On Sunday 9 August, Gareth Griffiths rode a little over 100 miles on a push bike. This fundraising event, along with a number of other initiatives, helped raise over £10,500 for the BridgeHead Software supported charity. Here, he recounts the ride from his point of view:
I last cycled 100 miles in a day when I was 17 – that’s almost 50 years ago. A few things I noticed this time around…
Higher tech bicycles do make it easier – last time I had 5 gears – now I have 16 and I used most of them. Last time I had conventional pedals, now I have ‘cleats’, which attach your foot firmly to the peddle – but, if you stop in a hurry or your chain comes off changing down ratio up hill you have to be quick remembering to ‘uncleat’ or you just fall over. Fortunately I did my falling off like that while training and now (fingers crossed) I remember to uncleat in time.
On ride day, the forecast was for over 30 degrees so we started early – not quite Race the Sun early, but a sensible 7am start. At that time the weather was perfect, light breeze and pleasant temps. Our route started with cycling up onto the North Downs to Headley – by now a regular training route – so no big deal. From there we had had a nice downhill (Pebble Hill for those who know the area) followed by a good stretch of flat or gentle slopes down to Newdigate and then back up to Dorking. Yes, a rather wiggly route to make the outward ride longer. What you really notice cycling is the quality (or not) of the road surface.
Most of the way from Newdigate back to Dorking, the back road we took is superb…. really smooth and a pleasure to ride. I’ve read that marathon runners, when they get tired, have been known to trip up over white lines on roads – cyclists just feel every bump or groove or mini pot-hole. What genius decided to add cycle lanes in some places marking every 100 yards with white paint bicycle signs that stand about ½ inch above the road surface and send them through all the sunken road drainage covers…
Before we left, I had asked a former professional cyclist for any advice – it was simple ‘eat, drink, eat drink – you have to keep putting fuel and fluid in if you are going to cycle for 8 hours’. He’s right, you need to keep fuelled and you use a lot of calories riding for 8 hours. We had a reminder bleep set for every 15 minutes and made sure we took in fuel at least every other bleep. What did we eat? Jelly cubes, energy gels (yuk but effective), oatmeal bars (nice, but be careful not to choke on the crumbs), malt loaf bars (yummy, but a bit sticky and again careful not to choke on the last bits) with two large water bottles filled with electrolyte replenishing additive to the water.
Anyway back to the ride. From Dorking along the A25 to Shere, we hit the first steeper hill out of Wotton to test our legs, but the scenery was lovely through Abinger and Gomshall to Shere. Now we faced a long uphill as we started to head south and had to climb over several ridges of the N Downs. I had driven the route a couple of times but, on a bike, the long uphills are a lot longer, though when you have any breath to spare you can really enjoy the countryside. Through Ewhurst and west to Cranleigh before diving South again. A brief bit of busier major road (nice road surface though) past Dunsfold (where they filmed the Stig sessions for Top Gear) as the temperature climbed before a lovely backroad through Alfold, Loxwood and Adversane (isn’t that a nice name) before meeting the Roman Road (Stane Street) through Pulborough and Watersfield.
Wonder what the Romans would have made of our steeds – wouldn’t have wanted to be marching in armour in that heat, but maybe the Italians are used to more heat?
Finally some real country lanes – which started surprisingly nice and smooth but deteriorated later to feel like riding over cobbles to join the A285 just North of Duncton. Time for an energy gel before tackling Duncton Hill a category 4 climb – yes I know 4 is the easiest of the official categories but, hey, it is an official climb; and after 57 miles going up the South Downs is tough wherever you do it. Gentle downhill to our rest/lunch break at 60 miles and amazingly a cycle lane that was actually smoother than the road – the ONLY place I’ve ever found that. Thanks to the lovely team at Upwaltham for letting us break there (see top right picture).
Oh dear, time to get back on the bikes. Starting to feel pressure points from the saddle, but we covered the first 10 miles back in really good time – had to brake for the 30 limit going down Duncton Hill. Our route home was more direct though a shade busier, straight up the main road from Petworth to Godalming – then to Guildford avoiding any hills (basically follow the river) and then back road home from Guildford. By now the temperature was well in the 30s and we were starting to wilt. An enforced 20 minute break by the entrance to Clandon Wood natural burial site to recover some energy (if we hadn’t stopped I think we might have needed their services) and finally home at about 5pm.
60 miles was fun, 80 miles was fine, 90 was OK, the last 10 hurt (even though mostly flat). However, we emerged unscathed and I’ve been back on the bike since with no ill effects.