Sunday 29 December 2019

Rapha Festive 500 - Park Life tour: Day 6, South Downs National Park

Kms ridden: 23
Running total: 370
Kms left: 130

Weather: Sunny, with evening mist, 10 degC

Parks: South Downs National; Preston 

Route on Strava

As those who have done or are doing the Festive 500 will know, the most challenging aspect of the riding is finding the time to get out and ride. For me this has been pretty much the same too, with days flying by and being dominated by bike riding.

Sadly, we ordinary folks don't have the luxury of someone to clean up our bikes after a messy day out, or someone who can do our laundry for us or prepare our meals. And of course there's just the simple deed of getting life done, which becomes difficult to juggle when you are out riding at least 40 miles every day.

I decided I needed to have a bit of breathing space, so today was the day to catch up on other things a little rather than going on a bike ride first thing in the morning.

Entry into the South Downs Park, from the Brighton end of Ditchling Road
As a result I set off for Brighton by car at lunchtime in a hope of riding around the South Downs National Park.

The intention was to park somewhere near central Brighton and then do a loop up to Ditchling Beacon, over to Devil's Dyke and then back.

That didn't quite work out though because parking in Brighton was a real challenge. There are some areas where I have managed to find spaces in the past, but today it was nigh on impossible. In the end I found a space on the edge of the city, just off the Ditchling Road - which I guess was a handy place for the start of my ride.

By the time the ride began it was not long before 3pm, so I only had an hour to do the circuit before night fell. Realising there was no time to waste I just pushed on as best I could. Riding up to Ditchling Beacon from this side of the hill was a novelty for me, as my normal route would be to approach it from the north, when doing a London to Brighton ride. Going up this way the road was an uphill grind, but it was not as steep as I had anticipated, considering how fast the road is when coming down into Brighton. Also, it wasn't a constant climb, but more like an undulating road.

Today had been a glorious sunny day - at least when I was driving down from London. However, as the South Downs drew nearer the atmosphere became cooler and my glasses got steamed up as it became misty and damp.

Once at Ditchling Beacon there were still quite a lot of walkers and mountain bikers riding along the South Downs Way trail. But there was a very low number of road cyclists compared with the numbers you normally see huffing and puffing up the hill from Ditchling village.

From my vantage point, at around 235m above sea level I would normally be able to see the city of Brighton including the Brighton i360 ride and the AMEX Stadium, home of Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club. However today, everything was shrouded in mist. Furthermore, I was getting colder and colder as it became less fun to be there.

So I ditched my plan to go to Devil's Dyke and just turned back and retraced Ditchling Road to return to central Brighton. I was glad to have brought with me extra coats and high vis as it was pretty cold on the descent, and there was a bit too much mist for comfort, as I descended the twisty road, which still had its fair share of motorists.

Once back in Brighton I did a little loop around Preston Park - a place where I have raced in the past, and did a mini tour of the town centre, which as usual was just Brighton - with all it's hip shops around the North Lane area.

Riding back up to the car from central Brighton was pretty testing, and that probably explained why the earlier ride from my car to Ditchling Beacon had been more like a false flat - because the steep climbs kick in close to the city centre, so that on the edge of city limits things actually level off.

In the end, my ride was only 23 kms long, though it felt like I had ridden double the distance! It had been a short day in the saddle but I think my body and my mind appreciated a low mileage day for once.

Related posts
Rapha Festive 500 - Park Life Tour: Day 5, Box Hill

Rapha Festive 500 - Park Life Tour: Day 4, Knole Park

Rapha Festive 500 - Park Life Tour: Day 3, Beckenham/Croydon

Rapha Festive 500 - Park Life Tour: Day 2, East/Central London

Rapha Festive 500 - Park Life Tour: Day 1, Richmond Park

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