Tag Archives: Sussex

Racing by the seaside. And a bit of a moan.

Sunday was Eastbourne Cycling Festival. It was brilliant – the sun (mostly) shone, and there were plenty of people who came down to the seafront to enjoy the weather, ride their bikes, and watch the racing.

There was a sportive event in the morning – I’ve had a look at the route and have one word for you: hilly. There were also a charity mountain bike ride, some running events (*raises eyebrows*), and a duathlon.

Then there was the racing. There were some junior races, the South East Regional Youth Champs, 4th category, 3rd category and E12 races. A quick glance at the sign-ups for the E12 race shows you that there were some big names racing – it was a fast paced race that took no prisoners! Cornering on this circuit looked…fun. I’m genuinely surprised there weren’t more crashes. I forget these people actually know what they’re doing.

The results of the racing will soon be posted here, if you’re interested.

As well as the crit racing there was some fun stuff going on for families – including a children’s Go Sky Ride course which looked like it was at about my level. You could make a smoothie by pedal-power, race your friends on a WattBike, watch some amazing BMX stunts – or just eat far too much ice cream. I had a brilliant day watching friends race their bikes, talking too much, and chasing balloons that were blowing away from the Team ASL360 tent.

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3rds race

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Team ASL360 tent

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Chris McNamara wins the E12

Now that’s all very nice, but I’m afraid there is a moany bit. And it involves two words which often strike up debate: podium girl.

It was hardly the Giro D’Italia, so whilst there weren’t rows of podium girls in tight dresses, bouquets of flowers and bottles of champagne, we had our own South Coast spin on the idea: an attractive young woman in denim hotpants to present the prize money – and a kiss. I have no idea if this woman was being paid, or whether she was part of the Harley Davidson sponsorship deal. She looked pleased enough to be involved, if a little out of place and awkward. So what’s my problem with her being there? I’ll try to sum it up, briefly…

Let’s discuss how many women were involved in the racing on Sunday. There was one girl in the youth race. There was one woman in the 4th cat race. And there was one podium girl. Without going into the reasons why there weren’t more women and girls racing (I’ll do that in a minute) – just think for a second about what message that is sending out, especially to the crowds of children who attended Sunday’s event. Women’s place clearly isn’t in racing – why else would they be so under-represented? But if 33% of the women involved with the racing were there to be an ornament and to kiss the men who won a race…well, maybe that’s a more fitting role for a girl.

There was no women’s race organised on Sunday. Had there been, I believe we would have seen a decent number of women on the start line. It would have been a smaller race than the men’s – but until the races are there, they cannot be filled. It is a viscous circle that needs to start with event organisers giving female racers an opportunity.

We are seeing an amazing rise in the popularity of women’s cycling in this country. The line up for the women’s races at events such as the Johnson Health Tech GP and London Nocturne serve to prove that. I know of more and more women locally who are taking up racing, or thinking about it. There’s lots going on – but the fact remains that there is still a huge inequality in women’s cycle racing. At a professional level, the difference in pay and prize money is often appalling, and at a more local level, many women’s races are still E1234 – first timers racing against the top level athletes. Things are improving, and I’m really hopeful about the future of women’s racing – but we still have a long way to go.

I don’t have anything against people wearing hotpants. In fact, I encourage it. But for as long as women’s racing is very much second place to men’s, I will continue to be insulted by the use of podium girls at races.

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Team ASL360′s Pete Morris wins the 3rd cat race

Crashes, sunshine, foxes & dogs. (30 days of biking so far)

Things have been a bit mad here since the start of #30daysofbiking but I’ve finally found some time, so here is a little round up of the first sixteen days…

Day One - Riding without stabilisers.

Ride: A 40 mile loop through the Ashdown Forest.

Bike: Claud.

Rode to Groombridge where I ate lunch and lots of easter eggs with my family. I also rode half a mile with my cousins Josie (who can ride without stabilisers and has a dolly seat on her bike) and Tom (who is very nifty going over speed bumps on his micro-scooter).

Josie looking Pro in my helmet and glasses.

Days Two, Three, Four and Five- Riding to work, mostly..

Rides: The short ride to work, and a couple of lunchtime errands.

Bikes: Claud and Annie

The good thing about no longer working from home is that my studio is now a 5/10 minute ride away. That little bit of time on the bike is the perfect separation between work and home.

Annie, at the studio.

Claud, at the studio.

Day Six- Coffee, cake and an eclectic collection of bicycles.

Ride: A seafront ride to Shoreham and back.

Bike: Annie.

7 of us rode to Shoreham for coffee – two road bikes (belonging to Sid and Gill), one single speed (that would be Annie), one mountain bike (John’s), one Isla bike (Fynn’s) and one bike with a trike on the back (the combined leg power of Mandy and Cain). Love it.

Some of our bikes, at the cafe stop.

4 7ths of Team Cafe Ride.

4 7ths of Team Cafe Ride.

Day Seven – Vulpine collisions and crash-filled racing

Ride: Night ride and a trip to Chertsey (by car, sorry) to help out at the racing

Bike: Annie

All the best lessons are learnt by making stupid judgements, in other words: the hard way. I missed a train and ended up riding to Lewes in the wee small hours of the morning. I was riding Annie, who is kitted out for city riding, and as such doesn’t have the kind of lights which illuminate the pitch black cycle path on the side of the A27. The end of this story is that a fox ran out in front of me, I slammed on the brakes and…ouch, over the handlebars I went. Luckily I was rescued by a sensible person who told me what a wally I was. Lesson learnt.

After some sleep I woke up only slightly bruised from the vulpine incident, and headed off to Chertsey to watch some friends racing. I ended up in the passenger seat of the Assistant Commissaire car, which was fun. The only bad thing about the day was that there were a LOT of crashes. Highlight: Team ASL360′s Anna Railton winning the women’s race :-)

Women’s race…that was a nasty hill.

Days Eight, Nine and Ten - If only I was one of those people who can cycle in a pencil skirt and heels.

Work was really, really busy until day 10. I had some important meetings and stuff that meant I didn’t get much riding in, other than the short trip to work. To make up for this, I took Thursday off for a day of bike……

Day Eleven - A love of gears and afternoon beers.

Ride: 32 miles of Sussex roads, with Monika.

Bike: Claud

Mon came down from London for the day, with her swanky new Genesis bike. We had lots of fun despite a few clippy-pedal-fail moments (not mine) and some wrong turns (mine). Mon’s been riding way longer than I have, but this is her first geared bike. What better way to celebrate than to find some hills to go up..and down :-)

We ended our Sussex ride in a Sussex pub, naturally.

The post-ride pint.

Days Twelve and Thirteen Just the short commute, again.

Day FourteenGood Lord, is that the SUN?!

Ride: 52 miles of glorious sunshine

Bike: Claud.

There are fewer things better than making new friends – especially if they ride a bike! Carine had read the blog and spotted that I was organising a road ride – having recently bought a new road bike and rediscovered her love of cycling, she joined Claud and I for our Sunday ride. We had coffee, and tried not to get too over-excited about the blue skies. It turned out we needn’t have contained our excitement – because it turned out to be a stunning day.

We avoided the crowds of the Brighton Marathon by riding over Devil’s Dyke to Henfield, out to Partridge Green and then East through Hurstpierpoint and Hassocks to Ditchling, where we stopped for coffee and food. I think I had a grin on my face for pretty much the whole ride – you just can’t beat a sociable ride on a sunny day. Once we’d conquered a few last hills and got back to Brighton, I decided to make the most of the day and headed out for a few more miles on my own.

Coffee stop at Ditchling Tea Rooms

Carine (who regretted the long sleeves!)

Day Fifteen - Ditchling Beacon has expanded in the heat.

Ride – Lewes to Brighton the painful way (over that hill people go on about)

Bike – Claud

I was pleased to find that I could still get over the Beacon in one go without the promise of free food at the end (the last time I rode it was for the Puncheur Sportif). Having said that, I am sure it has got longer and steeper since then.

Day SixteenThe dog ate my homework.

Ride: The 24ish miles to Steyning and back, with good intentions.

Bike: Claud

Dogs often feature in excuses – so here is mine:

I rode to Steyning last night to compete in my first time trial. I was a bit nervous, but mostly excited. On my way there I came across a very sweet looking dog wandering up the road on its own. Naturally I stopped and had a little chat with the creature, she was very sweet, and after knocking on some doors we reunited her with her owners. The conclusion of this tail (see what I did there?) is that I got to Steyning 5 minutes too late to enter the TT. Still, I had a very nice ride home again, and feel like I have now balanced out my karma after the fox incident.

I missed the TT, so I took a photo of my feet instead.

Here’s to the next 14 days!

30 days of AWESOME.

At the weekends I like to hang around in industrial estate car parks in particularly dull bits of greater London. Actually that’s a lie, but that is what I spent this last Sunday afternoon doing. Claud was in the boot of my car looking rather sorry for himself, and me, well, I spent the best part of an hour staring blankly at the Sainsbury’s sign looming over me. I had one of those very odd days where nothing goes to plan and you think your world is going to end, but then you end up having an epiphany. Or is it just me that has those?..

I was meant to be in London for race training but I was late, forgot to bring cash, and then proceeded to have a big-arsed panic attack because I’m an idiot. Post-panic-attack my legs were all shaky and I couldn’t bring myself to get out of the car and onto my bike.

If sitting in your kit eating carb filled snacks is training (I have been informed it counts), then I did a lot of training. And then I had a coffee. And then I drove around the industrial estate, and then I had another coffee.

Why am I telling you this? The conclusion of this dull tale is that I realised I’ve been getting my knickers in a twist over a load of stuff that doesn’t really matter. I haven’t ridden my bike much recently, partly because of the cold, but mainly because whenever I do ride I am worrying about whether I’m working hard enough, and whether I’m going to be ready for my next race. So I have made a decision. For now… no races, or race training, or time trials, or competitions of any kind. Because even though those things are awesome, it isn’t why I ride, and it isn’t why I write this blog. I started this because I really like riding a bicycle. And recently I’ve been less than enthused by that idea, which is sad. So for the next 30 days, I’m on a mission to remember why I ride. I’m going to have as much fun as is possible, and if the sun shines, well… that would be a bonus.

#30daysofbiking Day One – 40 cold but bright miles through Sussex.

Day Two – the very short ride to work (IN THE SUNSHINE!)

Day Two – Blue Skies

 

Puncheur

On Saturday night I set my alarm for 6.30am – something that doesn’t happen very often. The reason? My first sportive of the year – The Puncheur. You might remember I rode part of the route with Morgan, James and Mark back in November. I wasn’t well and managed 30 miles before I had to give up and go to my parents house for tea. You’ll be pleased to know I managed to finish the whole 65 mile route this time around!

The Puncheur is a challenging ride, but not one designed to inflict as much pain as possible – as seems to be the fashion with sportive events at the moment. (If I want to suffer, I will race.) The route is neither hugely long nor hugely hilly. While it includes some testing short climbs, there are no serious hills until the grand finale that is Ditchling Beacon. It also crosses some beautiful parts of this county – providing stunning views across the Ashdown Forest and from the top of the Beacon.

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The route (click for larger image)

Having had a few really mild, sunny days last week, it was tempting to think that the Puncheur might be my first chance to ditch the leg warmers and enjoy a Spring-like ride. As the week went on, and pictures of snowflakes began to appear in the weather forecast, it became obvious that this would not be the case. Sunday arrived and it was seriously cold. And so the usual rigamarole of layers and thick socks and overshoes and hats went on, before chucking myself and Claud into Gill’s car.

Gill and I arrived, with bikes, and made our way to sign up at HQ. We met some familiar faces and chatted to some friends – one of the nice things about taking part in such a local event.

About to set off

We had our timing chips scanned and set off. It took quite some time for my legs to get warmed up in the cold. My brain seemed to take some time to warm up too (I don’t think it works before 9am) so I was grateful for the clear signposting at every junction.

I chatted to some friendly folks en route, and was passed by some speedy guys from local clubs, including the blurs of Mark, Marc and Dan who slowed down for 2 minutes to talk to a slow coach.

Despite the freezing cold, I really enjoyed the ride. I wasn’t even *too* nervous about the ever closer Ditchling Beacon. On that subject, somehow I have gone 6 months of writing this blog and cycling around Sussex every week without having yet cycled up that infamous hill. Some may argue I have deliberately avoided it. Either way, there was no getting out of it this time. Being stubborn is both a blessing and a curse: when ascending a massive hill it appears to be the former. I distinctly remember saying out loud to myself half way up the climb: ‘you’re not f****ing giving up now’… and indeed, I did not. I was very slow, but I got up in one go and I’m pretty happy about it.

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At the top of the beacon.

Having finished the ride I took a few minutes to rest my somewhat achy legs and enjoy the gorgeous view from the top. I’m usually terrified of fast descents but I was so pleased to have finished that I rode back down the beacon to the event HQ with a big grin on my face. There was hot pasta, yummy cake and some delicious hot chocomalt recovery drinks from Apres (an awesome Brighton company).

All in all, not a bad way to spend a chilly Sunday morning. I’ll be back next year.

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www.puncheur.co.uk

This is home.

When I first moved to Brighton I used to ride down to the seafront on my old bike (long since stolen) for the sole purpose of sitting on a bench and looking at the sea. Usually I’d time it with the sunset, stay there until dark, and ride home again. Futile, time wasting, pointless. But something about that simple routine made me feel alive – even after the worst of days.

Today after a short, very cold ride I stopped on the way home, just to sit and admire the sunset’s colours: where the sky meets the sea. Sat on the old, graffiti-covered bench I remember why I live here, on the edge of the earth, in this bonkers city. This is home, and there’s nothing that can change that.

Winter fields

Back before the snow had melted I was listening to Bat for Lashes’ album The Haunted Man and was particularly taken by the lyrics to Winter Fields; a song that talks about Sussex. That same day I stumbled upon some photos by cyclist, photographer and friend Gavin Peacock. He’d braved the Sussex snow on his bike with a camera, and the result was beautiful. So I wanted to share both with you here.

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Hurtling through heavy snow, our hands are cold and the moon sets low
Little sister let your sharp teeth show, pass winter fields
Stop the car by the old wire post, skidding rabbits make good paper ghosts
They lick the salt off the Sussex coast and fall into winter fields

‘looking to the long man’

Rows of White, Spelled our escape in the old torch light
Oh Mother, I’m scared to close my eyes
In some winter dreams will make you dive and dive and dive down

In sub zero I can’t stand still, colors of absence flooding the hill
In wonderment I trip and spill through winter fields
Under the stairs taps the metronome, a diver suit that we’ve all outgrown
I need to get to where the wild things roam through all of my winter dreams

‘weald view’

Rows of white, spelled our escaped in the old torch light
Oh mother, I’m scared to close my eyes
Some winter dreams will make you dive and dive and dive down

‘ditchling beacon’

Photos by (and copyrighted to) Gavin Peacock

The full set is viewable here: ‘A Year In Sussex’

Lyrics:  Winter Fields, Bat for Lashes

Sunshine and sandwiches.

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.

Edburton Road on Saturday

Melted snow & the previous day’s rain on Underhill Lane.

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.

Breakfast. Not to be underestimated!

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 ;-)

Still smiling at this point…

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.

(*slight exaggeration)

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.

Our route! Click map to see larger image

Night time

It is night time.

The dark outline of a woman appears in the hedgerows and I brake, violently. I blink and the figure has gone: I realise it was my own shadow, thrown across the greenery by the light on my bicycle.

The light I have seems only to illuminate the fog, not the road, and for a long while all I can see is mist.

Occasionally I hit a pothole with no warning, this is the only thing that reminds me I am on the Sussex roads, and not floating through some strange dream.

The climbs are fine, at a slow pace my eyes adjust slightly and I can make out the edge of the road – a vague, soft line which I follow on my ascent to the peak of the dark hill. A lone house sheds some light on the corner, another bend, and I return to the darkness.

Next the descent, and for a while I feel totally lost in the darkness and mist – blinking in the hope that when my eyes open I will be able to see more of the road. A branch catches my cheek and the sharp pain wakes me from my utter disorientation: I am riding. I know these roads. I will be there soon.

White Chalk Hills UCX (film)

WHITE CHALK HILLS UCX is the brain child of Vélo Morphē.

Not a sportive, not a race & not an event. The White Chalk Hills UCX was put together by a couple of creative cyclists who had an idea of what would make an epic bike ride, and wanted to share it. Almost 5000ft of climbing, on and off road, made up the 46 mile route.

I have to admit to not riding the UCX, mostly due to lack of suitable bike. (I did go for the Belgian beer and frites though..) There are whispers of more rides from Vélo Morphē, so I’m keeping my ears open.

This is why we ride our bikes.

White Chalk Hills Ultracross 2012

Filmed and produced by Gavin Peacock.

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Read more about the day here.

Drop the chocolate bar and grab the handle bars.

LAZY was the order of the day over Christmas, for which I won’t apologise. However this week it’s been back to work, back to not having excuses to eat too much chocolate (although I could probably still find some) and back into some kind of a routine.

The end of my holiday on Friday also meant a long overdue return to the saddle this weekend. I did cycle a bit over Christmas, but not much, so it was with some excitement (and some fear of how much my fitness had suffered) that I dusted off Claud for a ‘proper’ ride on Saturday. The lovely Gill joined me for 45 miles through the Sussex countryside: a nice loop from Brighton through Lewes, Offham, Ditchling, Steyning and along the seafront from Shoreham back home again. We rode at a good pace, catching up about Christmas, and the only truly unpleasant thing about the ride was the feeling of dissapointment on being told that the pub we stopped at wasn’t serving any food. 45 miles on a piece of toast and a bag of crisps might be easy for the pros, but it isn’t my style!

You can read a bit more about Saturday’s ride from Gill’s perspective, because she’s just started her own blog as part of a fitness challenge for 2013: you can find it here.

Spooning bikes…

Sunday was my first team ride with Team ASL360. Group riding is very new to me still, and I knew it was going to be a bit of a learning curve. I would like to publicly apologise to my new team mates for swerving, swearing and slowing more than I should have done. However, I do feel like I learnt more in those 3 hours than in the whole of the rest of the time I’ve been riding a bike – so it’s not all bad! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there’s no better way to learn than to ride with a bunch of people who’ve been riding for longer than you have. Two hours in and my legs were starting to give up (despite the social pace we were going at) but I made it back in once piece with the rest of the group, and that’s good enough for me. 3 hours and almost 50 miles of riding later and I was well ready for my glamourous post-ride routine: drinking a recovery shake in the bath.

It seems my lazy festive fortnight didn’t do too much damage, but it’s back to business now; bring on the riding…

 

 

 

The best thing ever.

When I set off with Claud this morning it was dim and damp, but by the time I was half way through my journey it had turned into the most beautiful of November days.  I cycled from my home in Brighton to Uckfield, with a quick coffee stop to see a friend in Lewes. I got rather muddy cycling down the country roads (mud guards are now on my shopping list), but that’s all part of the fun I suppose.

I’d not been in the best of moods, and had started the day by sleeping through my alarm and leaving the house in a massive rush. But by the time I’d done a few miles, all was forgotten.

It is my honest opinion that if all days started with a bike ride and several cups of excellent coffee, nobody would ever be sad. If only we could throw out all the watches and clocks and deadlines and rules so that all we had to worry about was getting home before the sun sets.

Do you want to know what the best thing ever is?

- Riding a bike.

“I don’t ride bikes”

In a turn of events that surprised us both in equal amounts, I convinced my friend Sabrina to join me for a bike ride through Sussex yesterday. Big thank you to George from Future Cycles in Lewes for lending Sabrina a bicycle for the day.

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I don’t ride bikes. Best put that out there as a starting point. I live and work in london but I have never used a Boris bike, I don’t take advantage of the cycle highways and I refuse to put flat shoes on to walk to the tube. I am the worst kind of city girl.

Lois and I in more usual circumstances (eg: not in Lycra)

My only real memory of cycling as a kid involved me falling into a car (the car was parked and I was stationary). My brother constantly enjoys reminding me of this incident 12 years later. I do actually own a bike, but it appears I buy bikes in the same way I buy my shoes; pretty, but completely unfit for purpose. The thing weighs an absolute ton and so has been used approximately 3 times as a result.

So, why yesterday did I find myself riding (nearly) 20 miles on a road bike through the Sussex countryside? Well, one Miss Lois May-Miller is my best friend and she promised me cake. I was putty in her hands.

Seeing Lois on a bike was something I never thought that I would see. When she first mentioned she would be taking part in 30 days of biking I had my reservations (perhaps don’t tell her that). The only things I had seen Lois stick to for more than 30 days was her love of gin, her distaste for poor grammar and her hatred of Nigella Lawson. However, as we all know, Lois has found a true passion in cycling and it has changed my friend for the better in more ways than I can recount here.

Coffee in Steyning. I can get on board with this cycling tradition.

The route we decided to take was along the Brighton seafront from Lois’s flat, through to Shoreham and up into Steyning (where the aforementioned cake would be found, at Steyning Tea Rooms). The flat seafront was much appreciated as I found my balance on a new bike with some rather fancy breaks and gears. I drive an automatic car: gears are a foreign language to me. Soon though, there were hills…many hills. I swore and cursed Lois’s existence several times but I am a stubborn woman and refused to give up. Slow and steady wins the race and I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could actually do it. The sense of achievement is absouloutly huge when you reach the crest of a hill and realise that neither did you stop but you did’t fall into a bush either.

Moments after cursing Lois’s existence at the top of a hill

Amazing views from the road at Coombes

After the going up, comes the going down. The sense of liberation you get speeding down a hill is something I have never experienced before. Bugs in the mouth aside, it was brilliant fun and made me feel like a kid again, the kind that doesn’t fall into parked cars.

So how do I feel about cycling the morning after? Well, some unusual parts of my anatomy are a little sore but that aside I feel bloody brilliant about it. From the personal sense of achievement to the obvious community spirit which pervades the sport (we said hello to so many other cyclists en route), I can see why I have lost my friend to a bike named Claud.

Proof that I rode a bicycle!

Cycling cures (nearly) all ills

Last night I went to bed feeling pretty awful. I set my alarm to get up for a ride, but it was 50/50 if I’d make it out, or stay in bed.

The alarm went off and I had the usual argument with myself. Get up, go on, you’ll be fine once you’re up. Oh but it is so warm under here and you’re really not well. Etc etc. Eventually I hauled my sorry arse out of bed, under a shower, and put it on a bicycle saddle.

And what a beautiful day it was! Definitely better than staying indoors. A cold, crisp morning – the sun was shining and there were bright blue skies.

The guys I rode with today were previewing the route that the PUNCHEUR sportive takes. I met Morgan, a thoroughly nice bloke and the person behind the event itself, in Brighton and we rode to meet Mark from Cyclosport, who will be previewing the ride on their site, and James from RPM90, who support the PUNCHEUR event.

I knew that I was going to struggle to keep up, let alone with being a bit ill. I fell behind a few times but my companions were kind and slowed down for me (..thanks guys). It was a great experience to ride in a group, and to pick some things up from more experienced riders. If you get an invite, don’t turn down the chance to ride with people who are ‘better’ than you, however good you might be. It is a great way to be pushed a bit more, and there is nothing wrong with a slice of humble pie every now and then. Goes nice with custard, I hear. (Humble Pie is in fact savoury and goes better with mustard than custard. Ed.)

The route itself was beautiful, especially on what was one of the nicest days we have had in weeks. There are some fantastic small roads through Barcombe, Cooksbridge and Fletching, and the views across the Ashdown Forest are the best for miles and miles. I’ve said it before, but there really is nothing more rewarding after a hill than a lovely view.

When I was sick at the top of a (not very big) hill I decided that a shorter loop home might be a good idea, so I let the guys carry on with their longer ride and I hung a right to enjoy the long down hill to Maresfield. From there it’s only about 4 miles to my parents house – so I turned up, sweaty and muddy, to gatecrash their Sunday lunch. What else are parents for?

I’m afraid to say the bike ride didn’t cure my cold – and yes: I threw up, but the important thing is it cured my bad mood, and was infinitely better than staying in and feeling sorry for myself. I’ve got 30-something miles under me and next time I’ll go a little bit further, and a little bit faster. And not be sick.

 

[P.S. The Puncheur looks to be a great event, and one I intend to ride. Book in here.]

White Chalk Hills UCX

White Chalk Hills UCX, December 30th

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

Damp and muddy, but still smiling.

When I woke up this morning, the last thing I wanted to do was go outside. I could see the rain on the window from my bed, and getting out from underneath my cosy duvet took a vast amount of effort.

Eventually, fuelled with espresso and porridge, I made it out the front door and onto the road with Claud to meet a friend in Lewes. It was drizzly, damp and grey…and these continued to be the themes of the day. We had coffee in Lewes before setting out (putting off the inevitable, us?) and then headed out of town through Offham.

At this point I was still wishing I’d stayed in bed. Before my legs warm up everything seems like twice as much work. Most of my rides start like this – I keep telling myself I must be mad: why do I ride a bike?!

10 miles in, and I remember…

Legs warmed up, I’m free to enjoy the views. The hills are a challenge, but they don’t make me want to give up and go back to bed. The rain still falls and I’m covered in mud, but it’s invigorating – not disheartening. I’ve remembered why I ride a bike, and it’s making me smile.

The route we took went through Plumpton, Streat and Chailey into Barcombe. Having cycled through this bit of Sussex for Cycletta a few weeks ago, I wanted to go back and explore a bit more. Much of the ride was on single track roads, with vast fields either side and framed by cloud covered hills. We didn’t see many cars, just a few horse-riders, dog-walkers and cyclists.

It wouldn’t be a perfect Sussex ride if we didn’t go to a pub – so we headed to The Anchor in Barcombe for a pint and a roast dinner. We’d covered 30 miles by this point, so we were ready to wipe the mud off our shorts and rest our soggy legs for a bit. It is Sunday, after all.

Another 12 miles or so and we were home and (not very) dry. I made it back to busy Brighton: damp and muddy, but still smiling.

Points of view.

One of my favourite things about riding a bicycle is the landscape which I get to explore. Beautiful Sussex is mine for the taking. On two wheels it all seems more real, more close somehow.

So here is a collection of views from my saddle over the last few months. Enjoy.

Day 30 – Cycletta Brighton

For the final day of 30 days of biking I took part in the 80k route of Cycletta Brighton. I’m going to update this with a proper review of the ride, but I am having an insanely busy couple of days, so have not yet had the chance to write anything.

Here are some photos until I update this post tomorrow.

Ok, so I never updated this – sorry! You can read my review of the ride on the Cyclosport website, here.

Day 16 – Bikes and Beer

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!

Laughton(ish)

Berwick

It’s a sign!

James, Sid and Rob at the pub

George with his heavy, heavy bike…

‘High and Over’ into Seaford

Apparently I wasn’t amused by the idea of a photograph after getting to the top of this hill….

Days 4 & 5

On Day 4 I was humbly reminded of my total lack of a sense of direction. I also ended up on a very narrow, very bumpy bit of the South Downs Way, which Claud’s tyres did not approve of. All part of the adventure though, eh?!

Anyway, I eventually took this route, which was lovely: Brighton > Pyecombe > Clayton > Ditchling > Wivelsfield > Hayward’s Heath.

It was a beautiful, sunny evening and I ended the ride with a grin on my face.

This is where it began…

…and this is where it ended.

Day 5 – one of my best friends got married today! I cycled a mile to the station, and that is all. (I did do a speedy 20k on an exercise bike, but I don’t think that counts…)

 

 

Day 1 – The roads of Sussex

I wasn’t in any state for a long ride this morning, having worked late and had four hours sleep last night. Today’s ride was 14 miles on the roads of my beautiful home county, Sussex.

The ride today took me out of Brighton over Devil’s Dyke and then through Woodmancote, Henfield, Shermanbury and Cowfold, until I met a friend a bit past Bolney. I can still remember the first time I tried to cycle Devil’s Dyke; I almost passed out. I’ve also done it on a hangover with similarly dire consequences. It felt good to do the whole thing in one go today.

Some conclusions from today’s ride…

Things I like about cycling on the roads of Sussex:

  • The views. Oh the views! Going over Devils Dyke you can see rolling green hills, a view across Brighton, and the sparkling sea. I honestly don’t think life gets much better than reaching the top of a hill on your bike and being greeted by a stunning view.
  • Other cyclists. Being a Saturday, I saw lots of other cyclists out on the roads today. I get a warm little feeling saying ‘hello’ to them as they pass (even if they ignore me). I’ve been helped out several times by friendly cyclists too, in particular back when I first started riding and didn’t know how to fix a puncture…
  • The hills. Quote me on that when I commit an entire post to how much my legs ache after a particularly hilly ride.

Things I dislike about cycling on the roads of Sussex:

  • Potholes. Last week I was nearly chucked off my bike by a particularly massive hole in the road.
  • Roadkill. Today I saw one dead fox, one dead badger, and two dead rabbits :-(

I’ll leave it at that for Day 1. Bring on the next 29…