The weather forecast for this Friday has deteriorated in the last week. From expecting a decent day a week ago it now seems certain that we’ll get a day of heavy rain. Everything else was in place for me to take on one of the 2 challenges I’d set myself for this year, to ride the Mary Towneley Loop in a single ride. It’s a 47 mile circuit, is almost all off road and climbs some 6,500 feet, so is not to be enterprised lightly. To avoid a difficult and unpleasant ride I’d need fairly dry ground and definitely no rain but this is not to be. Since I got home from visiting our son on Monday we’ve had such heavy rain that I haven’t been able to ride but that wouldn’t have mattered since I’ve been maintaining my fitness this year with a particular emphasis on facing this challenge. Most riders take at least 7 hour to complete the circuit though some take 10, which is a slow average of only 4.7mph. I think at my current level of fitness it was likely to have taken me between 6 and 7 hours. I’ll try to do the ride as soon as the weather improves though this is England so that might not happen until spring. If this is the case I think I need to find another big ride to do before the winter.
In Sussex, where our son lives, I managed to do a ride last Friday on his mountain bike. He has a Trek Fuel EX8 which is a full suspension bike with 29″ wheels. It must be 5 years old now and although it’s had plenty of replacement parts I found it now needs replacement rear wheel bearings and was desperate for a new gear cable. Dylan lives at sea level but to the north of Chichester are the South Downs, a 100 mile long chain of hill rising to around 800 feet. A 100 mile long bridal way, the South Downs Way, covers the whole length but there was no chance of me riding much of that. I decided to struggle on with the barely serviceable gear change and do a road route of around 25 miles in length to meet the South Downs Way on the ridge line and return to my start point. It was a pleasant enough day as has been almost all of the summer on the south coast. I barely noticed the wind on the largely uphill outward leg and at the top rode a short distance along the trail. I believe it’s generally a fairly gentle affair but has a total of 13,620 feet of ascent. This is remarkably similar to the Mary Towneley in terms of it climbing and falling 136 feet each mile on average. What I saw was a gently rising gravel road though I’ve walked other parts with my dog, Freddie, which were less smooth. The current record for riding it by bike is 18 hours 3 minutes and 12 seconds, an average of 5.54mph. It really is a different scale of challenge to the Mary Towneley.
On the return leg I climbed to near the top of a hill called the Trundle which overlooks Goodwood horse racing course because I’ve previously used a long, straight, downhill trail which would add a little off road action. The wind was so strongly against me that I couldn’t pick up much speed. The ground has some deep rain ruts in the chalky surface which have you leaving the ground at speed. It was nice to see a different area by bike but I’m happy to live in an area of far more action packed riding. My next ride will be on Friday, a whole week after my last. At the top of the page are Freddie and I, both looking disappointed.