Thursday 26 December 2019

Rapha Festive 500 - Park Life tour: Day 3, South London suburbs

Kms ridden: 35
Running total: 185
Kms left: 315

Weather: Heavy rain and windy; 7 degC

Parks: Cator; Beckenham Place; Kelsey; Spring/Monks Orchard; Spring/Sparrows Den; Lloyd; South Norwood Country

Route on Strava

Given the forecast for continuous rain all day, I decided that my ride would be short and close to home. So this was mainly an off-road ride on trails in local parks.

Mansion at Beckenham Place Park
On one hand, being off-road in woodland areas meant that I kept clear of the worst of the heavy rain. On the hand though, being off-road meant that my mountain bike ride was a lot slower than if I had been on the tarmac, and furthermore, I rode through such muddy terrain that by the time I finished my ride me and my bike were one soggy mess.

Initially, when in the first couple of parks - Cator Park and Beckenham Place Park - the sun almost came out, and I thought that I may have gotten lucky with the weather. But it was not to be, and as I travelled towards Shirley the day became darker and darker as the rain got heavier, eventually becoming torrential. 

At Bethlem Hospital I took a little breather to regroup and consider whether I should amend my itinerary. In the end I just pressed on, knowing that there would be a number of bail-out points if I felt I'd had enough. 

Although I was getting drenched, my layers were doing their job, and I still stayed warm. I had on a good dhb base layer, and a Rapha Brevet jersey, which was amazing at keeping me warm and dry.
I also had on Cube overshoes, which were pretty handy.

Waterproofed up from head to toe
Bethlem Hospital has a park and woodland known as Spring Park. I have done cyclocross races there in the past, and it is also used for Park Runs. So it was definitely worth doing a mini tour around there.

From there I moved on to another park also called Spring Park - in Shirley! This one was also in woodland, though was a bit bigger and set on the side of a hill, meaning a lot of care was needed as I took some sketchy descents towards West Wickham. Even in this grim weather there were still people out doing their Boxing Day walk. As I passed them we greeted each other almost as a mark of solidarity between kindred spirits.

A well-used bike from the local muddy trails
Next up was Lloyd Park, near Croydon. The best thing about this park was that there is now a tarmacked path that goes around the edge of the park, which I made use of.

Lloyd Park is a Park Run venue and is also regularly used as a course for cross country races. So it is fair to say that at this time of year the grass is constantly churned up and waterlogged - not something I found appealing today.

If I thought I'd avoided the mud of Lloyd Park, I couldn't avoid the clag in the final park, at South Norwood Country Park. Maybe because it was the home straight of my ride I became a bit enthusiastic with my pace, which meant mud splashed all over the place, and by the time I reached home I looked like I'd been in a cyclocross race.

I didn't care by this point though, and was just glad to have done the route I'd planned, and my faithful old mountain bike had not lead me down.

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