South Downs Way in a day
After two successive weekends of overnight rides, I thought I’d have a change and do a Saturday day ride instead.
I’ve only previously ridden the South Downs Way from Winchester to Eastbourne with others so this was going to be my first solo ride of the whole W – E route. I have done it on my own the other way on two occasions, both as part of my failed attempts to do the South Downs Double.
Getting on the first available train to Winchester I chatted with a chap who was going to bike pack it over a couple of days. Giving him some hints and tips and wishing each other well I then set off from the semi official start at the King Alfred statue in Winchester.
The BHF had organised a SDW ride on the same day and it was my hope to tag on to the back of it for a bit of moral support. Unfortunately my 7:40 kick off time was almost 2.5 hours after their first batch started and it wasn’t until nearly Butser Hill that I started to catch people. The descent down Butser is an absolute blast though looking on Strava my 49 secs / 32mph is way off the top speed.
The Hampshire part of the route is a lot flatter and even and I’d been hovering around 13mph for a while before the first hills started to drag the average speed down. Fortunately the skies had clouded over which was a blessing as I didn’t fancy cooking myself on the hills and getting sun stroke and ridiculous tan lines through my helmet vents.
Reaching the half way point at Amberley in four hours exactly, I was then pleased to be able to ride up Amberley Mount without any cramp. This is probably the steepest rideable hill on the route and it was apparent to me that the northerly wind was providing just the right amount of assistance.
Then on to Washington and it’s horrible grovelfest of a climb followed by a decent blast past Chanctonbury Ring and then down to the A283 before the trudge up to Truleigh Hill.
Across to Devils Dyke and up the Saddlescombe and Clayton hill climbs before another run across the top of the Downs towards Lewes. On the run down to the A27 there’s a horrible scratchy climb through a copse which has always previously defeated me. Amazingly I managed it and as a little reward to myself, spent extra time at the tap at Housedean farm.
Back on the trail again and it’s the grind up and around Kingston Vale. I was grateful for the wind assistance up here even if the two chaps I rode up with didn’t believe it was a tail wind.
Another speedy run across the top and then down and over the river Ouse at Southease. A quick munch of food at the bottom and then it’s the joy of Itfold hill and it’s magnetic grass. It certainly isn’t a quick ascent but actually, it does usually only just require a bit of teeth gritting to complete.
From the top at Firle beacon it’s largely even along the route before the fast descent into Alfriston. Through the throng of people enjoying the weather at the river and then onto the first part of Windover hill. This goes up a testing little climb through a woods to The Street and has been known to be very sketchy on the roots and loose chalk.
Then it’s the penultimate climb, Windover Hill, which is an exposed chalk path up past the Wilmington Man carving. Fortunately the weather gods were smiling and the wind was blowing up the hill, making things more bearable.
Another blast along the top before plunging down into Jevington and the final climb.
Half way up this last climb, I caught up with a chap from Mr Cycles and a brief chat with him confirms he’d taken part in the Bedgebury Insomnia night race two weeks previously. A virtual doff of my hat to him for soloing that and I’m off to make the most of the tail wind along the top through Eastbourne golf course.
The final mile of the of the SDW was changed last year to link the separate bike and walking routes to the same start/finish point. I knew it was going to be a fast descent to the finish but it seemed like an awfully long way before suddenly reaching the end of the Downs.
Stats n’ Trivia
Strava trace – http://www.strava.com/activities/68508435 (a record number of achievements for me)
Wheels turning time 9 hours:20 mins. Total elapsed time 9 hours :49 mins
Water Stops (approx 7 litres)
Hill barn, Amberley, Truleigh, Housedean and quick top up at Jevington.
20 cocktail sausages, 2 mini pork pies, 1 packet of crisps (I’m dead healthy me), 5 gels, 2 energy bars and 2 apples. Some more gels would have been good, as would my peanuts & raisins concoction, which I’d forgotten to take.
No punctures but one very dusty bike with a horribly squealy front brake.