Gavin’s – Operation Isle of Wight

Hi Everyone (sent on behalf of Gavin Watson)

I thought I’d put together a quick summary of Operation Isle of Wight.

Pre-covid I rode a different route with a few others and said never again as I was about four stone heavier and hills were only fun coming down.

Jump to this year. The riders I rode with kept badgering me about how they would like to do the Isle of Wight. Finally, in April I said OK I would sort it even with my dodgy knee still under investigation. I didn’t know if I would make it to the start of the route.

So onto planning and execution. First job was to find transportation. Luckily I knew where a few minibuses usually lie doing nothing on a weekday (last minute insurance check to see if it would cover all the bikes we were taking). Next job was to book the Isle of wight Passenger Ferry. A good tip is to book it a month before to get a discount. The more people you book the cheaper it is. Started at £25 each way finished at £20.40 each. Just had to then plan route and find some decent coffee stops, one at 22 miles and one at 44 miles.

After organising a herd of cats (riders) via WhatsApp , Facebook, telephone and old fashioned face to face the club had 30 riders interested. As we started to book the ferry this dropped down to 18 riders due to work commitments, illness, injuries and not feeling fit enough.

The Big day came. We arranged to meet at Potters at 0630 am. An early start after a sleepless night worrying that I had missed something or had forgotten to do something. My biggest worry was whether all the bikes would fit in! We had two minibuses and a trailer. I arrived early (shock horror, as I usually turn up late). The usual early risers where there waiting for me.

Everyone was there ready to leave at 7 am. After taking a few front wheels off we loaded the vehicles and trailer and were ready to set off. Upon checking the ICE list I realised we were missing a rider, John. He was almost left behind. An hour later we arrived at The Thatched House Pub in Southsea. We unloaded the vehicles and headed to the ferry terminal. Even with a ride GPS file we managed to lose 3 riders – Richard, Terry and Laura. Turned out they had gone to Car Ferry Terminal instead. We were due to sail at 0915 but at 0912 we were still short of 3 riders. By 0914 we were back to 18.

The short ferry crossing was smooth and sunny and all bikes and riders arrived safely.

On arrival at the Isle of Wight, we split into 3 groups.

  1. Recon Squad with Captain Richard leading (fast group) 3 riders
  2. Main Battle Group with Captain Laura Leading with Lieutenant Frenchman Dom (the mid pace) 8 riders
  3. The Reserve Group with General Gavin leading (Generals are never brave enough to be on the frontline LOL) 7 riders

I had packed a small rucksack for most disasters containing loads of inner tubes, spare tyre, spare gas and a first aid kit. We had only 3 mechanicals, 2 cleat issues and a gearing problem. So I carried the bag all way round for nothing!

Being in the reserve it was my responsibility to sweep up any stragglers who were struggling with the ride. As we came out of Ryde I got a call from David saying he was lost. He hadn’t loaded the route and the main Battle Group had dropped him. We managed to find him and continued onwards. We rode round most of the Tour de Britain route which is taking place in September. We rode out of Shanklin up a monster of a hill which is one of the King of the Mountain stages. I know this because as I rode, walked and rode up it at 2mph it said KOM24 in yellow paint at the top. I set myself a challenge to count every hill where I dropped onto the small front cog. Will come back to the result at the end.

I got a second call from Recon Squad saying our first Coffee stop couldn’t cater for us. Thanks to Richard who saved us all cycling down a dirt track to find this out. Recon Squad headed to Freshwater Bay Café, Main Battle Group went to The Wight Mouse Inn and Reserve Group went to The White Lion for lunch. Richard’s Recon Squad said they where not stopping at the second stop and motored on to the finish. The other 2 groups carried on heading to stop two. We started to lose people at the front in the Reserve Group bit we all found each other with 12 miles to go so Reserve was back to full strength again.

As we reached our final hill outside of Ryde, with Garmin saying 6 out of 6 hills completed, I laughed as I sure went up more than six hills!

With the finish approaching, Recon Group decided to meet at The Alamo Pub and start the beers. We arrived at 1715, a whole hour early for the Ferry. So we all had a drink and headed down the pier to the Ferry Terminal. The pier is made from wooden planks with massive cracks between them, big enough to just fit a tyre down. I wondered if they had had one too many as they weaved down the pier trying to avoid the cracks.

We got back to Portsmouth as a sea mist came in. We rode as a group of 18 along the front recalling the day’s events. We loaded the vans with bikes and tried to look presentable for dinner. Lovely grub was had by all. I was taken aback by the generosity of the other riders who bought my dinner and drinks. This made my day and would like to pass on my thanks to everyone for that.

We left Portsmouth about 10pm heading back to Mytchett. Fuel cost for the day worked out at £3.90 each. So the total cost for the day was just shy of £25 each for a day out at the Isle of Wight.

I presented Lewis with an Isle of Wight mug for driving one of the buses. Thanks again to Lewis for rising to the challenge. He liked it so much he said he wanted a job, until I told him it cost a lot money to do a PSV and he said he’d rather go on holiday.

Back to the hills – I asked everyone how many hills there were on our journey. The Reserve Group knew about most of them as I shouted out the number each time I changed down except the last 10 miles where I kept it a secret. In the whole 62 mile ride there was 66 hills. More than one hill every mile.

Age range was 39-75 years old
Speeds of groups Recon Squad 15/16 miles and average
Main Battle group 14 mph
Reserve group about 11.8 mph

I took 18 out I brought 18 back so I didn’t leave anyone behind.

Thanks to all The Group Captains and Lewis for driving. Well done to everyone who rode and made the day a success.

The Riders were: Gavin, Lewis, Terry, Laura, Peter, Graham,Richard, Dominique, Gareth, Rob, Mark, Peter, Paul, John, David, Giles, Mike and Dave.

Ps sorry for Grammar and spelling

Best regards, Gavin Watson

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