Archive for the ‘South Downs Way’ Category
Yes I really did just ride the South Downs Way again – this time with my cousin Steve.
The ride came about when last Christmas he mentioned that it’s always something he really wanted to do. Never one to turn down a cycling opportunity I agreed to do the trip straight away. So, a little later in the year than we’d thought (due to me being in Mongolia for 3 months) we set off on the 3 day, 100+ miles, hill climbing marathon from Winchester to Eastbourne.
And… it went almost entirely without any problems. No fallings off, some light rain on the 3rd day but nothing to slow us down, no mechanical breakdowns, relatively few aches and pains and most of all: NO PUNCTURES! After my previous experiences (with between 4 and 8 riders) having just 2 people (and 2 bikes – both in good working order) made things a lot more straightforward.
Thanks again to Liz for luggage support on the first day (after that we carried it).
We also discovered some amazing vegetable curry pasties in the general store in a little village called Jevington – last stop (and 2 hills) from Eastbourne. So good we went back for a second one (though they got my second one wrong and it turned out to be cheese and onion – still bitter about this!).
Here’s a video I put together of the trip – some gimmicky stuff in this one:
A great way to round off the summer of cycling. Now I’m not commuting I’m looking for some more cycling challenges to motivate me to keep the fitness up through the winter. Anyone???
This was really 4 very different rides all in one! It consisted of:
1. The advanced mountain biking course at Queen Elizabeth Country Park
2. From there following the Southdowns Way to the A29, just west of Amberly.
3. On the road to Burnham (from where I took a train to Havant)
4. The Hayling Billy Trail back to south Hayling Island.
Total: 39 miles – most of it offroad, and a great 6 hours training. Here is the route (terrain view gives you more of an idea):
I also used the trip to try out my new Tachyon XC Micro helmet camera for the first time. The following is my first dabbling in the world of helmet mounted video (much better efforts hopefully to come in future posts). The video is all of the advanced mountain biking course at Queen Elizabeth Country park – so gives a flavour of the riding there:
In a side note – I learned with interest recently that if you upload something to YouTube that incorporates copyright material (such as say… the music you put your biking video to) it is quite possible that it can be actively permitted to remain there by the copyright owner for various reasons… see this fascinating talk on how YouTube manages copyright material.
Rob: “Ok I’m not going to ride today”.
Me: “Yeah ok Rob whatever” (complete disbelief – been wound up too many times..)
Rob: “No really. I’m not riding.”
Me: “Yeah ok then”
Rob: “No I’m REALLY not riding”
Me: (less sure) “Err ok..”
Me: So you are riding yeah?
Me: “If you do it now I won’t make you do it next year”
Rob: “No comment”.
So without one understandably downtrodden, shin injured, weather sceptical tap out we set out on day 3, which was.. a gloriously sunny day! The first hill was tough but once that was conquered we settled down for another day of riding up and down hills. We had no punctures and the previous week’s practice ride of this section paid off with us knowing the places not to take wrong turnings.
We enjoyed the uphill, the down hill and the flat sections (yeah ok there wern’t many of the latter). We had a great pub lunch and hurtled down the hill into Eastbourne about 4:30, straight to a Belgian restaurant for well earned steaks and Belgian beer. All in all – despite some bad weather on the first couple of days it was a great trip. I’d do it again, but next time – in 2 days! Come on you know you all want to!
Day 2 started with guess what – more rain. But with a forecast for the rain to clear quickly, we left our luggage in the porch for Liz to pick up and set off for – oh a good 5 metres before Andy needed to adjust his disc brakes! We then got ourselves back up the hill to the South Downs Way and set about tackling the many hills of the day.
But it kept raining. And wet chalk makes for pretty slippery riding, and we were slipping all over the place – with quite a few near offs. Rob did fall off, and then proceeded to smack himself in the shin with his (apparently ungrippy) pedal – and then again – same shin – ouch. We all wished we’d kept our winter tyres on, though frankly I’m not sure it would have helped that much on some of the wet chalky descents.
It was still raining at lunch time and we were so covered in mud we ate our pub lunches outside in the rain rather than leave mud all over the seats inside. The weather did clear up in the afternoon though and despite a few more punctures and hard work riding up hills, we did start to enjoy ourselves… Neil: “I may complete the SDW but it may be at the cost of my sanity”. Andy: “I’m actually looking forward to the next hill”. Me: “Andy has lost his already”.
We finished up in the bustling town of Clayton (well ok it’s a village with one pub, though that was bustling by the time we filled it with 4 hungry cyclists, Liz our favourite porter, Kaylee (9) and Dylan (2)!)
Andy, Rob, Neil and I set out to ride the South Downs Way in 3 days. The South Downs Way runs for 100 miles from Winchester to Eastbourne in the south of England, and a pretty tough 100 miles they are too. The route is 95% off road and is characterised by seemingly endless ups and downs. This time we did at least knew what we were letting ourselves in for as we’d previously attempted it 2 years ago and ended up drinking beer on Brighton beach after the second day!
So the morning came.. and it was raining. We tried to delay the start, but really, we just had to get on with it. Thanks to Mum and Dad for the stay over, lift to the start and big breakfast and supplies of energy bars. We had one other thing on our side as well – Liz (our favourite porter) was to take our luggage to the end point of the first day so all we had to carry was what we needed during the day. Oh and of course.. we’d all trained really really hard this time.. er.. hadn’t we?!
The rain had left much of the first part of the ride muddy, and it wasn’t long before we were covered in mud and our fair share of nettle stings. We made good progress though – pushing on to Queen Elizabeth Country park by lunch time (we recall it being late afternoon before we got there last time). It went a little downhill (well alright not before a lot of uphill!) though when we had a series of punctures in the last hour, and upon riding down an amazing descent to my pub of choice by 5 only to find it didn’t open till 7 we had to ride to the backup pub almost 30 minutes away. However by the time we got there, Liz had turned up offering moral support and more importantly, strawberry chewy sweets.
The day finished with a lot of food consumed, a last 10 minute uphill ride to the farm we were staying at, a good hour of bike maintenance and finally, falling asleep with hot chocolate watching Bridget Jones’ diary. Oh and Liz offered to carry our luggage again for the next day on condition she got to take a photo of us on our knees begging.. Dylan (our 2 year old mascot) had to join in of course!
Andy and I set off early to ride the last 3rd of the South Downs Way. This was in preparation for our attempt at the whole thing in 3 days next week. This was the only section we’d never previously ridden. A good thing to as we took 4 wrong turnings, mostly due to missing or ambiguous signs so hopefully there will be no wrong turnings next week! Anyway, we completed about 33 miles of the South Downs Way and 5 or so getting to and from the start from cars and trains. The morning was surprisingly easy, but we were put in our place by a couple of huge hills right before the end. The descent into Eastbourne was awesome and will be even better next week after 3 days riding!
Miles ridden: 6. Average Speed: 10.1 mph. Average beers drunk: 3. Punctures: 0.
Mutiny! Tim was the only one who wanted to complete the days riding off-road to Eastbourne. Team B, having enjoyed their rest day so much decided drinking in Brighton was a much better idea than riding up and down hills all day. Rob and Neil (known as Team A- after yesterdays easy get out option) quickly jumped on the bandwagon, and Andy was so destroyed from completing the previous day that he barely made it down the stairs to breakfast. Again, Tim maintained that it would be an easier day, though to be fair, after being proved categorically wrong about day 2 he had lost considerable credibility for his difficulty predictions.
Despite trying to convince someone to complete the ride with him throughout breakfast Tim eventually gave up and opted to join the Brighton beer drinking plan rather than go off on his own. Also, a big respect to Sam who in the end said if no-one else would then she would accompany Tim on the last days ride. However by this point minds had been made up.. and Brighton sea front for beers it was.
It was a lovely day, and I don’t think anyone regretted the decision. Highlights included some nice easy road riding, food and beer in the sunshine, Sam’s sun tan application mini massages, Craig and Tim having their hair ‘styled’ with Craig’s product, Tim juggling and Rob demonstrating his Yoga skills/fine body (apparently..) !
So, to the next adventure, be it another attempt at the Southdowns Way or something of an altogether flatter nature…
Miles ridden: 41. Average Speed: 8.1 mph. Average beers drunk: 7. Punctures: 1.
After some early morning research, Mark formulated a plan for those who wanted a rest day to ride 10 miles to Chichester and take the train from there with a view to recovering enough to enjoy the final day of riding. so, despite Tim assuring everyone that this day would be easier than the last, we split into two teams.
Team A (Tim, Rob, Andy and Neil) planned to complete the full days route as planned, and Team B (Mark, Craig Alison and Sam) planned to take the train and fit in a bit of shopping and drinking in Chichester. The two teams planned to meet up at Brighton Youth Hostel in the evening.
Team A started the day with Andy having a puncture before we even got back on the Southdowns way. With his tyre popping off and him feeling generally knackered after the first hill, he almost gave up in favour of following Team B. However, he didn’t and we started to make quick progress after that.
That was until we hit a field that had been completely ploughed over forcing us to walk, followed by some really monster hills that soon had everyone walking the steepest bits. We stopped for lunch to rest and fuel up on jacket potatoes. Rob also had been having problems clearing his mixed grill from last night – to attractive bar maid: “Have you got any rennie I’m all backed up!”
Although the huge hills just continued one after another, we were at least rewarded for our efforts with some fantastic flat(ish) riding along the top of the downs, and the corresponding monster down hills. We were all pushing ourselves and were really enjoying the riding. There were a couple of little dodgy sliding moments on loose Stones (particularly Andy’s when we were riding down a huge hill in tight formation) but all came to the bottom of each descent grinning. We didn’t even mind that much when Mark kept texting to let us know he was drinking San Miguel!
When we eventually appeared on a road about 3/4 of the way through the days route we struggled to pick up the next section of the trail.. “hmm let’s keep going” says Tim.. “but if we go more than half a mile and we haven’t found it we’ve definitely gone too far”. Err.. yep so half a mile later Rob and Neil have disappeared down the road and subsequently down a massive hill. Unfortunately they were now off the map. Rather than ride back up the hill they decided to follow sign posts to Brighton and meet Tim and Andy at the Youth Hostel. After riding up and down for half an hour or so Tim and Andy eventually find the route. They had actually left the route some time back during that really exciting down hill section.. easy to do when your having fun.
Tim and Andy rode over more hill after hill and then walked up and rode down hill after hill to finally meet up with everyone in Brighton YHA. What a relief! Rob and Neil had ended up going quite a long way around and didn’t get there much earlier.
All were reunited in the pub over the road for a serious eating and drinking session, involving multiple trips to the included salad bar, and shots of horrible Strawberry Vodka (4 for Tim to catch up!). Once back in the Youth Hostel we took over the TV room and turned it into our very own massage parlour – Sam you’re the best! The evening closed with Alison and Rob demonstrating some fine hand stands and other acrobatics in our room, whilst Sam and Craig nipped back to the TV room for a bit of Buffy!
Miles ridden: 38. Average Speed: 7.7 mph. Average beers drunk: 2. Punctures: 3.
The first days riding from Winchester to Cocking. After a few chain problems for Sam and Rob, leaving Sam committed to 5 gears on lowest chain ring, we set off enthusiastically. We certainly got good at fixing punctures and putting chains back on after Rob, Andy and Mark all having a puncture and Sam, Rob and Andy loosing their chains on various occasions.
Progress was slow, but steady all day with a nice lunch stop at a pub, and many rests at the top of hills. Despite the riding being harder than anyone had expected, everyone kept going and the scenery and weather got better and better throughout the day. We only split up for the last few miles because Mark, Rob, Andy and Neil had gone off slightly ahead and missed a turning. Before they realised they had come to the bottom of a huge hill, and since there were only a few miles to go took the road to the days destination – Cocking. Meanwhile after nearly missing the same turning the others (by now struggling and walking up anything steeper than flat) came in half an hour or so later.
As soon as we had showered we hit the pub – and oh that was one of the most welcome mixed grill and beers ever! The 5 minute back to the B&B bus was a steep 1 pound 80 each – Neil was going to refuse till he realised that would mean walking. Although everyone had made it to the days destination, there were already murmurings about a split into two groups with one group taking an easier road based route the next day to try and recover in preparation for the final day.
Everyone gathered in Winchester, where we stayed in a B&B furnished chiefly with antique hospital furniture. A couple of beers were drunk whilst everyone waited for the girls (and Craig) to turn up.
The highlight for the boys in the upstairs room was being woken up in the middle of the night by Andy loudly making a beer order in his sleep!