11/11 for me now, only 1 to go
I thought I would get one more big ride in before the 25 Nov
but didn't want to just do laps of the Island so came up with the idea of riding a South Downs Way double. I didn't want the expense of taking a car to the mainland but a quick look on a cycle route planning website shows that starting at home and riding to Winchester would only add 25 miles each way to the trip and these would be on roads/cycle paths so easy spinning compared to the SDW. I booked a Thursday and Friday off work hoping there'd be less walkers on the trails and crosed my fingers for good weather.
Obligatory picture of my bike on arrival at a ferry terminal
It was easy spinning to the start, but with more climbing than I'd imagined, although nothing compared to what was coming.
The official start is taken as the statue of Arthur.
This was taken just outside of town. I only know one person who picks up feathers and pokes them in signs/trees/fences etc. and that's my Father, but he's deceased, so I took this as a good omen for the ride. It wasn't there on the way back either.
In my head when I first thought of the trip I was thinking I'd get to Eastbourne on the first day and bivi somewhere on the return leg. I'm not sure why I thought this would be achievable. Maybe I was using the SDW double record of 13.5 hrs for the 200 miles as the benchmark and then maybe doubling it? That clearly wasn't ridden on a loaded singlespeed
By 22:00 I was some way short of the end and having left home at 07:15 that morning (the ferry used up nearly 2 hours by the time you get there early and then the crossing) I was getting ready to stop for the day. This coincided with a section where all the fields had livestock in followed by a golf course. By the time I got back onto open land it was 23:40 but I had now covered the first 70 miles on the SDW and ridden 95 in total for the day.
Sight of the first nights bivi, the only clue I'd been there was the patch of dry grass that had been under my bivi bag.
I was packed up and riding again before 07:00. The last 30 miles of the SDW at the Eastbourne end are definitely harder than 30 at the other end, well the hills seemed bigger. Despite this I managed to get to Eastbourne by just after 12:00 so not too bad. I had also stopped on the way to make some instant porridge which I'm glad I did as I needed the calories on the climbs!
Took a picture of the bike at the Eastbourne end and then had some lunch in the handily located cafe right next to the end.
The woman serving asked where I'd been. Upon explaining that I'd started on the Isle of Wight the day before she said she used to live on the Island for the last 40 years and had only moved at the beginning of the summer. I'm sure that this fact and the tale of the distance I covered got me special treatment, if they put that much bacon and eggs into every baguette they'd be bankrupt in no time
There now only remained the small mater of the return trip as I was only half way... so giving my lunch a minute to settle I then pushed back up the slope form the cafe. The gradient at the end is too much on 1 gear and probably so much effort with more gears that riding is not worth the effort. Upon getting to the top of the slope it became apparent that I would be riding into a strong headwind, probably for most of the next 100 miles
I was hoping to get at least half way back but with the wind that was looking doubtful. A determined effort saw me 50 miles back along the trail by 22:40 including stopping to make noodles. I first did the 'stop early for dinner and then ride on' thing on the BB200 and it seems for me at least to be more than worth the time it takes. I only took about 20 minutes to stop,cook, eat and get going but the lift physically and mentally makes up for this.
It's always nice to wake up and see the bike. I was slow getting going today. It had started raining just after I got the tarp up but fortunately I was in a more sheltered spot than the night before. It was still drizzling in the morning but I was riding before 08:00 though so not too bad. I met a fellow bikepacker just a mile or so along the track. He asked my name to add me on FB. Apologies for not asking your name, I wasn't fully awake. If you're reading this and still want to get in touch then PM me. Hopefully he reads this as he did say he was on the reserve list for the BB200 this year when I mentioned that.
Only 50 miles of wet slippy chalk and mud to cover to get back to Winchester into the headwind so I peddled onwards with the lure of hot food at Queen Elizabeth Country Park keeping me going. At QECP I had a steak baguette which seemed to hit the spot
Just after this is Buster Hill which is a long grass climb. I thought I'd probably be walking most of this but as my ride coincided with a cross country running event and the place was heaving with fit young people running up the hill as a warm-up I had to put the effort in and ride as far as I could. I made it about 75% of the way which was far enough to be above the last of the marshals so at least I wouldn't get any abuse from them about pushing. The last 23 miles from QECP seemed to go on forever but the mud was a contributing factor here.
Back at the start
I got a few funny looks as I took a picture of a filthy bike by the statue. I was none too clean myself. Just a quick spin back to Southampton to get the ferry home. Once on the ferry one of the staff came over to see if I was ok, what he actually wanted to find out was if I was going to sit on the chairs covered from head to toe in mud. I explained I'd be taking my waterproof shorts and coat off as my bibs underneath are actually outerwear. He still came to find me 10 minutes later to check. He pretended to be concerned and that he was checking I was warm enough. I saw thorough this and spent the next 15 minutes telling him all about my trip despite his best efforts to get away
Off the ferry, and only 10 miles back along the road to home.
The stopped time doesn't include the bivis but does include the time I was stopped during the day at cafe's or cooking my breakfast/dinner. The total distance includes 22 miles on the ferries but the height climbed should be right as the ferry doesn't go up hill as far as I know. I'd like to go back and have a go at the sub-24hr double but I'd do that without the bikepacking kit and maybe run a higher ratio as well... and make sure it was dry. The summer would be much better for that as I was riding for 7 hours each day in the dark which makes a difference to the pace especially on unfamiliar routes. But all in all a good 3 days/2 nights out
Only one more month to go for the set this year, I think I'll make the next one more local and relaxed