South Downs Way - Double 2021 -18:43:13

Having successfully completed a SDD ride last year with my good friend, Nick Dwyer, I had an idea of what worked & what didn't. I also appreciated just how tough a challenge it is & that with the best preparation in the world, you still needed more than your fair share of good fortune to complete the ride!


After my 2020 effort I knew my bike setup was good (although I had changed my drivetrain & brakes to SLX & my tyres to Mezcals). At 85+kgs I always want to be lighter, but don't we all? Ideally I'd have done this ride as close to summer solstice as possible, to give as many available hours of daylight as possible. However the universe had different plans & the months of May & June were unusually wet so I had pretty much written off the idea of a double attempt this year completely.


On a rather wet and miserable 3rd July I completed the CX Century sportive on my Gravel Bike (basically the SDW W - E). Other than the sketchy wet bits in the first 100km's I didn't feel too bad during the ride. In the days after this the forecasters were talking about a change in the weather & I started to get the seeds of an idea. Over the next couple of weeks I put in a few 6hr rides on the Downs on my MTB, made sure I had all my stuff together (lights, nutrition, fresh sealant in the tyres etc) & just kept an eye on the weather.


Sat 24th July would have been poetic. Exactly a year since my last Double, but looking at the forecast on Wednesday it showed rain from Friday night onwards for the next week. Friday itself looked windy, so I quickly rescheduled my work & decided to go Thursday. Not ideal as it was gonna be hot, but it was the only opportunity that worked for me.


A midnight alarm call, 2 x coffees, a tin of rice pudding down my neck & a quick shower later I was off to Ditchling Beacon to start my ride to Eastbourne leaving at 01:07. No gilet or arm warmers necessary as the temperature was already 20 degrees C. Much windier than expected heading East but as I was fresh & it was cool, good time was made & climbing out of Alfriston on the return the sun started to rise. Back at Ditchling and the first 54miles cracked off in 5:10 I swapped my lights & restocked my nutrition in the Tailfin for the remainder of the ride. All was going relatively well, but it was soon going to get HOT.


This ride is extremely tough & something is always gonna get you - for me on this day it was the heat. From Botolphs all the way to Winchester & back to Botolphs (120miles) the temperature averaged 28C and maxed at 34C - This really started to mess with my feeding & after about 10 hrs I was having trouble eating anything. After 12 hrs drinking was becoming an issue too. I obviously did eat & drink, but it really wasn't comfortable & I'm sure is the main reason I felt so rough for the days following the ride.


The climb out of Washington heading east is my nemesis - I absolutely hate it, & with 175 miles in the legs it is a real killer. Mentally for me when this is done I'm nearly home. On this day I'm sure someone had added a bit, 'cos it just seemed to go on & on, but I didn't stop & was so glad of the following 5 miles of gradual & then steeper descent 'past the pigs' down to the Adur to give a bit of recovery before Truleigh. The climb from the Dyke stings like hell, but I rode the sneaky little S between the trees & the field (I was proud of that) & then the climb next to Pyecombe Golf Club is almost for free when you know you stop at Ditchling. 


Back at the van still in the evening sunshine I was lucky enough to have a young couple sitting in a neighbouring car who were rolling a special cigarette, yet obliged me in taking a photo for me to mark my completion. I think the sight of me, complete with saying how far I'd been & when I started blew their minds even more than they were already! They probably still wonder if they dreamt it.

View my Strava ride here !

The first goal was naturally to better my time from last year of 22hrs 32. The real big goal was to get under 20hrs so to come in under 19hrs, especially in the heat of the day was absolutely mind blowing.


I'm extremely grateful that my whole ride wasn't blemished in any way by misfortune or mishap. I'm no stranger to the odd little lay-down on the MTB, but for this ride I kept it rubber side down the whole time. I've not had a problem with the Mezcals since fitting them & this ride was no different. In fact all of my kit worked faultlessly. It goes without saying that a well prepared bike is absolutely key, & as a professional mobile bike mechanic for Propel Bikes I'm pleased to say that my bike never missed a beat.