Are mass rides good for cycling?

Mass cycling can be a good thing or it can raise problems. I love that fact that when a sportive goes off the mass of riders can actually “claim back” their space that is usually denied them when riding alone or in small groups. It reminds drivers and the population at large that there are lot of cyclists about. Unfortunately, the one group that doesn’t seem to notice are the authorities. From the national government to the local councils they seem to be adopting a head in the sand (maybe “head in the pothole” would be better) approach happily ignoring the huge growth in cycling. If you are a driver and want to “claim back” your space you ought to start campaigning now for better cycle provision otherwise the sheer numbers of riders will make your weekend driving hell. For me, a sportive is like a mass protest. Bring ’em on!

Off road, however is different. Round here, at least, riders, walkers, dog owners, farmers, land owners, ramblers and equestrians all seem to get on in near perfect harmony. Despite the ever increasing users of the Downs around Worthing the only problem seems to be dog poo. I was a little concerned when I noticed that the South Downs Rough Ride was re-routed across the edge of the town. What would the effect on the local status quo be with 600 riders going down past Rogers Farm and Cissbury Ring? I was dead against it.  If you were riding, or rather not riding, during the last foot and mouth out break you will realise how important our unrestricted access to the Downs is. Anything that upsets this worries me.

I am not aware yet if there is going to be any fallout, I know that some runners were surprised by the masses of riders but that is all.  Perhaps I am just too precious about our beloved downs. The South Downs Way National Park Authority does not need to be informed but they are drawing up guide lines for events.  35% of The South Downs Way users are cyclist. The BHF ride goes off without a hitch. The Steyning Stinger and the Three Forts Marathon seem to get by so maybe I am just being a too worried.

On Sunday I rode the South Downs Rough Ride. It was re-routed because of the mud earlier in the year so the new route suited a roadie-mountain biker like me. It might not be the most interesting of rides but, for me, it is probably the best route round here for  South Downs Way training. Usually I ride east or west as far as possible and then come back – boring! This route has potential. How about doing two laps? It somehow seems easier training without going so far away from home, and it is pretty tough too!.

Here’s the ride. It was warm, even at 7am, my only concession to the season was a BaaBaa

Whyte 29 Team
Whyte 29 Team

base layer and arm warmers otherwise I wore the same as for the SDW last July. Following on from the event I can report that 600 riders left virtually no trace on the trails. You would never have known that more than 6 had ridden the route. The real trail wreckers are the horses and walkers. No need to wash the bike after either. I need faster tyres, still running mud Maxiss Beavers!

Bike: Whyte 29 Team (orange and black)
Jersey: Quest Adventure (orange and black)
Shorts: Endura MTR (orange and black)
Gloves: Endura MTR (orange and black)
Helmet: Kask Mojito (orange and black)

Kask Quest Adventure Mojito
Kask Quest Adventure Mojito

All Team issue but no photo – the phone died when I finished (no way would I have stopped during the ride).

If you are new to mountain biking and want a challenge the route is not technical or difficult at all so is a great way to ride if you want to enjoy the downs without the worry of mud, ruts and slipping.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Muddyteeth says:

    Interesting question – these sort of MTB events just seem to grow in popularity and if that continues then eventually it could cause issues. I guess from the point of view of non-participants and environmental impacts it would probably be better if people just organised their own rides, but I guess everyone’s too busy these days to work out a route for themselves! And of course it’s good fun to ride with others and compare your performance. I must admit that 10 years ago I did the “Iron Lemming” organised by Trailbreak in the Welsh Mountains (2 days, 130 miles, 18,160ft of climbing but rather fewer entrants I think – only 43 finished it the year before I did it). My personal favourite were the ‘Polaris Challenge’ mountain bike orienteering events – you get the social side before/after, get to compare your performance against others, and it required the skill of not just riding fast but being able to navigate on the move. Because people generally chose different routes, the events resulted in riders being fairly evenly spread across the whole event area, reducing the impact on others.

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