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CYCLING THE SOUTH DOWNS WAY: FOUR RIDERS, 103 MILES, ONE DAY

The famous South Coast trail stretches 103 miles from the medieval town of Winchester to Eastbourne. We challenged four of our colleagues to ride the total route on E-bikes, only thing was they’d have to do it in a single day.


Sharply ascending and descending consistently throughout, the South Downs Way elevates around 4,150m on the 103-mile route, a challenge for even the fittest of cyclists to do in two days, let alone a single day. But with little time to think about it, 5am on a brisk Thursday morning came around and four riders embarked on their century ride, myself and my two colleagues supporting, filming and meeting up at 10 strategically placed points along the way.  

To genuinely see just how far you can ride on an E-bike, the challenge was set to ride the South Downs Way. Equipped with four E-Bikes using the Bosch motor electric system, including two Scott E-Scale hardtails and a couple of Cube Stereo Hybrid 120’s the first leg took the first casualty (bike related casualty we’re talking about). Tom, our component and accessories buyer here at Cycle Surgery HQ found within one mile in that the motor on his bike wasn’t engaging. As we were one a very tight time schedule the decision was made swap the bikes out – meaning a fast 50-mile drive to half way point between our current location and our HQ in Guildford where I met my colleague and swapped the bikes.

 

Meanwhile, Tom had been driving around with Josh carrying on the support and filming. I finally met back up with them 20 miles in and Tom was reintroduced to the ride, a mere 80 miles left to the challenge. 

As the next 30 miles were ticked off it became apparent that conditions on the South Downs were anything but ideal – a lot of mud due to heavy rain had made the trails sticky and tiresome. Pulling into Amberley at around the halfway point for lunch it was evident that the four riders were beginning to get tired. While having lunch at the Riverside Tea Rooms, the kind owners allowed us to charge the dying batteries. A fast 40 minutes passed, and the guys were back on the bikes and facing a long 50 miles in what was soon to become dying light.

The next 20 miles passed much slower than the first 20 mile leg of the challenge and it was clear that that the riders were getting more tired by the minute. And with tired riders came shorter tempers and more battery charges. As the sun finally dipped below the horizon, the cameras were packed away – there would be no more filming for us on this ride. At the 3rd meet-up point before the descent into Eastbourne, we fitted the Exposure lights to the four bikes and watched the winding lights head off into the final few legs of the South Downs Way. 

Making our way through unknown roads we found ourselves at The Abergavenny Arms in Romdell, charging the spare batteries and organising energy bars and gels for the riders arrival about half an hour later. By this time it was pitch black and past 8pm. With 20 miles left to go, it was evident it was going to be a late finish. Spirits were understandably low and fatigue had begun to set in, with every pedal stroke feeling harder than the last. There was one more stop between the small village of Romdell and Eastbourne where a fast battery swap would be carried out before the very last leg of the challenge.

 

After this, Josh and I dove on to check in at the hotel in Eastbourne. An hour later, as the clock ticked past 12am, the moon shimmered over the calm sea and a few drunken revellers stumbled across the street, four guys rode in on E-Bikes. The challenge was over.  


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