BHF South Downs Way 2015, failed again!

SDW '15 schedule
SDW ’15 schedule am I being realistic?

It’s been a while since I’ve written up anything about riding. And what a time to restart following the death of Don Lock. That puts any riding achievement into its rightful place. It’s simply cycling. Nothing more. There are more important things. However, Don might have disagreed such was his love for cycling and competition. Although I am sure that even he, the godfather of cycling in Worthing, would put family and friends first.

I must thank the rider doing the BHF South Downs Way for reminding me that I had not written anything for a while. Cheers! I had got put off when told that it should contain more product – probably good for SEO and sales but that is not why I write it. What I am interested in is riding and enthusing other to ride too. And riding is what I did on Saturday. A lot of it.


It was my third attempt at the extended version of the South Downs Way. I did the original from Buriton to Eastbourne in 1989 and I will do it again soon. On Saturday I wanted to ride faster. It was my ride, previously I was joining others. This time I was taking charge. I needed some company and soon got a companion who I respect enormously for his bike handling and endurance. I then cajoled and coaxed another great rider to join me as he had been with me on the previous two occasions. Three: a great number for a team.

Such was our enthusiasm that the team grew to include my brothers and more. At the start there were eight. That worried me as statistically the chances of problems would increase eight times. And they did. But instead of my team mates slowing me it was me slowing them. I had two punctures, one bodged re-inflation before being stung by a bee in my helmet; and all before Queen Elizabeth Country Park. The plan was to use the easy and fast first stage (the roady bit that they added on to make it a 100miler) to get ahead of schedule and build up a buffer for eventualities later on. The punctures and lack of signage on the confusing zig-zagging country roads and farm tracks put us behind. Thankfully brother, Paul had the route on his Garmin.

Once on the South Downs Way proper at Queen Elizabeth Country Park the route is easier

Southease with Chris
Southease with Chris

to follow and the signage returned. It was now a race to make up time. The group had splintered which was better for all but we had lost our endurance specialist, Chris. By Amberley we had hooked up with a couple of Mancunians riding at pretty much the same pace and we were back on schedule. Describing the route to these guys really made me appreciate the beauty and epic proportions of the South Downs Way and National Park.

Our home stretch is really fast and I got a superb morale boost as we past the Quest

Adventure Girl’s Ride (thanks Grace & Tara for arranging the rendez-vous). In fact once Amberly Mount has been conquered the riding is speedy all the way to the A27 crossing near Falmer. By Devils Dyke Chris had caught and then dropped us. After Pyecombe, I hit some form, left Jon and my other brother Joe who had been pacing me so far. I hammered on after Chris. Don was proving an inspiration for me now thinking of his perpetual youth.

Joe, brother and pace maker
Joe, brother and pace maker

On the long climb up near Kingston I could make out Chris way ahead. I kept telling myself not to chase but to ride at my pace…. my pace, take it easy… I caught him literally the second he punctured at Southease. A team once more! It was going to be a great finish as from past experience I expect to finish strong. Maybe Chris was too fast or my effort from Pyecombe too hard, maybe nutrition, but I started to blow big time climbing out of Alfriston. At Jevington I was finished. The bar and gel I ate had no effect . Two years earlier I had gone for a Strava time on the Jevington climb. This time around, the cobbled track up to Beachy Head hammered my sore arse and aching body and was pure pain all the way. It was that gnarly old cyclist, Don, that kept me fighting on. That great man was in my thoughts all the way through. I didn’t know him that well but admired him enormously the more so the longer I knew him. He was an inspiration to me and to everyone that had the luck to meet him. The really lucky ones even got to ride with him. R.I.P.


The rolling section atop Eastbourne which seems never to finish was not so bad this year and the downhill to the end was fantastic. Thanks to the boys for starting out with me. Big, big thanks and hugs to Janet and Jan for the invaluable rolling support along the way. Thank you Chris for giving me someone to chase and keeping me looking ahead. Thanks to Jon for being there and to Joe for helping keep up the pace. Thanks also to the BHF for laying it all on and I hope that my very small contribution helps someone without the luck to have a heart like mine. Finally, thanks to Simon for getting me to do it in the first place.

52 minutes over time! Exactly the same riding time as last year! What did I do wrong?

The previous week I had little sleep and was too busy on Friday to get mentally prepared, it was tough enough just getting the ticks onto the check list. I only had one gas canister. One spare tube was a 27.5”. I only did one long (70k) ride as preparation. I didn’t check the bike fully and the forks were way too hard – a real problem on the fast SDW descents. We had too many check points to do it quickly. I didn’t start too fast despite my colleagues comments.

Next year in order to be quicker I will have to look at the detail: it’s the aggregation of marginal gains to quote Brailsford that will make the difference. Carry more, stop less, eat better, train more. I think that I probably ride fast enough.

So here is the product bit.

Scott Scale 900SL
Scott Scale 900SL – I let it down this time.

Bike: Scott Scale 900 SL (light:960g, shock absorbing and great handling, 29ers RULE!), Syncros FL1.0 Carbon post (almost like suspension), Prologo Nago Evo Nack saddle (it’s done the SDW 3 times now!), Rotor 3D crank with Q-rings (light & power where it counts), Sram X0 (fast and instant), Shimano XTR brakes (light and powerful), Syncros XR1.0 Carbon wheels (light where you need it), Schwalbe Racing Ralphs (tubeless, light, fast and confidence inspiring on any surface), and, this is worth a mention, ESI grips, 6 of the 8 had these, the most comfortable you can get.

Most noticable brand enroute: Whyte, most seen model Whyte 905

Clothing: Quest Adventure Race jersey, Defeet base layer, Northwave bib shorts, Scott gloves, Northwave Extreme Tech, Dual sunglasses (I could clearly see how far we were behind in the schedule on the toptube) Kask Mojoto helmet, Pedro head band, Chapeau Menthol Chamois cream, Nivea sun block. (everything as functional and as light as possible). Yes I have weighed it.

Nutrition: 3 x Zipvit Nitrate gels (before), 5 x Zipvit gels (inc 2 caffeine), 2 SIS Berry bars, 2 salami sandwiches, two chunks of malt loaf, approx 6 litres of water with about 13 scoops of Zipvit Electrolyte Energy powder. Maybe some cake would have been a good idea, it was on the list but never got ticked. More normal food may have helped. Never overlook the importance of “normal” food! 1 x Stella Artois – cold (don’t attempt it with out a recovery drink like this)

 Here is the ride. It was sunny all the way and at times very hot – 26C (product bit… the base layer, as I tell you all the time, keeps me cool when it’s hot and warm when its cool but no one believes me so only the very, very educated actually buy them).

When I climbed off the bike instead of proclaiming with pained expression that I’d never do it again all I could think about was how I could do it faster. Roll on next year and I’ll probably have a go at the original route in a couple of month’s time too.

Enjoy it, its free and on our doorstep. Go for it: in a day, over two or three whatever its a must. More South Downs information can be found here: South Downs Way.



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