Eleven pm on Friday night saw a nervous weenie standing alone at Hyde Park Corner.
I was waiting for the tandem to arrive. Charles had agreed to lend it to CC and me and we were going to attempt the Brighton FNRttC on it. With only an hour to practice, I knew we were pushing it, but the contingency planning was in place. If we really didn't get the hang of it Charles would ride it with us taking turns as his partner, he would be on the ride (on Reg) the whole way so would be on hand in case anything went wrong and, as he was riding Reg, I knew we had all the repair kit for both bikes.
This ride involved a LOT of novices who were raising money for their local hospice so the pace was fairly light. Plus we had a 'sag wagon' in case of disaster. All good.
More importantly, we both had our matching pink jerseys on.
Disaster struck early on, he was late (trains, eugh). He arrived at about 11.20pm and we got to work. I tried both positions but I had already decided in my head that I wanted to go on the front (the term is 'be the captain'). It was, however, good to give the back (or 'stoker' position) a go so that I could help Cathy when she arrived. She got there at 11.30pm and we did a couple of circuits.
Then ride leader Mr Fabulous arrived, and he was NOT happy. He thought it would be a disaster and we were treated to stern words and a glare as we headed to sign up. CC and I were determined that we would not cause him problems.
The hardest part of the ride for me is getting off Hyde Park Corner. On this ride there were close to 100 cyclists and I hate pack cycling. This, combined with the turning circle of a boat on an unfamiliar machine, was a challenge. We smacked it. We held our nerve and sailed through. Keeping up communication with 'stopping', 'braking' and 'changing gear' being shouted frequently, we set off into the night, establishing a good rhythm from early on.
We headed through London and were soon feeling like pros. Aside from a hairy moment while squeezing through a small gap to get onto the road off Mitcham Common, we were fine. And this was lucky as we soon hit the first on the hills. It's not a steep one but it goes on FOREVER.
Hilariously, we overtook several riders on out way to the top. Once there, we discovered part of why Mr Fabulous was sceptical. What goes up must come down, and down and down. Reigate Hill is very steep and the combined weight of two people on a tandem means you pick up speed VERY fast. Again, CC and I were of a similar mind: we'll ride the brakes, life is better than speed.
We cautiously made our way down. On the front I could see everything and knew we were fine but CC was the brave one as, riding blind, she completely trusted my instincts and we reached the bottom intact and still friends.
After this excitement the rest of the ride seemed uneventful. Our main problem was being cut up by other riders and, at the rest stops, no one would let us out so we were often left battling to get back to the middle from the back.
The halfway point was a scout hut in Horley where sandwiches, hot tea and cake were on hand to greet us. We ate, drank and felt refreshed. At the last minute, a tray of KitKats was passed round. Despite being full and having food in our pannier I tucked one into my jersey pocket. Little did I know that this decision was the difference between success and failure.....