Portsmouth or bust: Kerry’s Big Day Out

Portsmouth or bust: Kerry’s Big Day Out

I had been stood staring at my bike for quite a while. In my head I was having an argument with myself.
“What about if my brakes don’t work properly?”
“You just checked them. They’re fine.”
“It’s quite a long way.”
“It’s 60 miles – if you can’t cope with that how will you ride 4,000?”
“What if I break down somewhere?”
“That’s what the AA are for.”
“But the weather..”
“Couldn’t be any better: sunny, clear sky, it’s not hot and the roads are dry. What more do you want?”
I knew in my head (at least one side) that I was right: if I was going to try and do some distance riding then today was a great day for it. I had time on my hands and conditions were ideal. So what was I so hesitant about? The answer really was me. I was worried about breaking the bike in some way, because that would finish my riding career before I really started it. And I was worried about my own capability on fast roads.
I had decided a couple of days before that I would do my first trip out somewhere which was just enough to stretch myself and the bike’s, and I came up with two destinations: Brighton and Portsmouth. Brighton I decided against because I figured that if the weather was going to be as good as the forecasts suggested then it would be busier getting in to town and on the motorway than Portsmouth would. And I was also swayed by the Cadbury and Lindt retail stores in Gunwharf Quays. So Portsmouth won. Quite easily once chocolate was involved actually.
So my plan was to head out past Esher and join the A3 at Cobham; this way I would have a chance to get up to 50mph on the roads out that way and see how comfortable I was with the speed. I also wanted to stop in Cobham just to check my oil level; so that was my last turning back point should I decide not to go any further.
My last excuse petered out quickly: I had one errand I wanted to do but as it turned out it wasn’t necessary. That was it: my irrational side’s argument had disappeared, and I started to think of the experience in a positive light. Could things go wrong? Of course. But there was only one way to find out what would happen. So I made duaa that I would be safe on the trip, then I threw my leg over the seat and got comfortable. I started her up.
The ride out past Esher wasn’t as fast as I’d hope to get up to – too many Sunday drivers out early. So I reached Cobham and pulled in to the petrol station there to check my oil level. I could see a group of about 6 bikers on the opposite side of the forecourt getting ready to hit the road (admittedly that’s the wrong phrase to use here-but you know what I mean), and I started to feel excited about the trip for the first time that morning. Until I saw where my oil level was. It was way over what I had expected, almost to the lower level. Now the irrational side came in again.
“Well they won’t sell bike oil in a Sainsbury’s – you’ll have to go back home and fill it there.”
Had I really come out this far to be thwarted as quickly as that? I asked one of the staff if there was anywhere nearby I could buy bike oil from – and fortunately there was a Halfords about 3 miles away. So I rode as gently as I could to get there and then got my oil.
Once I started her up again, things changed: the bike sounded smoother-running and once I started moving again I made my decision. – I was going to do it. Portsmouth or Bust!
I came round the roundabout and lined up at the ights for the A3. As my trip meter turned over to 326 miles exactly, I hit the A3.
Within a few minutes it became clear that masha’Allah my fears about breaking the bike were unfounded; in fact she responded better to 60 mph than she did to commuter traffic. The speedo naturally rolled up to 70mph without any real help from me, and since the road was fairly clear I began to settle down into the trip.
So what happened? Well alhamdulillah I’m glad to say we both made it! The bike masha’Allah had no problems; it didn’t matter how fast I went, (one might say) she didn’t bat an eyelid. And once I had become more confident in my ability, the ride was very enjoyable. I wasn’t cold or uncomfortable, and it was an amazing trip. The views were beautiful, and even more so once the sea came in to view. In fact I’m sitting on a bench overlooking the water in Portsmouth, writing this tale and looking forward to the return journey. Once I’ve finished my chocolate shopping.

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