Tuesday 10 May 2016

FNRttKust 2016

Night rides are always an adventure. An adventure more for some than for others. The tandem riders, R and S, had the best share of it having to deal with a longer (3 hours) and longer (5 hours) delay at the Eurotunnel. They pulled out all the stops to get to Brussels. BalkanExpress was a hero in assisting them with options for parking/riding/meeting us. The Eurostar travellers got a potential delay fright also but were not affected. And this year, it was Gordon who had the pre-ride puncture. My 9 minute train delay is not worth mentioning.

No, my real sense of adventure came when a police car strolled along side us. 'Titus!', I was screaming in my head. Titus is our own Friday bobby, but Titus couldn't make the ride this time. I was aware that not all of us were wearing hi-viz vests, we were not always sticking to the cycle paths, what else? Are flashing lights allowed, are they mounted too high, too low? We're all going to get arrested. Instead of cycling all night, we'll spend the night in a police station. Weak tea ... no, coffee in a paper cup. I thought all this in a flash, when the police man wound down the window, smiled and said in English: 'One of your riders has a broken chain'. Oh, is that all! A chain breaking is one of the more 'advanced' mechanicals you can have on the road, but now, it didn't matter. It also doesn't matter when you have chain repairer extra-ordinaire mmmmartin taking charge. Well done mmmmartin on doing the allegedly impossible which is to fix an 11 speed chain with a 10 speed chain link.

Chain repair about to begin
We left Brussels later than planned, but that didn't matter either. We were all present. I texted our middle of the night hosts to say we're setting off an hour late and after getting a reply of 'no worries', the ride could begin. Hurrah!

Let's go!
I really, really enjoyed the event. This was helped by hearing re-assuring comments of appreciation during the ride. I was worried how the towpath detour near Aalst would be perceived. I don't mind going off-track when I'm on my own, but in the company of others, I go a little twitchy. But I should never have, BalkanExpress, John and others were at hand to put us right and nobody seemed bothered.

That was the point where I relaxed my shoulders and thought what a wonderful team effort this ride is. Everybody puts energy into logistics, the bikes, the route, the riding, and, maybe unwittingly, the atmosphere. I guess that's the spirit of the Fridays!

The Fridays!

After Karen said "See you next year", and several people mentioning they've already put next year's date in the diary, I now can't wait for the 2017 edition, which will be the 5th anniversary.

For that I have a grand Ostende finale planned. Well, grand-ish! Although I think the Oosteroever and ferry option was better than going the ongoing-road-works and tramline-plenty way, I have a third option in mind. I'll do a recce. If it doesn't work out, we'll stick with the ferry (with optional Fort Napoleon and sea view detour).

The North Sea

The other optional detour we'll factor in, is the Bruges scenic tour. It appears that the 'kletsekoppen' are not everybody's cup of coffee, especially when you're on a tandem. Going through tourist free Bruges is a unique experience, but you certainly don't have to risk your upright position for it.

In my mind it was a mild night, but in reality it wasn't. It was a bit nippy. But no rain! Ten days earlier the forecast was for 9 hours of rain. We didn't have a drop of it, although something was falling out of the sky when we went past the Aalst brewery.

'It's better than my Christmas' replied John after I likened Karen and David's table setup to Christmas. A three course meal we had, with cutlery to match! That asparagus and pea quiche was superb! So was the soup, and the humus, and the cake... The fact that, as vegetarians, they even bought ham for us, shows to what extend they cater for us. Very generous and absolutely splendid. We can't thank them enough!

Anyone for spiced pumpkin soup?

We leave replenished for the longer than you think Gent-Brugge stretch. I'm going to give up on worrying about the Bruges stop also. We'll time the ride to go to the posh Carpe Diem tea rooms for 7AM, if we're later, then we'll go to the quicker Panos at the station.

Perfect for a quick stop - but loos are 'normally' closed till 9AM

The night was topped off with an amazing sunrise. The sun over the misty canal always makes for good photos.

R & S' observations on the cycling behaviour on the towpaths prompts me to add a few notes on this. You know that coureurs are god in Belgium. And club cyclist are pretty high in the pecking order. They own the road and in our case the towpath. I kept shouting out when cyclists were coming our way, but I also kept looking behind me to see if everybody was ok. It can be scary when they race through us.  But you can't tame the proud Flemish cycling lions. Best we stick to single file and hold our breath on that stretch, when the Sunday morning club runs are happening.  Still, R & S got the last laugh when the tandem engineered a free ride with the Maes fiets club.

Spot the tandem

Here's to a fantastic edition of the FNRttKust. I was pleased to hear everybody who was going home, got home OK, and everybody who was continuing their journey got on their way.

Sante! Well done everybody!

The rest of the photos are here: MyPhotos


Anonymous said...

Your write up is stunning. We enjoyed reading your blog from beginning to end. Even without the beautiful pictures we can imagine your adventures so well.
Thank you very much!
Meim & Peip

Kris said...

What a beautiful written cycle report!I enjoyed every chapter of it.Very well done!
I was pleased to bring you to Lichtervelde station and to wait for you at the finish at Caruso's in Oostende.

Swarm_Catcher said...

Hi Kris, thank YOU for bringing me to Lichtervelde and back from Oostende. That was luxury to me. Never before I have been so spoilt to and from a ride. Many were asking after you and wish to see you next year! Lots of love xx