Thursday, June 08, 2006

SPECIAL FEATURE: The Kingsmead "Railway Embankment Challenge"

Ride: Hambledon Route # 1, June 8th 2006
Present: Al, Jon

Work commitments (Al) meant that we had to abandon plans for a Chichester ride this week, and a later start than usual found us opting for our 'old faithful' Hambledon Route #1. However, 'Route #1 has previously been described therefore this post will focus on a specific technical exercise which forms a significant piece of TCA folklore - the dreaded Railway Embankment Challenge...

It should be explained that while Hambledon Route # 1 is only a gentle, medium distance (13.5 mile), Grade 3 ride, there are two elements of the ride that are on one's mind as soon as the decision is made to go: The wicked down-hill section through The Forest of "B****rd" Bere, and the Embankment Challenge at Kingsmead, where we leave the disused railway to join the road near the (TCA-blacklisted) Roebuck Inn. In fact an unusually sober mood often descends on the party during kitting up as each individual focuses on the task in hand and steels themselves for the rigours of these challenges; like a team of bobsleighers going through the series of turns in their mind at the top of the run.

After the abrupt climb to the top of 'Cams Hill' the ride settled into to a steady pace as we joined the King's Way bridleway, through Shere Copse and then down towards Long Road, joining the road for a while before using The Driftway (Track) and Crookhorm Lane to get to the White Lion at Soberton (above). The weather was perfect, warm and sunny 26C, a beautiful evening for a pint of Palmers overlooking the village green. However, our contemplation of the imminent task in hand was disurbed somewhat by the arrival of an over-friendly gentleman with an accordion, dressed in white with bells on his legs, a brightly coloured hat and a waistcoat made of rags. He seemingly felt some sense of camaradarie since he owned a bike (bought for £3), or maybe because we were the only people at the pub. The peace was shattered further with the arrival of several other (expletive deleted) morris dancers and maybe half a dozen fair-weather mountain bikers. Since we felt we had nothing in common with either the bell-jangling, stick-waving (expletive deleted)ers, or the contemptible shiney-biked, neatly-pressed t-shirt brigade we downed our pints and pressed on before our bearded 'friend' could strike up his squeezy box.

Supressing our nervous anticipation as best we could we settled into the saddle for the cruise down the disused railway line towards Kingsmead and the Embankment. Reaching the familar bridge (SU 584 134) which marks our exit from the railway line we paused as we had done many, many times before to gather our thoughts for a final time. In less benign conditions this bridge has sheltered us from rain, wind, snow and mud and we have derived some warmth from this dry shelter on freezing nights. Tonight though conditions were perfect; we both knew that there would rarely be a better opportunity to beat the embankment!

The challenge of the Railway Embankment is to leave the disused railway using the steep path to the road above without feet touching the ground. As easy as this might sound it is a stiff technical exercise - the path is about 60 degrees, with a double s-bend getting ever steeper closer to the top. Problems are often compounded by the combination of claggy mud, slippery rocks and overhanging vegetation. After what is surely several hundred attempts between us, only the founding Fathers, Paul and Al have ever successfully completed the challenge (Paul on his last attempt before moving to New Zealand!). This is the sternest test for any potential TCA member and the gold standard to attain before progression to full membership.

Here is a photographic illustration of the challenge:

1. Jon revs up for his run from the tunnel


2. Al starting the ascent through the undergrowth


3. The final push to the top...


4. ...or the humiliating walk of shame!


5. The postmortem breather at the top.


Having taken on the Railway Embankment Challenge the ride continued as usual over the A32, up the hill through the Forest of Bere (dodging the Scout's annual cycle outing) and (thankfully without incident) down the infamous freshly-sanded descent towards the Traveller's Inn in Newtown. For the second visit in a row Al was greeted by a rather ill-tempered dog (on this occasion a mean looking bulldog), while Jon slipped through unnoticed. For a second visit in a row we were also able to order from the outdoor bar (above) and sat in the garden reflecting on another successful ride, toasting absent members and conversing over our mutual distaste for morris dancers.

After the pleasant ride back to Hambledon down the country lanes (lights still redundant) we made it back to base at about 9.30pm. TCA dinner was chicken curry prepared by Tee, watching the obligatory Big Brother update followed by yet another World Cup preview program. As for the Railway Embankment Challenge - come and have a go if you think you're TCA enough!

A toast to absent members...


(Posted by: Al)

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5 Comments:

At 1:30 pm, June 10, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bring it on, I can't wait to see this hill, it sounds so nasty!

 
At 12:00 am, June 11, 2006, Blogger TCA 2006 said...

Hoorar! looks like top evening ride...ahh memories. A particularly good section on the 'Embankment'!I enjoyed drooling at my pint of Abbot..thankyou. Founding Father No.2. aka, Billybob.

 
At 8:10 am, June 22, 2006, Blogger simon said...

hey Alun! looks good. I like the concept of carb. loading after a ride. its what we do "down under" as well! I did try the usual gatorades etc... but beer is the key element! Happy riding... what about a link to cannondale? :-)

 
At 11:39 am, June 24, 2006, Blogger TCA 2006 said...

Hi Simon,
Thanks for your comments... the bike links represent our brands of choice. Unfortunately none of us are rich enough to own a mighty Cannondale!
Alun

 
At 1:05 am, June 26, 2006, Blogger simon said...

Fair call, but I saw a carbon fibre Scott in the bike shop that was "right up there" in terms of price and quality. Scott has improved its weld apperance on the aluminium frames as well...
I am finding the Prophet2000 a very different bike to the Jekkle 2000.

It's a great hobby!

 

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