13 July 2013

A Perfect Saturday Ride

London is enjoying an unusual spell of actual nice, warm, sunny, predictable weather. We don't know how long it will last but we'll try to get in all the rides we can while it's here! Looking at last weekend's forecast called for a ride to the beach. It just had to be done! But how to get to a beach on one of the nicest days of the year, without encountering tons of  traffic on the roads and on the trains back to London? We decided to turn to a new book on cycling Southern England, Lost Lanes, for inspiration.

Lost Lanes is written by Jack Thurston who hosts a bike radio show / podcast that we're fans of. We agreed to test ride a ride for him back in December so were sent a free copy of the book when it was recently published. The book is an absolute joy to read and Jack's love of cycling shines through. As often happens with cycling books aimed at a broad audience, many of the rides are shorter than we would consider a full day's ride, but Jack makes them sound so enticing that we want to try them out anyway.

We selected ride number 9, Turf and Surf, which would take us from Chichester to the Blue Flag awarded West Wittering beach. In order to put a few kms into our legs (and get cheaper train tickets!) we decided catch a train to Horsham and then plot a route from Horsham to Chichester where we would pick up Jack's route.

Quiet lanes, South Downs in the distance
It was a great day to ride a bike. We enjoyed quiet lanes out of Horsham and even got some off-roading in over the South Downs via the Slindon Estate. We had taken our Long Haul Truckers specicifically for that purpose, but still destroyed our arms on the off-road descent with no front suspension!

Great trail conditions on the descent, suspension would have been useful!
The off-roading (and the need to reapply sunscreen a few times!) meant that it took us a bit longer than planned to get to Chichester. We stopped there to pick up some picnic food from Marks and Spencers and then picked up Jack's route out of town. Because there was a ferry on the route that only ran til 6pm, we opted to ride Jack's route backwards, so as to put the ferry on the first half of the trip.

It was a great, quiet route and we saw many other cyclists. We passed Barreg Cycles in Fishbourne (just as Jack promised we would) and stopped to admire their unusual collection. Next it was on to Bosham, which has a road which floods twice a day, every day at high tide (we had checked to make sure this wouldnt be an issue for us on the ride!).

View of Bosham from the road that floods with the tides
We caught the Itchenor Ferry with our bicycles and ten minutes later we were on the other side of the harbour, picking up the Salterns Way cycle route and heading towards the beach!

Alberto's bike being loaded onto the ferry

On the ferry
The traffic only picked up when we joined the main road a kilometer or two from the beach, so all in all  I think we did pretty well. The beach was packed, but it was such an expansive beach, and with no commercialisation along the seafront, that it really didn't matter. We set up our blankets on a small dune overlooking the beach, changed into our swimsuits and ate our picnic. I went for a swim and Alberto had a nap, and then we traded places.

West Wittering Beach
We weren't the only people to have brought their bikes to the beach by a long shot - but we may have been the only ones to bring bikes worth more than two months' rent! - so we had to babysit them. It was certainly one of the best beaches I've been to in the UK, and when it came time to leave, neither of us were ready.

Getting ready to leave (I'm applying sunscreen!)
We decided not to follow Jack's route back to Chichester and instead take the shortcut of the main road for a bit and then sought out some quiet roads that run parallel to it. This gave us longer at the beach, but Jack's description of the other part of the route is so evocative that I definitely feel we have unfinished business with it. We made it to Chichester just in time for our train back to London, rounding out a perfect Saturday ride and probably one of my top days on the bike in a long while.

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