The Hell of the Sussex Hills

Posted: April 17, 2015 in Audax, Cycling
Tags: , , , , , ,
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Loitering cyclists, attracted to the tea and biscuits

I spent a big chunk of Saturday being Bicycle Repairman. There is no superhero cape and mask that goes with the title, you just end up with a stable of working bikes and a small pile of bits that are surplus to requirements. During this period of frenzied activity I managed to replace the break levers and gear changers, set up the gears, fit new brake blocks, repair punctures and effect a temporary repair in the front tyre of my road bike; replace the aging tyres with shiny new red ones and fit a new saddle on Gracie the trike; sort out a few issues on the fixer and clean the mountain bike. All this activity left me with a dilemma; which bike should I take on the Hilly hell of the Hills ride? In the end I decided that it was probably time that I climbed back onto two wheels, so I left Gracie at home and headed down south for a little bit of climbing.

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Butts Brow, a car park at the top of a hill, full of cyclists

I may have mentioned this before, many times, I’m not that keen on cycling up hills. I don’t have the light frame and lack of fat that climbers are made of, I can climb, I just do it very, very slowly. The day I overtake someone on a climb will be the day I buy everyone in the pub a beer. The first climb came quickly, there was no chance to warm up before leaping into the heaving and sweaty climb of Butts Brow. This is an evil climb to a car park that gives wonderful views over the downs. Admiring the view I have found is a euphemism for “getting your breath back”. A lot of people where thankful for the breather whilst waiting for the controller to stamp the cards.

An assent up a no through road means that you are rewarded with a lightening descent. At this point I was rather glad that I had fitted the new brake blocks. I’m getting a lot more wary of going downhill at speed after riding a Trike.

The route to the next climb took us through sleepy Sussex villages which were basking in the warm spring sunshine. This was almost chocolate box territory but I had other things on my mind: Gear changers. The Trike has levers on the down tube, I’ve been been riding the trike a lot recently so every time I wanted to change gear I made for the changer on the down tube that wasn’t there. The old changers on the road bike had a thumb lever, this was the next port of call before finding the correct lever. This made changing gear more of an interpretive modern dance than the slick and seamless manoeuvre that it should have been. At least it kept me amused until the next climb.

The climb to Firle beacon was yet another slog up a no through road to a small but scenic car park. Again I watched enviously as the riders ahead of me seemed to effortlessly pull away. I really can’t work out how they do that. I’ve got lots of gears, I just can’t make my legs go round at the speed of a washing machine on the spin cycle. Just at the gradient eased off and with the promise of it getting easier the wind hit me. That slowed the last sprint to the summit to something of a wobble. It helped on the descent though.

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Firle Beacon, A car park at the top of a hill, only one or two cyclists

Dave “EL Supremo” Hudson’s roadside Audax catering is legendary. If he is doing the catering it is almost guaranteed that you will leave the event heavier than when you started. This is a good thing. This man is responsible for more satisfied cyclists in the south east than anything else. The next control didn’t disappoint, Dave was there with the full roadside buffet range. I may have lingered a little too long, but as Dave says: “If you can’t decide which to have, take one of each”. Sound advice Dave.

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Dave Hudson, purveyor of fine roadside catering for hungry cyclists

Wobbling slightly we headed over to BoPeep and another climb up a no through road to a windy car park on the top of the downs. This is why I like this ride, it takes me up roads that I wouldn’t normally ride up, mainly because they don’t do anywhere. It’s nice to have a reason to do a pointless ride up a hill.

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BoPeep, a car park at the top of a hill, seldom visited by cyclists

Halfway up High and over my legs started to feel that they had done enough climbing for the day, they needed a bit of a talking to and a cheese sandwich at the top just to persuade them to carry on to the next hill. At the top in Jevington the route planner play with your mind by sending you down a lovely country lane. It was a lovely descent of many miles, it would have been better if I hadn’t remembered that when I got to the bottom I would have to turn round and return to Jevington by the same route. Suddenly the lovely descent was a climb in hiding. It was enough to take the enjoyment out of freewheeling.

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Beachy Head, a car park at the top of a hill, often visited by people with suicidal tendencies

The last climb of the day was the iconic Beachy Head. I know that in the popular imagination Beachy Head is a magnet for suicide attempts but I’d always taken that with a pinch of salt. It was quite a surprise to pass a land rover emblazoned with “the Beachy Head Chaplaincy team” and a little higher up signs giving the Samaritans number. There was very little chance of me jumping when I got to the top as I knew that after this last climb Dave was waiting in Polegate with another massive feed, just to make sure that I didn’t go hungry.

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CAKE! if you can’t decide which one to have, take one of each

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