Bosom Will and I schemed that we would surprise Oscar with this adventure upon his arrival to London. All that was shared is the requirement that he brings his bicycle, nothing more. He presumed that we would take a leisurely (potentially cloudy) ride around the sights of the capital, he did not expect to smash his previous cycling distance record by almost 100km.
The morning of the ride we made sure that we treated the journey with respect and fuelled up at Look Mum No Hands with a hearty breakfast – a tradition for Bosom Bicycle Club adventures.
Understandably Oscar appeared nervous, however most of those nerves were founded in the mythology that cycling in central London will only result in serious injury or death. I hoped (and I continue to hope) that we helped to dispel those thoughts as we traversed East London.
Shortly after leaving the city limits the weather made good on its promise of rain. I found myself at the front of the group, questioning if this was at all sensible. I would consider myself fairly versed in riding in adverse conditions, mostly out of unrelenting stubbornness – but on this occasion I allowed the seeds of doubt to take root.
This was meant to be a fun introduction to long distance cycling with our Bosom's, not an arduous test of endurance.
Stopping to re-group we were all soaked through. I was prepared to sack it in at this point, surrendering to my preconceived notions that maybe this was a failed endeavour. However, despite lacking in any previous experience or expensive cycling gear, Oscar was still keen with his curious optimism very much still intact.
I was ashamed by my lack of faith and readiness to submit. Oscar was, through no fault of his own, unprepared for this ride yet he was ready to push on, with only his good vibes to protect him from the elements.
Buoyed by this enthusiasm we continued through The pretty lanes of the Essex countryside. Stopping often for refreshments to reward our commitment to the task at hand.
At this point we were all in good spirits, everyone was feeling (relatively) fresh and – as if broken by our refusal to give in – the weather turned to become much more favourable.
We rolled through the kilometres using the time to catch up on our respective endeavours over the past months. The scale of the remaining distance only became apparent at a mid way 'refreshment' stop where a couple of colourful locals exclaimed at the enormity of our ride. Swift checks on Google Maps grounded the rumours that we were indeed only half way.
I had committed to ignoring my Garmin (Named Shelby) and tried to forget the distance. I diverted my attention to enjoying my environment and the company of our micro peloton. This was aided by the consistent wonder of the journey – I have travelled between London & Cambridge on many occasions but these were unknown roads.
I lost count of the picturesque villages, beautiful vistas and interesting characters that we met – all of which would have remained a mystery if we had taken the train or driven.
The only time I relented in my ignoring of Shelby was to notice that we were slowly but surely trickling closer to surpassing the magical century distance. Over 100km was a feat I was excited by, as it would be my first century this year. The fact that we were going to achieve one on a ride that was poorly planned and ill prepared for was incredible to me.
Sharing the news seemed to locate that often elusive 'second wind' as we all counted down the last few hundred metres. We were now on the final approach to Cambridge and I was starting to dust off memories of previous efforts around the city we had all lived in together.
The final few kilometres were easy – encouraged by the welcoming grass of Parkers Piece and the prospect of (another) cold beer.
Reaching 'Reality Checkpoint' – The name given to the lamp post in the centre of Parkers Piece – we each ceremoniously tapped the symbolic waypoint and collapsed, beer can in hand (which we had each carried with us from London), to reflect on our achievement.
Three friends, or 'Bosoms' had cycled over 100km to return one of our kin home on nothing more than a whim. This is why I love my bike. After decades it is still the door to unlimited adventure.
Tales of such journeys are often returned with easy comments as, 'you're mad,' or 'why didn't you take the train?' These are reactions of the un-initiated. I would encourage anyone to occasionally follow these 'silly ideas' and see where they go. Ours took three inexperienced cyclists on a journey none of us expected but now all of us will remember for years.
Words & Pictures — Jack Sadler