On a slightly rainy, overcast and grey English day, I decided to go cycling with a few friends around Canterbury in the beautiful south east of England. We caught the train down from London and set out from Canterbury west, although not before we had a quick snack at the local food market housed in an old shed beside the train station.
The route is a mixture of several signed National cycle routes and local paths, parts of the route were on road as well. Setting out however, none of us was sure what to expect. We were expecting to encounter some dirt or gravel and possibly some hills.
The first stretch heading north from Canterbury was reasonably easy, apart from a few climbs around the University of Kent most of the route was smoothly paved or hardpack. Lots of English countryside to be seen just on the outskirts of the University, most of these little trails were a bit like fire roads cris crossed with bridleways.
Once we started to head east a bit further inland the road started to get muddy, the path was strewn with fallen muddied leaves floating in rain filled potholes. I was on Mr Ramen, one of us was on a MTB hybrid bike and the other two on fixed gear bikes with skinny tyres. There had been rain a day or two before, and England being England it tends to stay wet and muddy. The conditions were typically Autumn/Wintery, we passed quite a few families out for a walk in the woods in their wellies (rubber boots) walking their dogs. Thankfully I had the white 28mm Pasela tyres on my bike, I'd say from this experience that they aren't exactly made for mud to say the least! However I was glad I wasn't on little 23mm tyres.
Having ridden through sloppy, muddy conditions before, the best advice I can give for staying upright is to ride smooth; keep the steering straight and only make very subtle steering input. Go easy on the brakes, try to use mostly rear brake. Often I find it's easier to get through some muddy parts by speeding up and charging through the mud in a straight line, having more momentum keeps you upright.
Yes this road really is called Heart in hand road. This was probably the busiest road we encountered so far, the path we were meant to follow diverted us onto a rough dirt track. I get a bit of a kick riding a drop bar bike on dirt for some reason, maybe cyclocross is my true calling?
Finally we made it to the coast which looked over the English channel. There was a slight westerly breeze but otherwise it was paved almost all the way back along the coast. There's something quite unique about the English seaside, I grew up reading a lot of Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton so it's something that's always been an image of grey, flat seaside with seagulls overhead.
Cute little beach cabins are also part of the English seaside, they are privately owned and serve as storage and private space for their owners in the summer. In the colder months they are locked up until the next year, they seem somewhat eerie.
After many miles along a stiff, salty westerly sea breeze we came upon a quintessential seaside pub, The Old Neptune. It was sitting out on the edge of the water, a timber framed creaking hulk of the Atlantic. The floorboards inside were so un-level that I think the beer flowed one way down the bar.
We followed the coast all the way back to Whitstable, and down to a local pub for a well deserved post-ride meal. After which we headed back to Canterbury, just as I was rolling into the train station carpark I felt my front tyre go flat. This was probably the best time to have a flat, if there ever is one as I just fixed it on the train ride home.