Giving it some Welly

That was the best yet!

Erik Richardson (good man) sorted out the freewheel and our new chain this morning, found a couple of broken spokes and re-shimmed the stoker’s seatpost so, this evening, after a pleasing meal consisting largely of pasta and garlic bread, we set off. Thorpe Bay, sea front, Wakering, Barling and home was the plan.

We reached in excess of 20 mph going past Southend Girls’ High School and turned towards the sea front and its oh-so-narrrow cycle lane. A few other good people were out on their irons (although of course these days most of them aren’t), the tide was in, the kite surfers were doing that, the sun was shining and the overpowering humidity of the earler part of the day had lifted a little. My one regret was not taking my cossie with me: Shoebury is one place where I feel that daytime skinny dipping would definitely be frowned upon.

A small amount of saddle adjustment took place near the coastguard station, from where we travelled to East Beach. On leaving, I tried something I can manage quite easily in my solo machine: I negotiated a fairly narrow gap designed for pedestrians.

After taking the thorn out of my finger and checking that the patch of blood on my right upper arm wasn’t getting any larger, we carried on and at a junction found that we couldn’t pedal backwards to get the right hand pedal to 2 o’clock. The chain had jumped off the front ring. It was only a short job to replace it, but we were watched carefuly by two rottweilers whose job it was to guard an ostentatious development which appears to be destined for the ownership of some nefarious member of the Southend underworld, possibly Councillor Kelly.

At this point a fairly fit- and serious-looking young man on a mountain bike went past as though he meant business so, once under way, I resolved that we would overtake him. As we rounded Cupid’s Corner we achieved a personal best: there were some squeaks of protest from behind me as we actually leaned over to take the corner! We were indeed gaining on the mountain biker rapidly but then he cheated and turned off towards Foulness Island. We carried on along Wakering High Street until the temptation to visit one of my old haunts got the better of me. The Adnams at the White Hart is as good as ever, but the barmaids are not a patch on Margaret and Pauline, who years ago would ensure that regulars received the best of drinks at the most reasonable prices.

From here we sped through Little Wakering and towards Barling, the sun now dipping towards the horizon. Again we reached 20 mph or more, but this time the protests from behind were because our cadence rate was too high. Mucking Hall Road was a delight, the corn still green but with a coppery tinge imparted entirely by the sun’s glow. I remarked absent mindedly “Isn’t this just gorgeous?” and Jan agreed enthusiastically that it was.

On this occasion we avoided the “rough stuff” bridleway which takes well over a mile from the journey but would give all 96 spokes a real testing, installed as they are on narrow wheels with positively emaciated tyres. Instead we kept to the road, which in itself is almost rough stuff, and made or way back towards Sutton Road and the metropolis of Southend.

Imagine our pleasure when we met two tandemists coming in the opposite direction. “Well hello!” I hollered, they returned the compliment, and were gone. I hope we meet them again soon and can compare notes.

It was a really good ride of 17.45 miles and thoroughly enjoyed by pilot and stoker alike. I feel quite confident now about tackling a day ride on excess of 50 miles, provided it’s not too hot and there are regular stops.

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