South Downs Way – getting prepared

South Downs Way Bignor looking East
South Downs Way Bignor looking East

I have ridden the South Downs way once on 1989 and then over the last 4 years. Each time I just turned up and rode on natural fitness. Sometimes I prepared for it by tyre choice or weight reduction; but nothing really special. This time I am being a bit more thoughtful. I have definitely crossed a few more Ts and dotted even more Is.

I finished last year in pretty good shape following our 1000 miler over 10 days . This year really began last November when I took three weeks off. Although essential, it’s fair to say that this was an easy part of the plan. I was on holiday. December and January were easy too. My usual approach to riding, because I enjoy it, is to ride fast all the time. However, that doesn’t make you quicker and for this summer’s ride I need to be faster and stronger.

Slowly the efforts increased. I took on a personal trainer Sussexfit who worked on my leg power, core and upper body. I first noticed the benefit of this in mountain bike racing.  I suppose it was the equivalent in motoring of flicking on the nitrous switch: instant power! My motivation here was both my wife (I train with her) and Nino Schurter (gym sessions). I’m old enough to be his Dad and yet he really inspired me. With the extra power came faster rides and combined with my natural endurance things got tough. So here comes the next aspect to my training: the easy rides or the rest days. I started to take them seriously. Less is definitely more. Much to my disappointment I had to drop out of the Tuesday Night Thrash.  Some weeks I am completely knackered each and every day as the gym and Sunday rides are so tough and, whilst there are benefits to being older (lighter, endurance), recovery takes a lot longer.

I am going to be ready. It’s all coming together. I mentioned weight before referring to the equipment and I still have a few grams that I can shave off here and there but I never spend on weight reducing gear without matching it in my own weight, no special diet but just better choices. I weighed myself a week ago and seem to have lost two kilos, that would be impossible to lose on the bike.

Scott Spark RC 900 WC first ride
Scott Spark RC 900 WC first ride

They say “it’s not about the bike” but in my case it is. My Scott Spark RC 900 WC is light, 10.28kgs but the real benefit is the suspension. I looked back on previous SDW rides and tried to see where I was losing time. It was on the flat easy sections. If you are riding a hard tail at speed your body gets smashed to bits on these “easy” bits. The Spark was bought to ease this pain. On the super technical, twisty, rooty, out of the saddle climbing Gorricks the Spark opened my eyes as to just how much faster a full suspension bike is compared to a hard tail. Roll on July!


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