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South Downs Way Off-Road Bike Ride 2016

Discussion in 'Events' started by Greg, Jul 13, 2016.

  1. Greg

    Greg MTB Rider Staff Member

    Looking at the low resolution map on the BHF website, the route is slightly different this year, going through Warnford rather than Exton.
    I've attached my own updated gpx file to this post, anyone who has a GPS device can download it and use it. Please load it in to your device and test it works before the ride day!!

    The route can also be viewed here:

    Please note the Aid Station markers on the RideWithGPS route above are three water points I intend to stop at (for my own reference), there are several others along the South Downs Way which I have not marked.
    The links below list all the free water points/taps:

    http://www.bikedowns.co.uk/Water 20taps.htm


    Attached Files:

    chris obrien likes this.
  2. Johnny

    Johnny New Member

    Going to use this map on 6th August if it's dry and conditions allow. Have set the date but will need to insert a few more water tap markers.
    If anyone wants to join, message me. Will be starting early so to make Eastbourne in good time to catch a train back.
  3. Greg

    Greg MTB Rider Staff Member

    Good luck Johnny, hope the conditions are good and the weather not so hot this time, let us know how you get on...
    Johnny likes this.
  4. Johnny

    Johnny New Member

    Well, said I'd update but sadly had a few other challenges. So here goes...

    Attempted and completed on 6th August solo and unsupported. Had to do some planning prior to the event so I amended the GPX above adding all the water stops (using a xt40 map, web gpx editor and some web references), created a quick reference guide on hills, stops, average mph and food, which helped a lot although one tap at Amberly seemed to be not where I expected it. Conditions were good and started nice and early to give myself time. First challenge I encountered was freezing fog.... wasn't until after QE park did it start to warm up. I rode thinking it was always about to warm up but then another hit of freezing fog. I should have just put on the jacket but just wanted to keep moving... (bit silly on my part there) Also, I must have been the first on the route as I encountered a few webs which freaked me out a little but overall good.

    I took my time if I'm honest and was loaded up with gels and food so wasn't going to break any records. Also had a fear in the back of my mind that if I crashed, how long would it be before I was found but that soon went once I started meeting walkers and other riders. Energy wise was much better and able to climb nearly all the hills up until Amberly where I was reduced to walking a bit. around 3 other groups passed me in the last 30 miles who were pleasant doing the whole SDW too.

    Made a number of changers from the first attempt these being
    - tyre pressure... dropped to lower pressure and this helped a load on the climbs. didn't spin out as much and had grip.
    - warm weather (sun)... was not prepared last time and had sun cream so was able to take off layers... sadly... couldn't find the cream when I needed it and got to saddlescombe before it reappeared so wasn't great. If I'd taken off the base layer at 30 miles in, this would have been much better. was pretty warm and this sapped my energy
    - switched from more gels to more bars and this was helpful as it was easier to eat little and often rather than all sickly gels in one go which was difficult while trying to ride. Bars were easily accessed and consumed in pieces.
    - didn't fill up the camelpak to full each time. Was happy to run out as the GPS and quick reference helped me understand where the next tap was i.e. 12 miles... was also a quick break
    - Clipless (it was only my third time going clipless) Didn't enjoy stumbling on a hill only to reach out and grab barbed wire to steady myself. This pierced my hand and drew blood and become a bit of a problem when gripping/leaning on the bars which was really annoying.

    Things I would do in future is not travel so heavy. I had way too much food and this all weighed me down (I fear not having enough food). I had 6 bars and 6 gels left and while that doesn't sound a lot, I'm not sure many people would want to be walking about with this in their jacket for 16 hours. Also move more water onto the bike with another bottle and a long sleeved top, not a base layer/cycle top combo as this was an extra layer that I didn't need and could of been managed better.

    Worst experience was coming up to 60 miles up to finish, my butt was sore (using a charge Spoon too). I used a ton of chamois but missed two things... angle of the seat was not great (I was told to bring the nose up a bit as was too low....) and I missed cream on the buttock crease.... that was painful. with 20 miles to go... I found it hard just to sit on the saddle. I was peeling damaged skin for over a week in thick layers. Never adjust what works for you before a big ride is my advice. I've never been one to get off and adjust which again... is stupid but I honestly didn't think it was anything else but sore/bruised.

    Now trying to have a bash at a route over the north downs but also thinking of signing up for the BHF SDW again next year... would be my 4th attempt but happy to go on another date in a group.
    Greg likes this.
  5. Greg

    Greg MTB Rider Staff Member

    Congrats on riding the South Downs Way, that's a huge achievement, well done! Great write up too highlighting some of the real challenges of endurance mountain biking.
    Spider webs in the face are never nice, especially if you get one with the spider in it!! And that climb up from Amberly... it's a killer alright.

    It's really hard to plan ahead to cover all possibilities, however too much food & water is better rather than having to detour and find a shop. That said carrying roughly the right amount of food comes with experience riding big long rides, getting to know your own energy requirements. Luckily water isn't so much of an issue on the SDW once the tap locations are known, the quick reference guide is a great idea, remembering where to stop, when to eat , etc, can be hard when your in the depths of a hard physical and mental challenge. I used one too for water and food stops, but found towards the end I wasn't eating and drinking as regularly as I should have ... possibly a result of fatigue?

    If you're riding on a hardtail the slightly lower tyre pressure can also reduce the harshness of all those miles on your back by smoothing out the trail a little bit. I used a frame bag this year to carry a good amount of my food, quicker access and meant less weight on my back, certainly if you frame allows a couple of water bottles that would move about 1kg from you pack to the bike ... takes the burden off the shoulders quite a bit!
    Shame to hear about your butt, I know how bad that can hurt! Conotrane (available from Boots by special order for about £6) cream is great for pressure sores and general chaffing from high miles. Best money I spent this year was a bike fitting at Specialized and a new saddle, I still get a sore ass on high milers (friction) but nothing like I used to, I'd absolutely recommend a fitting if your doing more endurance rides!

    I'm also looking to see what challenge to do next year, probably the Wessex Ridgeway, from Lyme Regis to Marlborough, as it's a bit easier for me logistically. NDW is a loooong drive over to Dover from Didcot, both about 130 miles in length though, and both an even bigger challange than the SDW ...we must be crazy :wacky:
    Johnny likes this.
  6. Johnny

    Johnny New Member

    Ndw I hope is going to be less climbing and I'll have to start super early. The other point is I can't ride the whole of the downs as it's a foot path so hoping to use some other trails along side where I can. I suspect I'll need a few runs at it to assess if it is something that's doable. I may end up mostly on road which isint the plan but all depends on what routes I can find. I have the maps, a couple of off road gpx maps that cross the section and a plan to start in April. I plan to do a few runs around different sections to really find out what it's like. Out and back to the car type until I have a full viable route.

    Every ride I have to drive to...lol. I don't mind a drive and early start as long as I have back out plans and a way home.

    Seat at the right angle is key for me. I did the palace to palace 90 mile road ride recently and used my adventure bike and jeez.... 30 miles and I was seriously bruised. Lol

    Good luck with your plans. It's not madness... at least that's what I tell myself. ;)

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