While on holiday we spent the day off road on hire bikes and both T and J loved it. They were surprised to hear that back at home we live just down the road from a whole network of off road paths in both Downs Link and the South Downs Way. Yes indeed, and it’s always been there ever since they have been biking… We agreed we would give it a go when we got back home, especially T who quite enjoyed the day.
I thought a quick 10 mile loop following Downs Link to Botolphs and then back home along country roads via the airport. This was agreed on, as long as we could include breakfast at McDonalds on the way, it seemed fine to me. It was going to be me and T but when the morning came it switched over to me and J – I suppose one of the advantages of having twins!
We set off, a bit later than expected but still in plenty of time to follow Route 2 all the way to McDonalds. As there would be a great deal of off road and because it had been raining all night, I decided to use the Highway hybrid bike instead of the Royal touring bike, mainly because I didn’t want to get the Royal muddy! The Highway, my daily commuting ride, is now a good ride since its service, and am not afraid to get it dirty!!
The ever favorite seaside path was quite busy even at this early hour of the day, lots of joggers, cyclists and dog walkers. I seems everyone was using the path apart from the various small snack stalls along the way, a bit of a missed opportunity if you ask me. The trip to McDonalds is now all Route 2 cycle path using the new Shoreham cycle/footbridge. It’s not the easiest to find if you don’t know the area and in fact I never know if we follow the suggested Route 2 or not, but we go our own way to the bridge, down some pretty narrow and busy streets, but get across all the same. Up until recently the signs used to say End of Cycle Route at both ends of the bridge, but the word “End” is now blacked out so that it now says “Cycle Route” and makes much more sense. I believe Sustrans had to remind the local council who had funded part of the bridge building! Even so, Saturday morning the main street in Shoreham is taken over by a farmers market making navigation via bike an impossibility. Not a huge problem, its always nice to see the farmer’s markets, a small bent carrot covered in dirt seems to attract a high price I also noticed most stalls were hardly local – but it’s a farmer’s market so all must be good I’m sure… But grumbling over, we arrived at McDonalds for breakfast, an almost required pre-requisite to any touring day.
The route would be 50% off road and 50% along country roads. I don’t tend to use the Downs Link to Steyning even though most journeys do involve going through or near Steyning. The main reason is that the path is just a track and not even a mud one (which would be fine in the summer) but a slightly sandy one. Sand and grit gets all over the bike, plus it is mixed with large stones giving you a pretty bumpy ride. I’ve said it before, it is a pity this path could not be paved making it a great alternative to the busy road it runs next to and making it a good route for what is one of the only flat passes through the South Downs and to the rest of the world (or at least Sussex). Today though, with speed low and the chance for what would be the longest ride J had done, it all was fine. Being summer made it a nice ride with flowers either side, along the river which was at full tide.
We kept to around 9mph which given as J has difficulty with his gears (the twist grip is extremely tight for some reason) was fine. Add to this the fact that J has mild cerebral palsy and in fact was never really destined to walk when he was born, 9mph and just the fact he had come on this mamouth trip (for him), it all made for a good sunny ride along a pretty path.
Just before you reach the village of Bramber you go through Botolphs first, and you should make sure you don’t blink because as soon as you reach it you have gone through it. A tiny village of just one road, Route 222 skims the side of the road where you have the choice to carry on to Steyning and Bramber along the path or to join the road and continue, or even join the road and turn back. This was the plan for today. The country road is an alternative to both Route 222 and the main road, it’s got one main hill and is my normal chosen route. So as Route 222 touched the road, we turned and made our way home, passing the recently refurbished St Botolphs church and onwards. I gave J a bit of help in advance to change down some gears in order to tackle the hill. I did likewise myself knowing I would be going quite slow and then…. clunk.
I looked to see why my back wheel had stopped turning and saw what I thought must had happened with the chain going a bit too far missing the largest cog and now wedged quite solid between the large cog and the wheel. The wheel itself now would not turn round. I had chosen not to bring any tools with me on this trip, I’m not too sure why but I was starting to wish it was not the case. I turned the bike upside down, this would need a bit of detailed work especially with the chain guard in the way and no means on removing it. No point in trying to keep my hands clean, I needed to grab the chain well and pull it hard if I was going to get it out of the small space it had wedged itself into. I was really quite surprised when after a number of minutes it did start to move and very slowly gave me confidence that finally it would all become free. With hands now all black, I turned the bike back the right way and we continued the journey up the hill.
J did pretty well in his low gear and once at the top he was able to change up in order to enjoy the downhill section, worth the work we had both put in. Riding along we discussed speed and worked out that at if we were able to keep to that speed then within 30 minutes we would be back home. With no more hills we were making good progress, at some points J even stopped talking about Minecraft, but only for a little minute.
Number of miles: 14.2
Top Speed: 13.4mph
Average Speed: 7,2mph
Number of local stalls at the farmer’s market: not that many
Number of minutes hearing about Minecraft: millions