The Bognor CTC advertised that they were having an ‘away day’ which just happened to be my direction. I rode with them the other month when I was Bognor direction, so now they were having a day out my way I thought I would join them again. Lucky them!
It would be an early start for anyone coming from Bognor, but with the starting point only 20 miles away at Christ’s Hospital train station it would mean leaving home just before lunch. My normal ‘night before’ prep was moved over to a Saturday morning slow start instead. It felt a bit strange, one of the things I like about rides is the early mornings when no-one else is much about, getting breakfast out and being back in time for lunch quite often even having done a large number of miles.
I planned a route to take me up to the station via roads as the main trip with the group would be a mostly off road ride back to Shoreham along the Downslink. This is a journey I do many times, although not normally all the way up to Horsham (you can have too much off road!). The road from Partridge Green and home is a bit boring and so sometimes I decide to use the track when going out early in the morning (just me and rabbits on the Downs Link) or when nearly home when I’ve got bored of the roads and want no hills I have been known to speed down the link using the idea that the faster you go the less you feel the bumps…
The weather had been bad all week and Saturday looked like it would be a bit mixed, I packed something waterproof. Upon looking at the map I found a number of bridlepaths with river Adur crossings, one which showed a “lock” on the river which sounded interesting and I wondered why I had not spotted it when I did the river Adur ride the other month. I added it to the route, but at the same time wondered that with all the recent rain it would be the most enjoyable time in the mud. A good test for the GPS I thought on how well it would behave if I were to leave the planned route, last time it kept recalculating or just giving up with an error. I had reconfigured it following guides from others and would be keen to see how it now behaved.
Just before lunch, I left for what should be an hour and a bit ride up to Christ’s Hospital, the clouds not looking good. By the time I had started down Coombe road it was clear that I had just missed the rain as the roads were wet and the fresh small of rain was present. Apart from that, the wind was behind me and the sun started to show itself more and more.
An uneventful ride up through Steyning and on to the Partridge Green road. There are not too many ways out North, it is either Partridge Green or Henfield. Henfield is the wrong side of the river Adur (although I do know of the footbridge with a bridle way so it opens the options up a bit). The sun was now out all the time and with the wind mostly behind me I was flying along making good time. It permitted me to ponder why the GPS was not showing the very useful information in that did was not showing how many miles I had gone, nor was it telling me the distance to the next waypoint. I decided it might be my fault this time due to me saving it as a gpx track and not a gpx route. On the eTrex it didn’t mind as every point was a waypoint that you placed by hand. On the new GPS it had no limits to the number of points (eTrex was 200) which means you can allow the software to “follow the road” and place millions of waypoints. If the GPS tried to use each of these as a direction point it would be constantly telling you to turn left, or turn right, when all it needed was to tell you to stay on the road you were on. The gpx route file would include a number of cue points that it would use as direction instructions. By me saving it as a track, my only real cue point was my destination, and it is what which it showed. Problem solved, but I never worked out why my distance traveled never increased. It had allowed for a number of miles to pass by though…
I was soon at Southwater, which meant I could slow right down as I had got this far a lot quicker than normal. It gave me a chance to view the new housing being built. I don’t know much history of Southwater only that I always thought it was a small village where posh people from Horsham move out to – and that it had a bridge in it’s only one main road which didn’t go over anything. The bridge, which once went over the railway line (and I would soon be going under it on my way back with the group) has since been made redundant by a new shopping centre complex, and the village status seems a bit daft now. The same remains for posh people though maybe.
That was it, a quick ride up to Christ’s Hospital station a little bit early, although a Bognor club member had ridden up from Shoreham (having driven and parked his car there) up the Downs Link probably at the same time I was coming up by road. We recognised each other from the other month and started talking about the station, how it used to be and what it had become. Due to my earlier ride along the whole Downs Link, the history of this once big station on a major junction and how it never was able to fulfill its potential, until finally the junction and extra lines dis speared leaving it just a portacabin on a straight through route.
The train from Bognor soon arrived and the tiny country station was filled with people with bikes. I was quite amazed that so many bikes got onto the train, but then it was quite a long train. Once they had tackled the subway and were over our side, a quick group photo and we set off down the narrow track which leads to the Downs Link. It is at this point that the Downs Link goes by road for a short distance in you were to continue onto Guildford, although if you do leave the official route and follow the old track you not only keep mostly to old railway line (now a narrow footpath) but also the old platforms that still remain deep within the forest.
Riding in groups, I find interesting. It is good to talk to people as you ride at a slow speed and get to know each other. At the same time, the whole idea of group cycling is taken very seriously with a qualified leader and a qualified back marker, both positions which I believe you can attend training courses run by the CTC for. Likewise, a whole new language that gets shouted out as needed on your way. If there is a car coming up, the message is shouted down the group “CAR UP!!!”. For this occasion it was shouts of “CYCLISTS UP”, “JOGGER UP”, “CHILD UP” which every so often shattered the peaceful environment, not just a single shout and but relay of shouts down the line which felt a bit embarrassing for both myself and the “offending” other cyclist or jogger coming the other way. As with all things driving or riding, I mostly use my own eyes and act upon what I see, I don’t need or trust others to do that for me. AS with all things driving or riding, I only go as fast as I can see ahead, if I need someone to point such things out to me then I’m pretty dangerous myself. Not related to only CTC, but other cycling groups I have joined in with at times it happens, the peace and quiet spoilt by endless shouting of a group of cyclists coming through, and everyone else has been warned… don’t get in their way…. don’t get me started on endless bell dinging either…. We continued on, shouts included at times, but fortunately mostly peaceful, at a slow pace, easy to chat as you made your way along.
The first and main break would be for a snack at Stans Bike Shack. I have been here once or twice, but mostly I pass by as it is always amazingly busy with cyclists queuing out of the door. I did ride up just to go to this cafe once on a cold winter morning, and it was then mostly empty and I could sit and drink very good coffee and each breakfast baps in comfort. Alas, most times I am put off by its small size and the sudden arrival of cycling groups which in a matter of seconds takes the place from a quiet cafe to an ultra busy stressy and noisy place. It shows business is very good, Stan must be happy. We were that sudden arrival of a group and Stan may have been happy but his stress level was showing with his staff as very all struggled to cope with the arrival of our group. I decided to call it a day and sat outside while the others all put their orders in. It wasn’t until 1 0 minutes later that I re-entered and joined the queue in almost the same place as I had left it. I watched as the world seemed to move slowly and wondered how orders of “coffee and bacon bap” could take so long to take. After a good 20 minutes I got the front of the queue and opted for a simple “just a piece of cake please”, it still took a longer time than I had imagined, but I was soon out and sitting with the others. All a bit of a shame, the cafe is just a little bit too successful but I remain surprised that they are not able to handle sudden arrivals of groups in a much better way. Get your timing right and all is ok.
After the break, and a rather long queue for the loo afterwards, the group set off for Shoreham. I would class myself as nearly home by now, but at this slower more friendly pace, it would be a good two hours to go. We got to Steyning where the track leaves the old railway line and turns into a chalky up and down hill route for a little while, probably one of the worst bits of the track. It was only myself and another person on a touring bike, everyone else was on mountain bikes. I was not worried as I knew my bike could cope and has copped many times before. It got me started with chatting to the rider of the other touring bike, not just any touring bike but a Thorn touring bike complete with Rohloff hub gears. A bike that I read about a lot when reading worldwide touring blogs, these bikes are made to cycle around the world on where for the majority of the time roads just do not exist. This bike was more than capable to handle the perimeter of the South Downs. We cycled side-by-side for a number of miles discussing the bike, the company and people behind who made the bike.
It was an interesting end to an already enjoyable ride. The ride out had been fast and smooth, the ride back had been pleasurable and interesting. It was windy when we got to the coast and Shoreham high street, it was here where the group split with some making their way back to Bognor by train while the others started on their way home by bike along the coast. They opted not to stop in Shoreham but to stop in Worthing for a break before their long ride home against the wind all the way. I didn’t envoy them for that trip, but it was a bit sad that I would not be joining them for coffee as I left them as we passed through Lancing.
Number of miles: 40
Number of friendly people: all of the group
Number of temporary traffic lights in unexpected places: 2
Number of shouts of “BIKE UP”: too many, come on guys…
Number of ‘professional’ proven world touring bikes: 1