I recently acquired a book ‘Adventure Cycling’, published in 1959. According to its author, Ronald English, ‘The cyclist who has never…..been up before the break of day has some exciting experiences in store; for, sooner or later, he will have to beat the sun and see those first streaks across the sky. The coolest part of the day comes with the first light; but what a grand feeling it brings!’
I tried to concentrate on the prospect of this ‘grand feeling’ as I crawled out of bed at 4.30am to join the Wayfarers’ Early Bird ride.
We were meeting at 6.00am which hadn’t seemed too early until I factored in the time needed to get up, eat and then ride 8 miles or so to the start! Still, I knew I would enjoy it once I got over the initial shock of getting up so early. It was light when I left the house at 5.15 but it was disappointingly cloudy and grey. There is no dawn chorus at this time of year, just a woodpigeon calling repeatedly. I expected to have the roads to myself but there were one or two cars about and I was amazed to see a farmer already out in the fields in his tractor. It was fairly warm with a strong scent of new mown hay and as I dropped down the hill the sun appeared from behind the down.
‘But look the dawn in russet mantle clad
Walks oer the dew of yon high eastern hill’
as Shakespeare said!
As I reached a road junction a familiar cyclist was disappearing into the distance. Great! I’m not the only one daft enough for this! I set off after him but soon gave up. He’s faster than me and I wanted to enjoy this part of the early morning on my own. A few cyclists were waiting outside the Hare and Hounds – much too early for opening time! Eight of us set off along the road which crosses the downs before dropping into Ryde. This is a lovely scenic road with excellent views but is usually unpleasant to cycle as a lot of fast moving traffic uses it as a short cut and it is both narrow and hilly. Today we had it to ourselves and it was a delight.
We dropped through the empty streets of Ryde onto the seafront which was almost as deserted as on my winter visit but a great deal warmer!
We continued on past Bembridge harbour and along Sandown seafront before reaching the true object of our journey, Barnaby’s Cafe, and a large fry up. Scrambled egg, beans, tomato, mushrooms and toast went down a treat, accompanied by large pots of tea. The carnivores seemed to enjoy their bacon and sausage too! And all this before 9.00 am!