Usually my mind wanders aimlessly when riding, but today, while I span my way to Purbrook, desperately trying to loosen up my tight muscles, I was struck by the mood of anticipation.
So who is going to be there? I knew that most of the regulars would awake by now, either on their way, or preparing to leave, for the first race of the season. Checking and double checking that everything is packed properly, helmet, gloves, bottles. Pacing, clock watching, maybe nervous of that first race. “Have I done enough over the winter?” Anticipation.
Will anyone else turn up for the ride? Will anyone have heeded the weather man? The worst storms of the winter were forecast, but would that enough for anyone to ignore the sinking feeling that only an alarm on a Sunday morning can administer? We all wait for the rain to come, dark clouds off in the West, but a determined traitorous wind drawing them ever closer.
The roundabout is empty,
Even team colours are not that good camouflage, estoy solo…
I stretch awkwardly, casting my eye expectantly towards Widley. It’s early yet so I sit on the curb edge and count cars on the round about.
“ when it gets to fifty , I’ll go..” ( the fiftieth was a red Focus)
Pete YoungHusband rides past, a wave and he carries on, only to return a minute or so later.
We exchange greetings, I explain the route.
The minutes tick by, while I nervously eye Pete…” Sh*t he intends to make it just the two of us…”
My GPS tells me that 5515579062000 caesium cycles have passed (10 mins). We wait until twenty-to and then roll expectantly off.
I cast a last glance pleadingly towards the south as we start the ride.
Conversation strikes up northbound. Racing, the others, the clear weather.
“ Calm before the storm” says Pete.
I nod wisely.. Tell that to my legs in a few hours time. Pete recounts the story of his recent dooring, sporting a swollen, sore looking hand and hidden bruising; I might just be able to stay up then.
The bored, indolent mastiff by Denmead Mill, gruffly harks our approach. Pete has quite a distance on me, but I don’t care today, this is my route I will ride it at my own pace.
Off the back of the mill, the hornet buzz of the model car club assaults your ears as we round the corner, I suppose every one has their obsession, mine involves physically torturing myself most Sunday mornings..
The Bat and Ball and Broadhalfpenny Down, with all its cricketing history passes as I shift in my saddle in preparation for the first climb. The current performance in tests out in New Zealand embarrassing Richard Nyrens hallowed grounds.
Hyden woods are dark either side, it feels eerie this time of morning. Still and sheltered I notice the tiny green buds forming, waiting for the last of the frosts to pass. The first primroses are out, early, but adding a splash of colour to an otherwise rustic brown backdrop.
As we pass out of East Meon I notice something odd about Petes bike. Only on examination can you notice that his cranks are not at the usual 180’ degrees, his seem to sit around the 150’ degree mark. They look strange, and obviously bother him less than they do me.. How strong do you have to be where you could be missing about 30’ of your stroke? He explains that his bottom bracket is beyond repair. A Cannondale Si so too expensive to repair, but as it’s a sponsors bike he is going to leave it for now.
I look down to check my new carbon cranks. A square taper, I think I would notice don’t you?
We turn left up the steep lane that creates the butt crack between two rounded hills.
Pete is over the top when I am caught by another rider. He starts talking to me,. I keep my excuses in hand.
“ How long you been out?”
Route details exchange while I admire his ‘Fame’ like woolly socks.( honest… he had a massive pair of woolly socks on the outside of his tights)
They miss my sneaky turn off just before Froxfield. A small friendly white dog runs alongside us as Pete drags us up the gentle rise. He follows us for around half a mile. Daft thing… now a cat would have taken one look and probably think….
“ hmm that looks like he is in 53×14, and is that last years shimano derailleur? …..”
Our friend dances off right to return home via Steep. We pass the Trooper Pub, and plummet the 1.3 miles descent to the little Saxon church at the bottom of Priors Dean.
A left turn followed by a right continues our northwards heading. A steady narrow climb, the road dark and green. The sun stirring and breaking through the trees, casting a zebra like shadow, over the top we burn off the height we just gained and start a similar climb, this time towards Newton Valance. The Yew tree by the church is supposedly over 1000 years old. Beside it is the grave of Colonel Phayve, one of the signatories to the death warrant of Charles I.
The descent is cut short by a right hand turn, onto new roads. I wasn’t disappointed, smooth; fast lanes lead us to Selbourne where Gilbert White lived and meticulously catalogued the fauna of the area. His museum also pays homage to Lawrence Oates ( I’m just nipping out for a minute)
A friendly BMW allows me room to join the busy road as I latch onto Petes wheel. A left turn followed by an excellent descent brings us to Blackmoor. If you are here in October you can enjoy the villages apple tasting festival. A long straight road with a tailwind gives us time to ride side by side, Pete examines his battered hand, a deep cut and yellow swelling, I am surprised he can even shift gear.
I feel agoraphobic on a short section of main A road as we turn towards Greatham. The head wind cuts any conversation as I glue myself to Petes wheel, I am sure that he barely notices his metronomic rhythm unfairly churning such a big gear. We swing left by the church towards Liss forest, passiing over the top of the empty A3 and onto a shady straight road takes us through to the village. We swing left again. Diving through these lanes you can’t help noticing the exclusive looking houses and grand properties. A short hill spits us out by Rake where, despite my calls, Pete misses the left fork that takes us along a lovely smooth lane, the woods fall away to our right. As we regroup a deer leaps across the road in a single bound in front of us. Pete and I look at each other not sure who was more startled, us or him.
The lane meets up with the Milland road and side by side we roll into the sleepy village. The sky is dark and heavy and as the air becomes thicker you can feel that rain is imminent.
We take the junction southwards, pass the tiny evangelical church that appears to have a disproportionate number of cars outside.
I am on the lookout for a junction…..

Queens enclosure…. It leads to Titty Hill!! I finally can put a place to the map.
Pete decides to turn for home and with a quick.. “I am going” he disappeared..
Estoy solo … rain threatening and twenty miles from home I grit my teeth and attack the sharp hill as it comes. The roll off the other side is technical, narrow, but reasonably surfaced. I turn the big ring,
“Hallelujah, my legs come out of hibernation and they respond, my hands hook the hoods, I drop my elbows to straighten my back, a smile rises.
A two mile descent, grinning like a wanking jap.
The beautiful village of Iping arrives. The narrow bridge slows me only momentarily. Iping appears in HG Wells story, ‘The Invisible Man’, which begins when the bandaged invisible man comes to Iping looking for accommodation.
I cross the A272 and despite the eye watering headwind manage to churn my dinner plate 53 towards Elstead. I swing off left towards Didling. Just as I notice fresh molehills, a downpour passes, too fast to bother with putting a shell on.
The South Downs are dark and the wind whips the low angry clouds along them. I hug the hedgerow trying to avoid the worst of the headwind, thinking of laminar flows and what the optimum distance from the leeward hedge would be to avoid the worst of it.
Treyford, Elstead decisions, decisions… Ditcham School, long Harting or short Harting.
I wuss out..Short Harting …If it was good enough for the 94 Tour, its good enough for me..
I grind my way up it, sheltered from the wind. I notice the weird stuff on the verge. A condom wrapper, a latex glove (!) an exhaust, a broken patio chair, an unopened packet of Ginseng sweets and a discarded flat cap. The tunnel ahead leads to the bright sun as I slump forward over my bars, a chav roars past, I shake my head.
The bright portal opens out as the wind hits you again. I have to pedal past Uppark.
In 1989 Uppark burnt down the two days before the end of a massive restoration project.
( )
Compton down marks a fault-line in the clouds. To the north Dark rain laden clouds , already dumping the Atlantic onto the weald. To the south, crisp broken sunshine, I hug the top tube as the long roll off disappears under my wheels. Sheep wool pennants flapping horizontally in the strong gale the trees restless and howling above me. Left towards Finchdean and a grateful White Hill appears.
Despite it innocent sounding name this little stinker always hurts my legs, last summer some joker scrawled ‘Nearly there’ at the top.
Two miles from home and a stinging hail storm arrives. I have to shield my face from the onslaught as my tyres make a strange crunching noise as they roll over the tiny pebbles and some errant escapees find their way down my neck. At least it bead blasts the mud off my frame.
A gentle rise by the brewery and I am on the home stretch. The hail had turned to a gentle drizzle but as I turn into my gravelled drive way, heavy drops chase me indoors.

Craigs List of Rain
1. Stinging horizontal rain. Eyes closed looking like you are squeezing a fart.
2. Rain that bounces off the road back up at you ( may also include road matter such as mud or cow sh*t from front wheel )
3. Ball bearing Hail.
4. Unable to make up its mind rain. Do I stop and put on a jacket or not?.
5. Just straight down that freezes the top of your head. Makes splashing sounds in puddles.( also known as ear ache rain)
6. Not actual rain, but more of a pathetic mist. But you still get soaked. And it stops you seeing anything through your glasses.
7. Infrared tracking radar rain. Special rain that seems to follow you around. It may look sunny over there, but this little cloud is going to follow you anyway.
8. Summer Rain. Warm and wet summer deluge that makes the roads smell funny, but brings out the primevalness in you to slam the hammer down.
9. Dirty rain. Mixes with farm effluent and road grit to create a very effective grinding paste, most suitable for trashing new shiny components, and wearing out brake blocks.
10. Purple rain: 1964 album by a short American twat.

(Apologies for the simile during the descent to Iping.. but I nearly wet myself laughing when I remembered it)


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