Perfect Cycling Weather, in November?

Wall to wall sunshine,  no wind,  dry and mild;  it could have been early September. In fact, it was the last Saturday in November! This was perfect cycling weather. No wonder 14 cyclists turned up for the Arlington Figure of Eight ride.

It was great to see so many cyclists which included Andy Lock who had encouraged some cyclists from the Thursday night MTB rides to come along.

This was a level 3 road ride and there hadn’t been one of those for many months. This level of ride is for cyclists who prefer to cycle at a moderate pace,  ie an average cycling speed of 10 mph so slightly less than the touring pace which has become popular with some of our road cyclists.

The Arlington Figure of Eight route has been used many times over the years by Cycle Seahaven cyclists and is ideal for level 3 road rides. The total distance is about 17 miles and,  as the name suggests,  the route comprises two loops. The first loop is virtually flat and the second is slightly hillier.

We gathered in the lay-by opposite Arlington Reservoir,  on the road between Berwick Station and Upper Dicker,  eager to get started. Soon we were cycling to Golden Cross via Chalvington and the solar farm construction site along Lower Wick Street;  there must be thousands of solar panels covering at least two fields!

2014-11-29 Ripe 2

Cyclists at Ripe by the Christmas Tree

After a breather at Golden Cross we cycle to Ripe and spot a magnificent Christmas tree at the junction;  time for a photo!

It isn’t long before we’re back at Arlington Reservoir and,  after a short breather,  embark on the second loop which includes our refreshment stop.

What a nice surprise for the Arlington Tea Gardens when fourteen cyclists descended on them! They did an admirable job in making teas and coffees as well as serving up cakes and scones! Well done to two of our cyclists who brought the orders out on trays whilst the rest of us sat in the garden soaking up the sun’s rays,  chatting about all things cycling. We would probably have sat there until they closed but we had a bike ride to finish. It was only a few miles to cycle via Upper Dicker and we reached the end at Arlington Reservoir just a few minutes after our scheduled end time. Well,  it had been rather pleasant sitting in the tea gardens in late November as if it was a summer’s day.

Another level 3 ride is planned for Saturday 13th December. This one will be the Chiddingly Figure of Eight ride. Details are on the Rides Calendar.

Sunday MTB – Ride Report 30th Nov 2014

Eleven riders set out from the White Lion at 8:15 on a bright and sunny Sunday morning to follow Firle Road all the way to Bopeep ,  where we met up with our twelfth rider. The going was slow due to the very soft conditions (as expected),  so we took plenty of breathers on the way. At BoPeep,  an hour into the ride,  one of our regular riders shared out some homemade orange and brandy flapjacks –  and very nice they were too. After sustenance (as per the nutrition blog) we struck out for Firle Beacon,  which was covered in thick fog. Visibility was very poor but the route was well worn and easy to follow. In dry conditions it’s best to know your way because it’s easy to get lost when the tracks are not so well defined.

Up till now the route had been mostly uphill,  so at the top of Firle Beacon we could look forward to some gentle rolling descents. The fog hid the bright sunshine so it was pretty chilly on this section but we all had warmer gear to put on.  The easier terrain meant we started go gain a bit more pace,  so we were soon at the top of Itford Hill. It’s a shame we couldn’t see the stunning views along the River Ouse from Newhaven to Lewes,  but there’s always next time. The descent of Itford Hill down to Southease is very steep,  so we took it easy on the wet grass and chalk. At the bottom of Itford Hill we crossed the A26 over the wooden bridge that took us to the Courtyard Café for teas and coffee (and maybe a little bit of cake). Two riders had continued onto to catch the train so,  after the second round of sustenance,  the remaining ten returned home via the river bank –  a much easier and flatter ride than the outward journey.

The top of the river banks was easy going (well, compared to the rest of the ride) so we made good time to Piddinghoe where we had to ride a short section on the road. We then cut back onto ‘The Hoe’ (a hidden park with a new children’s play area and tennis courts) and re-joined the river banks to continue to Newhaven. At the boatyards we rode up Elphick Road to link up with Newhaven’s growing cycle network,  where one of the riders departed for home which was nearby. We then rode onto the Ouse Estuary Trail and back to Seaford,  arriving at around noon.

The outward ten miles (mostly climbing) took around two hours. We stayed in the café around 45 minutes (partly my fault for forgetting the code to open the secure bike sheds outside the café) and the return 9 miles took about an hour and 20mins.


Sunday has been alternating between beginner and intermediate,  this ride being intermediate.

What to carry on a bike ride

Your bike is clean and prepared,  you have the right clothes for the weather,  lights,  helmet,  gloves,  and you’re ready to go on a ride. You’ve told someone where you are going and what time you’ll be back,  but what if you have a puncture or some other mishap? Here are some suggestions for the things you may want to take with you:


  • Water
    it’s important to stay hydrated so it’s good to get into the habit of taking on fluids regularly. You can carry a cycle specific water bottle in a ‘cage’ mounted on your bike,  bring a bottle of mineral water bought from a shop,  or use a hydration pack that allows you to sip while you ride.
    Keep your water container clean or you may pick up a tummy bug.
    Check out our cleaning tips: Quick Tip #3
  • Food
    For rides over an hour it’s a good idea to carry a snack to keep your energy levels topped up. A longer ride will require more food. Get some ideas from our blog on the subject:
  • Tools
    You can carry separate tools, like allen (hex) keys and spanners which you may already have in the house. Or you can opt for cycle specific ‘multi-tools’,  which are all-in-one devices like a Swiss army knife for bikes. If you’re thinking of getting one you’ll need to know if it includes the tools that are specific to your bike. As a minimum you’ll need to be able to remove your wheels and tyres to fix punctures. Take your bike to the local bike shop and they can advise what will fit your bike.
  • Puncture repair, spare tube & pump
    Even if you don’t know how to fix a puncture it’s a good idea to carry what you need in case you meet a helpful soul who can help you.

    • Find out what size inner tube fits your bike and carry one as a spare;
    • A puncture repair kit is a sound investment and you should always carry one. Traditional kits include rubber solution (special glue) and patches, while newer versions have self adhesive patches;
    • A pump. Make sure it fits your type of valve.
  • Safety
    Some form of ID,  a credit card and/or some bank notes, a mobile phone. All these can help you out of a fix. Pop them in a sealable plastic bag (freezer bag) or wrap them in cling film to keep them nice and dry.


If you are going a long way without a support vehicle, or you intend to do an epic ride where there are very few shops or people, then you may want to take things that will make you more self sufficient.

  • First Aid
    You can get first aid kits from many places. Include plastic gloves for first aid (and also greasy repairs on the bike) and sterile wipes for cleaning cuts and your hands.
    Consider also adding an antihistamine for bites and stings and a space blanket to keep warm if you get seriously stuck.
  • Whistle
    If you get really stuck somewhere remote and away from a road a whistle is the great way to get attention. Six good long blasts for an emergency. Also good if you have a puncture and you’re at the back – three long blasts should get some attention.
  • Suncream
    You’ll be glad of it when you’re stuck in the same riding position, exposing the same part of your body (neck, ears, one arm) to the sun for a long time
  • Anti histamine or sting cream
    For hay fever, nettles or insect bites. These come in various guises from tablets & ammonia pens to gels & creams.
  • Cable Ties
    A couple of these don’t weigh much and can fix an amazing number of problems, including (at a push) a snapped chain.
  • Duct Tape
    Easily carried when wrapped around your pump, and fixes an amazing array of problems. See Quick Tip #2
  • Toilet paper
    Doesn’t weight much and can be used for many cleaning duties,  including the obvious. Pack it in a waterproof sealable bag (sandwich or freezer bags work well).
  • Master link
    Also called a Quick-Link, it’s a special link that can be used to fix a broken chain. They come in different sizes depending on how many gears you have (chains get narrower the more gears you have). Bear in mind you may need a special “chain breaker” tool, shown below…
  • Chain Breaker
    Sometimes you get this special tool as part of a multi-tool, or you may need to buy one separately. It’s used to (partly) push out the pins of a chain so you can split it open and re-join it. Handy for removing damaged parts of a chain and joining it back up again (or replacing a broken section with a few spare links you just happen to be carrying). A chain can often be re-joined with a few links missing – at least until you get home. Carry a few Master Links (Quick Links) or even some short sections of spare chain (if you replace the chain you often have a spare bit left over, which is handy for running repairs).
  • Map
    Much more reliable than a smartphone if you get stuck. You may know exactly where you are going but a map may highlight some interesting options you’d never considered before,  or a quicker way home if you get in trouble.
  • Tyre Boot
    A ‘tyre boot’ is a shop bought patch to temporarily repair a torn/split tyre so you can at least get home. You take part of the tyre off and slip in the ‘boot’ to cover the hole. Without it your repaired inner tube will poke through the split/hole in the tyre, expand like bubble gum then pop.
    You can also cut the top and bottom off a toothpaste tube and cut it open along one side to make a square of strong and pliable plastic, or use a section cut from a plastic milk carton, or even a section cut from an old tyre. The new plastic £5 note is also quite sturdy, and so are the wrappers from gels or bars. All will block the slit/hole so you can ride home.
  • Mech Hanger
    A small piece of metal that connects your rear gear changer (mech) to your frame. It’s designed to be a weak point to protect expensive parts – it breaks so that your frame or mech doesn’t. They come in lots of different sizes so you’ll need to make sure you get the right one. Your local bike shop can advise.

Riding with kids

  • Disposable wipes
    Great for cleaning up after an ice cream or a fall. Also good for cleaning your hands after putting a chain back on.
  • More Drinks and Snacks
    As a reward or a bribe you can’t go wrong with treats. Try to mix simple and complex carbs to give them both short term and long term energy.

Do you have any other ideas?  Leave a comment below or use our CONTACT page. We’d love to hear from you.

Quick tip #3

Use a tablespoon of Baking Soda (also known as Bicarb or Sodium Bicarbonate) mixed with a pint of hot water to clean or freshen up your drinking bottles and hydration bladders, especially if you use additives and energy drinks.

Milton or baby bottle sterilisation tablets are cheap to buy and will help make your drinking kit hygienic. Follow up with the above Baking Soda tip to get rid of lingering odours and leave a pleasant freshness.


Quick tip #1  Quick tip #2

Nutrition for cyclists – where to start

If you ride for longer than 90 minutes in one go then you start to use up your body’s store of easily accessible fuel – glycogen. Rather than go into the chemistry and biology of what’s going on,  I thought I’d share my personal tips for keeping energy levels topped up –

  • Before the ride eat a mixture of simple and complex carbohydrates. I like a breakfast of porridge with raisins or blueberries. Whole wheat toast and fruit/bananas are also very good. I’ve had excellent results from Belvita and Weetabix breakfast biscuits. For particularly long rides (6 hours or more) try topping up with bucket loads of pasta and other carbs one or two days before the ride.
  • About 90 minutes into the ride it’s a good idea to eat a few hundred calories. Some raisins, a banana or a commercially produced ‘energy bar’. Keep taking on small amounts at least every half hour. Eat too much and you could get stomach cramps or that bloated feeling.  An alternative to energy bars are flapjacks (Tesco’s tray bake are my favourite). You can also put energy powder in your drink, so you take on fluids and calories at the same time. If you are on a very long or fast ride then start to take on calories after 45 minutes,  and keep snacking regularly.
  • After the ride it’s best to take on lean protein to help your muscles recover. Chicken, an omelette or a tuna sarnie are great. Eat protein as soon as you can after the ride – within half an hour if possible.

Every body is different,  so you need to see what suits you best. Try a few options and gauge how you feel during the ride,  after the ride,  and a few days later. It takes a lot of trial and error so don’t expect it to find the ideal formula immediately. There is a lot of advice on the internet so do a spot of research and  find out a few combinations that suit you.

Here’s a few ideas for food I like to to take on a ride:

  • Malt loaf. Squidgy energy goodness. I can’t eat much of this as it doesn’t agree with me when riding, but I’ll carry a few slices for variety on very long rides (over 6 hours). You may find it ideal;
  • Flapjacks. Mmmm. Shop bought ones are cheaper and more convenient (got to mention Tescos again) but home made ones allow you to experiment. There are plenty of recipes out there and you can include fruit and nuts, coconut, almond and cherries, apricot and mixed nuts (my favourite, if you’re bring some along), whatever takes your fancy;
  • Trail mix. This is a shop-bought or a home made concoction of dried fruit, nuts and cereals. All dry and lose on a bag for snacking on. Again, there are plenty of recipes out there. Lidl do a nice granola mix you can eat straight out of the bag – good for making flapjacks with, too;
  • Fruit or bananas. A classic favourite, but they can get bruised when riding off road or long distances;
  • Sandwiches. Go with your favourites and see which makes you feel stronger for longer;
  • Biscuits. Kids love ’em too, but they do tend to get turned to a bag of crumbs. Fig rolls are ideal as they stay in one piece;
  • Energy bars/drinks/gels/sachets. Mr Cycles stocks a range of energy products. You can buy them in singles and they have a long shelf life, making them easy to try out;
  • EZ Fuel energy bars. My favourite because they are simply dried fruit and oats. They don’t squash or deform in my pack, and they have a long shelf life. They also suit my digestion, they are relatively cheap, and I love the taste. I buy these in bulk and always carry two;

Mix it up,  too. You’ll get bored with the same old option week in,  week out. This is especially true on very long rides where you will crave variety. Hopefully you will soon find a few trusty favourites.

I’ll say it again – try things for yourself to see what your body likes and dislikes, and see how you feel. What suits one person may not suit another. Got some energy bars you don’t like or can’t stomach? Try swapping them with another rider to see if their choices make you feel superhuman.



You should also keep hydrated – drink before you feel thirsty. Sip water throughout the ride; this is where a hydration pack makes things easier – these are rucksacks with a built-in water bottle and drinking tube,  allowing you to sip while you ride – especially good if you have your energy drink added to your water. I tend not to use these except for very long rides – for me, a kilo or two of water is a lot of additional weight on my back (I prefer the weight on the bike frame in a bottle),  but it’s the best way to keep drinking while on the move. Again,  it’s a personal choice and you should always try things for yourself. Your local bike shop can show you some excellent options.


I hope this gives you a good idea of what to try.


Got a favourite we haven’t mentioned? We’d love to hear from you…

Sunday MTB – Ride Report 16th Nov 2014

Eight riders set off from the White Lion for a scenic ride along the South Downs Way. The first 5-miles was a steady climb up to the car park at Bo-peep, before turning right (East) towards Alfriston. The views from the top were stunning. We could see cliffs, the sea, forest and open fields from our vantage point, stretching out over Cuckmere Haven, Seaford, Newhaven, Firle, Arlington, Berwick and Alfriston. After a breather to admire the view we carried along the South Downs Way (SDW) and dropped into Alfriston down Kings Ride. This rugged and steep chalk road deserves respect, so we took it slowly and carefully. Safely at the bottom we crossed the road past The Star Inn and continued along the SDW to the bridge over the River Cuckmere. A short steep climb took us to the Church of the Good Shepherd at Lullington, a 16′ x 16′ church hidden away in lovely countryside – well worth a visit. After quick stop for a breather and group photo we walked to the end of the footpath to join up with the road at Chapel Hill to enjoy a fast coast down the road to Littlington. We rode along the Littlington Road (NCN2) all the way back to Exceat Hill, where we took the alternative MTB route back into Seaford using quiet roads and back ways. With only a brief half-hearted rain shower and light winds we had a cracking ride with great company.

The total time including stops was 3hours and we covered 15 miles.


Up on the Downs, overlooking Newhaven and Seaford

Up on the Downs, overlooking Newhaven and Seaford

Catching a breather at Lullington Church

Catching a breather at Lullington Church

The final climb up Exceat - NCN(2)

The final climb up Exceat – NCN(2)

Sunday beginner – ride report

Our ride on Sunday 9th November was a 6-mile circumnavigation of Seaford, using quiet roads and bridleways. Starting at the Martello Tower eight of us rode eastwards along National Cycle Network 2. At the top of Exceat Hill we crossed over to Stirling Avenue where we got our first puncture – Brilliant! I’d been waiting for this to happen so I could demonstrate how practice can make puncture repairs relatively easy. The puncture was fixed nice and quickly and we checked the inside of the tyre for sharp objects; we also checked the tube for a second puncture. What do you know – there was a second hole in the tube. This often happens, so it’s well worth checking for multiple holes. Both punctures were repaired using self adhesive patches and an offending thorn was removed from the tyre. We set off again up the bridleway to towards the Alfriston Road. At this point we had the option of heading back into town but the group were OK to carry on, so we continued heading North along the boundary to Rathfinny Farm. Before we got there we had another puncture. We couldn’t have planned this better – what a great way to consolidate what we’d learned from the previous experience. This time we fixed the puncture with patches and rubber solution while talking about the options to prevent punctures: puncture resistant tyres; placing kevlar or plastic barriers between the tyre and tube; self-sealing gloop; don’t ride over thorns. The second puncture was rapidly fixed so we continued to the top of Blatchington Golf Course before taking the long descent to the top of Firle Road and back home.

Next weeks Sunday ride is an intermediate route of 13-miles, mostly off-road on grass and bridleway. Allow two and a half hours. Details, as always, are in the calendar.

Thursday Pub Ride Report – 6th Nov

On Thursday 6th November eleven of us rode out from The White Lion, across the A259 and down to the seafront via Claremont road. Our ride along the Ouse Estuary Trail (no street lights) to Newhaven was great fun in the dark. There was a definite chill in the air, a reminder to wear warmer clothes and gloves. On arrival to The Hope Inn we were surprised to see a very large swing band, taking up about a third of the bar. After a bit of foot-tapping, some lively conversation and a quick drink we unlocked our bikes for the return journey via the west Quay. As this route is very flat and mostly off-road it’s become another favourite for our beginner rides. The next Thursday ride is to The Engineer via Bishopstone Village.