Heather cycles across Iowa

It was good to see Heather back on our touring rides. She’s recently been in America to cycle across the state of Iowa with 20,000 other cyclists.

Heather was taking part in RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa), which is an annual non-competitive cycle ride organized by the ‘Des Moines Register’ (the daily newspaper for Des Moines, the capital of Iowa). The ride started in Orange City on the Missouri at the western border of Iowa and finished, six days later, at Lansing on the Mississippi at the eastern edge of the state.

The total distance cycled was 423 miles with 11,323 feet of climbing but Heather reckons that the greatest challenge came from the heat. She set off each day by 6.00am at the latest to arrive at the campsite by midday, thereby avoiding the worst of the heat. Yes, Heather was camping but she didn’t have to carry a tent with her on the bike!

She almost didn’t start the event. Her bike was damaged on the plane going to America, bent rear derailleur, but she was able to get it repaired in time.

Well done Heather. Nice Ragbrai cycling jersey!

Happy cycling,

Clive

Warning: Resurfacing of Lower Wick Street

Lower Wick Street has just been resurfaced between the junction with Station Rd near Arlington Reservoir and a point about 25 metres past Langtye Lane in the direction of Chalvington. The road surface is covered with loose chippings which are hazardous to cyclists for two reasons: loss of grip, especially on a road bike with narrow tyres, and the risk of being hit by chippings flicked up by passing vehicles.

It’s a stretch of road that the tourers use frequently but Dave Sutton and I have decided that over the next couple of weeks we won’t be using it. We will re-assess the state of the road in about a fortnight and report back

For now, it’s best avoided.

Safe cycling,

Clive

More Refreshment Stops

The Refreshment Stops map has recently been updated with a couple more café stops in Sussex and seven in Seine-Maritime. I’ve decided to start adding some in France as I know that some Cycle Seahaven cyclists hop across the Channel to Dieppe for a bit of cycling in the Seine-Maritime départment and, of course, some continue to Paris.

This map may be of use to anyone who is planning a ride and looking for somewhere to stop for a rest and some nourishment. All the stops on this map, mostly cafes, I’ve found to be cyclist friendly. Some are better than others but I’m not going to grade them, suffice to say that they’re of an acceptable standard. However, I will start adding a bit more detail to the descriptions which may prove useful, especially if there’s something unique about the place.

For example the café we visited today on our Sunday ride is a gem of a place. It’s the Castle Cottage Tearoom by the castle in Pevensey. As you enter the café you feel you’re going back in time to the 1930/40s; the background music reinforces that feeling. The service is very good as well and there’s a lovely garden to sit in; well worth a visit.

The following link will take you to the map: Refreshment Stops

There are now 37 refreshment stops on the map. More will be added whenever we find a café, tea garden or bar that we like and is cyclist friendly. None are shown in Seaford as they are too close to cycle to on a touring ride.

I hope you find it useful.

Happy café wheeling,

Clive

Record 1st Six Months for the Tourists

The numbers are in, thanks to the mild and dry winter,  Touring Section riders have broken all previous years riding totals for the first half of the year.

Had you ridden all the rides that went ahead, you would have ridden on 60 club runs covering 2050 miles since the new year!

There have been tours organised, including the Romney Marsh and a couple of 70 milers to celebrate two of our section reaching their 70th year!

Our runs from Seaford have taken us as far places like Littlehampton and Hastings.

Tourist Section Bikes Having a Rest On Hastings Pier

Tourist section riders have already had some fantastic trips including Montpelier to Seaford, Scottish Highlands, and a Dieppe Weekender to name but a few.

Further rides in the planning stage are a Pub Ride or two, a Century ride, a trip up the Downs Link, a Tour of the High Kent Weald and probably a at least one more trip to France.

The Tourists meet three times a week most weeks, Tuesdays for a short ride, Thursdays for a longer ride, and Sunday a similar length to Thursday. We always include at least one cafe stop.  We aim achieve a moving average of 12.5 mph.

Happy Cycling Dave & Clive

Andy Marks The Crossing Final Day

Last Instalment of Andy Marks’ epic adventure, including some top tips.

Day 3

We woke up on the third and final day to a few spots of rain in the air. However by the time we’d eaten our porridge and arrived at the start line at 7:10 the rain had stopped and the sun was out.

We were told it was 15km to the first water station and then another 17.5km to the lunch stop. I queried why the lunch stop was only 20 miles into a 60mile day but was told it was what it was. We set off and found the first water station at 15miles and the lunch stop at about 33miles… They’d got their units mixed up, not a problem for me as I’d carried enough water anyway, but I know a few other people came up short and struggled as a result.

It was hard going from the start, mostly off road with steep climbs and fast technical descents on single track through the trees. A fantastic mornings riding but I was starting to struggle by late morning so didn’t enjoy what should have been some of the best bits as much as I could have. I wasn’t the only one, there were some big crashes brought about by people being tired, not concentrating and making mistakes. I spun out on a root going UPHILL, didn’t get my foot down in time and toppled into a barbed wire fence. Fortunately I managed to catch the fence post and avoid the worst of the barbed wire, so carried on. Others weren’t as lucky, there where people at the lunch stop with ice packs but they had got this far and weren’t going to stop.

I came across 2 lads about 10 miles from the lunch stop with a broken chain and absolutely no idea how to fix it. I stopped and helped but, as with the puncture on the first day, I couldn’t believe people come on this sort of trip without even a basic idea of how to maintain their own bikes. We got it sorted but it had seen better days. I was quite relieved when they arrived at the lunch stop later and took the bike to the mechanic station to look at it.

By late morning I was starting to look at my watch and for the first time all weekend I was concerned by the cut off times. We were supposed to be in Scarborough by 4pm and I was beginning to push it a bit – I hadn’t come this far to get a DNF (did not finish). Upon arriving at the lunch stop I realised how many people where still behind me and was then informed 4pm was a target time and not a strict cut off – panic over.

 

Once again we came out of the lunch stop and started climbing. Surely it can’t be far to Scarborough now? A marshal on the side of the trail told me this was the last big climb – she lied. There where at least 2 more after that. More fantastic riding over the rolling hills, very similar to the South Downs Way now, some of the views could easily have been in Sussex.

We finally descended down through the town and onto the seafront at Scarborough, across the finish line at about 3:30 – so I’d have been alright even if it was a 4pm cut off. Today we’d done 63miles and 6100ft of climbing. I saw a lot of people at the finish line that I’d ridden with at various points over the weekend, it was nice to see how they had all got on and see that they had finished. We took the compulsory photos by the sea, had an ice cream and headed off to our hotel where a hot shower and sauna awaited.  While sat down having dinner in the evening we talked about maybe going out and riding the Dalby Forest trail centre the following day. It was on the way and we reckoned we could manage an hour there before carrying on home.

As we stood up to walk back to the hotel any idea of getting back on a bike the following day went out the window – I think it would be fair to say we were all finished.

The following morning we headed for home after breakfast and as we sat in the car it started raining. We couldn’t believe how lucky we had been, it was raining when we arrived at the start line and it was raining as we drove away from the finish – but we’d done 3 days riding in the shirt sleeves and never even had to put a jacket on! It had been a fantastic weekend and we are all very glad we did it.

And as for next year The Crossing 2018 – No chance! Been there done that, I’ll find a new challenge for next year.

My top tips if you’re thinking of having a go

  1. Train – I can’t overstate this enough. I managed it but I definitely didn’t enjoy the last day as much as I could have. Don’t worry about speed but the fitter you are the more you will enjoy it when you get there.
  2. Get a toolkit, and learn how to use it – You’d be very lucky to do a trip like this and never need to do anything! Letting the shop set your bike up is OK, but make sure you know how to do the basics on the side of the trail.
  3. Get off and push – Unless you have legs (and drugs) like Lance Armstrong you aren’t going to be able to ride all the hills anyway. So be prepared to get off and push, especially on day one. Save your legs for when you can actually enjoy the riding rather than burning out early.
  4. Sports massage – If it’s available, use it. I’m convinced these 20 minutes at the end of each day where what kept me going for the following day.
  5. Eat and drink – I haven’t done the sums on calories burnt and so on, but you need to eat and drink a lot. I used High 5 tablets in my water and at a mixture of energy bars, gels and chocolate brioche rolls which made a nice change. I find proper food rather than just energy bars and gels work better on longer rides but whatever you do practice before you go, try things out while training to see what works for you. Don’t try anything new while you’re there. It’s worth finding out what the event organisers supply so you can try it in advance, then if it works you don’t need to carry as much of your own stuff.
  6. Ride on your own – If you can’t keep up with the people you set off with let them go. You won’t really be riding on your own as you soon drop in with another group travelling at your pace. Meeting new people this way was one of the most enjoyable parts of the event for me.
  7. Slow down – They call it the Rat Race. But it isn’t really a race for most of us. Slow down, look at the scenery, take pictures, talk to strangers and enjoy it.
  8. Sign up – If you wait until you are ready before you enter, you never will be. Sign up and then start training. You won’t regret it. http://www.ratrace.com/thecrossing

Andy Marks The Crossing Day 2

Day 2 of Andy’s adventure ‘The Crossing’ (is anyone else feeling just a little bit tempted to do this yet??)

Day 2

The starting window for day two was 7-8am. They sold porridge on site and I had no trouble eating today, the bags were put on the van and we were all ready to go by about 7:15, despite agreeing the night before there was no rush. We were up and ready, so we set off in glorious sunshine.  Within a couple of miles of leaving the campsite we crossed under the M62 and were riding through more pretty little villages and great countryside. My legs freed off surprisingly quickly and I was quite happy to be on the bike for another day. It was really noticeable how the landscape had changed, it was still hilly but there were more rolling hills than the sharp rocky landscape in the Lakes.

After about 2 hours riding we started climbing along a road. Quite steep but not too bad, then we came to what looked like the top of the hill, over the brow, round a slight bend and you could see this hill disappearing into the distance with an almost continuous row of bikes in front of me. This was bigger than I was expecting, day 2 is supposed to be easier! It just went on for what seemed like hours, and then someone rode past me on a road bike and informed me I was only about half way there. It seemed like every time you went round a corner there was more of it in front of you. 2.5miles and 1100 feet of climbing later I reached the top. I’d given up and was pushing by now; as was just about everyone else.

Once at the top I stopped for 5 minutes, had something to eat and admired the views; it had definitely been worth the climb! Setting off down the other side and we soon crossed the border into North Yorkshire. The advantage of having done all that climbing is we spent a long time descending. Unfortunately on roads but it made for a nice break from pedalling.

Eventually we turned off the road again; climbing didn’t seem quite so monotonous off road and the descents where brilliant, even the one where I ended up going sideways round a corner (unintentionally). One of the events photographers was on hand to catch the look of sheer terror on my face as I was convinced I was about to hit the stone wall on the outside of the bend – sorry, you can’t see the photo, I wasn’t prepared to pay £10 for them to email me a copy!  It was somewhere on this section that I realised how many road riders where attempting the course. You could spot them a mile off on the descents, uncomfortable and tense would probably describe them best. I spoke to one guy who’d only bought his mountain bike a month ago thinking that would be plenty of time to get used to the differences. He was enjoying it but couldn’t believe how tough it was, he said if he did it again he’d want a lot more practice off road!

Another person who was relatively new to cycling had the right idea. He’d spend a small fortune on a bike specifically designed to cope with this type of terrain, so why fight it? Relax and let the bike do what it does. I thought that summed it up very well and from someone who’d only started riding this year. I know people who have been riding for years and still can’t relax and let the bike do its job.

The lunch stop was supposed to be at the half way mark but 35miles turned into 41 and I was definitely ready to get off and stretch my legs when I arrived. It seemed so late in the course I wondered if I’d missed it!

I joined back up with Gus and Guy at the lunch stop and we set off together. Guy and I rode together all afternoon but we did abandon Gus in a pub about 10 miles from the finish. The afternoon was fairly uneventful with very little climbing and just a gentle downhill all the way to the campsite in Northallerton. We arrived about 3:30, had a massage and a shower and headed to the bar area to see how everyone else had got on that day. The general consensus, which I’d have to agree with, was that it had been a long day sitting in the saddle with too much road for a mountain bike event. It had been a case of racking up the miles quickly and it had achieved that. We’d done 68 miles and nearly 5500ft of climbing and were now on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors ready for the last days riding.

 

As we were so close to the town centre we headed into town for something proper to eat instead of the burgers and pizzas supplied on site. We ended up with a Chinese but were still back and in bed by 10 ready for the last day…..

 

 

Andy Marks – The Crossing

Settle in folks, grab a cuppa and get comfy…here’s the first instalment in Andy Marks epic adventure

‘Rat Race, The Crossing’

‘3 Days, 2 Coasts, 1 Hell of an adventure’ – That was what the website said. So after several months of talking about it, usually after a few beers, four of us made the jump and signed up.

We knew it wouldn’t be easy, 200 miles and 18000ft of climbing over 3 days, so we’d all need to get some training in. The four of us managed this to varying degrees; Gus got the most miles in, several 50+ milers and at least one 100 miler that I know of. Guy was regularly riding the 30 miles round trip to work over the Downs and he focused on hill work. I did a little bit too, but other commitments and several motorcycling holidays got in the way. On the drive up to Scarborough it occurred to me I’d only ridden over 50 miles about twice in the last few months and I’d only done one fairly small back to back ride. Not ideal but I’d done what I could so I’d just have to go for it and see how I got on. The fourth member of our team however had the best solution. Dave, having been the main instigator in signing us all up for this challenge in the first place, jumped off his bike at low speed a couple of months before the event and had to pull out injured…..

We had agreed to drive to Scarborough on the Thursday and take advantage of the bus transfer to the start line in the evening, so that the car would be waiting for us at the finish line. An early start meant I had to load up on the Wednesday evening. I arrived to find Gus and Guy in the shed trying to re-seat Guy’s tubeless tyre on the rim. About half hour later and with us all covered in Stan’s sealant it was finally done and the car was loaded with no more issues.

Thursday morning I was picked up at 6:20 and we headed north, arriving in Scarborough with about an hour to spare before the transfer. We had to pack our bikes into boxes and load them onto the back of a truck for transportation to the start line. This meant removing wheels, pedals and rotating handlebars, so by the time we were finished it was time to get on the coach and head across to the start line.

This is where my first tip for an event like this must come in. If you are on a coach travelling from the finish to the start line, don’t look out the window! The hills kept getting bigger, the sky got darker and it seemed a bloody long way on a coach. What was riding it going to be like?!  By the time we arrived at the start, in Whitehaven, it was raining and I was feeling quite apprehensive about the whole thing for the first time since signing up. The biggest issue for me was that no matter how many times we checked the weather forecasts, and how many different websites we looked at for them, they all said we were going to get wet… very wet! Nevertheless, we unpacked and racked our bikes, signed on, found our B&B, ate and got an early night.

I woke up early the following morning having had a terrible night’s sleep, I was in an attic room with no window and the noisiest fan I’ve ever tried to use (I was up at 1am using my bike toolkit trying work out why it was so noisy and fix it!). It was like a sauna, and I sat there listening to the rain dreading the day ahead.

Day 1

I went down for breakfast but couldn’t eat it; I think it was a combination of a dry mouth, sore throat and nerves. I never get nervous, what’s going on?! However, from this point on our luck somewhat changed and as we walked to the start line about 5 minutes away the rain eased off; by the time we got there it was a fine drizzle. Pretty miserable but I could live with this. We checked our bags in as they would be taken to the overnight stop at Shap by van. We got our bikes ready for the off and took the compulsory picture with the back wheels dipping in the sea.

We got called over for a quick rider briefing and we were off at about 7:10. The rain had almost completely stopped and all 3 of us had decided to put our jackets away and chance it in jerseys and shorts. The first mechanical problem we saw was, at most, 50 yards from the start line. Fortunately it wasn’t one of us but you had to feel for the guy pulling over to repair a puncture so soon! We did about 10 miles gradually climbing out of the town on a tarmac cycle path (disused railway line I’m told). It was a staggered start and we were in about the 4 th or 5 th wave; we seemed to be overtaking a lot of people already which felt good but it did make me wonder if they were saving themselves and knew something we didn’t. You could see the hills looming in the distance, often disappearing up into the clouds. Impressive, but knowing we would soon be riding over them was a little daunting.

At about the 10 mile mark we turned off the road and up a short, sharp, gravely climb. Once at the top of this climb there was an amazing descent that looped along the side of the hill. It was technical in places with some very fast sweeping sections. This is my kind of riding; I was overtaking a lot of people and was now really starting to enjoy myself. I finally had the answer to the question I’d been asking for the last day and a bit – Why am I doing this?

The morning section provided a few more climbs, some more great descents and some absolutely incredible views! The three of us got slightly spread out but it didn’t matter as there were a lot of people around, so you were never really on your own. We made very good progress on that first morning and arrived at the ‘Pit stop’ in Keswick about 10:15.

We’d been warned there was a huge climb straight after the stop so we grabbed some food, and set off. We were in the pit stop for about 8 minutes, long enough for a breather, but not long enough to start stiffening up. Back on the bike we started the climb out of Keswick, firstly on the road then onto a track that I don’t think anybody rode up. It was too steep, rough and loose to get any traction, so it was a long push to the top. The view at the summit made it all worthwhile though and the descent on the other side was great fun. During the descent I came across a couple of guys with a puncture who had no idea how to repair it. The bike shop had set the bike up for them and they didn’t seem to have any idea how to repair a tubeless tyre. We agreed the best thing to do was to just put a tube in it so they could keep going, so I gave them a hand to get the valve out and left them to it.

This must be tip number 2. When riding a mountain bike, carry a toolkit and make sure you know how to use it! You’d be very lucky to do a trip like this and never need to do anything!

By now I was separate from Guy and Gus again; my lack of training and slow climbing of the hills meant they left me behind. I continued to make good progress until I came across what can only be described as a mountain to climb. I’m not exaggerating; much of it was too steep to even push your bike up. People had them over their shoulder and carried them up the side of this mountain. It took what seemed like an hour to get to the top. And when we got there the other side was the same, bike up on your shoulder and climb down the other side.

It took me just over 90 minutes to clock up just UNDER 2 miles. I’m afraid I couldn’t see the point of that part of the route, especially when locals said there was a nice route to ride round it. It was an adventure alright, but my back was aching from carrying the bike and my ankle had gone over on a loose rock and didn’t feel too clever. It could have been worse, once we were back riding the bike a guy in front of me got caught in a rut and had a big crash. We told him to get up, gave his bike a good check over and carried on. He seemed okay but was checked out by a first aider on the route. I understand he finished the day (and event) without any further problems.

Once over the mountain the rest of the day was fairly uneventful. My only other issue was that I ran out of water, the only water station of the day (other than the pit stop where I didn’t fill up as I thought I had plenty) was 58 miles into the 68 mile leg. It struck me as a bit late and other people obviously agreed as the organisers had a few complaints and rectified it for the rest of the weekend.

I arrived in Shap at about 15:30 under glorious sunshine. Day 1 had been 68 miles and 8000ft of climbing! Amazingly, it had stayed dry all day and the cloud cover had kept it fairly cool. Absolutely ideal riding conditions. A recovery shake, 20 minute sports massage, hot shower and well-earned beer followed.

We’d been told the first day was the hardest and I’d not only survived it but actually really enjoyed it. Two more days of this and I’d be a very happy man. My lack of training hadn’t been as big an issue as I first thought it might be. I spoke to one guy who’d done one commute to work all year and this was the second time he’d been on a bike. There were also people still arriving with minutes to spare before the 8pm cut off. I wasn’t really anywhere near the back.

We ate outside the beer tent in the sun and were in bed by about 9pm ready for the next day’s riding…..

Dieppe Channel Hopper

Four of us from Cycle Seahaven hopped across the Channel with three other cyclists last Friday to take part in a cycling trip organised by Phoenix-CTC, a member group of Cycling UK. We stayed at the Hotel de la Plage, a hotel I’ve used many times on cycling trips. There’s always a warm welcome, the staff are friendly and helpful, good rooms, excellent buffet breakfast and there’s a garage for the bikes. Also, it’s in a good location, being on the boulevard along the seafront and close to the town centre; the marina is nearby where there are cafés and restaurants aplenty.

We stayed at this superb hotel for three nights which gave us three full days of cycling through the countryside of Seine-Maritime. It’s a great place for cycling as the country roads are very quiet and in excellent condition; potholes are a rarity! Also, the French drivers are very considerate towards cyclists and allow plenty of room when passing. The only time a car came close to me turned out to be British. I have to say that much as I enjoy cycling through the countryside of Sussex, cycling in Seine-Maritime is bliss!

Cycle Seahaven members will be aware of the Avenue Verte, the London to Paris cycle route which includes the Cuckoo Trail and, of course, comes through Seaford and Newhaven and, includes the ferry crossing to Dieppe. Lesser known, I suspect, is the Veloroute du Lin which starts just outside Dieppe and follows a disused railway line for about 15 miles to St-Pierre-le-Viger, just a few miles short of St-Valery-en-Caux. It’s well worth cycling along. We cycled along it on our way to St-Valery. Fantastic!

Most of the surface is virtually billiard table smooth so the bikes just roll effortlessly along it; the surrounding fields were full of pale blue linseed wafting in the wind and the hedgerows and banks were full of wild flowers. Great cycling! The Veloroute du Lin will eventually be extended to Fécamp making it a 50 mile shared use cycle path.

Of course, no trip to Dieppe would be complete without a short spin along the Avenue Verte so we rode along it from Neufchatel-en-Bray back to Dieppe, about 23 miles. There’s a very gradual descent for most of the way so it made for easy cycling.

All in all this was a great three days of cycling not to mention the highly convivial evenings in the local restaurants.

If you like touring through the countryside then I can recommend channel hopping to Dieppe.

Bon voyage,

Clive

Tourist Section Take on the “Beacon”

This Tuesday, six members of the Touring Section took on Sussex’s most notorious climb.

After a gentle ride along the Ouse  Valley Estuary Trail, we made the dash to Lewes up the C7, warming up our climbing muscles on the hill up to the Prison Crossroads. After regrouping the route took us out past Offham on the A275 and then left towards Plumpton on the B2116, and onto Underhill Lane.

After a short breather to discuss tactics at the end of Underhill Lane it was straight on to the “Hill”. All riders completed the ride non-stop to the top, pausing for the obligatory photo, before descending along Ditchling Road and the back road to Stanmer Village to the Stanmer Tea Rooms for well-earned refreshments.

The homeward journey was via the A27 cycle path, Kingston Village, C7,  Egrets Way and Piddinghoe Village.

There are usually three touring section rides each week, Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. The tourist pace of about 12 mph average speed allows us to take in the scenery and will always involve a refreshment stop or two.

Happy Cycling,  Dave Sutton