Mike Anton writes…
I’ve recently been out on the MTBs getting some miles in and thought I’d try a night ride just too see how I’d get on.
Having armed myself with a new Garmin 705 and extra battery pack for the light, I decided a ride along the South Downs Way from Eastbourne would do the trick.
The 705 is a beast of a gadget with more bells and whistles than you can shake a stick at. The included software needs a bit of patience to get to grips with though I was put on to the excellent Bikeroutetoaster.com website in which you can map routes and download them.
Some careful plotting of the proposed route and train timetable checking had me at the start (or end) of the SDW at half past midnight Saturday night (or should that be Sunday morning?).
The 705 can alert you if you go off course so as this was my first foray in to the dark, I thought I’d go with extra sensitivity. Unfortunately this meant the unit beeped pretty much every 10 secs, and would do so for most of the ride. (I probably had the sensitivity dialled down to 30 – 50ft which taking into account GPS’s accuracy, was too much).
Grinding up to Eastbourne golf course soon had me into thick fog. Now this isn’t fun in daylight so I was even more cautious especially as my lights were almost too bright in the mist. Fortunately the rolling map display kept me on the right course though there were a couple of minor off course excursions at two intersections.
The mist came and went for another 2 hours so it was concentrate on the route ahead and avoid the sheep and their ‘presents’. The drop down to the river Ouse at Southease was surprisingly chilly and damp though I shouldn’t complain as I had chosen probably the warmest weekend of the year.
The long drag up over Kingston saw my first encounter with a badger on the way down to the A27. I’d been warned that whilst most wildlife will avoid you, badgers are a bit rubbish and tales of being ‘badgered’ are common in MTB night riding circles. Fortunately this one decided to run away down the trail.
Another grind up the other side of the A27 saw the first glimmerings of sunrise though it looked to be more NE than E. On past Plumpton and an encounter with four walkers with head torches coming the other way. A cheery good morning and a daft mental question why anyone would be out at 3:20AM on the South Downs and next stop Jack and Jill.
The sun was coming up nicely by now so the lights went off at 4AM and I was treated to cracking views of the mist shrouded weald of Sussex below me as I travelled along the Devils Dyke section.
Next stop Chanctonbury ring where I tried to quietly tip toe the bike over the gravelly trail past some tents nestled by the trees.
Across the A24 and along the Storrington stretch with its views to Arundel castle and the sea beyond. I’ve ridden this stretch W to E a few times but this was the first time the other way and it’s definitely worth pausing and taking in the view.
Finally the descent off Amberley mount. This is an absolute git of a hill the other way and possibly the steepest rideable hill on the whole trail.
Stopping at the bottom saw me with 49.5 miles in 5:12 on the GPS and 5:39 of elapsed time. Not too horrendous time wise but certainly not record breaking.
Unfortunately the next section ended much sooner than planned. Grinding up the other side of the Arun valley I literally got stuck in a rut and fell heavily on my arm. I decided to carry on but did it again about ½ mile later. This time I parted company with my glasses and couldn’t find them.
I decided enough was enough and phoned Pembroke taxis and waited in the glorious sunshine. After some searching the glasses were located so it was off home for a well deserved shower and breakfast.
Most definitely worth the time and effort though a rainy night in say September might change my view.