I really should write a long and memorable post about why cycling the South Downs Ways was such a rewarding experience. But this’ll have to do for now.
It’s worth doing, because you can. Where else can you get to cycle – undisturbed – for over one hundred miles on undisturbed English countryside? Apart from one or two minor encounters with urban sprawl, the scenery is stunning. Breathtaking in fact. Being on the bike means you absorb so much and, mawkish as it may sound, I certainly felt like I knew the route intimately by the end.
That said, a two-day ride is certainly not to be underestimated. In preparation, we put in four or five medium-distance training sessions (25-35 miles each) in the weeks preceding the main event. To be honest, it wasn’t enough and we really should have looked at doing at least forty miles on at least a couple of occasions. We’ve since heard of people who completed the entire distance in 14 hours, yet on the first day, we were only half way (Washington) after 11 hours. Bastards.
Which brings me to the other point: the weather. Be prepared for the worst. We were cursed; Despite picking what we thought was a sensible time of year (first weekend in June), we faced gale force winds and, on the second day this was accompanied by horizontal rain. When the weather is bad, the trip becomes SO much harder. If you can beg, borrow and steal better equipment, do it. I’m talking hi-spec, lightweight, waterproof cycling equipment. It’ll make a big difference.
All in all, this was a truly memorable experience and something I would whole-heartedly recommend to anyone up for a challenge. There’s so many other recommendations I could make (don’t do it in big groups for example) but it I would get even more boring so I’ll leave it at that. I’d love to hear how other people get on. 5 years ago