2014-02-22 13.12.13

Highway has a service

My daily ride, the Apollo Highway, takes quite a battering throughout the year.  Some may see it as a “toy” bike, straight from Halfords and costing not a great deal (relative to “real” bikes) and yet it manages to do the 10 miles a day to work and back in all weather throughout the whole year.  The warm sunny mornings and the dark wet and cold rainy winter evenings.   It is kept undercover outside at night while during the day it takes on whatever the weather fancies giving it.   It doesn’t cause me any problems during the ride (although gear changes could do with tweaking), and the most I ever do is to keep the chain well oiled, and sometimes that doesn’t even happen.   This “toy” bike then has a lot to put up with, which is why after the winter months it is normally looking a bit sorry for itself.  I decided to give it a clean and to see what I could do with the clonking that I had started to notice coming from the rear wheel.

Time to give a bit of care...

Time to give a bit of care…

 

Neglected it certainly was, but in the summer sun cleaning was a joy.   A pump spray filled with Gunk degreaser soon sorted out the oily bits where I noticed the freewheel seemed to wobble quite a bit.  I wondered if this would be the source of the clonking noises, although looking online it seemed fine that they should wobble a little bit.   I wasn’t convinced, but my mind was distracted when I noticed the wheel had a broken spoke.  Wow, I’ve never had a broken spoke, how exciting.    It was on the freewheel side which meant actually while I was here I could do a number of things:

  1. replace broken spoke
  2. replace freewheel (still not convinced by the wobble)
  3. replace the chain
  4. replace gear cables (I am told you must do this…)

I tracked down the make of freewheel that I had and was indeed correct that it was a cheap Chinese part that Halfords tend to fit on their low end Apollo bikes.   The freewheel remover tool was ordered from Amazon and arrived the next day, I prepared myself for battle hearing horror stories of  trying to remove these from wheels.    A bit of searching in the shed found a socket large enough to fit and a breaker bar I would normally use to removing car wheels was put into action.   Less than 10 seconds later…. it was removed, not a problem it seemed.

I had a replacement 6 speed freewheel to replace this with, along with a “rust free” chain (we will see how that goes…).  I still needed a replacement spoke.   Surprisingly, seeing as they claim they are a bike shop, Halfords don’t stock them.   They suggested they could order them in but minimum order would be 100.     A search of Amazon came back with loads of expensive results, who would had known so many different ways to make and sell what seems to be just a metal stick…..   I didn’t really want to be paying so much for one spoke, I turned to Ebay.   Here I found an online bike shop selling spokes in packs of 10 (seems sensible) for just a couple of pounds plus postage.   Job done…. although I then had the choice of 101 different sizes.   I’d never put much thought into spoke size, maybe Halfords had a point afterall, there are just so many to choose from.    I decided against removing a none broken spoke from the wheel and measuring and instead attempting to do it against the broken one and see which length to choose from.  Who would had thought there was so much when it comes to size…..    The good news is, the Ebay shop posted next day delivery, handy for when you need to try a couple of times to get the right size!  Fortunately, they seem to have a good returns policy too.

New spoke fitted, new chain and freewheel fitted, wheel back in place, everything oiled and a test right later showed all funny clonking noises now gone.    No need to replace cables I thought, why fix something that is not broken.   I dribbled some bits of oil down the cable just to keep things moving.    A quick clean of the rest of the bike, and ready to go back on the road for tomorrow morning and work.

Time wise it has been off the road for just over a week, waiting for parts and reordering things.  Next time it will be slicker…    During this time I have been using the Royal for work which has meant most of the days wearing my cycling shoes.   Fortunately, that in itself has not been a problem, the shoes just look like trainers and are quite comfortable to walk in, one of the aims when I bought them in the first place.    The weather has been nice and so the ride to and from work has been quite nice.  However, the Highway is much more of a “sit and beg” bike, much more suited for commuting on and comfortable for doing so.  It will be nice to use it once again.

Costwise, excluding mis-ordered spokes and purchase of tools, eveything has come in around £10, which for the massive improvement in gear change and quietness (no rear clonking) has all been worth it.    I’ve used cheap parts for a low end bike, would be silly to do anything different.

Things still on the list include every so slight play in bottom bracket (need a tool to tighten it maybe) and the rear wheel didn’t seem that smooth when I had the tyre off and it in my hand.  I don’t notice it on the bike, but there was resistance as it went round, time to replace bearings I wonder, or £23 will buy you a new low spec wheel from Amazon, crazy prices.    Sure, things wear out this way, but I’m not biking round the world – that’s for the other bike!

Fresh from china, or it was when Halfords fitted it a couple of years ago, you can tell which gears I use the most.

Fresh from china, or it was when Halfords fitted it a couple of years ago, you can tell which gears I use the most.

Looking all shiny.  Finally got the right size, I now have another 9 of these...

Looking all shiny. Finally got the right size, I now have another 9 of these…

New freewheel ready to put on the wheel, just need to sort out the broken spoke

New freewheel ready to put on the wheel, a bit of copper grease first

Oiled and ready to go, silent biking for the next year

Oiled and ready to go, silent biking for the next year

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From the Lowest to the Highest

I follow Alastair Humphreys adventure website, especially the micro adventures which are all about leaving work as normal at the end of the day but instead of joining the normal routine of commuting home you catch a different train to somewhere new and different, armed with just a small tent.  You wild camp, watch the stars, have a mini adventure.   The next day, after watching the sun rise, you pack up, get the train back and join the rest of the world in the office for yet another day – and no-one would ever know….  I like this idea.

A lot of the micro adventures he talks about (he has published a book too) are all about just getting outside and doing things, having an adventure.   Many times I know I can look at a map and just cannot think where to do, I hate riding my bike going round in big circles just for the sake of it, there has to be a purpose.    One such micro adventure was the idea of going from the lowest point of your county to the highest.

This seemed like an idea for a purposeful ride.  I knew already that living next to the sea I did not have too far to go to reach the lowest point, even more so that I had a feeling that just down the road it was possibly just below sea level.    The highest point needed a bit of searching and amazingly the answer came from wikipedia (it seems there is a page for each county) and a place I had never heard of called Black Down.   Sitting at 919 feet, hardly mountain climbing but I was somewhat glad about that.

There is something about hills, I don’t like them.  No so much hills but climbs in general.  I am lucky that my daily ride to work is completely flat, I was also lucky that growing up in the Fens my childhood bike rides were also very flat.   I quite like that.    You don’t have to venture too far inland though to find hills, infact the South Downs is a pretty hilly barrier between you and the rest of the UK and so at some point you have to venture over them.   I thought then a ride up a hill might be something to get me more familiar and accepting of hills… maybe.

I set off at the normal time of around 7 in the morning, in bright sunlight.  It’s been a while since my last real ride and last time it was still dark at such an early hour.   There are not normally many cars around at this time on a Sunday, making the ride along the coast a nice one.

The normal Worthing Pier early morning photo..

The normal Worthing Pier early morning photo..

Race for Life day, within a couple of hours or so this would be filled with jogging woman wearing pink..

Race for Life day, within a couple of hours or so this would be filled with jogging woman wearing pink..  Check point up ahead setting up for the day.

All quiet on the roads..

All quiet on the roads..

 

Sundays always seem to be cycle club days and so normally go past many.   Strangely, even sadly maybe, you say a chirpy hello and some times you are ignored.  Mostly the more lycra being worn by the other party the more you are ignored (unless you happen to be dressed likewise), however it’s not always the case.   I passed a huge number of mountain bikers as I passed Goodwood, some large even sponsered by Wiggle going on.  Marshals out on the road stopping traffic cyclists were set off in groups – chirpy hellos had by all.     Further on down the road, after half a mile on the A27 dual carriage way, I double checked the map but it told me I was going the right way, I spotted more marshals with flags.   They didn’t say a word or respond to my hello, I don’t know why.    No other bikes around at this time so they must be setting up for some other bike event.     Going round the corner and my attention was taken by an vintage armoured car coming down the road towards me.  I was just thinking it was not something you saw every day on the road when suddenly a noise like an eagle swooping past me and a fully carbon racing bike sped past.   Silent and yet strangely noisy, slight humming noise as it went past at a pretty fast speed.    It was a bit of a surprise when a bit later down the road as I was plodding up a hill I noticed I was starting to catch him up!   Possibly his view on hills was the same as mine!

As I plodded onwards and upwards, not up the final hill but just over the South Downs, a number of other racing bikes went passed.   We were all going a lot slower up the hill although they were all going past me.   The odd hello exchanged (nice blokes) but mostly a lot of panting and determination in their faces as I sat back and watched the pack go past.    I continued plodding on upwards…

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I did get to the top.  The racing cyclists went off to the left (friendly marshals here) while I went straight on and down the other side of the hill.  It wasn’t a massive steep hill, just sit back and take it at your own pace and you will soon get to the top.   The journey down the other side was worth it, topping out at 38mph as my brakes started to squeal.  I was somewhat glad I was not having to go the other way.

So concerned about slowing down to take a big bend at the bottom that I missed the GPS pointing its arrow to turn left down a small lane, so I continued a little while longer going up and down smaller hills until I noticed.  I stopped that the entrance of Seaford College, somewhat bemused what it was doing near Petworth instead of being in Seaford.     It seems when it was founded in 1884 it was based in Seaford but when war came their school got taken over by the government, forcing them to find temporary buildings in Worthing.  After the war they never returned to Seaford but instead found large premises near Petworth just the other side of the South Downs, and here I was now.

I consulted an online map and found my mistake at the bottom of the hill, it’s never good having to retrace your steps and even worse then some of them include hills.   I soon got back on track and while slightly concerned by the sign telling me the lane was a dead end I carried on anyway… trusting my maps.  It did indeed come to an end but a signpost showed me to a footpath through the school grounds and my GPS seemed to agree.   While a footpath it was actually a road through the school grounds, so I tentatively started to bike through.  It had obviously been sports day the day before, a slightly different setup than the local village school, large marques and mobile BBQs were still remaining.

Impressive school, uneventful ride through, not a single person in sight and so I got through with no problem, only to then follow the footpath through a horse stud farm.   Still road, but this time it was more of a stoney track with some serious flints just ready to puncture your tyres, a road for a Range Rover Sport I’m sure.   Fortunately, my tyres did not let me down, a bumpy number of miles but the horses and sheep seemed friendly.   I got slightly worried when I got to the end of the track, with public tarmac road in sight,   but barred by a locked wooden fence.   I was just pondering the possibility of lifting the bike over the top when suddenly it opened for me.  It turned out to have a sensor fitted, a bit posher than your normal footpath gate!

I had missed a turning, but I was sure I had not got all the way to Seaford!

I had missed a turning, but I was sure I had not got all the way to Seaford!

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Seemed a bit strange biking across school grounds…

Five miles of this, good job for my tough tyres!

Five miles of this, good job for my tough tyres!

I seemed to pass through a stud farm - not too sure I should had been there

I seemed to pass through a stud farm – not too sure I should had been there

 

I pushed on to Black Down, having a small break and snack before I got to the serious climb.      This stop included a big drink of my home made “sports drink”, a recipe off the internet.   A mixture of orange and lemon juice mixed with water, some salt and some honey.   It didn’t taste too bad although putting freshly squeezed orange juice including bits, was not a good idea in a sports bottle I found out as it soon blocked it all up.  Also, it is worth noting that any juice gets rather sticky, good job for having the second bottle containing water so I could clean my hands!   Who knows if it was any good or not.   When drinking normal sports drinks on a long ride I have never noticed any benefit and it was the same here (although a nice drink and a change from water or squash).   In theory, all that orange juice and honey, then the salt – it should help somewhere.

 

Short snack break...

Short snack break… with dodgy home made drink

 

Onwards to the base of the hill.   It all started quite gradually with a long small gradient but enough that after a number of minutes you started to get a bit fed up with the constantly feeling of getting pulled backwards and yet visually no reason for it until you looked closer.    From behind I could hear a couple of bikers catching up with me and were friendly and chatty when they caught up.   We all kept together until we got to a fork in the road and I started to slow down with the hope that the GPS would point in either direction.  The other two obviously noticed and suggested the way I wanted would be the right-hand fork,  I agreed, why else would a cyclist be in this area if it was not to climb a large hill?   We came to a downhill section where they left me while I too started to pick up speed.  Their parting shouts were “if you went the other way it would be a 1 in 10 climb and you wouldn’t want that….”.  I stopped.   A bit of a Labyrinth moment (where the worm directs Sarah the wrong way).   I checked the mapped and indeed they were right, there would be a 1:10 hill, but it was the hill I had come all this way for.  I turned round and took the lefthand fork, I started the climb.

The road was quite a minor one that had seen better days and even with all this hot weather and sun it still managed to have a stream running down it.   The 1:10 bit came up pretty quickly, a mixture of a low gear and standing on the pedals, and the lowest gear sitting.   Clipped in shoes certainly made it easier, especially when standing, but it was not long until I had my first stop.   An open top BMW was coming down the road and I had little choice but to pull over to let it past (handy excuse).    The blokes in the car all shouted good luck as they went past, not a good sign.   I started off again, lowest gear with the front wheel lifting off the ground on each pedal stroke.   I was determined to do it and while it may have taken a little while I did get to the top in the end.   A National Trust signpost telling me I had reached “base camp” for Black Down.   The rest of the journey would be off road…

 

This would be showing over 900ft quite soon.

This would be showing over 900ft quite soon.

At base camp, the rest would be off road..

At base camp, the rest would be off road..

 

The photo, like all photos of steep hills, doesn’t do it justice.  Mixed with the hill and soft mud of the bridal path, I soon had to get off and push.    Bridal paths are good in that you can bike along them but when it is a dirt track the brides do churn it up quite a bit which in the summer makes it pretty bumpy and in the winter makes it a mud bath.   The trees were thick, making the going underneath pretty boggy.  I wondered if it would had been easier to have followed the road to the top, but it was too late to go back..

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The top did arrive and the muddy bridal path turned into a more solid path which started to level off, the GPS showed me height wise I should be nearly there and soon I could see the view of sunny Sussex ahead and below me.    As I sat down on the ground to take in my reached destination a family appeared out of breath having just walked up the other side.   “You haven’t just biked up here have you?” they asked.  Yes (I lied, well in theory I did bike up as much as I possibly could), infact I’ve come from the lowest point of West Sussex to the Highest, all the way from the sea.   That impressed them, and it impressed me a bit too as a journey with a sense of purpose had been achieved.

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Blackdown itself has a bit of history, like most hills do have (including of course a plane crash).   Lord Tennyson built a house here to escape the crowds where he had fantastic views of West Sussex.     Indeed, a the top you do feel like you are millions of miles away, even the constant throughput of walkers does not distract, maybe the hot summer day had something to do with it.    The heat haze meant I was unable to the English Channel, instead I had to do with a view of the hazy South Downs instead, at least I would see where I had been.

I sat down at a placed called “The Temple of the Winds”, a ledge on the side which sheltered from the wind allowed good views and a place to rest.    I bite to eat and drink, some time to recover and just take everything in before I started the journey home.

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As with all trips, the journey home is never as good or interesting as the ride out.  The interest is different and even when you have planed the route to go a different way it is never as good, just put your head down and pedal….

Yet another cycling event spotted

Yet another cycling event spotted

 

Number of miles: 72

Number of massive hills: loads

Max speed: 38mph

Number of cycling events spotted: millions

Number of tanks: 1

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Summer Holidays on Hayling Island

Everyone said it was going to be a summer’s day in the middle of March and looking so far over this year’s ride I had not been out much (if you ignore the daily commute by bike).   Initially I thought a trip round Selsey and West Wittering might make a nice morning.  It was then I noticed just how near Hayling Island was, infact looking on the map it was just a small jump over a bit of water and you would be there.    With my idea of a good ride being one with purpose against riding round in large circles just for fun, this started to look interesting.

Being so near, I worked out around 40 miles, it seems strange that I had not been for years.   I remember many happy family holidays in a poloroid 1970s type image, always sunny, flares and slightly faded Instagram-stylee.   Being so young I expect we probably only had such a holiday once or twice at the most, but I remember the caravan we had, the sun, the bunk beds, the hotdogs and the caravan park shop which sold paper bags of plums.  Happy days.   Time for another visit.

I had my doubts, I didn’t really want to be doing much more than 60 miles and this was looking like it may well break the 90 mile mark.   Over the year I have worked out the various mileages and my reaction to them:

  • 0-10 miles:  my daily commute
  • 10-20 miles: a short trip out
  • 20-40 miles: a reasonable ride
  • 40-60 miles: probably the ideal for a day before a ride becomes a challenge
  • 60-80 miles: a hard day, esp when carrying extra
  • 80-100 miles: something I should be prepared to do

On my two day trip last year I did two days of 80 miles which was fine but not something I would want to keep up for many more days in a row.   Not only would I feel it but I found those two days I was rushing to keep to a target and far away destination, which took the edge of the idea of touring where you stop when and where you like, explore and generally enjoy the day.  In other words, a tourer using a bike is different to a cyclist going a long way.  Back to the trip and I thought I would go for it as going somewhere near would just not be the same.

Setting off at my normal 7 o’clock start, nice that I’m no longer starting in the dark.   It was cold but I imagined after 5 miles I would be warmed up.   At that time of the day on a Sunday there are not many cars or people about and the routine ride along the coast through Worthing was pleasant.

Early morning Worthing Pier

Early morning Worthing Pier

Following my route to work and continuing on to first Littlehampton and then onto my McDonald’s breakfast in Bognor.  It turns out to just be over an hour’s ride and an ideal stop.  A pity about the service at that early hour, the long wait (not many customers at that time of the day) and the incorrect order of bacon and egg McMuffin instead of sausage and egg.  Not to worry.

Welcome to Bognor, looking at towards home

Welcome to Bognor, looking at towards home

Interesting house on the seafront made from old railway carriages.

Interesting house on the seafront made from old railway carriages.

Not much going on at this time on a Sunday morning

Not much going on at this time on a Sunday morning

You do not have many choices when it comes to cycling to Chichester, it is mostly the Bognor road or not much else, the main A27 not being something I fancy.   When planning the route, because of previous rides Chichester way, I happened to know about the canal side cycle path which takes you right into Chichester.   A little known stretch of water, a short lived venture that never really caught on, see more from my last visit.  Bumpy, but the short trip canal side was pleasant and I reached the city centre quite soon.   The level of bumpyness was demonstrated by the GPS switching itself off each time it had encountered one bump too much, the “anti-switch off device” I had fitted previously to counter such occasions, ie a piece of card in wedged in the battery compartment, looked like it needed replacing.       The canal ends at a basin where there is a nice little volunteer run cafe, I have stopped there before and welcomed the cheap normal prices for drinks and snacks.    No time to stop however, it had only been half an hour since breakfast.

Nice cycle path...

Nice cycle path…

Getting onto the canal, one way will take you to the sea while the other to the city centre

Getting onto the canal, one way will take you to the sea while the other to the city centre

The long lost canal with the city in the distance

The long lost canal with the city in the distance

bump, bump bump....

bump, bump bump….

Welcome to the city...

Welcome to the city…

Within Chichester there seems to be lots of small bits of the old A27 laying about which have been made into cycle routes, the other real alternative being the current busy A27.  Between that and paths through Chichester collage campus you soon get to the railway line.  Last time I was here there was still a manual pedestrian crossing for the line, where you top the gate, look and listen both ways and walk over if all clear.   It seems these basic “green cross code” ideas are no longer taught to children as nationally it is too much for people to work out and they end up crossing in front of a massive great big train and moaning when they get killed doing so.    To me is seems a good way to improve the gene pool, but others think different and all such crossings are sadly being replaced by foot bridges.   While the foot bridge in place here now, there is still work to realign the cycle paths which all direct you to a locked gate.  Not a problem, the bridge is not hard to spot!   (note, this crossing is next to a school so I can see why maybe it has been replaced).

Old simple crossing locked and no longer used

Old simple crossing locked and no longer used, shiney new bridge in the background

I was now into new territory, never biked by me before and so in reality the real start of the trip.   I had noticed on the map that I would be going passed Bosham,  a small pretty village that has a couple of key points.    The first is that when I was in reception class at school (aged 5) I had a friend who left the school during the term to move to Bosham.  We had great delight as 5 year olds saying “Bossom” instead of “Bosham”, and I still get a slight delight for thinking about that even now!    The second, and probably more globally relevant, is that one of the roads through the village is tidal.      There are many stories of visitors parking their car only to find when they get back that the road no longer exists and is under meters of water.     As it was only a slight deviation from the route I thought I would give it a visit, checking first that the tide would be out (or maybe I just hopped on my luck!).     I turned South and was soon amongst the posh houses of Bosham and then the big warning signs telling me the road was tidal.  Fortunately, the tide was only lapping at the side of the road and I had plenty of time to ride through, missing the debris that collects on a road what is submerged twice a day.       For such a nice little village it was nice to see it was not commercialised in any way, after taking the required photos I was soon through and back on route.   I didn’t bump into my friend from reception class 35 years ago….

Sharp turn to head off route and southwards

Sharp turn to head off route and southwards

Welcome to Bosham, don't park for too long!

Welcome to Bosham, don’t park for too long!

Under here is the road somewhere

Under here is the road somewhere

Clearly the tide was on its way out

Clearly the tide was on its way out – today’s candidate for “submerged car in 12 hours time” in the distance

A photo of a million postcards

A photo of a million postcards

Back on route, I had the destination signposted and within easy reach, it had been a pleasant pain free ride so far.   A long straight road against the wind for a good 5 miles was not too  much of a problem, although the longness and straightness got a bit boring after a while.   I soon bumped into a cycle route sign telling me to turn left for the Island.  I followed through the residential streets and soon lost my way, the GPS not helping too much here as I thought such a route would be well sign posted for the popular Island route.

I ended up in a maze of high pedestrian bridges going over and under various roads and having a bit of its own eco-system high up in the sky.   The aim for all this is to allow those not in cars to reach the Island which itself is a bit cut off for those without cars.   The single main road in  and out (or on and off I suppose) is a massive big roundabout underneath the A24 there it is starting to become three lanes.   Being the only road, its pretty busy, coming off what is a near motorway, not a nice place.   I later found out, when I got home, that it looked like I had missed the path that would had got me passed all that, missing all the roads from Havant to the bridge to the island.  I must had missed a signpost somewhere but it was good to at least find out, otherwise the island is really cut off for cyclists.

With the recent floods, it's quite strange seeing water in a field that's meant to be there!

With the recent floods, it’s quite strange seeing water in a field that’s meant to be there!

Leaving the "mainland", welcome to island life!

Leaving the “mainland”, welcome to island life!

Is this really the right route, the maze of overhead walkways

Is this really the right route, the maze of overhead walkways

There must be an easier way, and there was - I just missed it!

There must be an easier way, and there was – I just missed it!

 

Once on the Island you are welcomed as a cyclist (although improvements to parts of the cycle path made it slightly harder but I could see what it would soon be).   Old railways come to the rescue once again with the Hayling Island Branch line, gone since 1962, is now part of National Cycle Route 2.  It’s off road, but nothing a touring bike should be afraid of.

The line lasted nearly 100 years with a number of stations on the island for both goods and holiday makers in the summer.   It had various problems in the building and maintaining, parts eroding away before it had even opened.  The seasonal holiday makers were not enough for all year round, and the boggy nature of the route meant it was only fit for smaller lighter trains.    By the 1960s the bridge from the mainland needed replacing and British Rail decided it was not worth doing so.   A small attempt to reopen it using tram cars instead came to nothing, the bridge was removed and now it is a cycle path sponsored by Sustrans and in doing so takes you away from the busy main roads of the Island which, not having many roads, I can see must get filled up by holiday makers pretty badly.

A cycle friendly island

A cycle friendly island

 

You share the path with pedestrians and horses (horses having their own side of the path for bits) and it takes you most of the way to the beaches meaning you do not have to touch any roads much if you don’t want to.   There are plans to improve the current off road’ness  and get the link to Havent done a bit better, something which is clearly needed seeing as I missed it twice!

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Almost like a hot summer's day

Almost like a hot summer’s day

Southhampton just a jump over the water away

Southampton just a jump over the water away

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The plan, now that I was on the island, would be a ride along the seafront, a spot of lunch, and then bike back to the mainland via the road and North Hayling.

Route 2 continues towards Portsmouth with a ferry link

Route 2 continues towards Portsmouth with a ferry link

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Seafront tourist train

Seafront tourist train

Lunch was eaten sitting on the grass by a small tourist railway track of which the small train trundled past a couple of times.   The sun and heat had bought everyone out and it really was feeling very summery as if we had skipped a number of months.  Looking at the redness of my arms I had clearly caught the spring time sun.

The plan to get back home followed a more direct route, none of the diversions to small tidal villages or small canal side cycle paths.   The wind would be mostly behind me although it didn’t feel like it, although the 5 mile stretch of straight road I kept a steady 20mph all the way allowing me to make good time.   The main hold up was the search for toilets and one-way systems in Bognor and Littlehampton.   Another closed pedestrian crossing for a railway (this time with no replacement bridge) meant going round various circles in Littlehampton until I decided to finally head for the coast road and carry on from there!

The journal home was uneventful.  I had the trip through Chistester college campus once again and the seafront journal I’m used to from work.

The whole trip came to just about 90 miles, I almost wanted to bike into Brighton and back to get it over the 100 mark, but I refrained.   A good long distance ride, helped by the flatness of the coast, but hampered by the wind.

I never noticed I had left and gone into Hampshire - it felt good to be back home...

I never noticed I had left and gone into Hampshire – it felt good to be back home…

New bypass under construction, these new houses with country view will soon by very different

New bypass under construction, these new houses with country view will soon by very different

 

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2014-02-16 12.33.43

The New Bridge and Linux

The bridge has been open for a number of weeks but I’ve not had a reason to try it out yet not having had a reason to venture Brighton way for quite some time.   The bridge, a venture part funded by Sustrans, took an age to build but finally opened at the end of last year.   We have been across by foot and, well it’s a bridge – as far as bridges go it does the job and is quite an improvement to the old narrow one.   As part of National Cycle Route 2 it used to be a stretch of the “please dismount” part, which for a national route always seemed a bit daft.

You can now follow Route 2 and go right across the river, sharing the space with pedestrians, which is something which never works.   The great idea with all these shared space ideas is that pedestrians wonder about without a care in the world while cyclist move at walking speed going in and out.   It doesn’t work and never could do.   You slow down to walking pace (at which point you wonder why don’t you “dismount”) planning your route through the pedestrians like a little computer game.  You have a route nicely planned out and all is going well, until the pedestrians, rightly, get worried and move in an unexpected way, causing the whole plan to go wrong.   As a pedestrian, you don’t feel free to make such sudden movements just in case, as a cyclist you feel out of place while the tutting goes on.     On a day like today, blue sky, no wind, a break from the horrid weather since Christmas, everyone is out walking – and so they should be.   I didn’t bother the seafront cycle path, another shared space where old grumpy people moan as you ride past, and/or cyclist dressed up in bright lycra shout out insults if they cannot get past.

To make it worse, each end of the bridge has a sign saying “End of Cycle Route”.  It doesn’t tell you to dismount, but it doesn’t give you many clues of what to do next.   You dismount (as you end up on a pavement anyway) and cross the road, looking out for the next sign.   The other side, you don’t really have to dismount, it may say end of route but it puts you on the road and off you go.   But why all the “End of Route” stuff, it’s the middle of a massive great big route that stretches the whole of the south of England?  All a shame, planned from scratch and yet failing in so many different ways.

2014-02-16 12.35.27

2014-02-16 12.35.06

View from a bridge

A short ride as I didn’t have much time, but enough time to try out my new brakes since replacing the pads.   They were slightly rubbing but the short trip out solved this and made stopping much better.   I’ve seen touring bikes, low end touring bikes, with disc brakes now and I somewhat like the idea of that, but brake pads is what it will be for many years now.

Something else I wanted to try out was the GPS.   Over the last weeks I had ditched Windows on the laptop (or more to the point the evaluation period had run out and now it was asking for money) and put on Linux instead.    I’m very used to Linux having used it for many years on a server level, and I’ve experimented with it on the desktop many times but never really got on with it.   This time however it has been very much different, technology has come on along a lot and the only thing remaining to get working would be connecting the GPS up in order to upload and download routes.   It is quite something to get this going on Windows 8 having to install not only a particular driver for the Serial->USB cable but a particular old version too (the latest for some reason does not work).      I had heard it should work fine on Linux and infact once I plugged it in, looked at the syslog file, it showed me a new USB tty device.   I quickly found an application called QLandKarteGT which looked like it would do all that the old Garmin Mapsource would do and more.

A bit hard to get used to in order to start with (seems to be the case a lot with Linux) but very powerful when you know how.  I found it was able to download tracks from the GPS as well as upload routes.   You can add photos too, taking the time the photo was taken and plotting it as a waypoint onto the route, good to see after the ride.    A nifty feature too, a 3D view which includes altitude, a great way to see and feel the route both for planning and seeing where you have been.  It gives you a real feel of the route, you can zoom in to get good deal on any big uphill bits, maybe giving you the chance to replan a part of a route if needed.   I normally use BikeHike online to route plan but I think I may be using this tool from now on.

a 3D view of a previous bike ride over the Downs

a 3D view of a previous bike ride over the Downs

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Plane Spotting

It is that all important “first ride of 2014 post”.    Weather has been pretty bad each weekend since Christmas and having spent the week on the Highway in the wind and rain to and from work each day has meant not being up for the same treatment at the weekend.      I have been planning routes though which I hope to undertake over the year.  One such route being a ride around the perimeter of Gatwick airport. When I was growing up we lived quite near Gatwick and I remember fondly the times we used to go and watch the large planes taking off.  I picture us standing at the end of a dead end watching through a metal wire gate, hearing the roar of the engines as they started down the runway and seeing them pass at great speed.     I don’t suppose we did that often, but to me it is a memory that stays with me and one that I enjoyed.     In an attempt to replicate that with my own children I have many times looked it to work out where that location was and it wasn’t hard to find at all.  Unfortunately, in an era of everyone being a terrorist and wanting to spy on airports (so we are told), the gate at the end of the road still exists but it is now boarded over and a further boarded up gate a few yards after that.  You can just about see plans whizzing down the runway if you look down through the crack down the side, but you have to make your way through the crowed of serious plane spotters to get there.  Hardly a family trip out anymore and a bit of a shame.    When Gatwick was first built it had purpose made viewing platforms on the roof of the terminal, things were different back then it seemed, people did not used to carry surface to air missile launchers in their pockets like we all do today. I had a search on the Internet only to find further bad news.  It seems out of all international airports in the UK, Gatwick is the worst if you wish to watch the planes.   There are only a small selection of possible viewing points around the airport, all of which you are likely to get moved on by security if you even think about stopping with your camera and flask of hot orange squash.    Not to be deterred, I decided to find out for myself, on my bike. Touring by bike is always best, be it a motorbike (Long Way Round stylee) or a push bike.  You are part of the environment you are travelling through instead of being enclosed in a metal box.  You can get to areas you would not, or even know about, if you were to be in a car.  You can stop more often, go off road, and generally explore more.   My aim here then would be to bike around the whole perimeter of the airport and find those view places that none of the world’s plane spotting websites had yet discovered.   A task that I knew I would fail on as I am sure the world’s plan spotters have tried everything around Gatwick, but even so…. Route planned, I left the house in the dark early Sunday morning on my first 2014 trip.    My plan was to go regardless of the weather and I was nicely presented with a cold but still morning, plus no rain.     Everything was dark and quiet as I made my way through a smaller but a lot older airport which sits right next to us here.  Shoreham airport has been there since 1911 which makes it one of the oldest working airports and terminal buildings in the country, featured on various films such as Poirot and The Da Vinci Code.   We have gone to watch the small planes many times, its very open and nothing like Gatwick!    Unfortunately it seems to have been neglected greatly probably in the hope to run it into the ground and sell the land off for housing, something which I’m surprised has not happened yet but it is clearly on the cards at some time.    A shame as if they improved their restaurant which is located with full sized windows looking out over the airfield, it could make a name for itself just for that (a restaurant with an airport attached!).

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Early morning Shoreham airport terminal building. Around long before Gatwick knew even what an plane was

I made my way through Small Dole and Woodmancote, quickly discarding my fleece to my panniers, it’s amazing how quickly you warm up.    Still not many cars as although it was pretty much daylight it was still early.

A bit of a suprise to see this sitting in a field in the middle of nowhere, but at least it kept to the theme of planes for the day

A bit of a suprise to see this sitting in a field in the middle of nowhere, but at least it kept to the theme of planes for the day

I reached the A272 and Bolney and made my way up the first real hills of the trip, it is mostly an uphill trend all the way to Handcross.   I had picked unclassified roads which being so rural showed signs of the relentless rain since Christmas, being covered in leaves and bits of tree.   The uphill was made more enjoyable as the sun had cleared the early morning cloud and mist creating some really nice early morning winter shadows in the trees.

Uphill struggle made more enjoyable

Uphill struggle made more enjoyable

Someone having a race with me, he never managed more than just keeping the same pace...

Someone having a race with me, he never managed more than just keeping the same pace…

A sense of achievement to reach Handcross and to cross the A23.   On the bridge I caught the tail end of the roadworks from the three year long road improvements that are taking place on Handcross hill.    This is a scheme that has been talked about for years as it had remained the only remaining stretch of bendy road left on the A23 and a favorite place for hold ups (going up the hill) and crashes (going down the hill).   It’s a shame for it to loose its character, it still incldued some pretty old junctions only minor unclassified roads which looked quite quaint but were clearly unsuitable for modern day traffic.  While a dual carriage way, it had numerous bends and trees splitting the two directions.    For locals, you knew that keeping at 70mph on the downhill was fine in order to get passed the bends, but for those not so used to it they would slow down too much.  With that and the winter sun, crashes happened constantly and while quaint and a bit of a landmark to say you were nearly home, it was clear they would upgrade it at some point.   It was delayed for many years, but now it is in the middle of completion and the area looks completely different.

A car coming out of the Handcross Hill roadworks while I cross over via the bridge

A car coming out of the Handcross Hill roadworks while I cross over via the bridge

After crossing the current A23 I joined the old A23, now demoted to a quiet country road and little used apart from residents of villages that have been by-passed.   It is also used by cycle route 20, the main route from Brighton to London (or London to Brighton if you like).  I would stick on this route all the way to the airport.

Handcross Hill road closure diversion signs, the old A23 gets used again.  Also, the start of following cycle route 20 for a while

Handcross Hill road closure diversion signs, the old A23 gets used again. Also, the start of following cycle route 20 for a while

The old A23, looking a bit less used now

The old A23, looking a bit less used now

I was a bit suprised to find out that Route 20 suddenly comes to a flight of steep steps as you get into Crawley.  The sign asks me to dismount (never something you want to see), and they are not kidding as they are pretty steep steps.   They have nicely put a small slope to wheel your bike down or up, but I was fortunate I did not have full touring kit on the back the bike as the only way would had been to unload and reload at the bottom.   Something to keep in mind if you are ever on Route 20.

Please dismount and get out your rock climbing gear...

Please dismount and get out your rock climbing gear…

Just how do you get a fully loaded bike up that?  A bit poor for a national cycle route

Just how do you get a fully loaded bike up that? A bit poor for a national cycle route

I entered Crawley and as a result of it being a New Town, the many mazes of cycle paths going under and around roads.  I had it all programmed into the GPS and so did not get lost to often, although I was glad to be back on the road again.

Cycle path land

Cycle path land

Ouch!

Ouch!

Nearly there

Nearly there

I could tell I was near an airport, I cycled through the endless industrial estates where the industry on offer was all about cleaning and meals.  I could now hear distant airplanes and the land looked flat.  My next port of call would be Gatwick’s original terminal building, now listed and at the time something pretty revolutionary as the world’s first integrated airport building.   It was build quite a way from the runway but close to the railway, giving good customer service for visitors and their luggage from London.     It is circular (and looks a bit like a Beehive, a name it now uses) which was done on purpose in order to use the most efficient use of space, getting passengers to where they need to be quickly and safely, planes were able to stop at piers coming off the circle.  It was completly new way of thinking in the 1930s, and the design concepts are used in all airports now.  In the middle was the control tower.  From old photos it shows this building sitting in the country side with a runway some way off.   After the war, when the government decided to turn Gatwick into London’s second international airport, the whole area would change completly, which included the Beehive.   Villages were knocked down, roads rerouted, new terminal buildings created.  The Beehive, the revolutionary building that it was, was left out of it all, cut off by the re-routed A23 and no longer had anything to do with the airport.   Fortunately, and strange for the time, it was not demolished and now this listed building is part of a business park where people pass it all day and probably do not even notice it.  A bit of a shame, but progress, again, cannot be stopped.

A world first in airport design, a little country airport

A world first in airport design, a little country airport

Looking a little bit cut off from the rest of the airport, hidden away in a business park.

Today, looking a little bit cut off from the rest of the airport, hidden away in a business park.

The Beehive design, getting passengers to and from planes with ease, speed, and safety without even going outside

The Beehive design, getting passengers to and from planes with ease, speed, and safety without even going outside

You have not been there is there is not a photo showing it!

You have not been there if there is not a photo showing it!

The Beehive today, hidden away in a business park

The Beehive today, hidden away in a business park

I was now in airport territory and ready to start my trip around the perimeter, starting off by keeping to the cycle route which means you don’t have to join the busy A23 that goes under the terminal buildings.   The path followed a small river which seems pretty fast running and full of water, but the tide marks higher up on bank and on the overhanging branches of the trees showed that days previous it had been a lot higher. The river, cycle path, and A23 all skirt along the side of the airport and past the end of the run way.  A possible good place to watch planes flying over the top of you, although at the time it was still early on a Sunday morning and only the odd plane was landing now and then.   I loitered around the landing lights for a while, but after no planes landing I moved on.   A possible good place to bring the boys, but where to park?

It seemed pretty full of water now, but evidence it had recently been a lot higher

It seemed pretty full of water now, but evidence it had recently been a lot higher

Stay here long enough and a plane will skim the top of your head

Stay here long enough and a plane will skim the top of your head

The path follows along side the A23 and under the terminal buildings where you leave the roadside and venture into a bit of Gatwick airport.  A little Gatwick haven between the railway station and the terminal, pretty tatty and probably not seen by many, probably just the odd cyclist on their way to London maybe.    A sharp right turn and you are out of airport backstreet land, under the Gatwick light railway and soon along a small lakeside path.    It felt a bit strange to be in parkland with a lake complete with ducks where just over the other side of the trees was a massive big airport.  A bit of green between the airport and the houses of Horley.    Initially part of Horley common before Gatwick race course came along followed then by the airport which gobbled up the racecourse but gave back the common to the community.  Now part of a flood plain and a little bit of green in what is mostly a mass of concrete, in theory it should stay this way.

A little bit of green sandwiched between Gatwick and Horley

A little bit of green sandwiched between Gatwick and Horley

The cycle path had done a good job of keeping me near the side of the airport but off the busy A23, but I had to leave and head West along the top of the airport and into Surrey.     There are big plans for Gatwick, for an international airport it is strange to think it only has one runway.   Currently there is lots in the news about all of London’s airports, we are told one or some of them need to expand, infact an extra airport has even been considered too.    It is then big news around Gatwick and there are a couple of plans proposed if/when the second runway comes to town.   It may be South of the airport or North.  The South is very built up with mostly industrial estates and so removing these would not be a huge loss, although would mean rerouting the A23 once again (this time underground) and removing the Beehive which seems a bit bad.   The other solution is North of the airport of which there seems to be a mostly flat number of fields and farmland, a more likely solution but would mean runways quite a distance apart and the loss of farms and villages.  It seems like the 1950s all over again.  A road runs North along the airport and seems quite rural, as I biked along I thought one day in the future this will all be gone.

Welcome to Surrey

Welcome to Surrey, claim to fame being Olympic cycling

One day, this may all be Gatwick's second runway

One day, this may all be Gatwick’s second runway

On the map I noticed off this road there was a footpath which skirts alongside the River Mole and is pretty much in the airport grounds.   I soon found it and getting off my bike I started to walk along.  The River Mole was greatly affected by Crawley new town and Gatwick airport with large sections rerouted with concrete channels, mostly making it a “lost river”.   The other year the environment agency rerouted the River once again away from the runway and along a more natural path with not a bit of concrete of covering in sight.   This has formed a little riverside walk seperated from the road by small woods and from the airport by a big bank of earth.   Once again you find yourself in the middle of the country side but with the airport just meters away the other side, the only way of knowing being the low aeroplanes as they take off every minute or so.    I had been stopping quite a bit, taking photos and moving on, the day had progressed and Gatwick was now getting busy which meant the frequent planes in the distance taking off.   Time to stop and get out my airband radio to listen into air traffic control and get a feeling of just what planes I would witness.   A clear for take off, a distance roar and then low to the ground a little bit off the planes came into view, getting higher and then gone, ready for the next one.    Listening in showed just how busy it all way, planes landing as planes took off, planes queuing and taking turns, instructions given to squeeze an extra plane in now and then.   Every 30 minutes or so (or maybe an hour) the controller’s view would change as they shared shifts.  I wonder what they do if they need a wee inbetween?

Country side right next to the airport

Country side right next to the airport

A little friend who stayed with me for quite some time.

A little friend who stayed with me for quite some time.

With all the recent rain it was very hard going and I soon had to give up and head back to the road.  A pity, it must be a favorite walk in dryer times, although with no way to park a car anywhere near I’m not too sure how you would get there.  Maybe part of the reason why I met no-one that day.

Back on the road and back into Sussex and another 90 degree turn for the next side of the airport, I would soon meet the end of the runway.  Before this though I would pass Gatwick aviation museum, unfortunately closed until the Spring, maybe next time.  The road looked like perfect plane spotting territory, a fact not lost by officals who had put no parking signs up at regular intervals.  According to websites, this road is your only chance if you come by car, but be warned as you will be moved on.  Indeed, I’m sure I spotted CCTV cameras in the airport side of the fence pointing outwards.  I could see why it would be such place as planes soon came overhead over and over, pretty low behind climbing up high.   Being on a bike of course, I could stop.  Listening on the radio for their clearance to take off and then moments later watching them go overhead.

I came to a gate where I met my first plane spotter complete with massive camera.   The gate was clad in metal sheeting which meant his camera lens peered through the small gap at the edge, I took the other edge and did likewise.   Once again, signs telling you not to even think about stopping, I could see regular patrols moving people on here.   There was not much to see without a zoom lens, it was better when the planes came overhead.  A prime plane watching location then, but no where to stop in a car.

It feels like home already

It feels like home already

Plane spotter number 1, spotted.   You can't see much here without a good zoom

Plane spotter number 1, spotted. You can’t see much here without a good zoom

This is what a good zoom does for you

This is what a good zoom does for you, as I poked the camera through the small gap

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Move on please sir, nothing to see here

The "plane shots", you can't come all this way without a number of these

The “plane shots”, you can’t come all this way without a number of these

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Gatwick fireman training

Gatwick fireman training

A carried on in order to get the end of the perimeter trip before I headed back into Crawley, getting to Lowfield Heath which itself was a place of interest.   This was the place of childhood memories, it was the location of that gate that I remembered as a child watching the planes thunder down the runway and off into the air.   It is also one of Englands many lost villages, a village which before the airport was an important stopping place for travellers to and from London.

Lowfield Heath, sitting at a cross roads on the A23, it once had houses, churches, shops and schools.  It was an important location on the long road to London, even when Gatwick opened it remained miles away with most activity located to the East at the Beehive and railway.   The end soon came about in the 1950s when the airport was expanded, parts lost by the airport expansion but even worse the village loosing its importance when the A23 was rerouted around the airport with Lowfield Heath losing its purpose and trade, it seemed a pointless village at that point.  By 1974 the last people had moved away leaving Lowfield Heath nothing more than an industrial estate leaving behind only its church.

The gate I remember so well that I used to watch planes is infact a gate cutting off the all important old A23, the clue is in the name of the road, “Old Brighton Road” and on a map you can clearly see the road now going round the edge.    The all important gate shows the lose of a village and community, the airport not only destroyed all that, but changed travel to and from London for good.  You always see Lowfield Heath church as you come in to land.

The gate is now clad with metal sheeting just like the other one, and while there was a small collection of plane spotters there seemed little to be seen any more.

This is where the old A23 stops - it was once a good place to watch planes, but only the hardcore spotters are seen now

This is where the old A23 stops – it was once a good place to watch planes, but only the hardcore spotters are seen now

All what remains of Lowfield Heath

All what remains of Lowfield Heath

Happier times at Lowfield Heath, everything the other side of the church is now airport

Happier times at Lowfield Heath, now an industrial estate, the fields are now airport, the main road (seen as the straight line on the top left), re-routed

Lowfield Heath today.   Yellow highlights the only remaining part (the church) while the old A23 is highlighted (today's A23 along the bottom)

Lowfield Heath today. Yellow highlights the only remaining part (the church) while the old A23 is highlighted (today’s A23 along the bottom)

It was lunch time and time to say goodbye to airports and start my way back home.   I had some Halfords tokens from Christmas and had included Halfords into my GPS route, which it took me straight to the door.  I always find it strange the Halfords, a large store selling bikes, never have anywhere to lock up and leave bikes outside, instead I found a lamppost nearby.   My mission would be to use my Christmas token to replace my cheap multi-tool which has the habit of working loose and falling to pieces with an Alien II multitool from Topeak.   This multi-tool is actually two tools in one, they fit together or you can slide them apart.  Twenty billion tools in one handy device, making a swiss army knife look a bit limiting.   Pricey (although I would of course not be paying) but reviews had been good.  Includes all the allan keys, screw drivers, spanners, chain tool, knife and tyre lever.  It even includes an emergency spanner to do up pedals, by clipping various bits into each other the whole tool transforms into the spanner which while no way strong enough to remove pedals, it would be suitable to get you home if your pedals were to drop off.

2014-01-19 22.11.11

Includes everything you will ever need, including bottle opening, which seems to be the only part of it I have used to far!

Astral Towers, I used to love this building when I was small, very sparkly.  I had a job interview on one of the top floors once.

Astral Towers, I used to love this building when I was small, very sparkly. I had a job interview on one of the top floors once.

After a lunch stop at McDonalds (mobile internet coming to my aid and finding three McDonalds all within 2 minutes of me) I pointed my bike southwards and started the journey home.     I expected this to be an uneventful part so I put my head down and peddled into the head wind blowing from the South.   I was overtaken by someone on a clean looking road bike and I thought nothing of it until later on down the road I saw him stopped and working on his bike.   I stopped and asked if all was ok and it turned out he was having problems with his gears, I took a look.  It seemed there was nothing that I could see wrong at which point it turned out it was a brand new bike and this was its first trip out, a regular mountain bike but the first time on a road bike and the first time using gears located on the brakes.   I showed him how to change down gear, it’s not obvious if its the first time, and we got chatting while he accompanied me for a while.   I forget his name but he stayed with my for a number of miles until we went are separate ways, I took one direction (which turned out to be the wrong way) while he continued on.   Upon correcting myself (the GPS soon showed my error) I was suprised to see the same cyclist at the side of the road a bit further on.   This time the problem was more serious, a flat tyre and I couldn’t help this time.  With my touring bike having Schrader valves and his having thinner Presta valves I had no pump to help, being his first trip out he had no spares or pump either.   We chatted for a while longer, swapping mobile numbers in order to maybe meet up in the future for some shared cycling.    Time was getting on and I wanted to get home in daylight so we bid farewell, him turning back and walking back towards Horsham.

Random meeting with fellow cyclist

Random meeting with fellow cyclist.

 

After that unexpected and pleasant meet up, I got my head down and made my way back home, uneventful apart from the odd flooded field alongside.  After the pre-dawn start I got home early afternoon.

Somewhere here this is a river!

Somewhere here this is a river!

Couldn't quite work out which bit was river and which bit was flood

Couldn’t quite work out which bit was river and which bit was flood

A quick bit of cycle path from Steyning

A quick bit of cycle path from Steyning

Not much further now

Not much further now

Bike selfie!!!

Bike selfie!!!

A trio of airports, in time order.  Shoreham, old Gatwick, new Gatwick

A trio of airports, in time order. Shoreham, old Gatwick, new Gatwick

Number of miles: 69

Number of airpots: 3(‘ish)

Number of suitable plane spotting locations: none

 

 

map

Early Morning Storrington

Not many weekends left before the end of the year and those remaining are busy with pre-Christmas activity.   To fit this in I thought an early start was called for, so by 07:00 I had set off in the dark for a small circle route.   The sun the rising as I got to Worthing going along my daily route I take to work each day, but this time I when I got to the office I continued going.

I continued along the seafront following Cycle Route 2, out of Goring and towards Ferring, with the early morning sun behind me.   There is a strange gap between the two villages, prime seafront land where anywhere else expensive large houses would turn the flat fields into prime places to live.    This is a protected area,  the road has been built but nothing else, which turns it into a bit of a strange stretch of straight road with the beach one side and fields the other.

The gap takes into Ferring, a hamlet with a mix of the X-Files and a Dr Who mystery.   Route 2 takes you through the main streets which is a pity as it could continue along the seafront but recent bids to do this were turned down so instead you have to leave the seafront and go up to the main A259 dual-carriageway and then back down again.      The X-Files/Dr Who mix comes from the normal look to the houses and the streets, all neat and tidy, quiet, but just a little bit too neat and tidy and quiet.  There is something going on behind those net curtains.  Indeed, all side streets and access to the beach have large PRIVATE and KEEP OUT signs, they well you how much you will be fined if you even think about it, NO PARKING, NO TURNING, SOD OFF.   The lawns are perfect, pretty flowers on the edge, clean cars and perfect little houses.  But there is something going on behind all that, hence all the signs to keep you out.   Has the community been replaced by an alien race disguised as humans, or maybe it is a simple as weekend sex parties.  Either way, it is eerie cycling through in much the same way as Middleton was when I was last this way.

 

I escaped, no zombified pensioners got me and I made it safely into Littlehampton.   The sun was up by now, a nice wide cycle path along a deserted beach, if only there was a McDonalds in the town I could had stopped for an egg mcmuffin to keep me going.   I passed a number of streamlined cyclists in Lycra meeting up for the start of their early morning ride.  A polite ‘hello’ and I continued on my way.     There was works taking place by the harbour (flood defences maybe?) which meant a small bit of walking until I got to the foot/cycle bridge of the river.    I quite like Littlehampton, a bit of a place by the sea forgotten about.  We looked at moving house here years ago but it had a bit of a run down feel to the whole town.  It still does in a lot of places, but a lot of money has been spent which shows in many years to come it could be a very up and coming area.

 

Out of Littlehampton, the early morning sun disappeared for a while and the cold wind hit side on as I rode along the flat land towards Ford.   At this point I left Route 2 which I had been following since leaving home and started my journey northwards towards Arundel.     Ford as the Prison which had some early morning visitors waiting to be let in, but I was soon to come across a reminder of Ford airfield in the shape of an RAF Meteor fighter jet on top of a pole at the entrance of Ford industrial estate.

The airfield opened in 1918 for the RAF but only lasted a couple of years until it closed.  It started up again between the wars and took part in experiments in air-to-air refuelling, but was damaged quite a lot when World War Two started.  The RAF came back and a lot of activity for D-Day support and beyond took place.    They left again in the late 50s but the airfield itself closed in the 80s.     There is a softplay area, the Flying Fortress, sign posted off the main A27, the weekly carboot sale that takes place, something that looks like a sewage works, and of course Ford Open Prison.

 

I didn’t venture into Arundel but instead up the long uphill of the A284.   This was the first hill of the day having rode mostly on flat ground near or even under sea level for all of the way.  It was to be all uphill until I met the large roundabout were the A29 meets and I would turn off towards Storington for an initial quick downhill.   The uphill was fine, selected my gear and took my time, just plodded on, it was not steep, just long.   After all that work it was a bit of a pity that the downhill was just a bit too steep to go down it comfortably, especially being quite a busy road.  Last time I did this route I went the other way and I remember only too well the uphill slog, at least this time it was only my brakes that had to do the work.     Good views on the way down with the mist laying in the valleys of the Downs.

Past Amberly and finally into Storrington, a place well know for storks and rabbit breeding (in the old days), and just minutes away from the South Downs.   I wasn’t intending to go up any Downs today and so after a quick snack break I carried on to the A24 to make my way back to Worthing.

There are not many routes through the Downs nearby which limits you a bit.  The A24 a fast dual carriage way or the A283 a thin windy road that takes you to Steyning.    I choose the dual carriage way, a slight long uphill getting you to the quiet streets of Findon before joining the A24 again (now a much slower road) with a slight downhill all the way into Worthing.

I made good time, getting home just as everyone else was getting up from a slow sleepy morning.

 

Number of miles: 39

Number of impressive sunrises: 1

Number of killer hills: 0

Number of jet planes on sticks: 1

Capture

A pot of tea at the bus stop

The first true test to the new shoes and pedals, how would it go and how many times would I fall off in front of a group of other cyclists?     As it turns out, I would not fall off once over the 70 miles for the day, the odd re-balance that could had turned into me falling off but was expertly corrected before anyone noticed.   For the shoes and the pedals, a big success.    The question though, did it make any difference to my ride?     The answer is possibly in places it did.  I was able to for the first time give a quick boast of power up a couple of hills by standing on the pedals and felt much more confident in doing so (no risk of your feet slipping at a critical moment).   Speed wise it was about the same but then I’m never riding to be the fastest.   Comfort wise it was nice to be connected to the bike and not having to think about how my feet were positioned, they were stuck to the pedals and that’s it.

I set off early for the familiar 17 mile ride to Lewes, getting there in plenty of time.   Good job too as the battery in the GPS was showing as flat and I needed to sort it out.  I had bought spare batteries with me as I expect this, unfortunatly I bought the wrong sized ones with me.   A quick visit to the car boot sale that was taking place round the corner found me a replacement, unfortunately the stall holder was no-where to be seen.   Do I just take them and it serves the stall holder right?   In the end I decided my life of crime should not start at Lewes car boot sale and waited for WHSmith to open.   They opened at 10, the group meets and starts at 10.  Would I make it?

As luck would have it, the ride never starts on time (who’s watching the clock anyway) plus on this occassion one member arrived needing to repair a puncture  and so I had plenty of time.    Punctures are something I have yet to deal with on the Royal but as a group there has been the occasional stop while a puncture is fixed.  I am always amazed by how quick the tyre change is done, within minutes the new tyre is put in place, pumped up and we are off on our way again.   It compares much differently to the times when I have had a puncture (on the Highway) where the pace is much slower and I would even see it as a time to have a drink and snack, even put the kettle on if I was carrying one.    I am always impressed by other’s speed.

The trip today was going out to Ardingly reservoir stopping off at Balcombe for tea and cakes.  I’d never been that way but the map suggested some pretty massive hills at Ardingly but after that it was a downhill trend.   From this, the ride was pretty much uneventful until we hit the hills of Ardingly and some really nice rural roads with pretty little cottages tucked away.  The sort of places and roads you expect are not used very often and that was demonstrated by the bad surface.

The reservoir was at the bottom of a hill, in fact it is a valley.   Having only recently been made, if the late 1970s can be thought of as recent, I have heard tales from family members visiting the site while they knocked down the houses within the valley, banked up the road that crossed the valley, made a dam and let it all fill up with water.     While today the weather was sunny it was clear the recent rain had filled the reservoir up and the new banked up road had turned very much into a little river.    The road down to the reservoir was matched with its equal going up the other side.   Moving slowly uphill while watching the funny little goblin houses I passed on the way.

We didn’t quite know where the cafe was in Balcombe, but being a little village we assumed it would not be hard to find which soon turned out to be the case.  Unfortunately for us we were the second group of cyclists to arrive that day and would be the second group to be turned away.  Being remembrance day the small village cafe had been pre-booked by war veterans to no doubt have a relaxing lunch, talk about life, and finish off a remembrance morning in a suitable way.  There was no room at the cafe.      Not to worry though as there was a handy undercover bus stop next to the cafe and a quick discussion with the owner she was more than happy to serve us outside, she took our orders (very easy, tea and cake for everyone) and moments later she reappeared outside and positioned a try with cups and teapot in the bus stop for us to share.   A little time later she came out to collect the plates and to refill the teapot.   Some super service from a little village cafe (or do we call it a tea shop?) with customer service and friendlyness at the forefront – a place worth remembering.

Balcombe is a tiny Sussex village that has a good tea shop, but this year it has made national (and maybe even international) news when a drilling company came to do some test drilling for oil.   Along with such activity always comes the various campaigners against such things who set up camp, tend to have long hair and don’t wash, I don’t know if anyone in the village actually minded, but either way the protesters camped out and caused a nuisance on theirs (and ours I suppose) behalf – lucky us.    This was months ago, the drilling has come and gone, I don’t know the outcome or if we will soon be seeing Sussex villagers wearing Texas cowboy hats anytime soon.    Even so, as we passed the site both sides of the road were littered with scruffy looking cars and tents, no doubt owned by equally scruffy looking people (we didn’t see them so can’t say for sure).     Not the sort of place or road I would be camping on as it seemed quite a fast and busy road.

The ride back was mostly downhill but the various uphill bits were felt quite a lot which slowed me down.  Many times I was biking at the end of the group out of site but was met at the next major junction by them all waiting.   The nice thing about the group is all are welcome and no-one is left behind.     I left the group getting into Lewes and made my way back from Lewes to Brighton along the treated 4 miles up slight uphill, against the wind, and with cars next to you doing 70mph.  It’s not nice, even though you are on a cycle path it is not the smoothest.   Part of the reason why on these group trips I tend to leave the group on the second leg and make my own way home across country in order to miss this bit out.

Once I got to Brighton I decided a ride along the seafront may be called for and so made my way through the centre of the city.   Some people hate city riding with all the cars and people, the crazy road layouts and the funny coloured cycle paths that direct you into road signs and lampposts before asking you to dismount for 20 yards of nothingness, and then deposit you in a strange part of town you have never seen before.   For me, I always like it.   Maybe from when I was growing up and cycling around the one-way systems of the town I lived in, being part of the traffic.    Certainly, vans and taxis have their own mind in how everyone else on the road should behave, but I never really have much of a problem.

By the time I got the seafront the light was fading, my choice to bring lights had been a good one.  The rest of the ride home was seafront cycle path, a trip across the locks and nearly (had I been doing this 3 days later) a ride across the new cycle/foot bridge.    For now I had to keep on the road and go the long way round.   Next time would be able to use this long awaiting footbridge, a bridge that seems to have taken years to build.     Once open, it would make the cycle ride a bit more pleasent and be a link to the rest of National Cycle Route 2 of which I use daily (although not this part).   The bridge, part funded by Sustrans, would be a missing link, but it had been designed as a shared space between pedestrians and cyclists, a scenario that never really works (and how can it?) so await for letters to the local paper complaining about cyclists on the path killing all the pedestrians (as it happens, there were letters to the local paper later that week complaining about horses on the bridge).