Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Bad Lights Stop Play

We had decided in advance to try and make an early start in order that we might tackle the 'long Chichester route' beyond Goodwood, onto Hooksway via the South Downs Way and then over Kingley Vale. It is a tough route in Winter and at the limits of burn time for our off-road lights. However, the omens were good, everyone was organised and prepared and the rain which was forecast had not materialised: Equipped with a new set of neoprene gloves (which were more akin to diving apparel that something one might wear on a push bike), waterproof socks and his new cleated shoes Jon was ready for any eventuality; Al had arrived earlier in afternoon with bike fully rigged up in advance; John turned up a while later but fully prepared, as usual, and desperate for his customary cup of tea and cake after another grueling round of business travel. Jon got some instruction from the others before the off regarding the use of his new Crank Brothers clipless pedals as final adjustments were made. Jon was assured that tales of riders not being able to extract shoes from pedals and falling into flower beds had been exaggerated.

Jon slowly learnt the technique for getting his cleats to bind with his pedals on the rutted track around the Goodward motoring circuit. By the time he reached Claypit Lane Jon's shoes were finally engaged - Jon duly hared up the hill in his usual fashion, closely followed by Al. The trio began to appreciate that the heavy rain combined with the wet flint, chalk and clay lent themselves to slippery, greasy conditions. Having firmly engaged his shoes by now, but not having yet learnt the knack of extracting them, a minor skid halfway up to the Trundle caused him to stumble into a ditch. Seconds later Al, a stalwart advocate of clipless pedals who had no similar excuse, also hit a wet patch and ended up in a tangled heap in the mud. These minor 'offs' saw John's steady tortoisesque pace get him to the top first without incident.

The rain reached torrential levels as we made the descent to West Dean - visibilty was poor and bikes were difficult to control in these conditions. Having crossed the A285 road at the usual spot we made the short road section which leads to the bridleway at West Dean Woods. The spray stung our eyes as we made the final fast descent and we were thankful of the cover provided by the woods as the rain continued to strengthen. These were possibly the wettest conditions that we had ever experienced, relished of course by the TCA. We climbed steadily through the woods on sodden, often overgrown, tracks towards the South Downs Way.

Once on the ridge we were buffeted by a strong wind and the now horizontal rain: Cold and wet we briefly considered returning the the way came. However, with the prospect of having to watch an inevitably dismal display as England played Croatia if we arrived home early, we pressed on over Cocking Down and finally made the cover of Linchball Wood. Down-hill towards Hooksway through "bone shaker alley" the ruts on the track had become rivers and proved a particular challenge. However, John and Al were treated to the sight of a magnificent stag stood in the path as they approached. Taking a breather at the end of the descent, having safely negotiated the treacherous conditions, Jon promptly fell sidewards onto the road in front of the Royal Oak with a crash, yet to master the art of clipless pedals.

Inevitably the Royal Oak was closed and we could no longer delay the section we had been dreading - Phillis Wood Lane. At the best of times the wide tractor wheel ruts are filled with cold deep water. The difficult skill is to cycle along the sides of the track without sliding into the mire. Thankfully it was not as bad as feared but by the end of the ordeal it was apparent that the beating rain had taken its toll: Johns lights suddenly gave up, plunging him into darkness. Collectively we decided to curtail the ride and cycle straight home by road without tackling Kingley Vale.

Jon tackles Phillis Wood Lane under 'Dry' conditions

Given that the only part of us all that remained dry was Jon's hands, protected (although sweating heavily) from the conditions by his thick neoprene gloves, the decision to abandon the ride was welcomed by all. We cycled back through the lashing rain in a convoy towards Mid Lavant, and the rather up-market Earl of March, avoiding the sides of road where possible which were torrents of surface water. The irony was not lost on the riders as three pints of Hop Back's Summer Lightning were ordered.

A soggy toast to absent friends, Earl of March

We were soon shivering from the effects of standing in the bar in soaking clothes, despite the roaring fire. We finished our beers and left the pub without leaving any trace of our visit except empty glasses, muddy footprints and a rather large puddle of water on the immaculate parquet flooring. We cycled quickly to Jon's house; by now the rain had also got to Al and Jon's rear lights sticking them in 'constant' mode. 21.7 wet miles later we dried out in front of the football (the inevitable dismal performance ensued) sitting down to yet another new number from the Farndell Close cook book; Caribbean Chicken with wholewheat noddles [Eat your heart out Rusty Lee! Ed.] washed down with Wychwood's Pump King ale, all of which served as at least a minor distraction from the football.

Route Map (click to enlarge):
Elevation Profile:
(Posted by: Jon)

Footnote: After consulting with Lumicycle, and having conducted an appropriate post-ride test, John subsequently discovered, rather than a fault with his lights, that he had depleted the battery by running the 20w 'flood' lamp for the duration of the ride rather than the 12w 'spot' light. While this resulted in the significantly reduced burn-time on the ride in question the manufacturers assert that the lights are specifically designed to stop working suddenly in this event (rather than the fading away
characteristic of other brands) to protect rechargeable battery life in the long-term.

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At 4:52 am, November 27, 2007, Blogger simon said...

argh! sounds awful!!!
Clipping out of peddles for the first time is a daunting task

At 9:37 am, November 27, 2007, Blogger Fat Lad said...

Sounds a lot like our saturday night ride....

At 11:10 am, November 27, 2007, Blogger simon said...

BTW I have a light which runs 20w = 1 hour, 10 watt =3 hours and 5 watt = 4 hours... (I think thats right)

It did not seem to just stop, it seems to drop to the intensity of the lesser watts...

At 3:42 pm, November 27, 2007, Blogger Maalie said...

I assure you that inability to extract to0es from toe clips is no fun. Check here

At 5:06 pm, November 27, 2007, Blogger TCA said...


Over-discharging of NiMH batteries can have a detrimental effect on the long-term performance (as can over-charging). The electronic trickery that Lumicycle put into their chargers/batteries apparently prevents either scenario.

I guess your lights offer no similar protection.


At 11:02 pm, November 27, 2007, Blogger simon said...

I dunno W. don't care either. I just buy a new one when it no longer charges.

At 1:55 pm, November 28, 2007, Blogger TCA said...

I guess if you'd paid the best part of £200 for a set of lights your interest in the finer points of electronic circuitry and the machinations of battery discharge would be more highly tuned?


At 2:48 pm, November 28, 2007, Blogger lorenzothellama said...

Why don't we ever see any photos of you lot floundering in the mud with your bikes on top of you?


At 3:54 pm, November 28, 2007, Blogger TCA said...

Mud and cameras don't mix.

At 4:07 pm, November 28, 2007, Blogger Chris said...

Phillis Lane looks fun. HA! How many weeks did it take for your shoes to dry? I won't even ask how long it took to clean your bikes after that brutality.

At 4:23 pm, November 28, 2007, Blogger TCA said...

Dry shoes? You're kidding - our shoes stay damp from one week to the next at this time of year, only really drying out in the summer!

Cleaning the bikes is no problem - I find that if I strap mine the the roof and drive at 80mph in the driving rain that does the trick, then I just lube it up the next time.



At 5:53 pm, November 28, 2007, Blogger Tortoiseshell said...

I spy an entry for "pylon of the month" sneaking into your latest blog.

No news on small Tortoiseshell..

At 9:10 pm, November 28, 2007, Blogger david mcmahon said...

You actually LEFT the pub? You did WHAT?

Us Aussies LIVE in pubs, especially in bad weather!

At 2:52 am, November 29, 2007, Blogger simon said...

Um... thats $600.00 sound right...thats what I pay. ;o)

At 7:14 am, November 29, 2007, Blogger TCA said...

Ahhh look at that water, now thats biking. I went to hire a bike in Rotorua last year in similar wet conditions and they refused to hire them out!
Jon with bike gloves! that is not like him - spending money.

Do you still carry some electrians tape for back up?


At 7:36 am, November 29, 2007, Blogger simon said...

W- I do LOVE your way of washing the bike.... 80mph in the rain on the roof of your car!!!!

bloody fantastic!

At 8:10 am, November 29, 2007, Blogger TCA said...

Insulating tape?

The force is strong in this one...

How could we do without it - fixes everything.


At 8:11 am, November 29, 2007, Blogger TCA said...


When you get over at Xmas I've going to give you a good wash too, filthy Aussies....



At 10:41 am, November 29, 2007, Blogger simon said...

yea ... go for it mate! I ONLY wash in COLD beer!! ;o)

At 6:58 pm, November 30, 2007, Blogger lorenzothellama said...

Can I help you wash Simon with gin?


At 1:54 am, December 03, 2007, Blogger simon said...



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