Every year, the Isle of Wight hosts a cycling event which circumnavigates the island. As many of my friends in the various cycling groups I belong to were taking part in this event this year, it was only natural to join them on this unique free event. There were two routes: a 55 km and 100 km route. I thought I would do the longer route since I was still in the early stages of being acclimatized to long distances in the saddle.
After my long cycle from London to Cambridge to King’s Lynn, I would use the trip to put my new gear and methods in practice: bringing minimal kit that fit inside a small backpack:
In the early hours on the Saturday I took a train from Manchester Piccadilly to London Euston and set off from there down to Southampton for the ferry across to the Isle of Wight at about 9:30AM. The ride down took me through a sequence of small towns before arriving in Winchester and then Southampton not long thereafter. The route was more or less direct, taking some A roads and mostly B roads connecting these towns. A particularly nice route was an off-shoot out of Bentley coming to Binstead on a lane called “The Street”. Indeed, The Street offered perhaps the best combination of gentle rolling hills with little or no traffic all the way to Alton. In total around 30 min of uninterrupted smooth riding.
After arriving in Southampton at around 5PM, I set course straight to the ferry terminal and to my surprise my friend Daniel Diaz was also waiting for the Red Funnel ferry. We had a nice chat waiting and then onboard before bidding each other farewell for the night as I retired to the booked Airbnb.
The Airbnb host was a very nice man of about 73 years named George and he was also set to do the 100km route as well; we set off together with another guest of his who came in from Poland to ride the 55km route. After registering at the East Cowes start point, we met and chatted with some members of the London Brompton Club who were there for the tour as well!
The weather was low for most of the day, with rain expected in around 2PM. Conscious of this, I set off ahead of the others as soon as we could. The route was actually unexpectedly hilly mostly with checkpoints every 10 miles (16km). These made for evenly spaced rest stops which forced the riders to pace themselves better. George and I rode for a few checkpoints until I eventually carried on at a pace he didn't ride at.
We eventually formed a group with my friends Graham Parks and Alex Ooi (from the FW club) and carried on at an even pace. Rain set in near the Yarmouth checkpoint and I retreated inside the primary school for refreshments to wait the worst of it out.
Riding consistently and, in some sections, with a gentle tailwind, I was able to make it to the last checkpoint at East Cowes for 3:30PM in the afternoon. The others came in not long prior and we all planted ourselves in a pizza shop for a well deserved delicious pie. In all my experience of the day was an excellent one and this FREE cycling event gets my highest recommendation for anybody who enjoys a good route at your own pace with the banter of hundreds of other riders throughout the tour.
Solid 10/10 weekend.