The East London club for all kinds of sports cycling

Southend Shakedown (Pedal Powered Variety)

Lea Valley's intrepid bank holiday century team were faced with the spectacle of thousands of motorbikers when they arrived at Southend, the lunch stop and halfway point in their ride.

It was the annual Southend Shakedown, when bikers from all over the country set out from the famous Ace Café on the North Circular and head for the coast.

At 9am in Walthamstow, Sean, Anna, Dave, Wally and me (Scarlett) set out for Navestock Side where Gideon had arranged to hook up with us. The weather looked promising, and a moderate tailwind saw the group making double quick time along what was ostensibly the London-Southend charity ride route. The lanes were fairly deserted, the spring flowers were out, and we were in East Hanningfield at 11am, where Sean bid farewell, riding home for a social engagement and completing 70 miles as a chaser to his recent cycling (and ogling) binge in Italy.

The five of us pushed on, and apart from a grim stretch where we ended up on a busy A-road, we enjoyed quiet roads till the outskirts of Southend. There were a lot of motorbikes heading for the seafront, but the scale of their presence didn't become clear till we spilled onto the promenade at 1pm. It was quite a crush, trying to snake our way through the leather-clad throngs to find a café, but the sartorial elegance of my retro-Peugot jersey – replete with black and white chequered band – was not wasted on the bikers, including the odd Mod astride a scooter.

Various combinations of chips, baked potatoes, eggs, and beans, were washed down with sugary tea and coffee (and Fanta for Gideon), and we received VIP treatment from the staff who were 'impressed' with the fact we were going to ride another 50+ miles back to London.

Water bottles topped up, and sticks of Southend rock in jersey pockets, it was time to head home. We knew the headwind would take its toll, but the group stayed together, with everyone doing turns on the front, and soon we were winging our way back over the top of Hanningfield Reservoir. Anna reminded the group to stop for flapjack, marzipan and rock devouring sessions, and I kept Gideon in check as he was clearly keen to flex his tempo muscles at the front. In Ingatestone, Wally supplied each group member with a bottle of blue liquid (that set my teeth on edge despite me watering it down), and it was probably thanks to this that everyone sustained the 17mph average over the course of 105 miles (though thanks to living in the inner city ghetto, I managed 120!) – and everyone was hugely enamoured with my decision to chuck in some hill intervals as soon as we got near Chigwell, but this was my reward for doing the whole ride on an 81" fixed gear.

So, a fantastic day out, with 100+ miles feeling well within everyone's capabilities, which is quite impressive considering the lack of distance riding any of us had done of late. Dave is now spinning up hills like a retired geezer from Texas, and Gideon is rolling along on the flat like a German bloke with a penchant for pies.

Not sure where to go next. I'm still keen to do a route that goes up and down every climb bisecting the Pilgrims Way between Sevenoaks and Dorking, but we all know I've got issues...

(photo is by Natalie Emery, from the webpages)