Right on our door step is the longest National Trail in the country: The South Downs Way. Everyone talks about riding it, three days, two days, one or even there and back! The gentle rolling nature of the Downs belies the true toughness of this trail. I have decided to get to know it before I try riding it all the way. It’s a beast. Sunday I rode to Stanmer Park, met some friends, shared some single track and a coffee and then rode back. I found the journey back easier than the journey out. I suppose the wind and some food helped.
Usually I ride “nice” trails seeking out anything single track and smooth or, as you may know, cruising down country lanes on my road bike. There are two things that make the South Downs Way stand out for me. The first is just how bumpy it is. This is exacerbated by the fact that a lot of it is fast. The second is how it can get the better of you. Beating it is all in the mind. I left home thinking that it would be easy riding to Stanmer but every hill seemed longer or harder than expected. Riding back and starting up high from Ditching Beacon I thought that all I had was two long climbs and I’d be home. You have to have a positive mental attitude because there is one other thing about that South Downs Way, it is relentless and always fools you. There is always another valley and subsequent climb – I’d forgotten about Newtimber Hill but as I was feeling positive and the sun and wind were on my back I pretty well dismissed the climb up from the Adur as nothing more than a slight rise. I’ve got a lot to do before I have a go at the whole thing. I know that I stopped, chatted, rode single track, etc but my average speed is worryingly low if I want to do the SDW quickly!
It was the first ride this year out of winter boots and I swapped tights for knee warmers but despite the sun I still needed my trusty Gore AlpX zip-off soft shell jacket.
I had a chance in Stamner to get to grips with my new tyres: Continental X-Kings. The
conditions were perfect and I felt that I was cornering better than ever with those tyres and my Kinesis FF29. My mates may not have been impressed but I sure felt safe whipping through the turns with hardly a dab of the brakes all the way. The tyres are sorted, lots of grip yet still fast rolling. I have fixed the slipping seat post with a Thompson seat clamp, now I know why it is 4 times the price of the original. I think that I have almost got the FF29 perfectly set up. All I need now is a saddle….. and the legs!