Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Al and John both had long drives from meetings up-country to make it back for the regular weekly ride this evening from Jon's place. It had been a beautiful day - exceptionally mild for the time of year (some parts of Scotland would later record their highest November temperature since records began) - and the autumn colours were the most spectacular display in many years; a perfect evening for a ride.

Chichester was chosen as a starting point for the first Halloween ride since TCA records began but complications befell the occasion before we had even set off: Events had conspired to leave Al's #1 mountain bike stranded in John's garage, leaving him with only his rigid 'road' mountain bike. Essential adjustments were made as Jon P had deemed the set-up wholly unsuitable for the route he had in mind. A phone call to John H later and off came the slick Specialised Nimbus road tyres, to be replaced with John's spare set of Specialised Fast Trak dual compound XC tyres. Jon P pitched in to help as John H assembled his own bike, the matter somewhat complicated by the discovery of a puncture as the new tyres were fitted; Al had forgotten to bring a spare inner tube - John H to the rescue again! Finally we were ready to ward off any further evil spirits; we eased into our ride by cycling around the familiar Goodwood circuit perimeter track.

We encountered our first trick-or-treaters by the Royal Oak at East Lavant; the TCA are not in the business of treats and so the pesky kids got nothing as the trio disappeared in a blase of lights. The Jo(h)ns made it to the top of Chalkpit Lane some time before Al who was having problems shifting into a sufficiently low gear, a problem possibly compounded by his lack of sleep in the preceding nights. Regrouping at the top of the Trundle we managed to surprise two cars of courting couples as we headed west towards Kingley Vale. We followed a rutted footpath down towards Lavant valley, along Hayes Down and eventually towards a steep downhill section characterised by a grassy slope with hollows which eventually flattens out over a old disused railway line along the bottom of the valley - break-neck speed and great fun! Jon remarked that he felt that this was his first 'proper' night ride with the TCA (clarifying that although he had had to use his lights on occasion to get home by road, this was the first time he had done any off-road riding with lights, let alone having to start a ride with lights). With the nagging doubt of his credentials allayed Jon passed Ox Barn with the two veterans and crossed the A286 onto Binderton Lane. The bridleway which peels off it was christened 'rat alley' due to the number of rodents we spotted scurrying out of our way - precisely on cue for such a spooky occasion! Needless to say we did not loiter and descended quickly down to B2141 Harting Road.

Heading South along this road Al took the middle position in a group of three as he had also failed to pack his back light. Apparently his old one looked very similar to Jon's and accusations of stealing were bandied around. Jon's conjecture was that whether this was the case or not he did not think it a crime in TCA circles where one's kit is considered communal. Jon and John had ridden this route before and carefully looked out for the bridleway on the right which led to Kingley Vale; apparently this turning had eluded them for some time on the previous outing. At the top of their climb the Jo(h)ns paused briefly to wait for Al (gear issues again) and were reminded that last time they did this route it was summer; John had recently purchased his shiny forks and had posed for a picture at this very point. The next section followed part of the Chichester Challenge route; coming down from Kingley Vale where the track widens out at the bottom before getting to a five-barred gate which can be easily forgotten when traveling at speed.

Creep Show

Refreshments were beckoning on the road to East Ashling. Glowing candle-lit pumpkins adorned the entrances to houses and the Horse and Groom, an atmospheric 17th Century pub, had also entered into the spirit of things (above - how many spooky faces can you see?). In a bizarre case of mistaken identity some of the friendly locals seemed to think they knew us (how many people were out night-cycling on Halloween in East Ashling?!) but as soon as that was straightened out we tucked into some real ales. John, a self-confessed and hardened lager drinker, provided the revelation of the evening - that he was becoming quite fond of the variety of real ale encountered on TCA outings. He was close to admitting that he had become a convert and that the high quality of the pubs we frequent and variety of beer had helped to counter his previous bad experiences with 'ale'. A small victory for the TCA and real-ale fans everywhere! It was noted however that his palate was not yet fully converted as he preferred a pint of lighter, hoppier beer (Identification not noted, Ed.) to the darker Harvey's Ale preferred by Jon and Al, although there is no shame in that.

A toast to absent friends Horse & Groom, East Ashling

Over their pints Jon and John got into a conversation about new bikes - it soon became apparent that John was already considering an upgrade to his relatively new bike (only a year-or-so old), despite taking the trouble to kit it out with new forks not so long ago: Apparently, like his motor bikes, John prefers not to hold onto cycles and other gadgets for too long before seeking a change. Jon was confounded - he thought he had just about sussed out his new friend but clearly he remained a man of mystery.

Hubble, bubble, toil and big, big trouble

By now we were nearing the end of the 16.5 mile ride and we cycled through the back streets of Chichester to the prospect a new dish on the TCA menu. With a slight sense of trepidation Jon spooned out Moroccan spiced lamb and apricots with cous cous (above). (His fears were unfounded - the delicious meal went down well and seconds were had by all, finally consigning the infamous 'night of the slow-cooked horse-meat' to all but a distant memory. Eat your heart out, Nigella! Ed.)

Route Map (click to enlarge):
Elevation Profile:
(Posted by: Jon)

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At 1:32 pm, November 05, 2007, Blogger TCA said...

A quick note regarding the tyres - I thought the Fast Trak, although they would not be my first choice for heavy winter riding, were superb. They were relatively fast on the road, grass and trail and fantastically grippy on the hard-pack and rock. Unfortunately they were not so good at shedding mud but they'd make a great summer choice.


At 1:36 pm, November 05, 2007, Blogger TCA said...

Note on the route after consulting the map:

Maybe in future we could continue towards Stoke Down rather than head through Stoke Clump when we get towards Kingley Vales.

That way we would reach the road via Bowhill and Woodend which would result in a circular route, continuing back as the original route after taking in the H&G.


At 1:53 pm, November 05, 2007, Blogger lorenzothellama said...

More piccies of Jimmy please.

At 1:57 pm, November 05, 2007, Blogger TCA said...


Once he can ride a bike.

At 7:49 am, November 06, 2007, Blogger TCA said...

A new bike so soon for John?! blimey - no messing.
A great route that from Chi and the down hill off the top of the trundle at night is true TCA stuff.
More to the point though...
Moroccan spiced lamb and apricots with cous cous !!!! things have changed at the house of Jon.


At 7:53 am, November 06, 2007, Blogger TCA said...

P.S East Ashling eh..not sure if I have frequented that establishment. Looks promising.

At 7:53 am, November 06, 2007, Blogger TCA said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 4:51 am, November 07, 2007, Blogger simon said...

this all looks great...

isn't Halloween an american thing?

Are these tyres expensive??

At 12:13 pm, November 07, 2007, Blogger TCA said...

No, the tyres are as cheap as chips.

Halloween IS an American thing - that's why we were out biking instead of dressing up!


At 6:21 am, November 12, 2007, Blogger simon said...

good.... I am sorry but i am not a fan of american stuff ( apart from V8 engines and cannondales. :o)

At 4:21 pm, November 13, 2007, Blogger Maalie said...

Actually Halloween is an ancient pagan thing with many ancient folky customs and practices (apple-bobbing and stuff) associated with it. Definitely no trick and treating. The Yanks high-jacked it and commercialised it and it has become what it is.


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