I didn’t have any routes planned but I did fancy a ride out, a quick look at the rides lists for the local CTC groups and everything was sorted. I had the choice of joining Adur group as they rode out from the airport to Wivelsfield, or Chichester on their ride to Barnham. I decided upon Chichester, it would be a short ride for the club (15 miles there and 15 miles back) but I would be doing 25 just to get to the starting point and then by halfway home after lunch at Barnham. It seemed like a bit of a longer and more interesting ride for myself, with friendly people to join for half the journey back. I hadn’t biked Chichester way for some time, and it’s all pretty much flat (makes me feel like being back home…). The weather was not looking too promising, I spent quite a while pondering over it all. I bought my bike indoors so that it would be ready, which was a bit of a way to force myself to go (once the bike is indoors, you are committed).
This would be the second ride with the Garmin Edge Touring GPS. With limited success and trust in the device last time, if there was a repeat this time then it would on ebay and I would keep with my lower tech but must more reliable Garmin eTrex. It is a pain getting routes on, but it is solid when out on the road.
Using the Edge meant I was able to get RideWithGPS.co.uk to “follow the road” when plotting instead of putting down waypoints at key junctions. It is meant to allow you to create the routes a lot quicker, but I do like maps and route planning, I think I prefer planning myself rather than leaving it to the computer to do. Last time, at every small corner and turning the GPS would tell me to turn even if I didn’t have a choice (ie, it was just a bendy road). It all meant I got a bit fed up with the GPS telling me there is a corner every 100 yards or so when I had no choice but to follow it anyway!
I had read instructions on RideWithGPS.co.uk which holds tips for all popular models of GPS, it promised to turn off all the annoying bits that didn’t work well and leave you with something worth using. I really didn’t want it to reroute or ask to reroute me every time I dared step off the line. Likewise, I didn’t want it to simply give up and sulk when I did step off the line, meaning I had to tell it to follow the route again which seems to take 30 seconds or so just to recalculate each time (which is a very long time when you are waiting for it). With GPS loaded, snacks packed on the bike along with suitable waterproof jacket for the pending rain, all was ready.
Upon waking up and checking the weather, it didn’t look too good. While it was blue sky and sunny, the trees outside were showing me not only was it windy, but it was blowing the wrong way. This would mean an easy ride there but a harder one back, I was really hoping for it to be the other way round. I pondered about it for a bit, my bed looked so inviting and yet downstairs my bike was all setup and ready to go. Did I really fancy 25 miles against the wind, in the possible rain when it arrived later on?
I finally made my mind up and 10 minutes later than planned I was on my way to Chichester to meet everyone else at the Cross. The sky was blue, the wind was behind me, I was starting to think I was a bit over dressed on what was looking to be a warm spring day.
With the flatness of the land and the wind behind me, it was like being on the eBike but faster. I was keeping to a steady 20mph with no effort at all. This was making the ride quite pleasant and with the warmth of the sun I was starting to wish I was not wearing my fleece and my winter gloves. It was early on a Sunday morning, I had the roads mostly to myself.
If I had time then I planned to stop at McDonalds for breakfast at Bognor. I used to stop at the one in the town on my way through but it had closed a while back. Since then, they had opened a new one on the out skirts of town following the completion of the Bognor bypass. The bypass had been famed by other cyclists for having a really smooth, wide, separated cycle path which meant not only could cars take advantage of not getting stuck in Bognor (no one wants that) but cyclists could take advantage of it too. For once it is a bypass that doesn’t take you miles around to get somewhere but instead is a natural and direct link. By including the cycle path means it can remove tens of minutes off of a cycle journey. Still being early, it was completely empty of cars and bikes this morning as the wind pushed me along the smooth tarmac.
Not quite the same for Bersted bypass which awkwardly follows on, but not before joining the A29 and the out of town shops. This would be handy link, but this time there is no cycle path, although the alternative old route doesn’t take you out of your way meaning it has a lot less traffic on it now that cars have an alternative and quicker route for them.
With the help of the wind behind me it had meant I had a good hour before I needed to be in Chichester. I slowly made my way for the last 5 miles and made it to a sleepy city centre well in advance with enough time for me to do some of the city wall walk (pushing my bike) before stopping at the Cross and waiting for the others.
It’s quite easy to spot CTC members, rightly or wrongly. Someone who is not wearing lycra but is wearing a bright yellow jacket, they will have a bag on their rear rack and mostly be quite senior in their age – you can tell that they were cycling long distances when you were only just learning to ride. I quite like it, while at work I feel like one of the oldest, here I can feel like a youngster once again. Plus, I don’t suppose I look the most normal on a bike. After waiting for a little while there was a small group of around 8 of us, ready to make our way off to Barnham.
I followed the others as we made our way out of Chichester following roads that I never knew existed along what looked like half built out-of-town shopping areas and finally making our way past the Roles Royce factory and over the main A27. The cycle path was then the pavement alongside the A27 with small sections of old A27 of no longer used bits of road, identified only by the missing cats eyes of what was once the middle of the main coast trunk road. We soon got to Aldingbourne Country Centre, which I had forgot was around this way and has a little cafe. While only 10 miles out, this was a stop for a cup of tea and piece of cake. I skipped both, still full from breakfast and not wanting to drink too much as it is much harder to stop every other mile when riding in a group.
After this stop, we used old parts of the A27 and small country roads to make our way back under the A27 and on to Barnham to a small “shopping village” which had a little cafe. Here we were able to drink tea and eat sausage sandwiches while talking about bike touring and things in general. The location was a bit strange, being made up of small slightly rundown buildings which made up the “village” of what looked like only one or two local craft shops (closed?) and not much else. The cafe was small but friendly, and by the amount of people coming and going was a place that was well known to locals. It meant we had to all sit outside, but while it was now no longer blue sky, the rain had not come and it was warm enough.
Once everyone had eaten, had a drink, and conversation had died down, the group decided to make their way back to Chichester. At this point I would leave the group and continue on my way home. Up until now, the ride had been going homewards against the wind and it had not been too bad. As I left the group and upped my pace a bit I was having to use my legs a bit more to keep at a steady speed. I put my head down and peddled, glad I had my fleece and my winter gloves as the cold air was now hitting me. It was not until I reached Worthing when the rain started. I didn’t stop to put my waterproof jacket on as I was nearly home, by which point it just started really raining, getting home just in time.
An enjoyable slow ride, talking to interesting people and a group I would ride with again. It is interesting being led in a group as you sometimes get to go along roads you never knew existed, you see new things. It was good to know that there is a cycling route to Chichester via Barnham and the A27 that is quite safe, meaning anytime I am having to go that way I can cut off having to go via Bognor and safe some miles. I have always been put off as from a car it looks like the only way is the main A27, on a bike it is slightly different.
The GPS behaved itself. Even when I got it to plot my route home, knowing only too well that reviews say it is not the best at doing this (putting you either on a motorway or a dirt track), it didn’t have problems when I went my own way. Last time it got annoyed and kept telling me there was a routing error, this time it just showed the miles to the next way point getting higher as I missed them, and then catching onto the next way point when I got nearer to that one. I’m still not totally convinced, I need to do some off road routes to have full confidence. Annoyingly it records tracks in FIT format instead of GPX, which is not a problem as it is a recognised format, but I need to use GPSBabel to join them all up.
Number of miles: 57
Number of nearly new bypasses with good cycle paths: 1
Number of McMuffins: 1
Number of rain drops: got home just in time