Isle of Wight Day 3 – Down memory lane and home again

Newtown Creek

Think ‘tent’, and you probably think of interminable sleepless nights.  You fidget around on the hard ground trying to find a comfortable position, alternating between sweltering heat and shivering cold, until finally your tent starts dripping on you and, although it’s only 4:30am, the sun is up so you can justify emerging from your torture pod.  Not so for us.  Partly owing to our exhaustion and partly owing to the lavishly comfortable mattress and feather duvet in our tent, we both slept well.  I woke late feeling so disoriented and confused that I wonder whether I had slipped into a slight coma.  Following a spectacular breakfast of all things fresh and homemade, we said our goodbyes and were back on the road.  I’m not sure whether I’d gone numb or whether one of us (my bottom or my saddle) had adjusted, but I felt properly comfortable for the first time ever on my bike.

We rejoined the disused railway line in Yarmouth and followed it through the postcard friendly landscape of Thorley and Wellow.  Before long we had reached the stunningly beautiful Newtown Creek and, although I was tempted to stop and go for a walk, we had hit a rhythm and were keen to keep pedalling.  We passed Shalfleet and headed towards Porchfield, where I first stayed on the Isle of Wight with my family in a rented thatched cottage, complete with the ten remaining cows in the country who were hand milked (by dear old Amy) for commercial sale.  My nostalgia had kicked in once more, so we stopped at the Sportsman’s Rest in Porchfield for the first drink of the day.

Newtown Creek

Newtown Creek

Refuelled, we picked up the pace as we headed towards Cowes.  Arriving in Gurnard, I remember thinking that we were a mere fifteen minutes or so away, given that I remember walking from Cowes to Gurnard along the esplanade without much thought.  Somebody on the Council obviously has a sense of humour though, because law-abiding cyclists as we are, we followed the cycle route signs on a steeply undulating and circuitous route into Cowes.  By the time we had arrived at our final pub for lunch, my thighs were practically twitching from the exertion and my sense of direction had been thrown completely.  If you do this route and are either thirsty or with children, trust your common sense and just follow the very safe road along the seafront from Gurnard and straight into Cowes.

A smooth ferry crossing carried us back to the mainland and we savoured that unique sense of both satisfaction and relaxation that arises from a tiring and successful expedition.  We should have savoured it a bit more, because the train journey back to Clapham Junction did its best to ramp up our stress levels in time for our return to London, involving a stressful game of human / bike sardines.  Bursting off the train and into some fresh(er) air at Clapham Junction, we felt the first spot of rain that we’d felt all weekend.  There’s a moral buried in there somewhere, but we were too tired to work it out.

Isle of Wight Day 2 – Bembridge to Freshwater

Deluxe camping

Where do you stand on the issue of thunderstorms?  Terrifying, inconvenient and destructive or wonderfully exciting, overwhelming and refreshing?  Generally speaking, I fall into the latter camp.  However heavily you invest in scented candles and cashmere throws, nothing will make your home feel quite as cosy as being warm and dry inside it as the thunder clatters and the rain falls in forceful sheets, bouncing off your windowsills and gushing though your gutters.  A good storm reminds you that you are only a little vulnerable person, responsible for only a tiny bit of a vast and powerful world, so there’s no need to worry or take life too seriously.

Waking up early on Saturday morning to the sound of rain hammering down outside, I admit that my enthusiasm for storms felt somewhat diminished.  The plan for Saturday was to cycle along the south coast of the Isle of Wight, from Bembridge to Yarmouth.  A distance of just under 60km, I wasn’t too keen on the prospect of a day spent hunched over my handlebars and squinting through the driving rain.  It would have been a mistake to dwell on any of this – there was no option but to get on with it – so up we both got, wriggled into our blissfully dry (not for long, I thought) freshly washed Peloton jerseys and went down to breakfast.

The proprietor greeted us in the cheerful manner of one not about to set off into the great outdoors and was quick to deliver steaming coffee over to us.  We must have looked like we needed it.  A hearty full English breakfast followed, during which we were assured by our hosts that the weather would brighten up.  I don’t know what privileged information they had access too – I’d been obsessively thorough in my examination of every local weather forecast available in my desperation to find good news – but they turned out to be right.  Once we’d loaded our bikes and saddled up, the sun was starting to make an appearance and the rain had stopped.

Eager to make the most of the reasonable weather, we set off at a decent pace and were whizzing along the faintly naff seafront before Shanklin before we knew it.  I grew up in Yarmouth, in West Wight, and always felt that people were unduly snobby about ‘the other side’.  I still think lots of people are, as a matter of fact, but there is some truth in the observation that Shanklin and Sandown are holiday towns that have seen better days.  Cycling along the high streets here, the impression is that shops are really struggling.  Just after Sandown is where we made our biggest mistake of the whole trip.  As is so often the case with mistakes, I feel quite pleased about it now, but at the time it hurt.  The cycle route we were following is so well signposted that I would venture to call it idiot-proof.  At some point, however, we must have missed something because as we were approaching Ventnor we realised that the signs had disappeared and the cycling was getting serious.  We were definitely not on a family friendly route.

A particularly demoralising moment came after about 20 minutes of hard pedalling up a not aggressively steep but agonisingly persistent hill.  After rounding yet another corner that I thought must be the end of this endurance test, I saw a sign saying ‘Cowleaze Hill’.  Fabulous.  This is the point where the hill begins.  Soon afterwards, I saw a sign saying ‘Dangerous Road for Cyclists’, which hardly lifted my spirits.  I spurred myself on and vowed to keep Richard, who was up ahead, in my sights.  Wimpy girl is not an accolade I felt keen to acquire.  When eventually he stopped for a rest, the relief was something I can’t describe.  Slumped against a fence, our bikes discarded by the side of the road, two geriatric whippets in head to toe black lycra pulled in casually to ask if we were OK.  We insisted that we were, of course – admitting to two men in their mid-seventies (they were both very keen to emphasise their maturity) that we are not as fit as them would have been one slap in the face too far.  Soon after they hopped lightly back on their bikes and shimmied their way up that murderous hill, we decided that we must do the same, in our own slightly clunkier manner.

One advantage of reaching the top of a hill is the view.  Another is the guarantee of a bit of freewheeling.  We enjoyed both as we flew through Whitwell and Niton on our way to St Catherine’s Point, the southernmost tip of the island.  We felt hot and tired, but there was a heaviness in the air that suggested rain might come to spite us after all, so we carried on. Had Richard not been powering ahead, I would have been tempted to stop at The Wight Mouse Inn at Chale, which I remember being famed as one of the best pubs on the Island.  There was no time for regret though and I was soon distracted by Mottistone, which looked as splendid as I remembered it as we whipped through the lush green landscape in which it is so perfectly nestled.  By the time Richard flew past The Sun Inn at Hulverstone, which is another excellent pub I remember visiting with my parents on bike rides as a child, I realised I was getting keen for some lunch.

Joining the undulating Military Road, which is on the edge of a cliff above Compton Bay, felt like a turning point.  In my mind, we were nearly there.  Compton Bay is the best beach on the Isle of Wight.  Entirely unspoilt, its sandy shores stretch along a beautiful coastline and, with the orange cliff as a backdrop, you would never realise that a road run along its length.  The majority of my summer holiday was spent on this beach and I always thought of it as close to home, so it couldn’t be far now.

Descending into Freshwater Bay, we turned right and made our way to The Red Lion, a pub that used to be owned by Michael Mence, the brother of the dear friends we stayed with that evening.  Sadly we arrived ten minutes after they’d stopped serving food, but the garden there is so pretty (and we were so thirsty for a proper drink) that we stopped there for a while anyway.  I then guided Richard along the old railway line, a mercifully flat bridleway that runs along the peaceful River Yar towards Yarmouth.  Uplifted to be in the town that I used to call home, and even more relieved to be sitting down in The Wheatsheaf with a cold glass of wine and some crisps waiting for my large crab salad to arrive, we paused to notice that the sun was shining with an intensity we couldn’t have envisaged when we had listened to the rain that morning.

Deluxe camping

Deluxe camping

Our final short but demanding leg up Hallets Shute and down Pixley Hill to the Mences’ house was instantly rewarded when we saw that, in typical Mence style, they had pulled out all the stops to prepare for our arrival.  A spectacular bell tent, complete with bunting sewn by Rosie, a double bed, a tea-light filled chandelier, wooden chests with glass vases containing beautiful garden flowers and a guitar welcomed us at the bottom of the garden and, in the house, we enjoyed (post-shower) a perfect evening with delicious food and some wonderful friends.  We retired to our tent in the sure knowledge that a good night’s sleep stretched ahead of us.

Isle of Wight Day 1 – Peloton ventures overseas

The perfect afternoon refreshment

Feeling a thrill of excitement rather than furious resentment when a 7am alarm trills in your ear can only mean one thing: you’re going on an adventure!  Having loaded our panniers and cheerfully dismissed all reports of impending storms the night before, Richard and I got up early on Friday morning to make our way to the Isle of Wight for our first overseas cycling adventure.  Boarding the train to Southampton Central from Clapham Junction couldn’t have been more straightforward, and after a little more than an hour on the train and a quick ten minute pedal through Southampton, we were boarding the Red Funnel ferry to East Cowes.  Just one hour later and we were first off the ferry and up the first of many hills.  Having lived on the Isle of Wight for much of my childhood, I thought that I had a fairly accurate mental picture of the place.  In most respects, this is true, but I do remember it as a far flatter place than it really is.

Concerned not to look a fool in what should be familiar territory to me, I had studied an improbably large and detailed Ordnance Survey map (Outdoor Leisure 29 – excellent, but vast) in an effort to ensure that we didn’t get lost straight away.  I needn’t have worried, because the Round the Island cycle route is clearly signposted at every single junction.  It’s nearly impossible to go wrong.  (Of course, we did manage it at one point, but more of that later.)  We’d arrived on the Island at midday without mishap, so naturally we felt that we deserved some form of reward.  One of my favourite places growing up was a pub called The Folly Inn in Whippingham, which is situated right by the water on the Medina River.  I admit that the bouncy castle that used to be an almost permanent feature around the back might have had something to do with my fondness for the place, but the view and the unmistakable smell of the mudflats are what really sell this place.  The bumpy downhill route towards the water was as enticing as I remembered it, and Richard clearly agreed.  He hurtled along with such abandon that he didn’t even notice this pannier detaching itself from its rack after a particularly vigorous speed bump.  Sitting outside overlooking the boats moored on the pontoons and the occasional bit of pootling activity, it was hard to imagine that we’d been in London only a few hours ago.  It was even harder to move from this peaceful spot with our lunch inside us, particularly when we remembered that the lane back to the road was all uphill.

View from The Folly Inn

View from The Folly Inn

Once we were back on the road though, we felt that our adventure had begun in earnest.  Bembridge, on the eastern tip of the Island, was to be our first overnight resting place so we had a comfortable 20km or so distance to cover in the afternoon.  There was no need to hurry, so we enjoyed the novelty of cycling on practically traffic free roads and began to appreciate how much of a difference panniers make to climbing hills.  I enjoyed recognising the places I thought I’d forgotten, and at one point executed an emergency stop when I realised we were about to cycle past Sharon Orchard, a place I remember visiting with my sister and cousins when we were small.  Good ice cream and juice, I remembered.  Too good to miss.  It was only when we stopped that we noticed how hot and sunny it was.  We therefore reasoned that a glass of cold homemade cider and an ice cream were crucial for our health and survival.  While Richard enjoyed the Ashey Press cider, which is far less sweet and fizzy than the stuff we are all used to, I discovered a new favourite – spiced cider with lemonade.  It tasted like a cross between Christmassy mulled cider and ice cold refreshing Pimm’s.  Though tempted to go back for more, I worried it might be the start of a slippery slope, so we saddled up once more and went on our way.

The perfect afternoon refreshment

The perfect afternoon refreshment

It didn’t take us long to get to Bembridge and finding our bed for the night was mercifully easy, owing in part to the fact the The Pilot House Inn does in fact look like a boat.  With our bikes stowed around the back (sadly we couldn’t lock them in the shed as we’d hoped, because the proprietors’ e-bikes now live there) and our luggage unpacked in our fresh little room, we settled down for a few drinks outside.  An early evening wander up the hill and along the main little street in Bembridge led us to another pub before we returned to our room and enjoyed much needed showers.  After giving our Peloton jerseys a quick wash in the basin with some travel wash, we headed down into the pub dining room to enjoy a tasty dinner of local fresh fish and a very juicy burger.  As the last of the wine was washed down, we concluded that it had been an excellent first day.  Provided that the promised storms would skilfully manoeuvre their way around us, our big day of cycling along the whole of the south coast of the island promised great things.


Getting to grips with TFL’s Local Cycling Guides 9 & 10

Maps neatly stowed in the pockets and we're off!

I like to think of myself as a not entirely superficial character, but I’m not immune to the odd moment of jealousy.  I’m not talking about jealousy on a grand scale; a moment’s thought is probably enough to realise that looking like Rosie Huntington-Whitely or being as rich as Bill Gates is not the key to a happy ever after.  But the odd pang of envy when I walk past a beautiful house is something I will admit to.  When I see somebody so calm, immaculate and serene that I can only assume they never have to clean a bathroom or scrub a roasting tin, or when I see a woman wearing bright white jeans without coffee spilt all over them, the thought ‘if only’ does cross my mind.

Whenever such feelings spring themselves upon me, I console myself by thinking of all of the burdens that must accompany such set-ups.  Owning that picture perfect cottage by the sea must mean that you can never justify going on holiday anywhere else.  You’re going to feel far more stressed about your flashy sports car being scraped by a rubbish truck than you are about your old banger being subjected to a few extra (and I like to think characterful) bumps.  That adorable puppy has probably had a fair few accidents on a cream carpet in its time.  Instructing somebody to clean up after me would not make me feel all that great.

Having recently acquired the smartest bike I’ve ever owned (a new Dawes Galaxy Plus touring bike) I have started to experience some of the guilt that comes with privilege first hand.  (I have discovered, much to my dismay, that the guilt is not of the kind or magnitude that outweighs the pleasure of owning the thing, so I will indulge my jealousy next time I read about some celebrity’s holiday villa on the Amalfi Coast.)   I should be using this bike more.  I should be taking it on proper, long cycles I find myself thinking too frequently.

And so it was that Richard and I set off from Clapham last Wednesday morning for a mini cycling adventure around London.  Water bottles filled, ample snacks packed and new Peloton jerseys on, my eagerness was slightly tempered by the prospect of careering through busy London traffic.  Once we got underway though, I really did start to enjoy myself.  Thanks to a carefully chosen route, the traffic wasn’t much of an issue.  Richard had got hold of some brilliant free maps from the Transport for London website and if you haven’t done so already, I implore you to do the same.  With Local Cycling Guides 9 and 10 slipped neatly into the larger pockets on the back of our jerseys, we were delighted to discover how easy it is to escape the noisy chaos of urban living using only pedal power.

Accessing Richmond Park via Wimbledon Common was a particular highlight.  Despite spending our lives in such proximity to Wimbledon, we had never realised what a rambling, rural place it is.  No wonder the Wombles set up home there.  I, for one, feel that they deserve a bit more credit for choosing this as the setting for their wombling free.  Whizzing along dirt tracks through woodland, the sun glittering through the trees and a stream bubbling below us, it was difficult to imagine that we were in a city.  After a brief rest on a bench in Richmond Park, we hopped back on our bikes and found the Thames Cycle Path, which we followed as far as Hampton Court.  Our enthusiasm for London cycling at an all time high, we tucked into what we felt was a well earned lunch before heading back.

Unfortunately our eagerness to get to the pub got the better of us and instead of heading back along peaceful paths, we opted for a more daredevil, road route.  Richard seems to make light work of zigzagging between queues of cars waiting at traffic lights, but my fearful grimace extends throughout my whole body, every muscle bracing itself for the moment that I am sent flying by a van changing lanes.  There was no option but to grit my teeth and get on with it, and I felt strangely exhilarated to have survived by the time we pulled up outside The Windmill pub on Clapham Common.

With Richard watching the bikes, I went in to order him a pint and myself the largest glass of wine they could manage.  Cold white wine in hand and bags of crisps stuffed into every pocket, I was just thinking that things couldn’t get much better when the barman casually remarked, “I like your cycling top.  Where did you get it?”  When I replied, “I designed it myself” he laughed awkwardly, obviously wondering how to deal with what he seemed to think was a very odd form of flirtatious banter.  (When you consider the red, sweaty, helmet-haired state I was in at the time, the poor man must have been particularly alarmed.)  I explained that really, Richard and I are making these jerseys ourselves and selling them, at which point he visibly relaxed and said “wow.  They look really professional.  Great job!”  Feeling satisfied (and a tiny bit smug) I delivered Richard’s pint into his very grateful hands and we began to discuss where our bikes should take us next.

Lights, Camera, Action!


All of us have dreams and aspirations.  Some of us fantasise about scaling mountains.  Others yearn to publish a bestselling novel.   Still others long for the day that they buy the Porsche they’ve had their eyes on since childhood.  For us at Peloton, cycling from beer garden to beer garden and spotting stylish ladies and gents wearing our jerseys rates highly on our list of goals.  Since we have been preparing to launch our website, it has emerged that some of our friends harbour some surprising modelling ambitions.  So, after a rigorous selection process, we were delighted to launch the modelling careers of Sam Owens, James Huppler, Adam Broadbent and Alec Stevens. Or, as we prefer to call them, The Dream Team.  Alice and Richard made cameo appearances before the lens too but, as some laughably awkward photos reveal, natural models they most definitely are not.


Organising a photo shoot was something new to us, but with the help and direction of our friend Nick Gates, wildlife photographer, presenter, producer and journalist, we approached Sunday with a sense of excitement rather than trepidation.  Having been worried about the likelihood of rain on the day of our shoot and the devastating effect it would have on the carefully coiffed hair of our models, we were delighted to wake up to sunshine.  Our models flocked to our makeshift studio in Clapham for a few product shots and a bacon sarnie before we piled our bikes, camera gear and beautifully attired selves into a van and a couple of cars to make our way in convoy to Richmond Park, where the real action was to take place.

Clambering out of our vehicles in the car park, we couldn’t help but notice the admiring looks directed our way from fellow cyclists clad in stern looking black lycra.  Heads continued to turn as we cycled up and down the same stretch of road, and mostly for all the right reasons.  Only the occasional car horn objected to our carefully choreographed group cycling formations, which did not always allow maximum space for cars to overtake us.  Despite the odd grumpy driver, our morale did not dwindle for, as Adam piped up with bright-eyed enthusiasm, “it feels so good wearing this.  I feel like part of something, part of a team”.  And, cringe as much as you like, but we did feel good.  The fresh breeze in our hair, the sun on our faces and majestic stags emerging from the woodland to witness our ride, we began to feel much more confident in our role as models.  Alec began to execute the ‘Blue Steel’ look he’d joked about over coffee that morning.  Adam started issuing commands to the team to get us flying past the camera as one.  And we all began to value Nick’s expertise as a wildlife photographer  – his experience of photographing untamed British mammals really came to the fore when trying to capture James Huppler wildly flying along with his seat out of the saddle and a look of hunger on his face.


It felt like the time to become more ambitious and attempt some moving shots.  With Nick hanging out of the boot of the car with his camera and Richard at the wheel, our cycling models’ taste of celebrity became more intense as we were papped from a moving car as we flew effortlessly down the hills.  Less glamorous were the shots of us desperately trying to keep our cool chasing the car up the hills when Richard hit the gas.  Perhaps a little more training is required before we form our own Tour de France team.

Breathless from the car chase, we decided it was time for some casual ice cream / bench shots.  Needless to say, our models proved to be naturals at sitting down and having a good chat.  From there, it was back into our fleet of cars and to a pub by the river in Richmond.  Strolling along the banks of the river in the sunshine, we didn’t feel remotely out of place in our jerseys.  In fact, sitting as a group outside the pub, drinks in hands and pre-lunch crisps being shared around, we felt entirely relaxed and in keeping with the atmosphere of the place.  A few envious pub-goers even complimented us on our attire.  They admired the colours and the pockets on the back in particular.  Hopefully we’ve met a few of our future customers.


Satisfied by our tasty lunch, a successful batch of photos and, most of all, a great day out with friends, we returned to our respective homes and I for one felt a little glum as I changed my Peloton jersey for more pedestrian clothes.  But, looking through Nick’s remarkably professional shots, I can’t help but feel excited about the future of our website and the Peloton brand.  In the words of The A Team, there’s nothing like a plan coming together.