By tandem to Box Hill

(From Bryony)

This weekend Iain’s friend Rupert was staying over – he’d cycled over from Reigate to accompany Iain on a couple of training rides. On Saturday we went out to Richmond Park for a very wet early morning ride and spent the rest of the day drying out our cycling gear by draping it all round the house.

On Sunday, Rupert was due to ride back to Reigate and Iain was due to train, although definite plans had not been made. Sunday morning’s insane thunderstorm made a decision for them about anything early morning, so when it cleared, Iain decided to cycle over to Reigate with Rupert as a training run. He suggested I come too on the tandem and we head up Box Hill on the way there. This sounded like a good idea and we got ready. There was just time for a spot of arc welding (and botching bits off the old tandem to see if they’d fit on the new one) and we headed off.

Both Rupert and I felt our legs were in need of a warm up as we cycled south through Surbiton and Chessington, but by the time we got to Leatherhead we were all warmed up and ready to go. We followed the main road down to Ryka’s caff, noticing what looked like a cycling accident on the northbound cycle lane being attended by an ambulance and police car. Hope it wasn’t too serious. Rupert’s style of riding is to go very fast for as long as he can, then recover, so it wasn’t until we were on the southbound cycle lane of this road that we were able to ride alongside him. We quickly had to stop this though as the left-hand side was really too overgrown, and Iain wasn’t quite quick enough at warning me of overhanging brambles. I have no problem being stoker if he doesn’t duck, but if he does without warning, I get them in the face!

I’d only been up Box Hill once before, on my road bike, and it seemed to take ages, as I had no idea when the top was coming. This time, I knew what to expect. Rupert set off at a fast pace but quickly settled into a steady speed and we sailed past with Iain doing most of the pedal work (well he’s the one in need of training! I was helping!) and got into a rhythm. The sun was out by now and as we came out of the treelined first zig and onto the grassy-banked zag, the steam from the early morning rainfall was rising and it was pretty muggy. We took each corner wide to avoid being squeezed by overtaking cars, and all the club riders who overtook us were friendly and said hello (different to when I was slogging up on my own last time!)

The tandem is a hybrid one with fat tyres, and not enough gears to go really fast downhill. Iain had changed his pedals and was clipped in for this ride, so definitely had more power than me on the flat and on hills. When we were going really fast, my feet slipped off the pedals a lot, and I’ll be picking up another pair of half and halfs from Putney Cycles before our next outing. Iain will be pleased too, as I’ll be able to work harder if I’m clipped in as well.

We reached the final bend and were able to look across to Rupert coming up the other side of it, and hit the cafe in beautiful sunshine. 2 coffee and walnut cakes and a slab of fruit and nut chocolate brownie were consumed in short order, along with several beers and cups of tea. The sunshine was so lovely that we weren’t in any hurry to go anywhere else and we ended up sitting there for a couple of hours. Entertainment came from a Lancaster flying right overhead at one point, and Iain having a chat with another cyclist wearing last year’s Marmotte jersey – turned out Iain had beaten him in the 2007 Etape as well. Iain took Rupert for a go on the tandem, and they had a successful run along the top of the hill and back.

Finally all the refreshments were consumed and it was time to set off. We decided not to go on to Reigate with Rupert and set off in opposite directions. The trip down the hill was amazing! I flung both arms in the air and yelled ‘Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeee!’ (mainly to get us some space from the car behind, which worked). Sailing out from the treelined first bend and into the sunlight at about 30mph with that fabulous view was brilliant fun. We took it very slow on the corners going down, as there were lots of cars in front of us and coming up the hill and we weren’t taking any risks.

We came back through Mickleham and back onto the main road, where we found a parallel path the sunny side of the hedge to lead us back into Leatherhead. The Hook road was way quicker on the return trip, and we managed to set off a smiley face on one of the speed signs by passing it at 20mph. We did hit more than 30 on a couple of stretches of the Hook road though – I definitely need clippy pedals if we’re going to keep that up!

A quick trip to Sainsbury’s for dinner was fitted in, with Iain dropping me off and picking me up at the respective ‘drop off’ and ‘collection’ points in their car park. 28.5 miles done, and 2 hours of unexpected sunshine. All Sundays should be like this.

Iain adds: It was great fun, really enjoyed the day too. That Lancaster flew right overhead btw, was fantastic – I wonder if it was using Box Hill as a navigation point?

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