Earlier on in the year a planned ride took me past the road to Selsey, but I decided to pass and carry on as there is only one way into and out of the town, at the time I was ready to be heading home. This ride I decided to return and this time do the miles to take me to the dead-end where the small seaside town sits. It had also been weeks since fitting the Brooks saddle to the bike and due to weather and life in general, I had yet to actually try it out on a ride.
Up until now the weather had been very warm, infact never really getting below 10c and most of the time being much higher. This weekend was the change (at last) and the forecast suggested freezing temperatures and rain in the afternoon. I decided that cold and rain should never stop anyone and so planned the route and prepared the bike. It did however leave me with a choice, to wear my normal shorts and freeze to death, or wear jeans like I do on my ride to work each day. I’ve always in the past worn my shorts, even in cold weather, but I didn’t think I had been out in such cold before on a day’s ride, I could only imagine at 06:00 in the morning it would be around or below freezing.
Seeing as this was a test of the new saddle as well as revisiting missed places, I decided to give jeans a go… even with the knowledge that every single cyclist in the UK would be almost turning in their graves (if there were dead that is) on even considering such a thought. However, this is what the Brooks is all about, I was led to believe, no need to dress up like a grasshopper just to go on a bike ride. I packed wet weather gear too, rain was forecast..
As always, I would make an early start with the hope to be back home for lunchtime. This meant leaving at 06:00 in the dark. The weather forecast and suggested huge drop in temperature was not wrong, for the first time this winter it was below freezing, cars were iced up and puddles on the ground were small ice-rinks. The only sound was my feet clipping into my pedals as I set off into the dark.
Since changing jobs I had not biked westwards as there had not been any need. This morning I retraced my old commute into work that I had done hundreds of times, it was all very familiar and friendly. It reminded me how nice the ride into work was compared to now which seems chaotic at times, not so much with cars but with others on bikes going all over the place, never stopping at lights or taking much notice of anything or anyone. I soon reached Littlehampton at which point I noticed the sun was mostly risen and the day looked like it was going to be bright and cloudless. By this time, memories of my fingers and my feet had long gone, even with two pairs of gloves and two pairs of socks!
My plan would be to stop for a second breakfast at Bognor, which was not only a well placed part of the journey time wise but also would have a McDonalds which opens extremely early in the morning, on a Sunday. I had used this as a stopping point during previous trips, I was looking forward to a bit of time to feel my fingers and toes once again. Entering Bognor I left the GPS route and made my way towards the main street and the welcoming McDonalds sign, still deciding if I would have a black coffee or a white one, indeed would I have egg and sausage or egg and bacon within my muffin. It was then a sight of almost disbelieve when I reached the store only to find it had closed for good and was boarded up! Who in their right mind closes down a McDonalds store?!
Images of hot breakfast muffins, along with hands and feet that I could once again feel, slipped away from me. The beacon of Bognor and McDonalds, the only reason I would every be stopping on my bike was grabbed away from me, the hope changed back to cold despair. I peddled on….
The ride has to go a bit inland here as there is just no road along the coast, mostly due to various inlets of water and no doubt boggy marsh in places. Keeping on the seafront would eventually take me to Pagham and The End of the World. Annoyingly only miles away from Sesley, but the other side of the water meaning a long route around and back down again. The roads out from Bognor go towards Chichester and so there is no real quiet route you can take, I opted for a shared pavement cycle path along the mean road to the county capital. I was no in flatland with the low sun casting huge shadows, but the air was icy and the early morning traffic whizzed past.
The route planned took me off of this before reaching Chichester and along country roads and ultimately onto regional cycle route 88. Its a bit confusing as cycle route 88 is in Wales (I think) and yet here it is here too, the regional part of it making it different and not related to its big brother. Regional maybe means no so much on the road either. I followed the signs and ignore the dead end notice until I arrived at a large cattle grid and route 88 sign showing me the way up a farm road. All was looking good and impressive with this secret road closed off to cars until I went round the corner. The track turned to mud, as it was no longer the middle of the summer, mud had turned into huge squigy mess with massive puddles and killer quick sand. It wasn’t going to be a good day to keep my bike clean.
The mud bath was around the gates and was not really possible to go over on the bike, the only option would be to push and get muddy. With frozen feet, the thought of them sinking into the puddles of the mud did not feel me with joy, I prepared for ever lasting painfully cold wet feet as I made my way across. I found the best route to sacrifice my bike’s cleanliness against my feet, and I did a good job – I had to ignore the clods of mud now flying off the bike as I set off again.
The route was not bad in the end, a number of long puddles which in the end did soak one of my feet even though I went through as slow as I possibly could. I re-joined the main road once again, a nice little escape from the busy roads.
The paved road was short lived as the cycle route directed my down a rather narrow track down the side of Pagham Harbour, an unspoilt haven of big skies, marches and the sea (it says here). Big skies indeed, the now cold but bright day gave up huge amounts of sky and a really nice, quiet place to be. The bike track was a bit off putting as I worried what would I do if I met someone coming the other way as it was so thin. It did happen, but we were both able to find a passing point. The harbour is in fact a sheltered inlet that is rather large, but fills and empties with each tide. It is partly the reason why even though Pagham is only minutes away from Selsey it is still a good hour’s ride to go between the two as you have to take the long way round. Looking at leaflets though, it seems work has been taking place to install foot and cycle paths from Pagham, if only I had known.
Back onto road and there is only one way in and out of Selsey, the only road and the reason why I did not visit when I was passing before. There is no reason to ever go down the road unless you are going to Selsey, when you are at one end of it nearing the end of the long ride you question the extra effort. That is what I did last time, this time I had ended up halfway along the road thanks to the cycle tracks and this time I would reach the end.
Maybe I would re-visit Selsey one more time in the future as I remembered, as I saw the signpost, that there was once a railway from Chichester to Selsey. It would then be interesting one way to retrace the route. The line did not run for many years, it never recovered from the changing times following the First World War. Little evidence of it even exists today, making it not much fun to try and retrace.
For now, little does remain actually in Selsey, just a short bit of path that turns quickly into a mass of caravans. For my visit there was some water leak works taking place which was pumping water out over a sodden grass track. My feet got even colder, while I couldn’t actually feel my feet I could still tell they were getting wet.
The grass track soon turned into road and I found myself in the middle of a caravan park. I soon found out that Selsey seems to be mostly populated by caravans and a massive park so big that it seems to be multiple parks within one. An interesting ride through a mostly empty park in the early morning, rows and rows of caravans I can only imagine that summer time transforms it completely. You could get lost in its many small roads and the constant sameness of all the white caravans. This time I did make it through and got to the seafront and the beach, I had arrived.
It was still early and I had not forgot that I still had not had my second breakfast, I would then look for somewhere to stop – after a ride along the seafront. There seems to be only one real main road in the town, the same road that everyone has to go along to get in and out, its the road that has all the shops and cafes. For me, I was keeping to the seafront, making my way from the caravans and over to the lightboat house which sits on a pier out into the water. If there was ever a model lightboat house and defines such things then it is at Selsey. A small break before I would set off with the idea of finding somewhere to eat, and if there was not then on to Bognor to find an alternative to McDonalds. The seafront roads were rather posh and featured the “private road estates” that are so common in not just this area but all the way from Worthing. Private gated estates with roads maintained by those who live there. Depending on how many Range Rovers each house has on the drive determines if the road is nicely paved with freshly cut grass borders, or a track with potholes and abandoned machinery. A mixture of both here, with old wooden houses sitting on the beach made out of (possible) old railway coaches in much the same way that Shoreham must had been before storms and war swept them all away.
Before of the round about route both in and out of Selsey, I never found the main street and the shops, or the cafes. I could had turned back but I decided to head back to Bognor, this time along the roads all the way. A not so enjoyable ride out of Selsey along the main road, and into Bognor along a similar main road. I put my head down and peddled onwards, ignoring those cars who failed to notice me or were deciding to try to kill me with their close passes (probably more the second there).
I knew that somewhere in Bognor there would be a long lost cafe that would be opening up ready for later morning/lunch time Sunday trade. If not, then I was sure there would be a Greggs if the worst came to it. As it happened I came across an empty cafe near the seafront which had an all day breakfast. Looking through the window there was a lonely waitress setting the tables and generally setting up, keeping herself busy. There was a lamppost outside, fit enough to lock my bike to. A friendly welcome and an offer of a seat next to the window and the radiator was given. A bit of small talk and a breakfast ordered. As their only customer I felt privileged to have the place to myself. While people were phoning to book their Sunday lunch time tables, I was on my way home already. Breakfast was ok, nothing amazing but then I was in a side street cafe and not an organic farm shop and so it was more than welcome. Certainly a cafe stop to remember seeing as McDonalds is no more, although I doubt they would open as early as they did.
The map suggested an hour and half to get back home and it seemed to make sense to me. After leaving the cafe, I was able to feel both my hands and my feet, it was a nice sunny winters morning. The wind was a bit more, and it was against me which was not really what I wanted. The seafront had filled out with morning walkers, I followed the coast line as much as I could all the way home.
It was a bit tough for the last bits, the wind was slight but it was a pain. There was also a pain in my back and neck, but one place there was not was my backside. For 75 miles I hadn’t really given it much thought, it was only when getting off and on the bike during the last part of the journey I realised that all was fine. It felt that my back and neck hurt a little bit, but my backside was not telling me I had been sitting on a bike for 6 hours, infact it was telling me I was ready for more. None of the famous “breaking in” period that people say you have to suffer. I could tell it was working too, I could tell that along with me being left handed and left footed, I was “left buttocked” too going by the imprint of the saddle. The saddle working with you..
All this while wearing jeans, infact my whole attire was very much normal. Surely this is what touring is all about.
Just hop on your bike and peddle away…
Number of miles: 75
Number of sore bottoms: none!
Number of caravans: billions
Number of closed down McDonalds: one too many!