a.k.a A morning to forget, an afternoon to remember.
I woke up and didn’t hear the sound of rain. This was promising as the forecast in the few days before the ride had been bad. After filling up on the YHA buffet breakfast I retrieved my bike from the shed and pointed the front wheel for home. I’d planned the shortest, most direct route home, which basically meant starting out on the A36 and A27 towards Southampton, and then on to Portsmouth.
Not much to report for the first stint as far as Southampton. However as I approached the M27 I slashed my tyre riding in the gutter of a fast, busy road. I chucked my bike over the barrier to inspect the damage just as it started to rain. Brilliant. There was a 8-10mm gash in the tyre and inner tube. I patched up the inside of the tyre with a bunch of patches. I looked at it and thought “that’s not going to help at all” but didn’t have anything else to use as a tyre boot. I changed the tube, stuffed some jelly babies in my face, chucked bike back over barrier into the traffic and continued homeward. Twenty five miles down, and about 55 to go on a knackered tyre. Hmmm.
Thinking positively I thought that at least riding on main roads at the edges of towns I would probably come across a Halfords at some point. Not often that crappy roads and Halfords are considered positives. However I didn’t and I slowly forgot about the state of the rear tyre.
Wickham, a pretty Hampshire village on the B2117 beyond Southampton appeared to be en route of a few club runs judging by the number of cyclists riding around the market square. A little further on the climb up Portdown towards the mysterious looking military installation started. I’d actually started to enjoy the ride by this point. To the north I could see the hills around Winchester, and as I crested the climb and the whole of Portsmouth, the Solent and the Isle of Wight was visible to the south. As I crossed the Pilgrem’s Way I stopped for a banana, some jelly babies and a photo. A lot of jelly babies got eaten on this day.
The long descent ended in Havant, where my route should have taken me south to Emsworth and then towards Chichester. However I’d had enough of busy urban roads so decided to head inland over the train tracks towards Funtingdon. Hitting the outskirts of Chichester I started to follow the roads towards Bognor Regis but after a quick hack down the dual carriageway turned inland again for Petworth and the South Downs. The sun had come out and I really couldn’t face the south coast urban sprawl of Littlehampton, Worthing, Lancing, Shoreham, etc.
I was adding miles to my journey but the quiet road through glowing yellow rape interspersed with striped fields of green was a joy. Over Upwaltham hill, and plummeting into Duncton (watch for those bends at the bottom!) I was nearing Petworth. Ten miles had passed quickly. Strong sunlight flickered on the road as it shone through overhanging trees as I turned for Fittleworth. As I climbed a gentle slop all traffic noise stopped and the only sound was the gentle hum of tyres on smooth tarmac and birdsong. It only lasted a moment before a van came over the brow and broke the revery, but it was a beautiful few seconds.
Over the rise and out of the woodland the landscape opened up ahead. From here I could see the undulating top line of the South Downs with the distinctive silhouette of Chanctonbury Ring in the distance, and the aerials of Truleigh Hill beyond them. It was still 25 miles away but I could almost see all the way home. Suddenly, I no longer felt 175 miles in my legs. I was soon passing Storrington and Ashington, and spinning along Spithandle Lane towards Steyning.
A slightly twisted part of my psyche whispered “Steyning Bostal” but I sensibly ignored it. There are times to tackle Steyning Bostal, and after 190 miles over two days is not one of them. At Shoreham I picked up the suburban coast road that I should have ridden since Bognor Regis. I was so glad I hadn’t, Sussex had looked at it’s best that Sunday.
Strava link: http://www.strava.com/activities/60729592
Miles ridden: 101
Feet climbed: 4500
Average speed: 15mph
Counties covered: 4 (Wiltshire, Hampshire, West Sussex, East Sussex)
Bags of jelly babies consumed: 0.5
Lessons learned: One. Carry a spare tyre on long rides*
Camera used: Olympus Trip 35
Film used: Out of date Kodak Gold 35mm
* and of course retrospectively I’ve not followed this rule