination that the ride in reverse might be more fun, so that’s something to try in the near future. There is no doubt that the area looks like it has plenty of potential to justify the drive and expect more from here in the future.
With a full day off work it seemed a shame to waste the rest of it so, after lunch on the green, I braved the lorry-jammed Dartford Crossing and turned right to make up for any lacking technical riding on the 2012 Olympic track at Hadleigh Castle. There’s also no doubt that I had been inspired by watching the Rio Mountain Bike races.
It was hot on the estuary. With 37 km in my legs and temperatures reaching up towards 35degrees I was physically shaking after one brisk lap, although pleased to have gone back to riding all of the black lines on the first time of asking. I had to take a break in the shade before tackling another slower lap and the technical lines all over again. After satisfying myself that I could still do it I cut my hot losses and headed to the carpark to inhale all the drinks I could find.