[More photos on Flickr]
Ian was unfortunately unable to lead the ride after all, having suffered ‘bike problems’ at the last minute (see below). So Roger kindly took on the lead and managed to guide us round the delightful route that Ian had designed, only once consulting the map and being heard to say, ‘I think I know the way’!
On the train were Roger, Suzanne, Rob, Wilma and Joyce. Leon drove to join us with his recently acquired pale-blue Brompton folding bike, and Terry and Sue awaited the others at the café by the canal. So altogether we were eight.
The weather kept fine, alternating cloud and sun, and generally very warm. We cycled along the first section of the Chichester canal, along a main road and then on a track between the lakes and through North Mundham. We followed Sustrans Route 88 which I enjoyed very much as it involved extending an old familiar trail, making further paths available to cyclists. So exciting to explore new byways.
We reached Pagham harbour in record time (by 12.30) and as no one was hungry enough to stop for lunch we decided to continue to West Itchenor. There was a bit of a moment when waiting for Roger to do a recce, getting so involved in discussion about the riots and the appropriateness (or otherwise) of punishments handed out, that only Terry noticed Roger return and signal us onwards. So there was a general dispersal, with Leon and Joyce reluctant to leave the spot until sure that they weren’t leaving Roger behind. All sorted by a phone call (modern technology definitely has its moments) and eventually reunited.
So we arrived at West Itchenor rather hungry and found benches and a small concrete platform to sit and have our picnic overlooking the harbour. Sailing boats and launches as well as canoes were busy moving up and down and across the narrow waterway as we followed the progress of the tiny ferry. Rob had been pumping up his tyre regularly all morning. Now while we all ate lunch, Rob mended his puncture having found shards of flint wedged into his tyre.
Getting on the ferry was a slow process as it was extremely busy. So we had to await its second return when the boatman managed to carry and store 7 bicycles and Leon’s folded Brompton on his tiny vessel. Roger’s bike had to be held on for the brief journey over to the ‘far shore’ (about 300 yards actually). Wilma had not been here before and appeared astonished at the lack of pontoon or jetty as the boat crunched up the pebbles to unload us via a ‘gang plank’. Very wobbly experience for most of us and almost disastrous for Leon who unbalanced as he stood on the plank and, unwilling to let go of folding bike in one hand, or bag in the other, jumped off into the water, saving these precious items but soaking his socks and shoes. Nothing daunted.
On the way along the road to Bosham, Leon and Terry sought a place to have a swim but found the beaches all mud and grass. No way of reaching clear water without returning covered in mud! So we all ended up in the café at Bosham for a very welcome cup of tea and snack.
Roger managed to steer us up to the main road and off onto a safer cycle track which took us all safely back to Chichester. Thank you Ian and Roger for a very enjoyable day out.
‘Things Fall Apart’
It’s Saturday evening, between six and seven. I’ve been frantically busy for weeks and haven’t been on a Clarion ride for ages. But now I’m back (more or less) to normal and looking forward to leading the way on one of my favourite rides – the Chichester harbour one with the celebrated ferry.
On and off all day I’ve been making preparations. I’ve checked the bike, and pump, spare tube, tool kit (including steel tyre levers as John rightly recommends), puncture outfit, and made sure the tyres are properly inflated, reminded myself of the route details with the OS Explorer map, made my sandwiches and bought a box of mixed olives from our local Turkish shop on Lewes Road to hand round during the picnic.
Suddenly. And terrifyingly as well as perplexingly there’s an explosive bang – sounds for all the world like a gunshot. Sue almost jumps out of her skin – I think I’ve already left mine behind. What can it be? Turns out it’s my back tyre. Never known anything like that happen before. Unbelievable. Tyre was blown up hard, of course, but no more than usual.
Well, initial shock over, I start to think, ‘If it was going to happen, good job it happened now rather than on the ride. I’d have been stranded,’ Sue says, ‘Might have been even worse if it had exploded while you were driving to Chichester with the bike in the back – could have caused an accident.’ Too true.
OK. Not the end of the world. Back wheel punctures always a bit more of a bind than front wheel ones where the wheel can be got out and back in a second or two – but straightforward. So I set about it.
I’ve seen inner tubes with tiny holes and larger punctures but never one where about five or six inches of the tube has just been ripped apart. Wow! No wonder it made such a noise. Some defect in the inner tube. I put in a new tube – then calamity. Something wrong with the wheel itself – can’t get it back in – struggle with it, with Sue’s help after a bit, for nearly an hour but no go. No bike shops open at 7 pm on Saturday evening. Obviously can’t do the ride tomorrow. But what to do?
Will send out an emergency circular saying what has happened and drive to Chichester in the morning so that I can explain to anyone who does turn up there and if they want to continue give a quick tutorial on the route. That’s plan B.
Plan A is to find someone else to lead it now. Know Jim’s otherwise engaged from the email he’s sent me. Roger to the rescue! What a relief! Eternal gratitude.