South Downs way, end-to-end, TBC

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  • I did that route over a couple of very hot days this summer. 10 hours-ish sounds about right. Just looked at my strava and I was moving for approx 12 hours. But assume you'll be faster than me, even at relaxed pace.

    Speed is very uneven though - the Downs link bit is almost all flat gravel paths and is really quick (though not hugely exciting). But then some of the South Downs sections are pretty slow going.
    If it's muddy I'd allow considerably more time for all the offroad bits. Plus extra time for mechanicals, etc.

    If you've got 2 whole days to do it then it will be very relaxed - I didn't leave London until after lunch on the first day and had assumed I'd be easily back to collect kids from school on second day, but ended up taking much longer.­1512­5848

  • So first of all, a big thank you to @yetidamo and everyone else who's contributed to this thread. Your knowledge was a big reason why our end to end ride yesterday went as smoothly as it did.

    The day started the night before, when my riding partner showed up to my house with a non-functioning bike and baffled expression. Turns out the gravel wheels he'd bought were both 12mm thru axles yet his bike took a 15mm up front. Some late night mechanicing (thanks Focus for your silly RAT axles) and a new tubeless setup later, we were ready for some shut eye. That 0445 wake-up was not going to feel particularly pleasant, but with both of us having commitments on Friday/Sunday, we only had the 24hr window of Saturday to get it done.

    London was still and shrouded in fog as we rode the hour to Waterloo. A natural worrier, I was relieved when we'd got ourselves ensconced on the train without issue, and from there we proceeded to tuck in to second breakfast with gusto. As we pulled in to Winchester the sun was rising and the surrounding fields bathed in golden light and morning dew. Keen to crack on we didn't search for the official starting point sign and somewhat anticlimatically simply rolled across a footbridge and on to the first of many picturesque bridleways. As we hit the first hillock my partner shifted into his smallest sprocket, and proceeded to push the chain between the cassette and wheel. "Oh yes, I forgot to ask you about that last night" he explained. Looks were exchanged. "Don't worry, I'll just be careful when I downshift" he promised.

    The fog of the morning lifted on the tops and condensed in the valleys leading to some spectacular views, and with the trails as hard packed as could be wished for, the going was good and morale was high. We skipped the traditional first stop at Alan's coffee cart, choosing instead to push on to the next bit of civilisation: the Flint Barn cafe in the wonderfully named Cocking. The grab-and-go food selection here wasn't great, but two pre-11am cappuccinos in a sun-bathed courtyard more than made up for that. Even better the emergency 33mm Vittoria I'd thrown on the front wheel the day before seemed to be holding air and not holding up my riding partner even on the most gnarly of rutted descents.

    A small note on food here. It's worth planning your stops in advance, and carrying what you can, I would suggest. There's almost nothing in terms of convenience stores on the trail (Upper Beeding and Alfriston are the only two I can see), and pretty much all of the other commercial offerings are eat-in only, which saps time away if you're on a schedule. Bizarrely the two branches of Cadence don't seem to be advertised anywhere I could see when reading about options on the trail, but these seemed to be a bit better equipped for take-out ( Conversely the route is more than adequately supplied with well-spaced water points, public access taps on farms and churches throughout. These are all marked on the SDW site and again worth making a note of especially if a hot day like yesterday (­uploads/sdw_drinking_water_2013.pdf).

    We are both relatively experienced cyclists and spoke about keeping our riding below threshold as we knew it was going to be a long day. Even with this in mind however, there's only so much you can do to keep the power output down when every climb demands a near VO2 effort just to get up it. Such is the way of the South Downs. Approaching Amberley about 5 hours after leaving Winchester, we discussed delaying our planned lunch stop and instead having some trail sangers later on the route. But after we caught sight of the Riverside setting and menu promising melted cheese ciabattas, it was too much to resist. 45 mins later, with bellies bloated with bacon, brie, and chunky chips, we set off in the knowledge that we had about 2 miles of solid climbing ahead of us. As it turns out, heavy dairy and meat wasn't quite what we needed to fuel out climbing legs, and we both belched and groaned our way up what was probably the most challenging climb of the day up to Rackham Hill. Every day's a school day and all that.

    The next 25 miles or so are a bit of a blur, with seemingly endless vistas as we crested each hill. Two cold cokes at Cadence were the stiffeners we needed for the last 25 mile push in to Eastbourne, but from there the little breaks became more frequently: a bottle refill here, a quick stretch there etc. We'd read about the reported 'death zone' but to be honest it was hard to determine exactly which point in the last quarter this appeared. Perhaps after going past the planned 'emergency bail' point (Devils Dyke golf course for the roll into Brighton), where we knew we'd effectively committed to the full shebang. But either way it was something of a rollercoaster: physically, emotionally, and geographically. I'm really glad we rode as a pair as inevitably your high coincides with their low. Solo riding would have been particularly hard. But with the tunes on, and the sun setting to the West, we rolled the final climbs until at last we could see the city below us. A note for anyone doing it: Willington Hill out of Jevington is a complete PITA, but it is the last climb, so save something back for this moment.

    A quick snap at the finishing sign (not much to see, but grateful for the gaggle of hikers cooing about how we'd "come such a long way" and that we must "make sure we get something to eat") and then it was a roll to the station and an snap purchase of a footlong Subway for the journey). Not sure the London-bound revellers were hugely pleased with our sweaty bodies snaffling cheap sarnies. Delayed arrival back into Victoria at just before 2100 before the sightly tortuous 75 min ride home back to SE London.

    Total ride:
    101 miles (plus 27 in total to/from station)
    Total elevation gain: 11,762 ft
    Av moving sp: 11.1mph
    SDW riding time - 9hrs
    Total SDW elapsed time - 11hrs18

    If you're reading this and thinking about riding the trail: do it! Ideally in the next few weeks while there is enough daylight and the running is still dry. But whenever you ride it will be a blast i'm sure

    Some pics to follow

  • Pics of our ride

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  • Great write up and pictures! Good moving average as well!

  • Great write up photos glad you had a good day out. Well timed doing it yesterday today was shitty.

  • Cracker of a write up. And those photos! Really hard to capture the beauty of the SDW, but you've had a good go there.

    Was it you or your mate on road pedals? Good job it stayed dry for you/him ;)

  • thats a nice pace yeh. as mentioned though some really quick bits and some slow slow bits. nice route though.

  • Nice pictures. I recognise that kinesis from NLDirt. Fast indeed

  • Thanks all. In retrospect nearly 2.5 hours of stopping feels excessive, but we weren't there for the FKT...

    @Retro_bastard yep we got lucky on so many fronts. Weather, trains, no mechanicals, no crashes etc. We daren't do the ride again for wont of tempting fate

    @yetidamo yup, it was him on road pedals. You can take the roadie off road but you can't make him drink, etc

    @Glws yeah with NLD last weekend it's been a good fortnight of gravel! Were you with the PNS crew there?

  • We did the SD Overnighter. Two Tripsters on course this weekend it seems. The missus seemed to enjoy it but I hated my life for much of it (the sitting in pub bits was nice). Maybe fatigue from the 10mi TT (the 20min is the easy bit, it's all the surrounding stress). Maybe I'm just broken.

    TL worked well on both bikes. Had some shifting trouble after rattling half the bike loose. Pretty sure tent now has holes in it (drybag definitely does). EDIT: tent is scuffed, but not holed thankfully.

    Picasa (dealwithit) suddenly won't rotate my pics correctly. I banged my shin on my dining table desk now and it's bleeding. I'm not sure this cycling thing is for me any more. Is there a golf thread on here?

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  • I'm lost for words

  • Here's the equivalent of 1000 of them for you...

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  • Looking pretty svelte there, mate.


  • Are you drunk? Must be a trick of the light or something. I'm still as wide as a proper-sized fridge.

  • Gnarmac

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  • The grrl ( @PhilDAS ) with moody SDW backdrop

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  • The way I see it, if you're still taking pictures while out riding you don't hate cycling enough to play golf, yet.. Your shin thing is different

  • It's hard to explain. We had 50k of shit riding each way between west is best London and Guildford top and tailing the route which probably didn't help. I'd raced a 10mi so may have been jaded. I just don't think I needed the pressure of getting to a proper campsite before sundown. We sat out the bulk of a rain shower for 2hrs and had some mechanical issues to deal with which cost another hour maybe. By the time we'd pitched up the pub wasn't serving food so dinner was a pack of crisps, peanuts and a couple of pints. I dunno, I guess the bulk of it was fun but we were both out of food and pretty fucked on the way back so the last 50k was just a TT on fumes to home. Not how a 'chilled' camp out should go.

  • We both made it back alive (I think the missus had one little tumble) and there were some lovely scenes out there. The camping worked pretty well (although we need to pull the rain fly a bit further away from the inner).

    I rode the same saddle in Badlands but it seemed very uncomfortable during this. I was wearing MTB 3/4 shorts so perhaps there's a seam interface that doesn't like the Adamo saddle. Think I'll try swapping to a normal saddle - it'll make sliding back for steeper stuff easier as well.

    Need long finger gloves - I wore a hole in my thumb from how I hold the shifters so will ditch the mitts for mtb gloves.

    Could do with a bigger drybag for the tent - the 2L one is a bit hard to pack once the tent is wet.

    Wearing my old Etnies probably wasn't a good idea. I want my Five Tens. Dropped my saddle during the ride. That needs a look. Blah blah... if only I could stop treating every ride like a TT that needs every aspect improved...

  • Anger

  • Revenge is a dish best served repeatedly over an internet connection.

  • Although hitting this dining table with a hammer went some way to making me feel like I was winning at something for a change.

  • yes it was me with a few addicts...
    Have to say i expected a gravel ride to tone down the level of brand alignement but they are pretty committed to the normcore style

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South Downs way, end-to-end, TBC

Posted by Avatar for Dammit @Dammit