Whilst reading a blog about cycling in New Zealand I came across the tradition of riding all day during the longest day of the year, Summer Solstice. Being the southern hemisphere this is on the 21st of December, where as here in England its the 21st of June. This idea lead us to convince a few other member of Southsea Fixed Gear to set their alarms early and join us for a 04:45 start.
This meant we would have to ‘ride’ every mile, every hill and every decent for the entire day. No coasting, no changing gears, just pushing for the next 16 or so hours!
After meeting at Bike U Like we were on the road as the sun was breaking over the Easterly horizon. There was virtually no cars on the normally busy Eastern Road and we took the time to soak in sun’s warmth.
Off the island we were faced with our old friend Portsdown Hill. This signalled the start of the climbing and gave us a good taste of what was to come.
We road along empty lanes with high hedges and passed through still slipping villages and farms. As we hit the 30 mile mark hunger was setting in.
Unfortunately the town of Alresford was still not open for business and we had to forgo the morning delights of a lovely looking cafe.
From here on in the familiarity waned as the excitement and adventure of riding new roads took over.
It wasn’t until a further 11 miles down the road that we found somewhere for breakfast and although not the idyllic, family run village cafe we were all hoping for the Wheatsheaf Hotel, North Waltham was open and sold food! Half the group opting for full english fry-ups, while the rest of us tucking into a stack of home made vegan flapjacks and bananas. Ben in his wisdom opted for neither and continued his monk like approach to cycling by shunning such distractions as food and water.
By the time we left the sun was well and truly up and there was no hiding from it! After our misadventures in France earlier in the year I had taken no chances and was so prepared I had even brought sun cream along.
From here the route looped out to the West taking in rolling hills, picture postcard thatched villages
We had our first and only major mechanical when Ingrid’s custom made SPD shoes ripped out halfway up a climb, but luckily Arunas and his tools were on hand to fix them up as good as nearly new.
The beautiful roads, stunning countryside, baking sun, endless climbs and fast descents started making us hungry again and after stating what we were looking for in a lunch spot (unpretentious pub, by some water, with large portions of good food for a reasonable price, large ale selection, space for bikes and outdoor seating and some attractive barmaids thrown in for good measure) we were promptly directed just down the road to The Waterfront, Pewsey by some friendly locals.
The lunch stop lived up to most of its claimed attributes and we took the oportunity to rest recover and recharge both our legs and our Garmin’s and phones, as not to lose the all important proof of this adventure.
Just a few miles down the road a huge realisation of just where we were came over me as a wall of downs appeared in front of us emblazoned with a huge chalk horse. In fact the same chalk horse we had seen form a distance a few week’s before while riding back from Bristol.
As we hi-5’ed a peloton of serious looking, but fun loving roadie’s we turned right and started up the long climb.
It was not just all roadie’s and long distance fixed gear riders out though, we also passed families, commuters and even a couple on very heavily laden tourers.
After cresting the Chalk Horse hill we raced down, stopping just long enough to get a picture by the West Kennet Avenue of standing stones and then passing through the town of Avebury, where a huge amount of Solstices revealers had gathered before heading on down to Glastonbury.
The roads became Roman straight with a smaller white horse on a slightly smaller hill in front of us.
The only thing between us and the top was a hugely steep switchback. Ben was the only one of the group to conquer this climb and got a few words of thanks by the cops who followed him up ‘good effort mate, especially on a fixed!’.
The run down was long and steady with the afternoon sun on our backs. We took in yet more magnificent countryside and huge hare’s darting along the field edges. Before regrouping for a cafe stop in the town of Marlborough.
From here we soon joined national cycle route 254 follows part of the Wiltshire Cycleway through the South Wiltshire Downs.
We slogged up one of the steepest climbs of the day, finally admitting defeat within sight of the top.
Back together again we finished our beers, eat some super hot chilly joke sweats, charged our Garmins for the last time and set off through a country estate to Newbury and the hope of catching a train home.
As we arrived, just shy of sunset, we were instantly relieved to find that trains were running and we had just enough time to stock up on booz, crisps and chocolate before our train turned up.
All in all it was a fantastic day and I would strongly advice everyone to give this a go next year. It was all 6 of ours longest ride at 133 miles with a total 6630 ft of climbing 🙂