A couple of new additions this time. I had heard it may be super sunny and hot and so had fitted a second bottle cage with a huge bottle, a bargain at Wilkinsons, I’ve got room to fit one more but that’s probably a bit extreme for a day cycling in Sussex. As it turned out it was not super sunny but two bottles had a tour of Sussex all the same.
The second new addition was my first piece of cycle clothing. My normal attire is a mix of baggy shorts, tshirt, fleece and £7.99 canvas shoes from Shoe Zone. This has served me well for a long time and I have no problem at all but I did feel a bit left out last week as the only person not wearing a speck of cycle gear. No problem with that (each to their own) but I did notice a black (a good start) cycle top that promised it wicked all your sweat away and let your skin breath, and it promised your performance would almost double if you wore it. More importantly it was reduced from £18 to £4 which caught my attention the most, so I bought it and prepared myself for all that it promised.
It was a long 35 mile ride planned by the club which meant with my distance from the start I had to add on an extra 30 miles. Just over 60 miles in a day would probably by the furthest in one day on par with the London to Brighton (although at least this time it will be in the day and not overnight).
The hot sun never really came, there was sun but it was never that hot. My “performance” top, clinging to me like a second skin was not really made for keeping you warm but within 5 miles I was not too hot and no longer not too cold. 5 miles is a magic distance I read somewhere, after 5 miles of cycling you will know if you will be too hot or too cold. After 5 miles you have warmed your body up and offset any chill in the air, or of course the other way round you realise you are wearing too many layers. It is a bit upsetting in a way as my cycle into work is exactly 5 miles and so I arrive at work either having frozen for most of the way waiting to warm up, or too hot as I’ve over compensated!
The ride into Brighton and up to Lewes was uneventful to the degree that it passed mostly in a blur. I used the Old Shoreham Road cycle path, making the number of bikes used it now total to two (I used it last week too!). I also enjoyed the new Lewes Road cycle paths which are coming along since last week, some scheme where cyclist are now directed behind bus stops (hoping the passengers are keeping a good eye out for bikes in strange places). Again, Lewes Road has never had any real bike problems or congestion at all for all the years I have known, now that one lane is a dedicated bus lane and cycle paths waive all over the place it seems to turned it into some sort of course off a video game. The cycle path behind the bus stops are good, it means busses no longer pull out on their stops into the path of cars and bikes, but surely if they used their mirrors and indicators then it would not be a problem?
I got to Lewes and met the others where we all decided it was cold in the shade. We set off, this time doing the route anti-clockwise which would give me the opportunity to slip off near the end homeward in order to save the trial of the Lewes to Falmer section of the ride home. For the first hour the speed was pretty good along roads that I never knew were really there but in directions that I knew vaguely where I was going.
The GPS worked well and this time with a little help of stuffing a bit of card into the battery compartment meant it no longer kept turning itself off when I went over rough ground. A bit of card on the bracket too meant the annoying rattle had gone too. Multi-purpose scraps of card had become vital parts of the cycling inventory.
We hit a number of long hills, nothing steep but a constant upward trend which reminded me of the ride into Horsham earlier on in the year which seemed to be just one slow uphill struggle. I was then pretty pleased when we got to our tea stop at a strange furniture store set in the middle of nowhere it seemed. The store was strange in that the restaurant and grounds seemed to be a much bigger attraction when the furniture on offer which seemed to be mostly “reclaimed” and “vintage” which meant mostly tat but with an extra zero added to the price list. The restaurant however was a different story and seemed reasonably priced, not that I spent more than a price of a pot of tea. I had bought my own food and I smuggled it to my table while we all sat outside in the sun which was now starting to give a bit of warmth. A place to remember (if I can work out just where we were) for future visits I thought.
I thought at this point I would be all refreshed and recharged. As we changed direction back south towards home we were against the cold wind. At the same time it seemed most of the route back seemed to be uphill still which seemed strange as most of the day we had been going uphill, surely we would hit the sky soon?! The pace of the group had picked up since last week, maybe because they knew they had no-one on a mountain bike to look after, but it meant I was soon at the back. Hills are fine in theory but it depends at which speed you wish to tackle them. I am all for “riding the waves” of the contours and am more than happy to find the lower gears and spend my time slowly tackling each one. Unfortunately this did not seem to be the case with the case of the group and soon it was just me and the token leader at the back. He did his best to slow down for me and in the end gave up and joined the rest of the group, I didn’t blame him.
It was a good sight to see the South Downs coming up which only meant the end of the road and the choice to turn left with the others and head back to Lewes, or right and find my way back to Brighton. I was not miles behind and soon we regrouped at the junction. I seemed to remember a lot more of these catch up pauses last week when we had the mountain bike with us, this week though I was that mountain bike! I was not disheartened though as we all stopped next to some other cyclist who were clearing having a little break themselves too after spending miles on a up hill trend fighting the wind.
I said my good byes and went the opposite direction to the group heading in parallel back to Brighton and onto Lancing. I had a number of options here. I could bike the bullet and go up over the Dyke, a series of switch backs that make their way rapiddly up to the top of the Downs and then it would be down hill all the way into Brighton. I could keep going and take the lesser hill of Clayton Mill and follow the A23 cycle path into Brighton. I could take Clayton Mill but keep going all the way to Bramber and make my way into Shoreham. I decided it would be Clayton Mill and A23.
A strange choice of which I am not to sure why I choose it. The hill was a killer, as expected, and afterwards I had the head wind off the English Channel hitting me straight on all the way into Brighton. I don’t know why I didn’t keep going to Bramber, a route that even on the map made more sense. The GPS mocked me telling me I only had another 7 miles until home, but because I was going south it stayed there all the way into the city until I turned West.
The rest was uneventful, just keeping my head down and pedalling. About 20 minutes from home I got a phone call from Rachael asking which direction I would be coming from as she would come out and meet me with Tom and Jack. A great surprise which helped me do the last miles. By this time I dare not stop and get off my bike as I would feel my backside really was feeling the miles and once dismounted there would be no promise of being able to get back on again!
It was good then to see them biking towards me in the opposite direction as I entered the village. We got icecreams (by now I had my fleece back on as it was freezing!) and spent a little time in the park before heading home.
A good day although at my own pace the last parts may had been a bit more enjoyable. It is not a nice feeling knowing you are right at the back of the group, but I know they had no problem waiting for me. Had I kept with the group back in to Lewes all would had been ok without the hills and the wind. I think 40 miles though is a comfortable distance for a day if you are interested in not pushing yourself, but then again there is nothing wrong with pushing for a bit further now and then, as I have done many times before.