The Black Rabbit Ride

13th March 2016

A day of firsts for Chelsea and Fulham - the first day of the new electronic booking in system, the first ride of the year and the first verified 100+ bikes on a ride out. Regrettably we also had one of our very rare collisions within the group of riders but fortunately the outcome seemed to be superficial damage and a few bumps and bruises, with both riders and bikes able to complete the ride. And it was the first day we shut the gates when the briefing started - remember our rule is ‘no brief no ride’. Fred moved seamlessly from his role as dinner money monitor to gate warden... is there no beginning to his talents?

The Black Rabbit Ride

As ever, planning started some time before the ride out, some specific to this ride (route, timings, stops) and some to benefit the chapter for the coming seasons. Principal amongst these is the new membership card and electronic booking in system, where each signed up member of Chelsea and Fulham receives a smart plastic credit card style membership card. Booking in for a ride or other event then becomes merely a matter of swiping the card through the reader. A benefit hidden to the membership is that the ride leader knows exactly who is on the ride and has contact information immediately available. Plus it removes the previous admin from the rider patch and the precious metal rockers, because now we will know exactly which rides each rider has attended. JW was there in person to welcome new members and oversee the booking in to check for any teething trouble, as well as providing breakfast nibbles. Thanks John!

The Black Rabbit Ride

We knew on the recce that we had a good route and when the sun came out we knew we had a good day to go with it. Following a thorough recce a week or so before, we had settled on a route that hopefully would flow along with not too many drop-offs. New and old riders alike were reminded of the vital importance of staying where put until collected by the last man and there were no mistakes on the day. You’ll be pleased to know we didn’t repeat any of the u-turns. We like to keep our mistakes private.

If there’s a quick and simple route out of London other than Putney Bridge, Tibbetts Corner and the A3, will someone please write in and tell us what it is? Until then we will continue to make use of our quick escape option. We turned off the A3 onto a very congested A243 towards the Chessington World of Adventures. The queues of cars were truly magnificent. I hope they all got in eventually. A quick bit of A24 (blighted somewhat by a 30mph speed limit while they dig up the drains (again)) saw us to Ryka’s for a 45 minute comfort break. At least the usually ever present Surrey police camera van was not on the MIckleham bends. Suitably refreshed, it was time to find the old Roman Road to Chichester, called by the Saxons the ‘stone road’, known to us as Stane Street. The Black Rabbit RideIts other modern name is the A29, and regrettably it was the venue for one of our very rare collisions. The road is comprised of straights each a couple of miles in length, punctuated by connecting roads which seem to take you sideways. The way the Romans built it was to survey each section and lay out the road along the same bearing until they met something impassable - an excessively steep hill, a bog, a river they couldn’t easily bridge etc. Then they looked around for a new place to start the next straight bit, and once that was under way they connected it to the existing section by a lateral. That’s why you get a 4 or 5 mile blast followed by a nadgery bit, then off we go again! The only really modern bit is the Billingshurst by-pass, but the old road still goes straight through the town if you want to be a traditionalist. In some places the original alignment has been lost and is still the subject of archaeological exploration - one of those lost bits is probably under Ryka’s car park. All in all it makes it a fun road to ride.

We did find a speed trap - a cheery Sussex Police officer in Watersfield, who, when it was obvious we weren’t going to make him get his pen out, exchanged friendly waves with the passing riders.

The Black Rabbit Ride

After a very enjoyable 30 miles we drove down the hill into Arundel, having given another set of sports bike riders at Whiteways Café (try it, it does an excellent sausage roll) an eye and earful of chrome and Vance and Hines. Arundel was rammed - pedestrians, cyclists, random cars, probably even a caravan or two - but our destination was a mile or so out of town at the Black Rabbit pub on the banks of the river Arun. Where we filled the car park. I mean filled - 102 bikes take up quite a bit of space.

The ride ended at the pub, but there were nearby petrol stations for the Sportsters (although I note that our usual 48 riders had cheated - Keira came on her ‘sensible’ bike, and Tina has fitted a Nightster tank. Where’s the fun in that?) We had tried the food on the recce and it was fine. Unfortunately, when you take that many people to a pub all arriving at the same time there will be a bit of a wait, but there were plenty of staff on duty helping out with service. The opportunity to sit in the spring sunshine watching the ducks was not ignored.

The Black Rabbit Ride

Many thanks to Oliver for devising and leading the ride, and Rob Warr for last man duties, where he could continue running in the 117 cubic inch conversion he has just had fitted. Other roving marshal duties were undertaken by Fred, Steve, Les, Mick, Colin and yours truly. Manuela came along (by car) to take some pictures, and Steve Graham continued his new photographer role by documenting everything in sight.

Next ride out is on Sunday 17th April. I shall be absent at a family wedding, but I hope you all have a magnificent time. Keep an eye on the web-page or Facebook for the sign-on times, you don’t want to be the wrong side of the gate when Fred slams it shut...

Michael Howers - C&F Road Captain and Editor


Photographs by Manuela de Castro and Steve Graham, Chapter Photographers old and new.