I noticed on forums that this week was the start of cycling goods at Lidls, some promising items of dubious quality but very low price. I was not at work for the day so I thought I would take a look seeing I was in need of new cycling gloves after leaving mine on the back of my bike and cycling off after the Brighton Breezy last year. At £3.49 during the Lidl cycling event they seemed to have my name on them.
Walking out of Lidls I had the new gloves, new sun glasses (£2.99!) and a new bike maintenance stand. The gloves were good (on par with the cheap Halfords ones before), the sun glasses were… cheap but functional. The stand (only £24) I was interested in. Once I got home I decided it was time to clean the Royal and putting it on the stand would make it a lot easier. I had also decided to change the saddle back. During the week before I had purchased a large container of “Rhino Goo” which told me all I had to do was spray it on my bike, leave it for five minutes and then rinse off, it would be like magic! Not completely taken in on the advertising, it was only because people had recommended a similar Muc Off product and indeed I had watched the You Tube videos of something spraying it all over, what I thought, a pretty clean bike, rinsing it off and bingo, a clean bike! Pretty pricey however, if I was going to be swept up with all this marketing magic then I was going to do it a tad cheaper. A quick five minutes on ebay and a massive bottle of Rhino Goo, promising just the same (although in this case it suggested it would work with motorbikes and caravans as well as bikes!) for not much more than a tiny bottle of Muc Off spray was on its way to me. Armed with a spray bottle of Goo and a spray bottle of clean water, along with a watering can of more water, I was ready.
Setting up the stand was pretty straight forward, but like a music stand but on a larger and heavy duty scale. I fitted the magnetic tool holder, something actually quite useful when working on shingle. The legs spread out pretty wide which meant even on the not so flat bit of shingle I was on, it was all pretty steady when I placed the bike on. I tightened bits up and all was ready for the cleaning.
Water down with the watering can, spray with Goo over and over, give some parts a bit of a rub, especially the tyres and up under the mud guards, leave while you make a cup of tea. Come back, rub down some tougher bits, rinse with the clean water spray, another watering can of clean water and let it all drip dry.
While drying, load chain cleaner with Gunk degreaser and whizz it around a number of times. In the stand, this was much easier than on the floor where back pedalling means your chain spends a lot of the time jumping gears and ultimately coming off. Pedalling forwards I had none of this problem. A quick brush with degreaser in all the cassette, wipe chain dry again by pedalling, bingo.
Dry last bits off, spray on some funny stuff from Halfords that tells me it will displace any last bits of water (I doubt it), give a quick polish. Re-oil chain, rub of excess by pedalling. Job done.
I don’t think it was any quicker but it was a lot lot easier just walking around the bike, getting to bits underneath and being able to pedal.
While on the stand, I replaced the saddle with the more padded one again making sure the angle was not tipping me off, no need to bend down as everything was at standing height.
Took bike off, folded stand up and stored out of the way. Pretty much a success making me wonder that the stands costing hundreds of pounds do that my £24 one does not. The only grumble was the stick for keeping the front wheel straight, you were meant to hook a piece of rubber with holes in it onto the pole but the holes just seemed so very small. I am sure after a lot of swearing and such like I would had got it, but using the bungee rope normally on the back rack did the job just as good, quickly and without swearing.
A most famed beach location, West Wittering gives sand and lots of sand dunes. As most beaches nearby are full of pebbles, you can imagine in the summer this location is packed full of people. The owners know this too, the private estate that owns and looks after things have made a massive car park on the surrounding fees, they are not afraid to charge for it, £8 during high session to park…. We should feel lucky however, we all know of Adolf’s fondness of Butlins (see here), he could had been in luck if all had gone to plan and he happened to had come West Wittering way after he had spent a but of time in Bognor first of course. The Butlins holiday complex was talked about in the 1950s but as soon as the local population heard about it they didn’t just put together a Facebook petition like what happens these days, but instead put together money and collected enough to buy the land and set up a preservation trust. The car park had been a commercial success since the 1920s and the trust kept things going, the aim to preserve the area and keep it open to the public. The parking then costs money, but it keeps things going with this unique Trust, it also in a way stopped invasion from Germany in WW2, no Butlins = no real reason to invade (that and WW2 had finished years earlier!).
I’ve only been once, paid the high parking charge and taken in the sandy beach of which Sussex has very few. About time I had another visit.
One change for this trip, I had been not finding the saddle too comfortable lately and so I decided to swap it back from the comfy one to the original. I had experimented with this a couple of years ago where I had swapped the very hard original saddle with something a bit spongy, but not too spongy. I am told such really spongy saddles do not resolve anything, it is all about your bum bones being in the right place. It was when I was swapping it back over I noticed that I was able to change the angle of the saddle, I had been feeling as if I was getting tipped off forwards all the time which in turn meant my “bum bones” were not in the ideal position, hence feeling uncomfortable. Bingo then, I continued with the harder saddled but adjusted the angle, I would I would see how it went.
Early morning start, the day looked like it would turn out promising weather wise. The coldness of the early morning soon dissapeared as I set off Worthing way. Hardly any cars about at that time in the morning, but it seems many people on bikes be they all lycra’ed up for a Sunday ride or paper boys with their bags.
The initial plan was to see what time I got to various places that had cafes for a spot of decent breakfast, unfortunately due to my early start time and it being a Sunday I managed to go past them all way before opening time! Good job I had a small bit of breakfast before I left.
A slightly circular route, because no-one likes having to go and come back long the same roads. There was only so much of a circle I could make, there are not many options to get around some areas where the coast cycle route goes quite a way inland to get from Ferring to East Preston, and there is no real option from Littlehampton to Bognor. Once the other side of Bognor I decided to go inland up towards (but not quite getting to) Chichester. I judged the wind to be coming from the West and so an easier journey home, indeed all the way I had been against the wind which was keeping my speed down and effort up high, so a more inland route out and back home along the coast. This meant getting most of the way up to Chichester following a lot of cycle route 2 leaving it at the canal. While the cycle route used the tow path to to Chichester, I followed (on road) the canal the rest of the way to the sea. I could have had used the tow path but being still winter I was imagining it as bumpy and muddy and decided to use the road instead. I would rejoin the canal at the road into the marina, although at this point the canal was more of a river with no access to boats, making its way to the final old lock (no longer working) and out to the sea.
I knew there was a cafe at the marina, but taking a look it seemed a bit too posh, I decided breakfast would wait a bit longer.
At the marina you meet the Salterns Way cycle route. It comes all the way from Chichester and (I didn’t know at the time) down to West Wittering using a mixture of quiet roads and off road tracks. I wasn’t too keen to do too much off road this time due to it being winter time. In a quiet corner of the marina you find the remains of the lock that used to be the connections between the canal and the sea. It is now blocked up, houseboats on one side and am empty lock with broken old gates on the other. A small bridge over takes you to the other side. Rather amusing is spotting the small Salterns Way cycle route signs (quite had to spot), with a big crossed out bike symbol attached. I can see why, it’s a small narrow bridge with low sides and a big drop on one side.
I kept loosing the Salterns Way after this. As expected, there are a number of large posh houses and many private roads making it slightly unclear which roads you can go down on a bike, where the Salterns Way takes you. I lost the small signs and continued to follow the arrow on the GPS. The number of large sparkly clean Range Rovers and houses behind large gates were getting more and more.
West Wittering soon came up, highlighted by a public toilet block and a small cafe. The toilet block was very welcome, the cafe seemed a bit small and posh like. Even though I was by now getting hungry I didn’t quite fancy the small cafe, no menu outside and unable to see in the windows, I continued on. At this point, cars are told they are entering the private West Wittering Estate and there will be a car park charge at the end of the long road. I opted the road alongside, marked as a dead end and as a private road, but marked on the map as any normal road (although agreeing it was a dead end). This took me through the various gated houses, each in their own little spot of paradise countryside, none having anything to do with anything outside of their walls and fences. After a short while I reached the sea! Some fantastic expensive houses here, gardens (with no fences for once) going straight into the sea from hugely long bright green lawns, a Range Rover parked on the gravel.
The path continued along by the sea, it wasn’t marked up as a bridleway and it seemed pretty popular with dog walkers I felt it not wise to follow but instead go back to the road and rejoin the main road to the car park. A small queue of cars were queuing to be let into the car park, the barrier popping up each time a driver handed their money over. It was March, the weather was overcast and not particularly pleasant, the number of people visiting for the day was huge. I passed whole fenced off fields marked out as car parks, I can well believe on a summers day there must be thousands here.
I spotted the cafe and made my way towards it, a certain place to find an all day breakfast and cup of tea. It was closed.
I was by now actually quite hungry. I sat on the sandy beach for a while, watching families wrapped up warm making the most of the “only sand in Sussex” thinking I must one day come back in the summer. I wonder if I ever will, certainly not by car and with such an out of the way location, probably not by bike either. It was time to turn back home, wind hopefully behind me, looking out for beachside cafes for breakfast.
As there is a West Wittering then there must be an East Wittering of which I soon came to find. It seemed just a single street straight down to the beach. A bit deserted and wind swept but obviously a hugely popular hidden location on better days, something to remember about. Numerous cafes dotted the streets trying to make the most of passing winter trade. I pondered for a while before I chose my cafe for the day, the one advertising all day breakfast for £7.50 on the board outside won out. At two sausages, two bacon, two fried bread, two hashbrowns, black pudding, beans, and a cup of tea…. it is what was needed.
Eating on your own, unless there is something to watch out of the window, it is a tad boring. I turned to my phone in order to read some web pages but no signal. I really wished I had bought along my Kobo or even a real book. However, my mind was taken away from this when my breakfast arrived, a full TripAdvisor review in progress in I think! The holy grail of a good breakfast from a cafe means it must come with real sausages and not cheap frozen ones full of sawdust. I had two real sausages, I had perfectly done fried bread, black pudding that was not all dried up, two fried eggs done well (one with a double yolk, bonus) It seemed I had found the right place.
It was now really time for home, eastwards all the way, mostly along the seafront as much as I could, wind behind me. It didn’t quite work out due to:
seafront taken up by gated houses, Range Rovers supplied as part of the house
the seafront turning into more marsh and so no roads
the wind seemed to be one of those magic winds that are never fully behind you for some reason
I stopped off quickly at Bracklesham Bay in order to check out another cafe for future reference. Good reviews and recommendations, but advised to arrive early. I turned up at the small wooden building and inside was packed, I felt glad I had found my own quiet cafe in my own quiet seaside town.
In the GPS I had included a diversion off to Selsey if I thought I had time when I came to it. A strange town, one that I have probably visited before but not in any recent years. It has one road in and out, there is no reason for anyone to ever go there, it’s not on the way to anywhere, it’s miles from any larger town. Patrick Moore lived there, not much light pollution then I am thinking. Because of it’s “out of the way” nature I was tempted to make the 10 mile diversion, but I had spent too long eating real sausages, I had to get home. Will I ever return I wonder?
As normal, the route home is never as interesting, but I had planned in a small route to bypass bits of main road. On the planner it seemed it was a road, in reality it was a gravel track through a farm (with plenty of “turn back, all is doomed” type messages) and out the other side. I was a bit taken by the notices in Polish on an open gate, feeling a bit like an extra from X-Files I continued on. I passed a vegetable packing factory as I kept on what seemed like a newly created gravel road for large lorries (area 51 located near Selsey anyone?) until what seemed like miles I finally saw traffic on a road ahead. Condidant that a newly built gravel road of this size must surely join a main road at some point I continued on, until I got to a large high fence with a large high gate, locked. Bugger.
I didn’t fancy back tracking. The yard was surrounded by fields, a large ditch filled with water all the way round, or did it? I found a small gap in the ditch, bike on the shoulder I climbed over… a quick dash along the side of the field and back to tarmac as if nothing had happened…. I was a bit muddy. That short cut had got me about a mile along the road I was originally on, it had taken a good hour….
I kept to known roads for the rest, through Bognor, through Littlehampton, through the strange X-Files type villages into Goring, along the seafront and back home. The GPS, who’s battery was halfway at the beginning of the day was now showing nearly empty. A good show I thought, it must be the 3rd or 4th full day of cycling on the same set of AA batteries. Take that modern USB rechargable GPS!
It suggested in the weather forecast that it would be windy and raining for most of the weekend, which is why I was suprised on Sunday morning when I was presented with blue sky and sun – a perfect spring day. Out of the gloom of January and February, March had started as it should do. It took me so much by surprise that I had not got up early or planned anything. I could have had the choice of meeting a local CTC group at Littlehampton, but I would be on my own if I were to leave now for that.
Instead, we all got in the car and headed off to a local tea room for breakfast! Proper bacon, proper sausages, and proper coffee. A favourite place for cyclists to stop off and stop off they did – which rubbed it in even more that I had missed the early morning good weather.
When I got home, I had to fix the front mudguard of my commuting Highway bike, the plastic snapped off during last week from the stay, which resulted in it catching in the spokes. It gave the bike a bit of a “motorbike” sound like we all used to do in the 80s by pegging a playing card on the forks to hit the spokes. It was cool in the 80s, not so good these days. Would you believe a replacement set of full mudguards cost anywhere from £15 to £20? Before I committed myself on Amazon and a life of living in debt I decided to see if I could fix it. While the plastic had snapped off, you could in theory put a new bolt and nut on, add a washer and tighten up, it would do the job. Looking through my tool box containing mostly bits and pieces off Trabants, I found just what I needed. Oiled and tightened up, mudguard stay was once again in position – ready to go for Monday.
It was still sunny and clear’ish sky, mid afternoon. I had spotted that last time I was on the Royal when it was New Year’s Day, there must had been salt on the roads and this was evident on parts on the bike. A bit of a pain, explains how the Highway daily commuting bike had turned quite so orange a while back. I scrubbed off most of the fluffy white bits of components but the rear wheel rims clearly needed to be used to get rid of the last bits. No time for a massive long distance ride, but a quick trip over to Brighton and back would be interesting. A change of shoes and off I went.
Second attempt for an early morning quiet coffee while I think about possible routes for next year, or should I say this year. 2014 has been a slow year for trips for various reasons, even though I still have various routes planned. The idea of “I’ve seen it all” started to creep in, the idea that in theory I need to bike a good 20 miles before I reach “new ground”, the idea that there are so little options for getting across the South Downs means the first hour of any trip is pretty dull. I started to think about extending my range by including a small train ride to start and end with, the amount of distance you can cover in just an hour on a train could take me to completely new places – although I would have to make sure I made it back in time to catch a rain back.
Before I started looking into that, I looked back in my notebook (ie Evernote) to see what I had jotted down and maybe forgot about. The whole thing is, I don’t particularly like cycling in circles for the sake of it, there has to be a reason for things in life. So while I look online at cycling map sites and see where others have been, it is not really that exciting if it is just a circle with no reason for doing it. So a trip to somewhere of interest and back, in a circle, is good. This means currently I have the following possible trips to do include:
shoreham to guildford along the old railway line, back along roads. Includes old railways so that’s all you need
cuckoo line, including routes 2, 21, 20, and 222 – a complete circle done mostly on old railway lines
windmills of the Weald… there are so many windmills around (well 3) it would make a nice summer ride
follies, Mad Jack Fuller was an interesting character and built a number of these “pointless” buildings
railway/offroad… I am told you can get all the way to London without touching a road (too much)
anything towards Southampton, it’s flat mostly in that direction!
Then, going a bit further a field, I still fancy the two day trip around the Sussex border. Something I had pondered about and saw a friend of mine had been pondering too and even put a possible route up. I’ll take a closer look and fine tune with an overnight camping spot.
So, that gives at least five possible trips before I look into trains and a possible two day trip. I notice that after the grand excitement of a proper overnight “tour” in 2013, nothing had happened since.
Let us not forget too, that I still have the normal 50 miles each week during my commute on the other bike, although that route after four years has really become pretty dull and I am say many times I have got to work and suddenly think how I actually could not really remember the how I got there…. Don’t worry (or do?!), I used to find the same commuting longer distances by car too.
I took a gamble today, it is a bank holiday which is always prime time for MAMILs to venture out in packs. But it is new year’s day, which surely means everyone is still in bed getting over the hang over after partying to see to clock strick 12 like it never does 365 over times of the year. After a week off work, hearing my alarm go off when it was still dark was not good, it took press presses of the Snooze button to finally get me out of bed. I could hear the wind through the closed windows, which didn’t really help much.
I forced myself up, looked out of the window to see the bleakness looking back at me. You can’t only go out on windless sunny warm days… I reminded myself, a couple of times. I left the house, the wind behind me as I set off for Steyning direction, it was cold but didn’t take long to warm up. I decided against the off road route along the Downs Link thinking it would most certainly be pretty muddy and not pleasant, seeing as there was low cloud there would not be any fantastic flat countryside vista to be enjoyed anyway.
Not much excitement in the trip up to once again Stan’s Bike Shack, this time coming to Partridge Green from the south, maybe I will go back via Henfield. I got slightly worried again as I got nearest and started to see much more cycling activity, but as I pulled in they all went straight on. This time, the carpark was empty, infact the cafe was only just in the process of opening for the day. Bingo. Piece and quiet….
I had to wait for things to setup, but this was no problem, I was in no hurry and I welcomed the quiet that this was giving me. A quick chat, a sausage and egg roll with a coffee was what I was planning and hoping for. Second time round, things were working out well. I eat and drank while I planned routes and generally pondered over all things bike and route. I chatted with the owner and heard plans for the Shack which turned out has not even been open for a year, and yet it is a place that everyone talks about. It seems so well placed at an hour from home for both outgoing and incoming journeys. Good luck for the future and the plans.
Coffee was good, food was good. I opted for a sausage and egg bap, cooked just for me and made for a very good breakfast. A “test drive” of using a Chromebook with limited internet connection was good. It turns out that the Shack has free Wifi but I wanted to test out the usability of a Chromebook for when internet is not so good. I am pleased to say, all went well (I connected to my phone for the rest in order to see how the battery coped when in such mode). This is all good, for the £120 Chromebook with the amazing battery life, no moving parts and all that.
I spent a good hour, typing and chatting now and then, looking things up…. The Shack was pretty quiet but had a steady stream of walkers and cyclists that came and went. Most were Mountain bikes going along the DownsLink, by the looks of the amount of mud on the bikes! After a couple of coffees and breakfast, I packed up and left for home, this time going the opposite way round than last time, through Partridge Green and through Henfield. The weather had not improved and I certainly felt the wind which was before behind me, now infront of me. On the bike though, it wasn’t cold, which for the 1st of January seemed quite good.
Number of coffees: 2
Number of sausage and egg baps: 1
Number of cheery “Hellos” to passing cyclists: 4
Number of cheery “Hellos” back: 1
Actually a bit of steep hill, doesn’t look much in the photo!
Plenty of room this time, first bike, first customer
The new cycle path along the A27 from the airport, just needs finishing off
I quite fancied a quiet morning ride out to a cafe for coffee and breakfast, take a laptop with me and have a think of possible trips for next year. It seems 2014 has not been a great year for any real touring trips, at only around 500 miles this year on the Royal it is hardly anything compared to the total mileage of my daily commute that the Highway does. An early morning ride out in the winter sun to the “local” cycling cafe that I’ve heard all good things about, find a quiet corner with breakfast and a laptop – seemed like a good idea. After a number of typical winter sunny days, a ride along the Downs Link as the sun comes up sounded quite nice.
It was cloudy and drizzly the next day, a bit windy too. With the wind coming from the North I decided to take the road upwards and the flatter Downs Link, out in the open, route back again, no country sunrise for me. I started to think as I set off, it has been a couple of months or so since I have been out on a ride so a bit of time now planning routes nearby and places I want to see could be time well spent. I stopped off at Shoreham to visit a cash point, the bridge in the early morning was deserted, but did sport a large collection of odd shoes strung up on the fence. It seemed to be some sort of protest over lack of finishing off the south side of the bridge. Rightly so, still seems a bit of a mess and slightly embarrassing that this brand new long awaited bridge ends on one side into a bit of a building site with no real direction.
I continued on, choosing the country road via Botolophs where I would join the Downs Link/Southdowns Way a small part until the main road off to Henfield. This would be one of the many times today that I would either use or pass the route. A major cycle highway, but one that remains unpaved meaning in the winter it is more of a rural mud track than anything usable by a bike. It reminded me of something I read on a cycling blog just the other week which was talking about unpaved cycled paths and just so happened to feature Downs Link as a good example of possibly wasted opportunity. Reading this, I was quite interested as it is something I too have thought much about and written about in the past too. You can, in theory, get all the way from Shoreham to Guildford without seeing too much road, but be prepared and take an off road bike with you. It is suggested it is unpassable in the winter by even that. If it were paved, then it would be a main link North and South, long distance off the roads, for any bikes. The blog post talked of people moaning that this haven for nature would be ruined if it were to be paved, forgetting it seemed that only 50 years back it had massive great steam trains thundering up and down all day long. Sure, there are some hard standing stretches of the route which fair better in the bad weather, but there are some (yet to be ventured by me) parts that look more like long lost forgotten paths through the woods rather than a national cycle route. With that in mind, even before getting out of Shoreham I left the path to carry on along tarmac.
I’ve come up with quite a nice route to get through the Downs, which is a slightly hilly (but nothing too much) ride along the country road and join the Downs Link (again) and Southdowns Way at Botlophs – at which point I cross over to the main road and off up to Henfield. Bonus is a free water tap, handy for the last 4 miles when coming back home. I join the main road, letting a couple of road bikes past as they are getting beeped at by a motorcyclist who, although has more than enough room to go past, points and seems to think they should not be there. Strange angry person.
Riding up to Henfield I started to think that I had never gone up this road before and soon found out that while things like and feel really flat in a car, on a bike you suddenly start to remember that actually there is the odd hill here and there. Henfield, surrounded mostly by flood plains, is at the top of a hill…. Sunday morning, Henfield is still asleep as I pass through.
The first sign of problems is when I get closer to Partridge Green. This is the home of the small Dark Star brewery which as a small brewery in the middle of nowhere in Sussex has quite a good reputation. The village pub, just down the road from it, has it’s own supply of Dark Star beer. Being on the Downs Link (yep, we join it again), it is ideal for long distance cyclists and walkers and I’m pretty sure there is even an organised offroad cycle ride from Shoreham to the Brewery each year – sounds like a good event. The old railway line (and so the Downs Link) passes through Partridge Green, give or take the odd new housing estate or two, it is an ideal place to set up business to cater for the cyclists and walkers as a middle way marker between Horsham and Shoreham.
Stan’s Bike Shack is that business. Last time I came this way there was nothing here, but now a small “shack” has been setup and I’ve heard a great deal about it. I had visions of cycling out to the shack, sipping on a cup of strong early morning coffee with a bacon sandwich, and looking up things on the laptop, writing plans, generally taking in the early morning piece and quiet. Stan’s Bike Shack, I’ve heard of plenty which means many others have too. Sunday morning is prime MAMIL season, lycra covering country roads around the whole of Sussex in close packs. I wondered if actually a Sunday morning was the most ideal time for a quiet coffee at a cycling cafe and as I drew up to the Shack I first heard the sounds of many enjoying an early morning coffee, bikes parked everywhere, and the small cafe completly full.
Not a problem I thought, I’m a friendly people person who loves the idea of mixing with people and talking about bikes – unfortunately I suddenly remembered I was not. I thought I would brave it and ventured in, but alas I couldn’t get much further than just in the door where the queue started. They were doing good business, and good on them too, but the line was too long for me to want to wait, in the Shack it was standing room only, so I opted out and back outside into the piece and quiet once again. Note to myself, don’t try to go to a popular cycling cafe first thing on a Sunday morning.
The was all a bit of a disappointment (the coffee did smell good too, but it was hardly a place for a quiet relaxed time), I desperately looked around Partridge Green for a small cafe (I knew there wouldn’t be one) before I turned back to head home. Past the Shack, the numbers had increased and were sitting in the old outside, and onto the Downs Link. The plan then would be to follow the route all the way back home.
Being winter, the route was deserted, but also muddy in places needing a bit of effort to get through. I passed the odd dog walker but that was it, making it quite a nice ride across the flat country side and over the old railway bridges.
I pondered a bit if I should revisit Shoreham to find breakfast there but as I didn’t have a lock for the bike I decided against it and carried on passed Steyning and along the same road I came up on a couple of hours previous. The Sunday morning MAMIL fest seemed to be in fall swing making the normal quiet Coombes Road into quite a busy place – all good to be part of. A pity hardly any of the cyclists zooming either towards me or past me returned my nod or cheery ‘Hello’ as we passed – not until I got a a cyclist sitting at the church with a wheel in their hands. I stopped and offered any help that I could but it appeared that not only had they had a puncture but the tyre itself had split as well. They were waiting for a friend in a car to turn up, after a short chat they thanked me for stopping and I continued on my way home.
In all, not quite the ride out I was hoping for, but it had been the first real ride for a quite a number of months and so it was good to get out. I never got to sit down and plan trips for next year, so maybe another time.