Ride of the Falling Leaves

Ridden on 2 October 2005 - 107 km

Starting with a lap of the famous Herne Hill velodrome, this challenging ride through the North Downs is becoming a autumn classic.

I rode this on a beautiful day in early October 2005. After a slightly nervous circuit of the velodrome (not really confident enough to get on to the banking) it was out through the leafy grounds of Dulwich College and then surprisingly quickly onto quiet roads south of West Wickham.

A scary descent down a narrow, rutted lane took brought us out on a bridge across the M25 - while I dropped down with caution quite a few fellow riders seemed to think they were flying off Mont Ventoux, and the restricted visibility could have brought some serious grief.

From then on the route was mainly on lanes through the Surrey and Kent countryside, with a checkpoint of Westerham - not the greatest cafe stop, a working men's club where the catering ran to dry roasted peanuts and lumps of cheddar on sticks.

Climbing has its rewards

Then it was up over the North Downs with a couple of gratuitious extra climbs thrown in. Well worth the effort though for the glorious views and a reminder that even within the M25 there are some still some relatively unspoilt corners.

Fleeting historical interest was provided by passing Chartwell, Churchill's home, and Downe, the village of Charles Darwin.

With a good mix of abilities on the road, and a staggered start over one hour, there were always groups to latch onto which made for a sociable ride.

Back in Dulwich I signed in a time of 5 hours 23 for the 107 km course, which I was pretty pleased with as a mere commuter cyclist on a hilly course. The comfortable Dulwich Sports Club pavilion was a good spot to relax with a plate or three of pasta - provided as part of the entry fee in true European randonnee style.

There was a shorter course on offer at 80 km but following this would have turned the ride into too much of a surburban one for my liking.

This annual ride is a joint venture between the Dulwich Paragon club and Mosquito Bikes, based in Essex Road, Islington. Proceeds go to the Lavender Trust, a breast cancer charity. Click on the link at the right for information about this year's ride.