Despite the recent wet weather Sunday morning was dry and much warmer than anticipated even though there was a strong westerly wind. We set off in force with 6 members of Southsea Fixed Gear, but after 25 miles Jesse, Tony and Ingrid turned for home due to work and family commitments. Leaving just Ben, Kirill and myself (Andy) with the remaining 125 miles.
Being such a nice morning it was no surprise that the The Sustainability Centre’s Beech Cafe was packed with some very cliché riders. There was the shaved leg wannabe racer, the overweight but I’m still going to wear full Lycra MAMIL and the cycle geeks discussing the pros and cons of caps vs bandanas.
Ben, and in no way t-total Kirill, shunned the usual cyclists drink of choice, coffee, in place of his preferred fuel, beer. In this case a Stroud Brewery award winning organic English pale ale called Budding. While I opted for some vegan ginger cake and washed it down with some refreshing apple and elderflower juice, classy!
It wasn’t just us and the club roadies out either as Wiggle had a sportive in the South Downs the same day, but despite all the signs we only saw a few of the competitors riding the opposite way. Mind you they must have come a fair old way as they were all in rain jackets compared to our shorts and t’s.
With 50 miles on the clock and after riding some very sketchy roads looping around above Petersfield I felt the air go out of my front tire. Luckily it happenened by a local shop so the guys stocked up on ice creams and haircuts while I got it fixed eventually, after stripping the valve out on the first attempt 🙁
After hitting the most northerly point of the route we headed the last few miles south through some lovely countryside to the village of Milland and their fantastic Store and Cafe, a real gem for anyone cycling in the South Downs. After blowing the staffs minds that anyone would cycle this far on any bike let alone one with just one gear and no freewheel we were treated to a feast of fresh local goodness including another local brew. this time it was appropriately named 6% Heart of Hampshire courtesy of Mr Whiteheads Cider Company. We left after confirming to some other riders that no we were in fact not bike messengers and yes you can get up hills without gears!
The next 30 miles would wind us through the center of the downs and end in the small village of Compton, a favorite destination of ours for mid week rides. However this leg of the journey did not go to plan. A combination of the surprising heat, constant hills, headwinds and lack of food started to take its toll on me and after seeing Ben and Kirill sprint race another hill I was feeling flat and more than a bit sick. However as I caught them up at the top it was clear Kirill was also feeling the pressure as he got off his bike to collapse on some lush grass.
The sight reminded Ben that he was still feeling fine, probably linked to not getting drunk the night before a big ride for the first time in EVER! After finishing the last of our food and water we continued planning to stop at the next pub we could fine. The bad news was there were no pubs, just the longest climb of the day up Harting Down!
After a quick detour along a short stretch of The South Downs Way we rolled down the Compton and our original planned pub stop. Only the pub was shut along with the cafe, Bad times 🙁
With the devastating realization that no one was having a beer here we decided to split from our planned route and pushed on the the next village, West Marden, in search of an open pub. We were delighted to find that the Victoria Inn was open, but was no longer serving food. However the land lady took pity on Kirill and whiped him up a cheese baguette and apple and custard crumble from the left overs out the back, while Ben and I tucked into a few bags of crisps and sank a couple of pints of Langham Brewery’s HipHop ale.
After Kirill demolished this meal he took a well earned rest, lying down over 3 chairs and promptly fell asleep.
Clearly he was in no fit state to continue and we had to call in the support team aka Vicki to come pick him and his bike up (thanks again Vicki!).
This just left the two of us and although I would have been happy to sack the rest of the ride off and just go directly home at this point Ben was having none of it! So we quickly put a new route and plan together and set off first south to Westbourne before heading east to Chichester and looping back along the Emsworth road and national cycle route 2. I finally found a shop and drained a Banana & Strawberry smoothie while Ben tucked into a few pork pies. With a few more bananas in the jersey pocket we set off on the last 13 miles home.
The notorious Eastern Road headwind was blowing as strong as ever, but we were soon back in the city and in sight of home. By the end we were feeling flat due to not completing the challenge we had set ourselves, but new we would be back for another attempt soon. I for one was glad to be done for the day, while Ben was still keen for a few seafront laps!