Saturday, 27 August 2016

Cycling the South Downs Way: Eastbourne to Brighton

Hills? What hills.


It's been a good while since we've cycled the South Downs Way. Far too long, in fact, but I'm back on the bike now and me and hubs are signing up for the BHF London to Brighton off road ride which is FOUR WEEKS TODAY so need to pull my finger out if I'm to get through it alive.

Judging by today's performance, it's touch and go. But I'm doing it anyway. The fitness I've lost since my massive fail (and let me tell you, it's a substantial amount), I will get back - maybe not by 24 September, but hey. I like a challenge.

So... anyway, it's Bank Holiday weekend, and we're cycling the South Downs Way. Not the whole thing, and definitely not in one go (because the wind is a bastard and changed its mind didn't it. That and my lungs won't let me).

We're doing it in bits. Today: Eastbourne to Brighton. Tomorrow: Petersfield to Amberley. And Monday if we can be bothered/still use our legs: Amberley to Brighton.

Leg one: Eastbourne to Brighton. Approx. 26 miles

The first time we rode this leg, the other way around, it was the end of November and it was wet and foggy the whole way, and we rode it with our amazing triathlon training group, Brighton Triathlon Race Series (BTRS).

Today - a whole different story. The sweat on my face is testament to that:

It  was truly spectacular up there - not a cloud in the sky, the trail dry and dusty, and nothing but sheep and a few other mountain bikers for company.

YES. Just YES.

Until we caught up with a few hundred walkers taking on the South Coast Challenge Ultra, that is. I have to say, however hard it was on the bike on those hills, I don't envy the people who are probably still out walking right now to finish their epic 100k adventure across the Downs.

We  started our journey by getting the train to Eastbourne, and warming the legs up on a ridiculously long and relentless hill to Beachy Head to join the South Downs Way (follow signs from the station).

I couldn't tell if it was my reduced fitness or the fact that all hills are in fact arseholes, but I very nearly died on that first ascent, and it sort of set the tone for the rest of the ride - I'm not really in shape to do this, but I'm doing it anyway.

Every time I moaned about how unfit I was, Chris made a pretty good point: I won't get my fitness back if I don't do something about it. So I soldiered on, panting and groaning my way up the hills (and trust me, THERE WERE HILLS), and whooping and weeeeeeeeeing my way down.

Oh, and just in case you decide to head up there for your own dose of awesome, just be aware: even on the flat, it's not flat. Do not be deceived. But the beauty is all true, and you can have that for free.

The whole route is really well signposted - you just follow the 'beaten track' (a lot of it is actual path), and various signs will guide you along the route. There are various public footpaths and other bridalways that snake in and out of the South Downs Way, but as long as you follow the SDW signs you can't really go wrong.

Some of the time you have to go through villages but even then it's pretty clear how to get back onto the route. And if you get lost - ask another walker / cyclist / local person, everyone's friendly :)

Here's (most of) the Strava from today's route. I didn't start it until we were on the SDW so missed out the massive hill on the road up to Beachy Head, and annoyingly, it decided to stop half way between Lewes and Falmer, so it's about 8 miles short.  

Have a look at the elevation on that badboy! 

Tomorrow: we're getting the train to Petersfield to cycle to Amberley, where we'll stay overnight, and decide on Monday morning if we're hard enough for the ride home. If not - another train journey it is. 

Gently does it... 


Do you like mountain biking?Have you ever ridden the South Downs Way or a similar trail?

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