Meridian Hills 200km (perm)

After my unused brevet for the Meridian Hills 200km permanent had sat on a shelf gathering dust for the past nine months, I finally resolved to ride it on Saturday 29th March 2014. A 5am start, a short train ride to Orpington and I was at Green St Green ready to start by 6:30am – you are allowed to begin at any control so I naturally picked the closest to home.

In a nutshell, the ride is over all the hills south of London (along the Greenwich Meridian) and back again, fitting in a whopping 3500m of climbing over its 213km total length. Billy Weir has set a cracker of a route along quiet lanes with fantastic views, traverses of Ashdown Forest’s open heathland and spectacular climbs over the North Downs, High Weald and South Downs, fitting in Ditchling Beacon and Devil’s Dyke for the latter.

I progressed slowly and surely around, in my usual way, with a 12-hour overall time in mind, skipping through the controls, apart from the friendly Five Ways Deli in Brighton where I lingered for a bit over a good lunch. Then, around the 150km mark, disaster struck – I shifted gears pulling away from a T-junction and there was a terrible grinding noise from my derailleur. Something had clearly gone wrong with the spring tension as the jockey wheels were rubbing against the cassette but I couldn’t work out what had happened or how to fix it.

I figured out how to select gears 4 to 6 out of the 20 normally available, reckoned that would get me home, so I pushed on to the medieval village of Mayfield, my penultimate control. The nature of the route is that you are continually climbing or descending, which helped my predicament as I just had to grind over the High Weald and North Downs, freewheeling the rest of the way to return to Green St Green for 7pm, so I could still make it back for a dinner reservation with the long-suffering wife.

Barring mechanicals, this has to one of my favourite days out on the bike ever – a perfect route close to home, and a great way to start the summer.