A day out on Chalk.
Its about Twenty miles there and back along the South Downs Way, I didn't have strava to tell me the exact mileage, or how slow I was compared to someone else, and besides my legs and lungs told me the elevation was steep and there was lots of it. I do get the point of Strava if your training, competing, progressing but this ride was about enjoying the vistas below, the woodland and the downland towards the sea, and stopping to take it in; far more important to me than setting a personal best, sometimes its just really nice to go half the speed and have some memories stored, thats what I was seeking. Obviously going downhill has its own different set of rules as I want to do this as fast as possible and looking ahead is mandatory 'Strava or No' as they would say in Cornwall.
My ride started out as simple session, practicing my gravity skills on the loose chalky trails above Steyning, nestled within the woodland between two bridle paths. I'd written about these before, and will again, but can't speak highly enough about the hard work and time that has been invested in this area. After one run I found myself walking/riding back up, and I simply continued riding West. Such an enjoyable ride with views for miles, a few fast little descents and with a perfect pint as a treat at a beautiful pub next to the river Arun.
I headed home knowing I had two pretty big climbs ahead. There first was the one back up from Amberly, and with a pint on board, this was going to be tough, but actually I surprised myself winding my way up through a restricted farm access trail which provided a view of a stunning piece of farmland. Once atop the downs it undulates quite nicely so I got my pace up a little, occassionally stopping to chat to walkers and other riders. The other climb was so much harder and confess I walked the steepest part of it. From the A24 at Washington, it kind of heads up, up and away, but it was so loose with chalk and flint it was tough to get traction. When I was tearing down earlier, all I could think was that later that day, I have to go back up that beast!
In my life of growing up, walking and cycling around Steyning, just beneath the South Downs, I'm ashamed to say I'd only ever ridden short sections, usually seeking out the downhill runs, and never have I ridden the entire ninety odd miles from one end of the South Downs, to the other but this foray has now firmly placed that journey in my 'things to do riding a bike' list. But I'd like to take my time, no 24hr speed race, a steady 4-5 days, 25 miles a day, pubs stays, or quaint B&B, good Ale, local food, and filling the tank on a hearty full english breakfast, ready for the day ahead. Possibly even free camping along the way, now there's an idea.
So on my return to Steyning I simply could not resist one last full run from top to bottom on my favourite trail called Twister. Veering off the well trodden path, of the South Downs Way, I pointed my bike downhill, and laid off the brakes as much as I could, hitting each turn and jump as smoothly as possible until the bottom. This is when I need Strava!
What a great way to end a day out on the bike. When I got back to the tent, a cup of tea and three donuts later, and this Chunky Brother was happily content with a perfect day outdoors.