Hailing to Halstead

Around 30 Easy Riders assembled at Drury Lane for a bike ride to Halstead. I’ve not ridden with the group for a few weeks, because I keep being called to Coventry, where I am a student, for a tutorial at short notice. It was really good to see all my mates again.

Today I felt unfit. It appeared that the middle group had too many riders, so I joined the longest group, led by Mick, tailed by John. This was not my best move – I was chasing to keep up for the whole ride. We pedalled off through the town, down Cressing Road, and ended up following the B1018 until we turned left on Pickpocket Lane to Cressing. I found the B1018 stressful, and I started thinking about how all riders need to take responsibility for their safe riding, even though they are in the middle of the group. From the rear, where John and I had dropped quite a long way from the back of the group, we could see there was a lot of traffic bunched up behind about 11 riders riding in quite a tight line.

General safety tips for riding in the middle of the group are:

  • Ride with at least one bike length between riders.

  • Allow gaps after every 5 riders, to allow traffic to progress past us.

  • Ride about 1-2 metres from the kerb, not right in the gutter.

  • When pulling over to re-group, move as far forward as possible, to enable others to get into the safe space.

  • When regrouping, assemble at the edge of the road, not in the middle.

  • Second person at any junction to wait until tail rider approaches, to ensure group follows same route.

  • When stopping prior to uphill (eg crossing A120 northbound to go to Pattiswick) change down gears, to be able to pedal away quickly.

  • Make your own decision whether it is safe to proceed – particularly when joining a faster road at a junction, the riders at the back of the group may choose to split the group and wait until oncoming traffic has passed

  • Ed - I would add "Look over your right shoulder every time you set off, move out, overtake and stop"

We pedalled up through Pattiswick and skirted Greenstead Green, where we briefly met the middle group who headed through Greenstead Green to Halstead. Our group joined the A1124 and went down the long hill to cross the River Colne, then ground slowly up the hill to Halstead. Various people commented how fast I spin when going uphill – quite simply I don’t have the muscle to mash, so I drop down to bottom gear and spin up the hill. I use the full range of gears!

All three groups assembled for refreshments at the coffee shop at the bottom of the hill. In no time at all, Mick was cracking the whip and we were off again. I took some gentle ribbing about choosing to wear my jacket inside out – this is because it is faded on the outside, and my eco-friendliness means I don’t want to throw it away yet. So I wear it with the bright side out. Eco-friendly, not eccentric or parsimonious!!

We left Halstead, pedalling west out to Gosfield. John and I were steadfastly bringing up the rear, and able to see clearly how far spread out our group was. There were plenty of people wearing good high visibility colours, and it made it easy for drivers to see the size and expanse of the group.

We freewheeled down the long hill from Beazley End to the almshouses at the bottom of Bocking Church Street. Here the bike ride caught up with me – riding faster than my fitness made comfortable. I could not face the hill up from Braintree College to the centre of Braintree, so I left the group and pushed my bike up the hill to Panfield Lane, following the back lanes to Rayne Road.

27 miles, 11mph, 2 hours 25 minutes pedalling time. It was a good ride, and I was glad to be back riding with my mates.

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