South Downs Way – A wake up call

This morning I headed off on the train to get to know the first part of the South Downs Way. I was full of optimism. That didn’t last! As the ride was going to be a lot shorter than the whole thing I thought I would ride is as fast as I could. I may have started well but faded really badly. I actually finished the ride is a far worse state the when I have ridden the whole thing. I even got my nutrition wrong! Over confident??

Wake up call!

I am hoping that I am still tired from my mountain walking and that my PT session on Wednesday evening was just too hard. If those excuses are wrong then I have a real problem looming on the 15th July.

As for my 30 minute buffer I’ll never get that as gaining that time was easy when riding in a group at an average of 17 kph. At a 19 kph average I am pretty close to maximum already so I only had about 10 minutes at QECP, 5 minutes at A285 and nothing spare at Amberley Mount. I even walked the main part of Amberley Mount. I have never done that before.

I don’t know what sort of visualising I can do to get over such poor form. Who believes in crossing fingers?

Here’s the ride.

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South Downs Way – final prep

As is usual the calendar has rolled by and I’ve run out of time to improve my strength and fitness. I don’t seem to have done the miles that I usually do. Let’s hope that less ok more holds true. I have, however, dotted just about all of the “Is” and crossed all of the “Ts” in preparation.
The major things were my break off the bike , the Scott Spark RC 900 World Cup and the personal trainer (it worked for N1NO). I’ve worked on nutrition and even tested shorts. Tyres have been changed for tougher versions as what is the point of having the fastest wheels if you puncture? I’ve got a better helmet Scott Centric and even got a K-Edge Garmin mount.
There is one thing that I have been doing for month’s and that is to visualise every climb and section. I used to do this as a windsurfer and I know it works. I’d visualise a manoeuvre sometimes for month’s before the day arrived with the right wind and waves.

I’d seen my toes, knees, the droplets of water on my thigh, the spray in my face, the sun, the muscle pain in my arms….. everything in HD slo-mo perfection. Each time no matter how hard I’d pull it off. No problem. Job done.
I’m doing the same with the South Downs Way. I run through every bit on the OS map or Google Earth. Nothing will faze me on the day, no climb too long or too steep. However, I do not know the first section: Winchester to QECP. All I know is it’s the fastest and easiest bit where I can make up a 30 minute safety buffer. It is also an add on so it lacks the flow of the rest that follows the spine of the South Downs. It’s poorly marked, zig-zags all over the place and it is easy to take a wrong turn. I don’t get it. So today I’m getting the train over to ride it. Then I will be able to “visualise “ and ensure my 30 minute buffer without wasting any energy need for the finish.

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Do you cycle on the pavement?

Cycling on the pavement

Cycling on the pavement

Do you cycle on the pavement? I do. Sometimes I just want to enjoy my ride home without the fear that it might be my last. West Sussex may lack cycling infrastructure but it has plenty of pavements. You may have noticed that people of all ages and gender are cycling on Worthing’s pavements. Get near a school or college and the numbers shoot up. There is a good reason for this.

West Sussex County Council, to its credit, has been running Bikeability (previously Cycle Proficiency) for all year 6 or 7 children. Good news you may think. However, none of these children are allowed to ride on the roads. Most adults, parents, teachers, school governors and Councillors all agree that the roads of West Sussex towns are far too dangerous for year 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, in fact all children to cycle on. The County continues to push cycle training in its recent Walking and Cycling Strategy 2016 – 2026. As a consequence we have several generations of children that have grown up only having ridden on the pavement. Some of these children are now parenting their own would be pavement cyclists.

I am based near Worthing College which has a fantastic cycle path that goes as far as to

girl child on a bike

40% of children in Denmark cycle to school

cover a good 50% of the circumference of the Warren Road roundabout. The students do not seem to realise this and so cycle on the pavements feeding onto or off the aforementioned cycleway. This prompted me to attend the first meeting of the recently elected councillors to West Sussex County Council and put a question to the CLC meeting (County Local Committee).  WSCC has a very good Walking and Cycling Strategy for the next 10 years but has no time frame, budget or, from what I have heard, no will by the councillors to action it.

This was my question: “Does the council welcome the increased use of the pavements in Worthing by cyclists and does it accept that West Sussex County Council’s tolerance to parking on the pavements could cause conflict? If there is not a policy to allow pavement parking why is it so prevalent in Worthing?”

The answer came in two parts. First to be answered was, of course, the car bit. The councillors said that they had no powers to prevent pavement parking unless there was a parking restriction such as a double or single yellow line. They then said that if there was a parking restriction they lacked the resource to police the restrictions. Here is the Catch 22, if they increased the numbers of enforcement officers, first Worthing could become an undesirable town to visit and second, if the enforcement officers were successful in preventing illegal parking then there would be no fines and with no fine income there would be no budget to pay for the enforcement officers. The enforcement department is self financing! Catch 22.

Then came the issue of cycling. Mike Thomas from WSCC Highways quoted that Cycling on footways (a path at the side of a carriageway) is prohibited by Section 72 of the Highway Act 1835, amended by Section 85(1) of the Local Government Act 1888. This is punishable by a fixed penalty notice of £30 under Section 51 and Schedule 3 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988.

He went on the add that on 1st August 1999, new legislation came into force to allow a fixed penalty notice to be served on anyone who is guilty of cycling on a footway. However the Home Office issued guidance on how the new legislation should be applied, indicating that they should only be used where a cyclist is riding in a manner that may endanger others. The then Home Office Minister Paul Boateng issued a letter stating that:

“The introduction of the fixed penalty is not aimed at responsible cyclists who sometimes feel obliged to use the pavement out of fear of traffic and who show consideration to other pavement users when doing so. Chief police officers, who are responsible for enforcement, acknowledge that many cyclists, particularly children and young people, are afraid to cycle on the road, sensitivity and careful use of police discretion is required.”

I then reminded the Councillors of my question, “Does the Council welcome the increased use of pavements by cyclists.

Mike Thomas said we can’t say “welcome”, so I asked again, do you condone it? His reply was, “We can’t condone but………” I read between the lines.

It was pretty clear to me with the 9 local County Councillors there and the Highways Officer that West Sussex accepts that the people of Worthing can and will cycle on the pavement. This is not a victory at all as pedestrians have priority and the right to feel safe on their pavements. It merely highlights the problem that the town, county and country has in prioritising the car over people in urban areas.

For more information on the very complicated issue of cycling on foot paths go to Bikehub.

Why do I bother? To highlight the failings of West Sussex County Council in protecting its voters and our urban spaces because of its continued emphasis on car travel whatever the cost.



Posted in 20s Plenty or Worthing, Commuting, Cycling in Worthing, Road Traffic Accidents | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

South Downs Way – getting prepared

South Downs Way Bignor looking East

South Downs Way Bignor looking East

I have ridden the South Downs way once on 1989 and then over the last 4 years. Each time I just turned up and rode on natural fitness. Sometimes I prepared for it by tyre choice or weight reduction; but nothing really special. This time I am being a bit more thoughtful. I have definitely crossed a few more Ts and dotted even more Is.

I finished last year in pretty good shape following our 1000 miler over 10 days . This year really began last November when I took three weeks off. Although essential, it’s fair to say that this was an easy part of the plan. I was on holiday. December and January were easy too. My usual approach to riding, because I enjoy it, is to ride fast all the time. However, that doesn’t make you quicker and for this summer’s ride I need to be faster and stronger.

Slowly the efforts increased. I took on a personal trainer Sussexfit who worked on my leg power, core and upper body. I first noticed the benefit of this in mountain bike racing.  I suppose it was the equivalent in motoring of flicking on the nitrous switch: instant power! My motivation here was both my wife (I train with her) and Nino Schurter (gym sessions). I’m old enough to be his Dad and yet he really inspired me. With the extra power came faster rides and combined with my natural endurance things got tough. So here comes the next aspect to my training: the easy rides or the rest days. I started to take them seriously. Less is definitely more. Much to my disappointment I had to drop out of the Tuesday Night Thrash.  Some weeks I am completely knackered each and every day as the gym and Sunday rides are so tough and, whilst there are benefits to being older (lighter, endurance), recovery takes a lot longer.

I am going to be ready. It’s all coming together. I mentioned weight before referring to the equipment and I still have a few grams that I can shave off here and there but I never spend on weight reducing gear without matching it in my own weight, no special diet but just better choices. I weighed myself a week ago and seem to have lost two kilos, that would be impossible to lose on the bike.

Scott Spark RC 900 WC first ride

Scott Spark RC 900 WC first ride

They say “it’s not about the bike” but in my case it is. My Scott Spark RC 900 WC is light, 10.28kgs but the real benefit is the suspension. I looked back on previous SDW rides and tried to see where I was losing time. It was on the flat easy sections. If you are riding a hard tail at speed your body gets smashed to bits on these “easy” bits. The Spark was bought to ease this pain. On the super technical, twisty, rooty, out of the saddle climbing Gorricks the Spark opened my eyes as to just how much faster a full suspension bike is compared to a hard tail. Roll on July!


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Wilier Cento 1 SR customer review

Wilier Cento 1 SR

Andy’s Wilier Cento 1 SR Custom – fastest bike on the planet!

Wilier Cento1SR is it the best bike on the planet? – Andy Monk thinks so. He’s doing an Ironman later in the year and bought the Wilier to help him improve his time.

“I’m sure we could all debate which set of wheels could take the above accolade ……… but what nobody can dispute is the way that a bike makes you (me) feel – and the Cento 1SR makes me feel faster than any bike I’ve ridden before – and Strava says the same. I collected my Cento1 SR from Quest Adventure one week ago and have been ‘head over heels’ ever since – it’s a new bike after all.”

Read the rest of Andy’s glowing report on the Quest Adventure blog.

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Are you proud to be British?

Wet ride on Greatham road

The rain finally eased up

Yesterday morning I needed all the courage and motivation that I could find. The thermometer read 5°C, the wind was howling and the rain was lashing down. I rolled down the road with it stinging my face to meet my brother. He was late so I took refuge in a bus shelter hoping he would not turn up. Unfortunately he did and was not about to turn back. We headed west with the south-south-westerly doing its best to put is off. Littlehampton, Arundel, Whiteways, Coldwaltham all rolled by and the precipitation gradually stopped. In fact, inside our protective layers of waterproof tights and jackets we were actually warm, enjoying ourselves and really happy to be out. Living in the ever changing climate of this country I felt proud to be British.

That Sunday morning, early and in those weather conditions you can imagine that the roads were really quiet. Very few vehicles passed us in either direction. So it baffles me that despite the lack of traffic three drivers should chose to pass us so close that we could almost feel the swish of their wing mirrors. Why? Is it a British thing? Last year we rode 1,600kms through France and Spain and one, yes, one vehicle in 10 days made a close pass! What is more, some of the roads we were on were busy national routes. Yesterday 50kms, no traffic and three desperately close passes!

Are we proud to be unique among European countries in our approach to other road users?

Wet ride

Joe with waterproof jacket and tights – you don’t need them often but when you do they are a life saver.

To make matters worse this aspect of British culture is amplified in West Sussex and, worse still, Worthing. Despite the county having double the number of KSI (Killed or Seriously Injured) compared to other counties and Worthing with five times as many as Brighton (five times the size) the County Councillors all still think that prioritising motor vehicles over other forms of transport is the way ahead. If you don’t believe me ask your local County Councillor (find your councillor here). Of course there are many that will answer you with some wonderfully motivating rhetoric but do not be fooled. Ask them what tangible thing the County has done for cyclist in recent years; and I don’t mean the odd leisure routes in the countryside. With the attitude of the government and in particular our current group of County and Borough Councillors towards motor vehicle use it is unlikely that British culture will change in my life time. In fact if the elected members of our governing bodies have their way my life time could me a matter of weeks. My father is 88 and still playing tennis. I want to beat him in the old blokes fitness competition. Let’s hope that I can.

Are you really proud to be British?

For crying out! Kids can’t even cycle school. What sort of a country is this?

Get more news and views from us on our Quest Adventure blog on the website.

P.S. If you are a county or borough councillor or are a friend of one and you disagree with the sentiment expressed here, let me know what has been done for Sussex cyclists and I will make sure that they are publicised all over the web and social media.

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When you feel that magic… Scott Spark RC 900 WC review

Steyning Downland MTB board

Steyning Downland MTB board

This was my second ride on my new Scott Spark RC 900 World Cup. The first was on a very wet and muddy trip following the South Downs Rough Ride route. I couldn’t really draw any conclusions from that other then it was a bit more comfortable than my Scott Scale 900 SL hard tail and about the same weight (10.2kgs). I had the shock set too firm, it needs at least 25% sag which is what I have now. The first thing about the next ride was that it was dry, still slippery, but none of the mud so as you can see from the pictures, cleaning only took a bucket and a half!

I headed up to Chanctonbury and Steyning with the motivation that to justify riding a World Cup bike I need to be able to jump. As the conditions were good the first thing that I noticed with the Spark was that it accelerated like my carbon wheeled Scale. It felt like a road bike when you’ve lashed out on a £1500 set of wheels. It was a joyful experience knocking off the Cissbury single track and then run up to the South Downs Way. I dived straight into the Lion Trail, whipped through the first few turns and then went down hard. I was looking way down the trail so have no idea why the front wheel slipped out so fast. I let some air out of the front tyre and enjoyed the rest of my warm up down to Mouse Lane.

Scott Spark RC 900 WC

Scott Spark RC 900 WC

I took the long climb to the top of the Steyning Horse Shoe woods. To this point I had not had any reason to use the Twinloc lever nor did I need it for this exhausting climb. Scott and riders make a big deal of this feature but I could not see the point. I rode the Blue run and then played around the Reds having a poor attempt at getting air. I need help. It was nice to feel arm pump on our local patch but the successive climbs took a toll and my legs got tired.

It was with great joy and excitement that I saw all the new information boards and markers explaining and directing all users of this beautiful part of the Downs. Congratulations and thanks must go to the Wiston Estate, The Steyning Downland Scheme (or Society) and all the Steyning Mountain Biking trail builders (even if they do say “No 29ers” Ha, ha). Well done! Awesome job! To you who left your rubbish by the look out: don’t be so selfish – take your crap home and chuck around your own house.

Scott Spark made for singletrack

Scott Spark RC 900 WC, made for single track – up or down

Up to now the Spark had performed well but it really could have been any good light XC bike. I left the woods via Squirmy Rooter – the trail that runs around the rim of the Horseshoe. The Spark took off and flew. I’ve ridden this hundreds of time but never like yesterday. The Spark head angle is a slack 68.5°. Only a few years ago this would have seemed cutting edge on a trail bike. Oh how XC racing has changed. The confidence that the head gave and the active suspension meant  the bike felt as if it was on rails. It’s so light that jumping roots on corners was a breeze;  the bike could be floated up at will. The best way that I can describe my run was as if I was having a perfect blast through fresh snow (on skis). You feel as if you are flying. That’s when I felt the magic. I now understood all the effort that had gone into making this bike the Olympic Gold winner that it is. It is everything that I want out of a bike. It’s dynamite as an XC climbing machine and as much fun as any trail bike that I’ve ridden. Don’t bother checking my Strava time. It shows 15:50. Do your Instagram before the segment starts!

I described the spec in my previous review so this one is all about handling. I still think that I’d be happier on Racing Ralphs. I know that I get accused of being over excitable but this really is the best mountain bike that I have ever ridden. Why or why have I been such a hard tail fanatic? Finally, the Twinloc, it is very useful when sprinting or attacking a climb out of the saddle. The bike’s suspension is designed to be active over small bumps (the exact opposite of an Epic) which is fine when seated on a climb or flat but if you stand and want to get aggressive with your pedalling the Twinloc comes into its own. It’s like having two bikes rolled into one.

I’m happy. Now to get training and learn how to jump. Roll on the South Downs Way!


Posted in 29ers, Mountain biking, Riding faster, Scott Spark, South Downs Way, Steyning mountain biking | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment