Sunday, 31 August 2008

Freddie goes to Eastbourne


One day in August, Fred decided to take on the challenge of riding the South Downs Way within a day. It would involve riding 100miles from Winchester to Eastbourne, completely off-road - rolling over rugged trails, through fields and tracks and of course 4000m of climbing over the South Downs !!

"Rather you than me, mate!" I told him. I did have the kindness of heart to give him logistical (and moral) support, and volunteered to follow a parallel route in the car. I would then meet him at various points along the way as he endured his travails.

So on Saturday morning at about 5am we drove down to Winchester. I dropped him at the train station and he began his long day in the saddle at approximately 6.30.

The day started brightly as the sun was out and the view of the downs was beautiful.

I met Fred first of all at Queen Elizabeth Country Park, where he had a quick sandwich and cake, before he was merrily on his way.

By the next stop in Kithurst Hill car park, around five hours later, the sun had gone in and light drizzle began to fall.

As the wind became stronger, the temperature dropped and everywhere became wetter, I figured that Fred would probably do with something hot on his next stop.

He really appreciated the flask of coffee when we met at Ditchling Beacon. It also looked like the wet weather was dampening his spirits as he had to replace his inner tube, having had 2 punctures while battling through the biting wind.

At least he was now past the half-way mark.

The final meeting point at Firle Beacon was a very brief matter - even if it was somewhat hijacked by the local residents !

I was slightly worried about him though, as the rain was falling heavily and Fred said that the final section would have the steepest hills, as well as very slippery paths to negotiate in the wet conditions.

As Fred was taking more than 2 hours to reach each meeting point, I calculated that he should reach the finish line at Eastbourne at around 6.30pm.
As the minutes ticked by after 6.30pm I became rather anxious and worried that he might have had a fall on one of the slippery chalkey descents along the way.

Finally, Fred appeared at approximately 6.47pm. He was wet and bedraggled, slightly frustrated to have made a wrong turning to Seaford, but he was very relieved to have finished - and so was I !

After drying himself off, we made our way into Eastbourne and had a celebratory meal in a Spanish restaurant.

If you want to do it :
Ride it in good weather. Riding in the rain is not easy ! Not only is it an experience to be endured rather than enjoyed, but it takes longer because the reduced visibility means sign reading becomes more difficult. Consequently, more time is used up by map-reading. And that still doesn't guarantee not getting lost !

Plan to do this earlier in the year - preferably around the Summer Solstice. This doesn't just allow more daylight, but also if the weather forecast is not good the trip can still be deferred by a few weeks without daylight hours being compromised. By doing it in August our options were reduced.

A full suspension bike is much more comfortable when riding in such bumpy conditions.

Take extra clothing in case the weather turns cold and wet.

There are water taps at given points along the way, and one or two shops nearby. However, if you are riding to a time it would be easier to either carry your supplies with you or have a support car.

I am very inspired by what Fred did. Completing it in a shade over 12 hours is pretty impressive given the conditions.
Maybe I could try it next year. Better start saving up for a new bike....
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