Date: Saturday 6th June, 2015.
Distance: 115.2km | Elevation: 1,214m
Destinations: New Cross — Shoreham — Knatts Valley — Bromley — New Cross
Start kms: 3,439.1 | Finish kms: 3,554.3 | % complete: 35.5%
The internet — and Instagram in particular — is filled with road porn.
Especially when you follow the right people (I’m looking at you, Rapha).
Vistas. Rolling hills. Mountain ranges. Long, seemingly never-ending descents filled with smooth bends and sharp chicanes. It’s difficult to stay off the bike and have a slower-paced day when a quick thumb through your newsfeed gives you an enormous case of cycling FOMO.
In many cases, it’s pretty easy to appease yourself:
“That run’s in the middle of The Dolomites."
“That climb’s only accessible as part of an expensive trip to the French Alps."
“I won’t find views like that without sacrificing several precious hours of my weekend on a train."
They’re not forever off the cards, but they’re not going to be ticked off the list in the immediate future.
However, there was one hallowed piece of road that I’d seen often and had no reason to have not visited. Ride route after ride route recommended it. Photos emitted their FOMO-magnetism, drawing me towards it.
And yet, having lived in South East London for 2 years and had it practically on my doorstep, I had never been.
On a morning that I’d decided to take down the Strava Gran Fondo for the month, Hendo decided he was going to introduce me to it.
It was a last-minute decision in the middle of a Kent loop and it was utterly worth it. A longish, gradual descent brought us into the valley where we are able to cruise between two hedgerows, surrounded by wildflowers and what may well have been rapeseed.
At its lowest, flattest point, it was remarkably easy to see why and how Kent has earned the moniker of ‘the garden of England’. It was almost enough to take the sting out of the hill that awaits on the other side.