Wednesday, July 08, 2009

South Downs Way June 2009

SDW June 18th -20th

Following on from my previous Ridgeway rides, I felt it was time to move on to a new challenge. SDW was an easy choice, relatively close to home and highly recommended. A quick review of the official SDW map and a conversion to Tracklogs confirmed that although the SDW was a similar length to the Ridgeway (99 miles compared to 87) there is significantly more hill climbing. As a result I decide that it was best to attempt the ride over 2 days to ensure that plenty of time was available to enjoy the MTB and scenery. An epic endurance ride was not on the agenda. My original plan was to Blog invite the ride and organise a posse adventure. This soon became an unrealistic target when it became apparent that my preferred dates clashed with the Morzine trip and furthermore the realisation that decent B&B accommodation is hard to come by unless booked 6 months in advance! As a result the final ride team consisted of Rob, Mark (Ridgeway veteran), Chas and I. The basic itinerary for the ride was as follows:
  • Drive to Winchester, B&B to enable a reasonable am start
  • Day 1 Winchester start….ride 50miles to Tillington B&B/pub about 5 miles from SDW.
  • Day 2 Tillington start… ride 55 miles to Alciston B&B/pub about ½ mile from SDW
  • Day 3 Alciston to Beachy Head around 11 miles to finish.
Rob kindly volunteered to drive us all to Winchester where I’d found a low cost B&B for the night. Our plan was, whilst on route, to drop off overnight bags at the B&B’s for day 1 and 2. Nice idea but the result was a 4 hours journey to Winchester. In addition to this Rob had decided to carry all necessary spare clothing in his camelback which the rest of us considered to be an unusual and challenging approach to maintaining personal hygiene! Anyway, we eventually arrived at around midnight and set about parking and the unloading the car. The events of that first evening set the humorous tone for the coming days. Rob was slightly fatigued by the long drive and between spontaneous bouts of Terrets syndrome, smashed a flower pot parking his car and then had us all close to tears pointing out the all too obvious shortcoming of our accommodation. These were best summarised by the comments Rob found in the guest book posted by a previous traveler “fine location for helmet wearing midgets…please add to the list of places to bang your head..!” In spite of the space constraints and the fact that the bath room was too small for Rob or Mark to be able to use the toilet effectively, we managed a goods nights sleep and awoke ready for Day1.

Day 1:

Bikes ready and Camelbaks fully loaded with hydration fluid, energy bars and in Rob’s case spare underpants! we set off at round 10.30 am. However, we had only been riding for around 10 minutes when Rob noticed that Mark’s rear wheel hub had about ½ inch play in the bearings! Urgent repair required! Fortunately we managed to find a friendly bike store in Winchester who provided a temporary repair and our SDW journey had official begun.

The first 20 miles, a mix or generally flat gravel track and country lanes were by any standards very easy.. So much so that I was beginning to think that I would be at the B&B by around 3.00pm accompanied by three fellow riders wondering why we had not ridden it in a day!

However, not long after passing the 20 mile mark we met a local rider who duly informed us that the SDW was just about to become much tougher! From that stage onwards all was revealed! Classic SDW terrain. Very dry hard chalk or flint gravel tracks. Long grinding ‘granny cog’ accents followed by fast exhilarating descents….In general it was the length of the climbs not the steepness of the gradient that presented the biggest challenge. However, they were always made easier by the knowledge that there would be a rewarding decent soon after. Well this was at least the motivation during the early stages. Towards the end of the day the descents because a cause of anxiety as the mind began to prepare for the pain of another long climb! The most memorable decent of the day was a fast grass descent to the SDW trail centre during which Rob managed to exceed 40mph. For the remainder of the day we churned out the mileage and eventually left the SDW trail for a road hack to our B&B. B&B, food and pub beer were of the highest quality. We were able to take a shower, change our clothes and relax our aching legs whilst Rob (fresh from a change of underpants) provided a demonstration on how not to chat up an over developed 17 year old waitress!

Day 2:

The morning of day two presented us all with some anxious moments. By the end of the first day we were all fatigued and ready for a rest. However, we new that the second day was longer and had an even higher concentration of ascents and descents. We made a slow and tentative start to the day at around 10.00am. The gentle B road route back to the SDW trail helped us considerably to warm up but the track back to the top of the SDW ridge was fierce and steep and we all eventually dismounted to push the final few yards. Thereafter and for the first 10 miles the going was very enjoyable.

Similar to the first day, the route suddenly changes and once again threw a continuous serious of ascents and descents.

The condition of the trail and terrain combined with the fantastic sea vista presented us with some fantastic MTB riding. Tough climbs and fantastic descents…we all loved it. As a result by mid afternoon we were a little perturbed to find that our progress had not been as fast as the riding felt. We still had 20 miles of tough riding to complete and fatigue was starting to set in. Rob and I decided to set the pace. Within an hour we had made some good progress and the groups moral was now focused on the next B&B and pub dinner. Once again the trail had a few tough climbs for us to contend with but we eventually made the B&B at 8.00pm. We were fortunate to have chosen another excellent B&B and pub combination. Entertainment for the evening was once again provided by Rob’s use of his Terrets syndrome, homophobia, sexism, extreme right wing politics and a generally creative use of discrimination in every form. Another highly entertaining evening!

Day 3:

The start of day three presented a general feeling of relief amongst the group. We had over 100 miles riding behind us and what appeared to be like a relatively short and gentle 12 miles to the finish. In keeping with the previous two days the weather was fantastic and group spirits were high. We were initially met by another tough climb back to the top to the SDW trail. Thereafter and quite unexpectedly the SDW presented us with its final challenge. Two tough and long assents each climbing over 600 feet. The final long climb resulted in a clear and impressive view of our finish…..Eastbourne and Beachy Head. Essentially all down hill from here we raced down the final long decent and short road section to complete a memorable and very enjoyable ride.
We all enjoyed what the SDW had to offer. Without hesitation I’d recommend the last 60 miles to anyone. I will ride it again and when I do it’s this final section that I’ll head for. Physically challenging, great downhill fun and very scenic!

Final Mileage: 116 miles

Total Ascent: 13,300 feet


Rob, R2, Chas, Mark

Rigs: Canyon Nerve XC6 (R2 & Chas), Turner Flux (Rob), Specialized S/jumper (Mark)

  • R2…worn shock bushes creaking, sticky Oro brake lever.
  • Chas…None….new machine!
  • Rob…Rear mech/cabling issues
  • Mark…Rear Hub close to collapse, Sheered stem cap nut, puncture…general bike neglect issues!
Weather: Warn, Sunny, dry…..Perfect.

Injuries: Plenty of saddle sore, back spasms from granny cog climbing, aching legs, wild uncontrollable flatulence from Mark! Stomach Ache as a result uncontrollable laughter.

Memorable Moments: Mark soiling his shorts from over confident flatulence, Rob upsetting everyone he met, R2 for being too happy and chirpy on relentless climbs, Chas for polishing his new bike every day!

Next Challenge: Coast to Coast? Pennine Way?....

Friday, July 03, 2009

Morzine Day 6 - the final frontier

Last day of the epic visit to Morzine and the plan was to do a grand tour taking in Morgins (where we were stranded day 2), Champoussin and Champery. We made it up to the top of the Mossette lift (sans Uphilla due to continuing rear brake issues) but unfortunately the Swiss side looked very misty and rainy. Rather than risk another 40km road trip to get back to Morzine, discretion was the better part of valour and we turned around and went down the smooth looking fire track back to Lindarets that we saw each day from the chair lift on the way up.

From Morzine Day 6

Yet again, Dozer lived up to his navigation record and the trail was actually crap - rocky, unstable and never ending jaw breaking stuff - the only good thing about this trail was that we managed to get away with only one pinch puncture (Dozer again). After that disappointment we went up the Avoriaz and made our way back down to Morzine exploring some of the stuff up from the Super Morzine chair. One little cut off from the main trail looked interesting but unfortunately within a few minutes we were off the bikes struggling down a rooty extremely steep thing that only a lunatic (aka much better cyclists than us) would even attempt.

After a snack at the chalet we tracked up Pleney lift and after one pleasant blue down picked up Uphilla and lost Farqui so the posse stayed at 4. Up Pleny again and into Les Gets with some pleasant stuff on the more straightforward DH runs. The final curtain was a couple of beers in the bar on the way down into Morzine with the run into Morzine considerable more smooth and relaxed.

Overall a great way to end the trip!!



Posse: Dozer (Canyon), Farqui (5Spot) part, Les (Pitch), Uphilla (5Spot) part, Willy (Cotic)
Weather: absolutely fabulous sunny with little breeze and toasty warm.
Mechanicals: Dozer punctured.
Injury's: None really apart from a few bruises.
Cock up of the day: It did not rain in Switzerland after all so we could have completed the Portes du Soleil tour. Willy lost his lift pass.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Morzine Day 5

The day started with the Super Morzine lift and the schweet hack over to Les Brochaux/Les Lindarets where I came belting out of a rocky section, slithered through a wet dip stradling a rut and fortunately managed to collect the 4 or 5 tank slappers B)

Using the lifts :) we tackled the blue run twice at Avoidiaze but birthday boy (Willy) bust his seatclamp at the end of run#1 and had to slog back to Morzine for a replacement. Meanwhile we headed over to Les Crossettes and schralped the red run which had open, flowing berms but was quite steep in places.

From Morzine Day 5

Back at Point De Mossette we met up with Willy and took the GR5 we did earlier in the week. On this descent Dozer bust a tyre near the refuge and as it was open this time we decided to par-take of a brew. Back to the lift at Les Brochaux we head up to 2,277m again at Point De Mossette and this time we took the alternate GR5 around the back of Avoidiaze to Col De Caux.

The Col involved one heck of a hike a bike with short cranking sections in roasting heat all the way up to the summit - which straddles France and Switzerland.

On the descent we Les and I ended up racing down the awkward fireroad and sat patiently at a road crossing for the rest of our crew. Only to find that we'd missed a turn and they'd slithered further down the valley without us.



Posse: Dozer (Canyon), Farqui (5Spot), Les (Pitch), Uphilla (5Spot), Willy (Cotic)
Weather: absolutely fabulous sunny with little breeze and toasty warm.
Mechanicals: Willy's Hope seat clamp let go on the GR5, Dozer punctured, Uphilla lacking brakes, Farqui's leaking Pike.
Injury's: Farqui face planted on the GR5 escaping with a bloody ankle, Uphilla inner thigh scuff to compliment the pad rub.
Cock up of the day: Farqui lost yet another Floodgate adjuster - Willy's this time !

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Morzine Day 4 - Part 2

After a morning resting, fettling the bike and window shopping in town withdrawal symptons set in and despite black clouds I headed up the Pleney lift to try something local.
As soon as I reached the top the thunder started again and the lifts closed down, so my options were limited. I opted for one of the 'Blue' runs back down to Morzine, but in error started on part of one Black run and scared the s**t out of myself. Fortunately there were a few options and although the rest was fast and 'bermy' it was more 'blue' than black and I got down in one piece to find Dozer, Les and Willy back at the Ranch - Willy reclining in style in 'boxers' and ice pack.
The Alpine storm cleared enough and we could see the Pleney lift operating again, so three of us headed back up for more action.
First shot was the 'Blue' proper to the right of the lift, (our first sight of heavily padded trees!), - good flowing start and then the big berms, drops and finishing with a fireroad blast and a final few twists across the hillside back to the lift.
Back up the lift, and another blue down to Les Gets - much gentler than the last with a finish on the berms of the red back to the lift to keep us on our toes! Just in time to catch the lift back up.
A little bit of 'cross-country' back to the top of the Pleney Lift, (xc generally included a hike in these parts :-( ), and Dozer decided we would finish the day with a repeat attempt at the blue back home - all this to the accompaniment of Les's squeeling brakes.
It is worth saying that XC bikes are heavily outnumbered in Morzine and as the week goes by it is easy to understand why. A heavier, long travel bike with big tyres and a low saddle comes into its element here...



Posse: Uphilla: Turner. Dozer:Canyon, Les: Pitch
Mechanicals: None, (well Les's brakes were very noisy)

Morzine Day 4 - Part 1

Uphilla and Farqui decided to take the morning off - yesterday's experience in the storm was too much for them. Crew was limited to Willy, Les and Dozer with once again Dozer in charge of the map. Usual route down to Les Lindarets and then up to the top of Avoriaz - yes we found it finally. "OK we'll start with the blue or the green run off the top just to get ourselves warmed up" says Dozer - so what does he does he do but flies off the top of the red - despite the red sign and us shouting at him... hey ho, someone else will have to do the map reading tomorrow. Anyway we caught him up half way down "s**t this is a difficult blue" he says - now claiming he is colour blind...

Second time up and we go down the blue - much more suited to my style (and ability) and really good fun with nice berms and only the one table top to bottle out of (but see later...). So we decided to give that another go with Dozer placed strategically to take some cool shots of of the run down - see video attached. All went well until aforesaid table top, took it a bit quicker this time and found myself balancing on my front wheel down the far side before coming off....

At this stage things become a bit fuzzy with a bit of double vision and short term memory loss "where are we, have we been here before?" so sat down for a while remembering how many kids I have and what my wife's name is....

After that took it very slow down to the bottom (unfortunately without stopping to speak to Les's favourite English waitress at the lake) - back to the chalet for rest, neurofen, ice pack for big lump on thigh and then a sleep. I think the others (including Uphilla this time) went out in the afternoon whilst Farqui babysat and made sure I did not fall unconscious. See part two for the report of the real men who manage to say on two wheels...



Posse: Dozer (Canyon), Les (Pitch), Willy (Cotic)
Weather: Perfect
Mechanicals: Only the one puncture today - Dozer, not much else apart from stiff front mech for Willy caused by dimwitted assembly
Injury's: Farqui suspected tendonitis is much better but thinks he may need another soak in the jacuzzi, Willy rather bruised upper thing needs a massage plus sore head.
Cock up of the day: Table top....