Tandem Trials and Tribulations by Paul Coan
About two months ago I received a phone call from the Merton Sports and Social Club, an organisation which assists the blind and visually impaired, asking if I would join in a tandem ride to Eastbourne, based on a Saturday overnight stay. I agreed, although the date was the same as our Rouen friends' visit to us, based on whether my usual stoker, Kathy Young, was prepared to push me down there.
Upon arrival at the centre in Colliers Wood I found about six other tandems in various stages of adjustment to accommodate the various captains and stokers. No route had really been established. Just after 9.00 am we all set off via Sutton to collect one further tandem couple and made our way via Coulsdon and over the Farthing Downs. Kathy and I stopped here at around 10.00 am to await the others at Chaldon cross road.
Approaching 10.30 am some other teams drifted up and explained that one tandem had suffered a bad puncture and had no spare tube. Following a minor discussion about world problems and cricket scores and an unsuccessful repair, everyone now diverted to Redhill to obtain a new tube. It was now mid day before everyone had managed to re assemble, check cricket scores once again and catch up on more recent world news. Off we headed towards Bletchingley to congregate again, and head off for Dormansland via Lingfield.
Kathy and I set off on our own at this point, advising that we would make our own way to Eastbourne. A quick refreshment stop at Lingfield and we continued via Holtye where Kathy's mobile phone rang to advise that the others had just reached Lingfield. On we pressed to Hartfield for food and drink from the village store, prior to the long haul over the Ashdown Forest. My roll was barely edible owing to the bread tasting of reconstituted polyfilla and cardboard.
The time was now around 2.30 pm when we set off. Those who know what a grind the Ashdown Forest is on a solo can imagine what a draining experience lugging a loaded tandem is. As we approached Fairwarp and the choice of routes now on offer to continue our ride, I told Kathy that as time was now getting on we would continue on the A22 unless it was too busy or dangerous, rather than start planning a route. Continual starting and stopping on a tandem is a real pain and dragging it over any real hills can be a real struggle. In the event the road was not too busy, well surfaced and, equally importantly, well graded.
We arrived at Eastbourne around 5.00pm, fortunately with not only the name of the hotel but also the address, as the Tourist Information Office, although closed, had a list of hotels posted in the window but not showing ours!! Fortunately a street map indicated a 5 minute walk with the bike so we checked in at around 5.30 pm. An hour later we were back down in reception drinking the bar dry.
The others arrived around 8.00 pm and after their attempt to drink the bar dry and after various false starts to find a restaurant, at 10.00 pm three taxis arrived to drive us a 3 minute walk away to a burger type eatery where owing to a mixture of tiredness and being slightly beer logged I was defeated by my plate of food.
Following breakfast next morning, people were still milling around the bikes after 10.00 am so Kathy and I set off on our own via Hailsham to avoid the A22. In Hailsham we became completely lost ending up heading towards Pevensey. On re-entering the town centre the others were to be seen checking their map. Enough - we joined the A22 again and retraced to Hartfield for a pub lunch, spotting VP Neville Chanin with a large group near Duddleswell descending the other way.
Next stop Edenbridge for a drink and quick bite how this town has changed now, with its own bypass and much residential development. Through Merle Common and up through Tandridge I took the left fork to the A25 missing my link to Tandridge Hill and Warlingham and instead was now obliged to use the Caterham bypass. For reasons of safety we used the laughingly signed cycle path and returned to my house via Purley at around 4.00 pm.
This now would allow me to join our Rouen friends for their evening meal. After a wind down and change I offered Kathy a lift back to her home. Not possible her house keys were left at Colliers Wood and we would have to wait for the return of Roy, her partner. A phone call to establish the whereabouts of the others informed us that at various points they had all returned by train. Roy would be back at Colliers Wood around 7.30 pm! I duly dropped Kathy off at Colliers Wood with Roy and decided to forget the evening meal, explaining to Philippe Simon from Rouen by e mail the unfortunate reason.
On hanging up the tandem in the garage and giving it a quick check I noticed that a spoke had broken in the back wheel, requiring a good push to get it past the brake blocks how long had it been like that, I wondered..........
Rouen’s Visit to East Surrey DA by Keith Wawman
On the morning of Saturday September 10th I travelled by train to Newhaven for the 11 o'clock ferry's arrival from Dieppe to meet our friends from Rouen, arranged with Robert Bellini.
Philippe, Pierre, Mare and Christian decided to cycle to Coulsdon, so I sent them the best route through the lanes (after looking at my large scale map). I travelled in Phlippe's car to guide them to Coulsdon, stopping for lunch at the Five Bells at Chailey, making checks from time to time that the riders were on the route shown. They did well to arrive by 5 pm at the Memorial Park Coulsdon, where we sorted out hosts for the weekend two couples stopping at Purley Cross Hotel (pre booked), Robert and Georgette Bellini with Roger and Wendy at Ewell, Philippe Popili with Mike at New Malden, Pierre Murvil at Old Coulsdon, Christian Descottes and myself with Marilyn and Keith at Purley. (Surprising how far we were all spread out over Surrey.)
Sunday morning we all met up at Coulsdon at 9 am, all arriving promptly with their hosts for the 80km ride. Roger Smith was only able to ride with us part way as he had to fly to a meeting. We started off with 19 riding over Farthing Down. We made our way to Henfold Lakes just in time to meet the club run leaving, our ride arrived a bit late due to a puncture we also managed to stop and look at the progress of a Surrey League circuit race.
The ride to lunch at the Cricketers at Ockley was quite eventful Mike Bedford had a rear blow out the tyre was a write off. Luckily Pierre had a fold-up replacement. Roger went flying back to hand over. In the meantime we discovered that Phlippe was missing??? We continued on to lunch hoping he was with Mike and Mo, but he was not so Keith Butler abandoned his bike, got in the car to try and find him, unsuccessfully. A very big thank you to Keith for this noble effort for he not only didn't get a ride, but had to have lunch on his own!
But we did all find George, the much photographed fish in the Cricketers' pond. Keith made a decision due to time and threatening weather to go straight to Brockham to have tea with the vicar unfortunately this meant cutting out a quick look at Denbys Vineyard. Our French friends were most impressed with the assortment of cakes at Brockham some were bought and taken back to France. Still our misssing rider did not turn up.
Well, we all kept together via the lanes back to Coulsdon where we did find our missing rider Philippe waiting. He said he had a lone ride and had lunch in a pub in Dorking wow was I pleased.
Sunday evening we all proceeded to the Travellers Rest at Chipstead for a meal where 22 sat down together. The party now included Sue Pennington and Wendy. During the meal I made a small presentation to Robert the Rouen Club organiser, Andre (85) the least young, Philippe the most unlucky for going off route, Nichole the only French lady, and to Sue so nice to see her she was a great help with the menu translation! I musn't forget the two non cycling ladies they had a good day's shopping in Epsom with Wendy.
Monday morning all met up at Coulsdon for final farewells the same four riding back to Newhaven, accompanied part way with Mike Sutton. All the others travelled with cycles in cars. Another good Entente Cordiale weekend over. And was I pleased it all went so well. The next day I received an email all enjoyed this weekend.
P.S. Next year you must all try and visit Rouen.
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