This was the first long bike ride I did on my new bike – a Giant Defy 2.5 road bike. Having recently cycled from London to Eastbourne, as part of training for my cross-Britain epic this summer, I was keen to do another ride across the hill Kent Weald, and to repeat the first hill, with its gentle climb followed by a dramatic 15% drop off the edge of the North Downs.
The route started at Orpington, in order to avoid a tedious two-hour section through London, and went via Tunbridge Wells and part of National Route 18. The section through Bedgebury Forest was on forest tracks, the rest was generally on quiet roads. I didn’t take a map, instead programming the route into my Garmin, which gave accurate turn-based directions all the way to Rye. The route was certainly hilly – with two large hills at the beginning and five small ones, including three in quick succession just west of Tunbridge Wells. The weather was warm with light clouds, but brooding thunderclouds were in the English Channel and they brought some rain for the final third of the route. I cycled it with Anna – who has been doing some serious training recently as she beat me up almost all the hills – and Iain, who accompanied us as far as Tunbridge Wells.
Rye was very nice, even in the pouring rain. Its cobbled streets were certainly not suitable for cycling around, so we pushed the bikes around and explored Mermaid Street and the other ancient, pretty streets in the village. Certainly if we had had more time, and the weather had been nicer, then a stop in one of the Ye Olde pubs with their beer gardens would have been nice. As it was, we had a train to catch and it was starting to get dark, so we headed back to London – it’s nearly two hours on the train to get back, so I was quite pleased we had cycled the 101km route in just over 5 hours, plus 2 hours of breaks.