It was around a campfire after a few drinks and comparing sponsored Land Rovers that Sean and I decided to go on a little cycling adventure. Sean had a few free days and is very much a “say yes man” whilst I needed to do a little training trip for my up coming bringing down the iron curtain expedition.
Our original grand plans of cycling to the Champagne region of France to eat our way through slabs of cheese washed down with bubbles were stalled by the Calais ferry suspensions and we ended up in the much less glamorous and rainy Portsmouth.
We were on two very different bikes. Sean was on his super speedy racing bike with one tiny bag that couldn’t have weighted more than a couple of kilos. I was on my Stanforths Kibo + touring bike with 2 fully loaded Brooks panniers. No wonder I nearly fell off when we swapped bikes!
We didn’t have much of a plan, but decided to cycle to the historic town of Arundel as our first stop where my parents took my sister and I for day trips as kids. It was a slow start. In the first hour we went no more than about 4 miles due to numerous disagreements with my cycle computer, U turns and Sean’s ridiculously frequent toilet stops. We eventually got going and got a few hills in.
We had planned to sleep outside in our bivvy bags, but, after an evening spent in the pub coming last in the quiz we were offered the landing on the stairs to sleep on by the pub manager. We assisted the staff in moving a couple of bits of furniture down 4 flights of stairs and by mid night we were tucked up, warm and dry in our sleeping bags with a generous offer of breakfast in the morning.
That very kind offer made by the pub manager the previous evening obviously wasn’t communicated to the day staff who were a tad surprised to see me head to the toilet from behind the bar at 7 am the next day. The awkward conversation started like this:
Manger: “Whats your room number”
Me “errrrrrrr, we don’t exactly have a room”
Manager “What do you mean?? How did you get in here?!!?”
I then explained that the manager on the previous evening has kindly offered us the landing to sleep on and I apologised if she was unaware of our presence. She was not at all impressed. She sternly asked me to leave, which I said I would but before I did I had to collect our bikes from her store room and my friend who was still sleeping soundly on the landing.
What happened next has to be my highlight and funniest moment of our mini adventure. She followed me up the stairs to see that I collected my stuff and friend. We turned the corner on the corridor and looked down the stairs at Sean, the crazy haired ginger dude asleep in his “I’m in a coffin” pose with his hands resting on his chest amongst all our gear and my empty sleeping bag. It really did look like a couple of tramps had slept over! She was not at all amused and whist I didn’t mean to be rude to her, I couldn’t help but laugh at the sight and her angry reaction. It didn’t help that I could see Sean was also trying not to laugh whilst pretending to be asleep. She demanded we leave and left Sean and I packing up our stuff in a fit of giggles. There was no breakfast.
At the quiz the previous evening I gave Sean a whole 20 mins to come up with a good team name. He produced nothing so I entered us with the team name “No balls”. Can anyone else answer a couple of the quiz questions we couldn’t?
A fruit named after a Chinese lantern?
The colours on the Romanian flag?
On the second day it took a lot longer than it should to get to Brighton, mainly due to Sean’s instance of going “off road” and getting us very lost. The ride was full of laughs but the biggest one had to be when Sean stacked it on his racing bike whilst in the middle of a field.
We are also very easily distracted. The opportunity to go fruit picking, stop at a nice pub, play a round of crazy golf and chill on the beach meant that we stopped often. We joked at one point that we couldn’t go 100 meters without wanting to stop! We again came last in the pub quiz on the second night. We blame the fact that neither of us own TV’s for both our pub quiz loses. We couldn’t even answer one question on the TV rounds on either night. The quiz master wouldn’t make allowances. We did win a can of sprite for coming last though so we’re not total losers!
Aside from the silliness and constant banter the trip was great prep for me being a bit of a cycle touring novice. Sean is a very sensible and respectful rider so he's great to learn from. He was constantly giving me tips on gear and cycling expedition routines. I’ll ignore all his advice on navigation.
On the last day we rode back to Portsmouth. It was a tad uncomfortable for me having sat in some nettles whilst Sean fixed a puncture. The tire, lunch and feeding of the ducks in the river were the only stops we had. Coincidently it was also Sean’s 3 year anniversary of his return from cycling around the world to the same port. He only realised when a friend told him as we were saying goodbye. Sean may have lost some credibility on this trip being a serious adventure athlete and I certainly didn't gain any adventure points, but it was a blast all the same.
I’ll end by summarising the trip in numbers:
Number of showers over the 3 day trip - 0 (gross I know)
Number of times cycling adventurer and world record holder Sean stacked it - 1
Number of times Sean lost a crazy golf match to a girl - 1 He refused a second match :-)
Number of pub quizzes we came last in - 2 (We pride ourselves on not knowing about TV soaps!)