cycling in Surrey, Sussex, Hampshire and beyond…..

Memories from my first Isle of Wight Randonnee

There are lots of reasons why I haven’t done this ride before and all of them perfectly valid this time, such as having to get up too early and not liking having to travel before I get on my bike and of course the weather. But this year it had been nagging me all week after discussing it on last Sunday’s all day ride. So I checked out the route, the ferry timetable and, of course, the weather. Come Saturday evening I half pack, the forecast is bad. 6am Sunday morning I am awake and checking the forecast- it’s a bit better. Better book my ferry ticket and get going.

The drive down to Portsmouth was terrible – very heavy rain. At Portsmouth where do you park? That must have cost me 15 minutes. But I had paid for my ticket so onward and upward. My timing proved excellent as Clive was just coming off the platform as I was heading down to the ferry. Such a good feeling to find a friend who would show me the ropes.

The ferry journey was uneventful and we arrived in very light drizzle and had to cycle over the wet boards of Ryde pier to terra firma. Not pleasant. The ride up to the first check point was fine and the drizzle stopped; the forecast promised sun late morning and afternoon so this was going to be ok. But in the end we had less than an hour of sunshine.

Of the ride itself I have a collection of rather random memories:

  • Some kind local authority must have had lots of spare cash or else the roads were in such a bad condition that they just had to be repaired. We have never cycled on so much freshly laid tarmac. It was wonderful.
  • Yet, and it wasn’t until we were half way round that one of us dared raise the topic, neither of us had ever seen so many people at the side of the road mending punctures. It was pristine tarmac for heaven’s sake – how did they manage to get a puncture? It felt like a puncture was being repaired every 200m
  • The thick mist/fog. At one of the checkpoints as we were getting our cards stamped we were warned to take great care on the next descent – the police were warning of thick fog and to switch on your lights – if you had any!
  • And whilst we were there someone asked if there was any mechanical support on the ride (no) and then someone else said that there had been an accident just down the road, was there a doctor (also no, call an ambulance).  We saw no evidence of any accident when we cycled on a few minutes later.   I assume they must be sportive riders who pay for such back up.
  • Alas the fog did get really thick and you saw cyclists loom out of it as you caught up with them. Not many had lights.
  • The number of cars driving around in thick fog with no lights on.
  • The few cars who were trying to drive down the lanes against the flow of cyclists, most were very good humoured about it, one was clearly beginning to get annoyed.
  • The views – what views? The fog hid many of them, but the architecture of the island is certainly worth coming back for a second look. And the large number of bungalows.
  • The kindness of all the people manning the checkpoints and the food stops.
  • The riders with amazing bikes who were pushing them up the hills.
  • How well the route was signposted.
  • And finally the man who had hurt his knee and given himself sciatica as he had not ridden a bike for years but had decided to raise money by doing the ride. He was waiting for his wife plus Merc to get him home – but he had raised a huge amount of money.

We finished in good time, made our way down to the ferry and had three quarters of an hour to kill, time enough for a good cup of tea. .

Would I do it again? That’s a tough question. The weather would have to be better but that would mean many more riders and I am not sure I would enjoy that. I like the open road, climbing and descending at my own pace and then slowing to let the group reform. And yet that pristine tarmac was such a pleasure to ride on – it felt effortless. Perhaps a trip on a quiet weekend. Whatever –  roll on Sunday.

2 Comments
  1. Well done to everyone who went.

    I have done the ride 15 times and the need to keep up the scoring was probably the only reason I braved the elements again this year. The first time I went you could park easily in Gun Wharf Quay absolutely free on a Sunday for the Wight link ferry to Fishbourne. For the last few years I have gone round to the car park at Southsea which is now £12 for the whole day!!

    The weather conditions reported above are not exaggerated and it is hard to believe that there were 2000 riders on the route being in 50-100 m visibility a lot of the time.

    A puncture at Yarmouth after the off road bit and a penalty notice in the car park when I got back(which I am challenging) made up for an eventful day out.

  2. Well done Julian for braving the weather!

    Jo Lloyd, Don Gray and I made a call on Saturday morning not to go due to the forecast, having done it the last two years in relatively good weather.
    I was then disappointed, when I received an e-mail from a friend at around 6am on Sunday who’d stayed in Portsmouth, that he thought the worst of the bad weather had gone through. I think this was just wishful thinking, as later that evening, I received a text from Pat Defarn, which included the words “Wet Wet Wet” – I don’t think referring to the three of us that had chickened out.

    It is certainly a glorious ride in good weather, when the spring sunshine starts to warm you through as you glimpse the sea round the south side of the island.

    Looking forward to trying out the new road surfaces that my father-in-law was delighted to point out on our last visit, although still moaning that patches had been missed.

    I joined the half day Sunday ride with Peter Fenemore and Paul Gillingham, starting in rain and ending in sunshine – I didn’t regret the decision a bit.

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