SDW DOUBLE AND NIGHT RIDING
Amazingly, there are some people who ride the whole length of the SDW, and then ride back to their start point, in less than 24 hours!
and now June 2012, TRIPLE 300 miles in 36 hrs, 36,000 feet of climbing
one of the SDDoublers completed the first non stop triple ride recently.
SDW double (riding both ways)
Night riding the SDW
Report from Mike A:
I had a notion to try the SDW double (both ways in under 24 hours): https://www.southdownsdouble.net and started to build up the rides in preparation.
After two 'full' attempts I was unsuccessful due to a variety of reasons but there's always 2010! Having had the practice I thought I'd pass on some comments on my night riding experiences which overnight riders will be familiar with, but sensible folk who generally only ride in the day time might find interesting.
Before I share my thoughts on why you should do some (all?) of the SDW at night here's a brief summary of times and kit. My first overnight test was 28th June, setting out from Eastbourne at midnight. Being high summer the night was very short and come 3:40AM it was bright enough to turn my lights off. The second ride was 24th July again from Eastbourne but starting at 8PM. This time the lights went off at around 4:30 which coincided with the drag up Cocking Down. My final and longest ride was on 15 Aug where I managed to get back to Cocking (approx 130 miles) before baling out. Having started at 6:20PM I had a much longer night ride and still had the lights going come Winchester which I reached just after 5AM. Obviously the further away from the summer solstice the longer the nights.
Naturally the key thing to night riding is to have good lights. However what's equally important is having lights that are reliable and have sufficient run time for your proposed trip. I currently have a selection of U.S.E's Exposure lights which are fantastic but not cheap. I use one of their Joysticks as a helmet light and a either a Race or Enduro as a main bar light. From a pure lighting point of view, a helmet light isn't essential as the SDW isn't a technical route or indeed one that has many wooded sections. That said I found the helmet light very useful for checking signposts as I passed and this is with following a course plot on my Garmin 705! The Enduro will kick out 720 lumens which is very handy for the fast descents where you need as much light as possible., On the flatter and slower sections you don't need full power and certainly not when you're grinding up a hill at 2- 5mph. In fact the small 240 lumen Joystick offered sufficient light on the climbs. One downside of bright lights is in fog where they can actually be a hindrance. I've had fog on a few day rides but night time brings on a whole new set of opportunities. If you thought driving in thick fog was bad, consider riding along the top of a ridge with a 2 - 300 ft drop to one side. Not something to get wrong!
Why would you want to ride at night?
Riding in the dead of night heightens the senses and if you like solitude, there's a good chance you'll have the SDW to yourself, or it will at least feel like that. The few people you may encounter will probably be of a similar mind and know how special the time is. However its sunset and sunrise that are the most magical times, especially sunrise which is the best part of the day. Riding in to the sunset up Firle beacon with a waning moon ahead was one of those "grrh, why haven't I got a camera with me?" moments. The 15 minutes before morning twilight is surprisingly rejuvenating, especially as it gets visibly lighter and you can start to pick out more details of your surroundings. Once the dawn breaks, you get fantastic views over the weald of Sussex, especially on clear mornings. It can be surprisingly misty in the lowlands, which makes the landscape more breathtaking and not something you'd see two hours after sun rise.
Sheep and cows don't count here and nor do the bunnies. However on my last trip the rabbits seemed to have a fascination with running along just in front of me, which meant you really had to keep your wits about you. Badgers. They're everywhere and great fun to watch scurrying along the trail. Just be careful you don't hit one as that will hurt! Owls. Again something you don't see in day time but majestic to see fly. I've been lucky to have Barn Owls wait until the last moment before taking off from a fence post. Their ghostly white shape silently disappearing out of your light pool is both spooky and beautiful. Deer Are very common but not that easy to see during the day. The highlight of the July ride was 'chasing' a herd along a parallel field around Beacon hill. Really lifted the spirits but be careful they don't dart across you. Everything else. Chewing the bar as you grind up a hill is often a good time to catch the smaller inhabitants such as mice and voles. They certainly brighten up a climb especially if it's a tortuous one.
Obviously a full night ride isn't a spur of the moment decision but does have it's own rewards and sense of achievement. However I can thoroughly recommend getting up a few hours earlier and exploring some of the route during sun rise. Be sure to take a camera if you do. (end)