My legs, they don’t mind these hills – they always take me home. These roads – the chalk and tarmac and grass. Always up. Always back down. Of this I’m sure, if nothing else.
On Thursday my good friend Gill and I drove up to Horsham, our bikes snuggled up together in the boot of the car, to meet some more cyclist friends and head off for a ride in the Surrey hills. I’d taken a day off work to go riding, as the weather at the start of the week had been so beautiful. Of course by Thursday it was bitterly cold again – who knew you could get brain freeze from anything other than a Slush Puppy?
The lovely Jason had planned some “nice hills” for our ride. I’ve learnt by now that when someone tells you a ride is ‘undulating’ what they actually mean is ‘really f***ing hilly’. Plus, Surrey isn’t famed for being flat, so I was prepared for the worst.
As usual I’d got myself worked up over nothing. Yes – there were hills, but that’s what I’ve got a bike for, right? Spin the pedals, turn the wheels…up you go.
Despite not being able to feel our fingers and toes after a few minutes of riding, we managed 3 and a half hours in the saddle: including the hideously steep Whitedown hill and iconic Box Hill.
I’d only ever seen Box hill on the TV, during the Olympics. It’s a lovely climb – at least it is when you’re doing it once, not 9 times (or however many laps it was they had to do)…and then back down again. I’ll certainly be back there when the weather has warmed up – although I expect every other lycra-clad human in Surrey will have the same idea. I should probably purchase some Rapha…
I should take days off to ride my bike more often.
In wonderful contrast to the snow, sleet and rain that we’ve had our share of recently, this weekend saw some Winter sunshine for Sussex.
On Saturday I made the most of the weather and got out on my own for a few hours in the saddle. Having spent a fair amount of time of late spinning on a bike in a gym, it was lovely just to get out and RIDE. The downs were still dusted with icing-sugar snow – but it was nearly all melted from the roads. The beautiful views almost made Devil’s Dyke enjoyable. At the top I found myself grinning, and remembering that this is why I fell in love with riding a bike in the first place.
Sunday was a team ride, and being totally honest – I wasn’t looking forward to it. I’m still a bit nervous about cycling in a group, even though the guys in the team are great and I’m getting to know everyone. What if I fall off and look like a plonker…what if I get left behind on a hill…what if…SHHH Lois, get on with it woman, you’ll be fine.
And I was.
Clearly my bonking crisis on the last team ride made an impression, as I ended up with homemade flapjacks & sandwiches from Matt, and homemade bread pudding from John, all stuffed into my jersey pockets. If that’s not team spirit then I don’t know what is! I felt a little over-laden with essentially a packed lunch on my back, but 71 miles later – and only half a (very squashed) sandwich left, I was very grateful for my snack-filled pockets.
I won’t go through the route, because that will get boring, and you can see the map at the bottom of this post. What I will say is that apart from a few idiot drivers nearly hitting us, and one hill up to Friston which was hideously steep, narrow and full of traffic – I enjoyed every minute. And I didn’t fall off ;-)
These are going to be famous last words I’m sure – but I’m starting to enjoy climbing. Not the sort of hills that are so steep I wonder if I am moving at all, and unclip in a wobbly panic, but the longer, more gradual climbs. One such was the long climb up the zig zag road (Upper Dukes Drive?) from Eastbourne to Beachy Head. I’m not saying I sang my way up it with a smile on my face, but there’s something satisfying about getting from A to B, uphill, with only your legs and two wheels to thank. It’s the good kind of hard work, and, dare I say it, the good kind of pain. There’s a fine line there though..
I have never cycled against such strong winds as those on the top of Beachy Head that day. I had to lean my bike against the wind so that I didn’t get blown into the sea*. I’m looking forward to going back to those roads on a still day.
So I finished my weekend with 105 miles on the clock, which is probably some sort of record for me. A few days later and my legs are politely reminding me of every one of those miles, by aching like hell. Still, there’s only one way to deal with that – let’s get planning the next ride.
This promises to be a fantastic ride. An Ultracross challenge across beautiful Sussex. On-road, off-road, bostal climbs and mud. Not for the feint hearted, mind you. I will be going along for the Belgian beer and stories at the end – but my legs, my bike and my (complete lack of) off road experience are not up to the ride itself. If you have a CX bike or mountain bike and fancy an epic day out, don’t miss this.
In the words of the chaps at Vélo Morphē:
“We have to make it clear, what follows is NOT a race and NOT an event. It is simply a suggestion of what will make a great UltraCross route in East Sussex, and a time and date which would seem to us as good a time as any to do this. If you choose to do this at that time you are doing so of your own free will.”
For full details of the UCX click here
Keep up to date via twitter: @velomorpha
This will be a short post, because I’m rather knackered after 45 miles of cycling.
We went on a lovely group ride today. Apart from the disappointment of my flatmate’s bike having a major mechanical fail, and having to leave him in Brighton, the day was a great success. A bunch of us met in Lewes, having travelled from Brighton, Woodingdean and Newick. We took the scenic route (with only one wrong turn, that wasn’t my fault!..) to Alfriston, where we met another friend and indulged in beer and pub food.
The route back to Brighton after lunch was the fun bit. And by fun, I mean hilly. The ‘High and Over’ into Seaford was steep, to say the least, and as we rode along the coast there was an unforgiving sea wind against us the whole way.
As ever, the views on the ride were wonderful. Rolling hills, fields of hay bales, pretty old buildings and later on the white horses of the English channel and the rolling cliffs along the coast. The photos taken on my phone don’t do them any justice.
All in all, a good Sunday.
Thanks to George, James, Rob and Sid for coming along today!