Last year it was such a nice day out that I was glad to see when the local Brighton & Hove CTC group started to advertise for a repeat performance this year. Sure, the price had gone up, but only a small bit. I could never work out how they managed to do it all on the tiny entrance fee last year, it seems their accountant thought the same. I am still pretty sure they must be only just covering costs, such a huge volunteer effort for manning the checkpoints, signposting the route, and of course the food and drink. To be honest, without which the day would not be the same. So small increase, still meant it was great value.
Forecast for a bit of rain later on in the day I made sure I packed required waterproofs. As would find out during the day it turned out to be the hottest day so far in September and for quite a while! I packed the bike and got things ready the night before, not being a morning person and not being a breakfast person either. I’ve tried before going for a long ride without breakfast and it really does not work at all, so instead I almost force myself to have not only breakfast but a large one too. It’s not fun, but washed down with black coffee I manage.
Last year I went as part of the Sussex Bike Club, this year I entered on my own. In fact, as newly signed up member of CTC, I could had put that down, but a sole person is how I entered. Last year the second half was hard going, very hilly and a feeling of constantly trying to catch up with the rest of the group. This time I was looking forward to taking it at my own touring pace, look around as I biked along and generally enjoy the day.
Leaving the house early the morning mist had not cleared but the low sun was clearly going to turn stronger and clear things off. The ride along the seafront cycle path from Lancing through to Shoreham was fine, meeting only the odd dog walker and jogger. Still could not work out why the snack kiosks never open early morning to catch such early morning people, seems such a lost opportunity for both them (making money) and myself (eating bacon sandwiches). Even the famous cycle/foot bridge at Shoreham was deserted, looking a little bit battered since multiple glass panes get smashed each week – it seems they are having problems in keeping up with them with the replacements. A bit of a shame, but tends to highlight how society has sunk.
With not going on rides with the Sussex Bike Club these days I have missed my early morning rides through Brighton to get to Lewes. I then quite enjoyed this one, never much traffic about on an early Sunday morning and you get the nice feeling of leaving Lancing just as the sun is rising and arriving at an early morning Brighton when people are just starting to venture out.
Getting towards Lewes Road and the Vogue Gyratory I found the road closed. I had heard that they planned to make ‘improvements’ to this busy interchange in order to make it more bike friendly but I didn’t know they had started. It currently is a bit of a long roundabout with buildings in the middle and a large supermarket. Scary when you first look at it but actually pretty much straight forward and if you take primary position it is quite safe. Interestingly, before all this and the large supermarket, it was just another t-junction with an old cinema on the corner. The cinema was later called the Vogue and was well known for showing XXX films to an ever grateful audience. Strange to think of a town interchange being named after a porn cinema. Seeing the Upper Lewes Road closed was quite something, normally a very busy road now deserted during the works, I can only imagine rush hour mornings and evenings cannot be much fun at the moment.
Brighton seems to have gone cycle path mad these last years, something to do with having a Green Party council. It does mean the majority of people in Brighton are getting a bit fed up as dual carriageways that have been there for decades get turned back into single lane roads with huge cyclepaths either side. More cars… less road space…. I don’t really get it. Mind you, Brighton voted for the Green Party and now they are getting the results, it seems it isn’t just all about saving whales and knitting wind farms.
Having lived in Brighton and around this area for many years previous, I have cycled around Brighton and I have never had any problems with either the Vogue Gyratory or the wide dual carriage way of Lewes Road. Lewes Road is now single lane with lots of lights and painted lines, coloured bits of road. It looks all pretty but looks very confusing and seems to resolve a problem that there never was, although now there is one as there are huge traffic jams where once traffic ran free. Likewise, the Vogue Gyratory looks scary but it is not. They plan to have a painted bit of road inbetween all the lanes and junctions…. I can’t see how that is at all safe and infact suggests otherwise. The red paint on the road (sometimes green or blue I notice) doesn’t actually protect anyone or mean anything. I’m no real fan of cycle paths, it would be easier if everyone on the roads (and life) just got on with things and were nice to each other. I made it through along the wide empty cycle path up to Falmer and signed in at the start check point.
I decided there was no point in hanging around so when the first group was ready to set off I joined them. Probably not a good idea I thought as I started down towards Lewes, the rest in the first group would soon zoom off and leave me. That in itself was not a problem, and expected, but knowing I have 150 other cyclists behind me all with the same potential to pass me on their way, and never the hope of doing likewise myself, I wondered if it had been a good idea. As it happens, the first leg up to Waldron is pretty flat and quiet, only after some miles this first group had soon sorted itself out into little packs. Some I never saw again whereas others kept about the same distance either in front or behind right up to the first stop. The early morning was now starting to turn into mid morning and the fresh misty air was starting to turn into a cloudless warm day.
I was quite surprised that I reached the hill up to Waldron so quickly. I am not talking about super fast speed but the ride had been quite fun and leisurely without much thought about things. The hill soon changed that, even though I knew at the top there would be a nice cup of tea and cake it didn’t make it any easier. Last year I am shamed to say that I walked up one of the hills, no-one saw, but still… I knew. I was determined this year it would be different.
The hill was worth it and the supply of sandwiches, cakes, and cups of tea was made even better by it. To be honest, it is the food and drink that made me come back for a second year! Cycling is cycling, cycling to get to a destination is what it is really about, if that destination is a full buffet of good homemade food then it’s even more so. However, there is nothing worse then having high expectation from a previous year and feeling let down when it does not life up to it, always a worry. I need not had been concern here though as it was even better than before, helped too by the now hot summer day – we were all sitting outside. Sandwiches, cakes of every type, cups of hot tea, plenty of water and orange squash, plus the new addition in the form of plates of jelly beans! The cakes were simply amazing, it was hard not to take too much advantage and sample a bit of each. We all sat, in the sun, discussing food and cycling. New people arrived as others left, a number of us thought it was a pity we could not just stay here for a while longer.
I did in the end leave, suitably refreshed and ready to tackle the “long route”. Just out of Waldron the arrows pointed to the left and right, left for the long way, right to get back home. If I had chosen right then I would be on my way back, home within a couple of hours. I choose left, the long route, the hilly route. A nice touch by CTC signage people was plenty of warnings as you started on the long route, “You are on the 100k ride! Turn back if you have made a mistake”, or words to that liking. All telling you that turning back would be the wise choice…. The hills started pretty soon and I knew that while we would be going downhill at times, most of the next 20 miles would be uphill.
The groups of cyclists had by now really stretched out and it started to feel like a ride in the country on your own. Now and then a super fast bike whizzed past as they made their way at super-human speed upwards. Mostly though, it was just me and the hills until I could hear someone behind me for many miles as we continued the general trend of upwards. Both of us so close but unable to use energy for talking. It continued for many miles and after a while there were four of us making our way slowly, it kind of helped in a way, I never had an occasion where walking seemed the only option. We continued all the way up to nearly Crowborough until the route turned us back towards Waldron. I was hoping it meant it would all be downhill but it had the strange way of still seeming mostly uphill!
During these hills, our little group had gone from being almost on top of each other to loosing sight of each other. We shared words during the flat bits but none of us were shy of speeding up or slowing down as needed. Even so, we all ended up back at Waldron to swap notes, and without even trying to would find ourselves bumping into each other for the rest of the ride. It was nice to catch up with a fellow touring bike, a Dawes Galaxy. We both mentioned as we rode together for a while how neither of us had seen many tourers. A Galaxy and a Royal made it back, side-by-side, to Waldren at the top of the hill for the second stop.
It should all be downhill now, the flawed thinking as I left the village hall for the second time. This time, the signs only showed the way home and towards Glyndebourne. I had left on my own but soon caught up with others who over the rest of the journey we would all at times catch up with each other, swapping positions and having a small chat now and then. We were all very much on our own though as we all at some point reached the busy road passing the Laughton classic car show. I remember last year along this route, we had got here much later and the show was finishing, it gave us all a great sight of classic cars all leaving. This year, being much earlier, the show was still on and all I could do was glimpse the odd classic car through the gaps in the hedge as I made my way along.
Out little group all caught up with each other as we made our way back into Lewes, but it was short lived as we soon hit Lewes traffic and traffic lights. It seemed to take an age to get through and by the time I had reached the Lewes Road back towards Brighton I could see neither anyone in front or behind. I slogged up this final last part of the journey, the cycle path of doom, the rough pavement that is slightly uphill with all the wind from Brighton and the sea being channelled up against me, the fast cars of the A27 coming the opposite direction. My speed was pitiful, I was surprised that those of our makeshift group I had left behind in Lewes had not yet caught me up. Maybe they were suffering just as much fun as I was on this one final bit.
A cup of tea of two and some cake when I got back to Falmer end the final check point. Another Brighton Breezy complete, same route with challenges, even better food and drink, great organisation. What I thought last year and this year too is how much Brighton CTC give on this event, being cyclists themselves and running the event, not being able to take part in the event. It seems like quite a sacrifice, no pay (I would not think) and no other CTC group locally does a similar event for them to take part in. Hats off then to CTC Brighton & Hove.
Last year it was getting late when I finished and I was knackered, the weather was turning and in the end I decided to catch the train back home. A big mistake it turned out as took a couple of hours on the train for a journey that would take around an hour by bike. This year, I decided to bike the rest of the way home, through Brighton and along the seafront.
It seems it was a day for events as I went past Coldean and joined a huge line of charity looking cyclists, I wonder if it was a London to Brighton event? It made the journey into Brighton a bit more interesting but that soon turned to annoyance as we all hit Brighton city centre traffic, buses and taxis. While I stopped and waited at red lights, huge numbers of the charity cyclists carried on. While I road responsibly with the traffic, swarms of the charity cyclists battled their way through impossible gaps between cars and buses. Quite upsetting to observe and I was glad to leave them as they reached their destination at Madera Drive and I took the opposite direction along the seafront towards Worthing.
I got home, just 10 miles shy of 100 miles, I did ponder about doing a quick 10 mile loop around Worthing before I finished…
Number of miles: 90
Number of cakes: lots
Number of silly charity event cyclists nearly crushed by buses: loads
Number of Brighton CTC members requiring congratulations on a good event: all of them
Number of times having to walk up hills: none!!