A trip to the Essex Riviera

Essex's cycling socialite and Desire Editor of Rouleur Magazine, Stu Clapp is a great friend of CHPT3 and one of those unique people you stumble across in life who knows how to squeeze every ounce of fun out of a day, and then some. So, when Stu invited us to join him for a day out in his hometown near Southend, we were packing our buckets, spades and bikes faster than you can say "Adventure Island". Here's Stu to tell you a little bit more about the place he calls home, what makes it a great location to ride a bike and to share some memories of his own birth (really).

Photos: Alex Jacobs 

I used to have to sit on my right leg to see out the window of my brother’s VW Beetle. I still remember the registration plate and the weird smell of the cars rudimentary interior. A combination of petrol fumes and vinyl seats, the type that stuck to your bare legs.

My brother used to play Level 42 in that car as we drove up and down Southend seafront. He looked like Ivan Drago from Rocky IV, which meant I didn’t get any shit at school in 1985.

It was my brother that introduced me to cycling. He went to the Giro d’Italia with the Linda McCartney Foods team and came back wanting a motorbike license so that he could pilot the TV camera guys. He also came back with the idea that cycling was the new rock and roll having shared a hotel foyer with Marco Pantani for all of two minutes. It was my brother taught me to ride a bike. He was often in the presence of cycling greatness... What?

Someone used the term boomerang kid the other day. That was me. I grew up in Southend. Moved to London. Moved back. Moved to London again and eventually came back with a wife and child. The town has its faults, but it’s not a bad place to ride a bike, especially if you were riding in London previously and you’re not fond of going uphill. What the terrain lacks in gradient, it makes up for with wind resistance, which is good training if you’re ever thinking of riding from Leicester to Blackburn! (more on that to come...) 

My local café, the Birdwood in Leigh on Sea, is the hub of the cycling community. Go there at 9 am any day of the week and there’ll be people heading out for a ride. To build a community, it needs a centre. Football and rugby fans meet at the pub, but there aren’t too many bars willing to show cycling. Perhaps they should. Do they know how long the Eurosport coverage of Paris-Roubaix is?

When we shot CHPT3's new tube socks we went to a few places I went to as a kid in the Beetle; mostly places in Morrissey’s video for “Everyday is like Sunday”. And Rossi’s ice cream parlour on the Esplanade. If the weird smell is a reminder of that car, Rossi’s is the taste of Southend. These places are the backdrop to some of my earliest memories and I still get to ride past them every day. It’s not the earliest memory, though - I often tell my mum I still remember being born and can describe the hospital room. Totally freaks her out.  

There have been a lot of riders from around here to turn professional. Alex Dowsett is from just up the road. Cav doesn’t live too far away either. And in the past, there was Matt Illingworth who rode for Linda McCartney Foods. It must be the wind. Either that or the ice cream.


Why not treat yourself to a little bit of seaside style with a pair of CHPT3 Tube Socks, available from £10 a pair in our bundles