Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Two-Way Split

The ride from Hambledon would have an unusual twist this evening. While Jon and Al were up for the customary off-road route John felt that he needed more time in the saddle of his road bike ahead of the impending duathlon. The mountain bikers stuck with shorts for the evening while John felt that the weather justified long trousers; it was one of those mild-for-the-time-of-year evenings but the chill of autumn was in the air too.

Having polished off their tea and cakes the mountain-bike pair and John headed in opposite directions bound for the White Lion. Al suffered a puncture on the first major descent which cost some time but, having taken a longer, hillier circuit John had beaten them to the White Lion by some margin. Showing usual form on an unusual evening John realised he also had a puncture as they drank beers outside the pub.

John was secretly quite pleased as it gave him the opportunity to demonstrate his new compressed air inflation device. Initially this proved quite a startling operation as gas escaped with fearsome velocity seemingly at random. Once John had regained his composure everyone marveled at the speed with which he had pumped his tyre back up.

John wrestles with his tyre
outside the White Lion

Once again a longer loop was devised for John as the off-road pair made for the disused railway line as usual. John and Al both remarked at the excellent condition of the track - dry, compact and fast - they fairly whistled down the path like an express train. Up through the Forest of Bere as usual and down towards the pub.

Once again John was waiting and the three enjoyed a beer outside before taking the country lane back to Hambledon together.

A Toast to Absent Friends:
The Traveler's Rest, Newtown

(Posted by: Al)

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Johnny Saves the Day

Billy-Bob was still out with respiratory problems and John couldn't make it either. Al and Jon therefore resolved to make an early start and get another good, long ride in from Chichester. Traffic and work conspired to stall Al though and, having got the tea and cakes out of the way, the pair eventually left at 6.30 with the sun low on the horizon.

Al sets off up The Trundle

Jon had constructed yet another new route by piecing together bits of numerous previous outings. The first half of the ride followed the well-worn route up and over the Trundle into West Dean and then up towards the South Downs Way through West Dean Woods. All this was pretty uneventful as Jon and Al pressed on trying to get to the ridge without using lights. The plan was scuppered though by a catastrophic failure in Al's chain as he crunched through the gears. Al looked at his stricken bike helplessly - he knew he had left his chain tool and spare links in the 'bike box' at home in his rush to get out. Jon came to the rescue, pulling out a solitary spare link. With a typically slick team effort the TCA pair had the job done in less than 5 minutes. Had Jon not packed the requisite gear the pair were in a world of trouble on the most remote part of the route!

Nightfall on the South Downs Way

Along the ridge then, through the Devil's Jumps and down 'Boneshaker Alley' towards Hooksway. Reaching the bottom of the long, steep descent the pair could not believe their eyes; appearing out of the night like Brigadoon were the lights of the Royal Oak. Opening hours seem to have a mind of their own and it had been months since the TCA had happened on the establishment while it had been open. Jon and Al were treated to a veritable selection of Cornish beers but both plumped for the Cornish Knocker.

Once in a Blue Moon

Having finished the beer, and with a definite chill in the air, the pair headed through Phillis Wood towards Chilgrove. The conditions were nigh so perfect this evening - a clear, cool, dry night - that they briefly considered the ascent of Kingly Vale. With time pressing on, and Al's dodgy chain to consider, Jon and Al felt that they had not upset the cycling gods while they were on-side. They headed instead back to West Dean and by cycle path and dismantled railway to Lavant. The second Royal Oak of the evening (and a "5 out of 10" pint of Bombadier, according to Jon). After their second pint it was home by the usual route.

Jon had been experimenting again with the slow cooker and, with a glut of home grown chillies to use up, he had knocked up chilli & ginger chicken with noodles. They watched "iRobot" on the telly over another couple of bottles of beer but it was all too much for Al who fell asleep on the sofa before either the film or the pint were out.

Route Map (click to enlarge):

(Posted by: Al)

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Darkness Returns

Jon was out feeling generally lethargic and Billy-Bob was suffering from a mystery respiratory problem. Meanwhile John H made every conceivable excuse to wriggle out of a ride. His main complaint was that he had done a tough training session the evening before. Al threw his toys out of the pram and John was soon back on-message, arriving at Al's about 6.30pm.

It was a perfect evening for riding - a still, clear, pleasantly cool evening - and the sun was setting as the pair left for a lap of the regular Hambledon route (albeit at a more gentle pace than usual on account of John's training schedule). Lights were soon employed - this would be the first ride of the season where lights were required virtually from the off.

The trail was in top nick after a sustained period of dry weather and the Boys were soon safely ensconced in the White Lion. A selection of four Bowman's Beers were available - John plumped for Eldorado while Al had a Swift One. Pints were consumed inside for the first time in many weeks on account of the chill in the air.

A Toast to Absent Friends
Indoors at The White Lion

A more sedate pace was adopted on the railway line but the Railway Embankment was soon reached. John resigned himself to walking up the incline as Al took on the challenge as usual. Across the road and up through the Forest of Bere as usual before the unpredictable descent. Tonight it was super-dry and the sand was treacherous. However, the path seemed less badly rutted than in previous weeks since the forestry works had taken their toll.

The pair headed inside again at the Traveler's Rest for pints of Bowman's Wallop's Wood. The pub seemed more quiet than usual and John and Al had the whole saloon bar to themselves.

Home then for dinner and John's complaints about the culinary efforts employed by Al who had picked up pizza from a petrol station on the way home from work. Al conceeded that it was poor form but was keen to point out that they weren't just any old pizza - these were a selection of Marks & Spencer pizza. Followed by Key Lime Pie; not one of John's favorites apparently.

(Posted by: Al)