South Downs Way

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  • South Downs Way
  • Premier Icon benmotogp46

    This is something I’ve been interested in doing for the past 3 years but haven’t quite got round to it yet!

    I have had numerous discussions with a couple of close friends who are also interested in the challenge, however we are still yet to commit.

    The British Heart Foundation are holding the event on 21st July 2012 for 35, 65 and the full 100 miles. If i’m to enter, I’ll be entering for the 100.

    How many on here have completed this challenge and how was your experience?

    Also, how many of you are considering taking this challenge on this year, whether it be the BHF event or a personal challenge as and when?



    Premier Icon drain

    The first time I tried the SDW I did it in 2 days in early October, with a stop over at Amberley (c.50-55 miles), met my family there and they had changes of clothes etc for me. Conditions were perfect (dry, sunny, slight tailwind) and it was a pleasure – I think I took about 6 hours of elapsed time each day and averaged about 11mph when riding.

    The second time I went with a mate, again stopping at Amberley and with the family. The weather was bad on day one and truly awful on day two, the headwind absolutely killing us in terms of slow progress, so we had to bale at Steyning since my mate was on a tight schedule to get back up north. The trail itself wasn’t in too bad shape, though a bit wet in places – we came across one bloke (getting seen to by ambulancemen) who’d just bust his arm by not giving the wet chalk due respect…

    I’ve just got back from riding it again this weekend, did 70 miles to Truleigh Hill YHA and it took me 9.5 hours (even with a bale out to the road from Amberley to Fulking as I was running way late to meet a friend for dinner), bikepacking my gear for 2 nights. Weather wasn’t too bad, just the trail conditions were shhhhh…ocking. Pushed and carried for a few miles of it. Basic problem, in addition to clag and gloop, was that the chalk is pretty wet so the speed you’d expect to make up on descents just wasn’t an option, the fastest stretches being on the flat. Not much fun, really.

    As some sort of benchmark, I’m reasonably fit and a competent biker, without being particularly fast or technical. I’ll happily do most UK XC riding and am used to long multiday rides (e.g. did the Camino de Santiago and JOGLE last year).

    Which I guess is just a long way of saying, the full 100 miles would be very good going but certainly not impossible if the conditions aren’t too against you, especially if you have support from the BHF and if you’re not carrying stuff for overnight stops. Best of luck, and have fun!


    Did it last year in 2 days stopping at Steyning, the first day was quite wet and you need to be careful of the chalk as it is very slippy. Second day was great,sunny and not to warm. its a really enjoyable ride over two days with some long climbs but also great descents.

    I’m fairly fit and enjoy long days out, hoping to do it this year in one day.

    Its a long way and the days can be quite long, the trail is quite well sign posted and there are water taps on route. Take some food to keep you going all day.

    Have fun and enjoy!

    Premier Icon offthebrakes

    Lots of info on the South Downs Double site, such as locations of water taps, distances, GPS plots etc.

    Don’t feel obliged to do the double though 🙂

    Premier Icon weeksy

    Did it on an overnighter, starting at 6pm, finished at 9am… it was a LONG LONG night. NEver had i thought it would be so long with SO many hills. It was just a long way…

    I will be doing it again in Sept with TrailBreak. Overnighter.

    Did it last year in a day started a 5am from Winchester did it in around 10 1/2 hours long day in the saddle but a great sense of achivement though


    Got a friend telling me we’re doing it in a day at the end of May, just hope it is dry for a few days before we go for it.


    85 miles of it last year from home to Winchester which took me 10 hours. Still felt very good at the end and could have done the whole thing. I went at a conservative pace and waited for a day which meant I wouldn’t be headed into the wind. I’m convinced that although the total climbing is very similar in both directions that it is easier to cycle from Eastbourne to Winchester providing it’s not into a headwind. I always felt the climbs were easier, i.e. longer but less steep heading east to west. Also it’s a far easier final 15 miles to Winchester than to Eastbourne.

    Premier Icon benmotogp46

    Thanks for the feedback guys, very useful indeed.

    One other question – I have the option of a hardtail or FS (Orange Crush and Orange Five). Which would be the best option over the distance?

    I must add that I did do 28 flatish urban miles on the Crush a week ago and my arse was pretty saw. Can this be down to my saddle (SDG Bel Air)?

    Premier Icon scaredypants

    I did the BHF one a few years ago – had been very wet which buggered the 1st half, but the very strong wind dried out the 2nd half. It was at least partially a tailwind which helped a lot but I suffered on the climbs.

    I wasn’t very fit for it, rode a pretty unsuitable bike with way too much spare kit and the longest ride I’d ever done before it was 70 miles on road.

    My arse was really painful until I had a life-changing experience in a bush near devil’s dyke (sudocrem FTW !).

    I’d say that a reasonably fit, fairly determined rider could do the 100m without any problems unless the wind or wet was badly against you.

    If I did it again I’d do the 2nd half only, mostly because I have no real recollection of the last 20 miles, other than the final run downhill.

    (one thing I didn’t expect was that it wasn’t all that easy to stay on the right route. We and quite a few others went off track at least once at various points – a GPS would be good)

    Premier Icon scaredypants

    the riding is in no way technical, other than slippy mud/chalk. I’d take the lightest bike but with some “reasonably” robust tyres, and a thudbuster if you can get hold of one


    Hardtail with large volume tyres would be my preference.


    You WILL need lots of mud clearance. My trance jammed up today on large volume 2.25 advantages to the extent that I skiid down most slopes.


    Had two goes at it last year. Once in June and again in July

    It absolutely chucked it down for the June one, I had the wrong tyres, too much spare kit and only two water bottles. Each drink involved wasting half the bottle contents washing the gloop from the bottle. I cramped up and baled at Steyning (60 ish miles) It was naff plus I has only the weekend before dragged the wife up to London and back on the Tandem so was a wee bit knackered.

    For Second attempt I was more prepared and it was drier. Camelbak and minimal kit. I drank more, much more, no really, 6 Camelbaks worth (24 pints!). Missed the official start and left 1/2 hr early

    Finished in a rather pathetic 16 hrs but had 3 hrs worth of stops.

    I was 55 and weighed 18 stone, any committed rider can do it.

    Go for it – It’s a blast. The BHF is organising only one this year so it should be a bit more of a festival

    Biggest drag is getting to Winchester or back from Eastborne.

    Bike? Anything really, nothing techinical on the ride apart from some steep climbs towards the end, a good hardtail would be the best bet (I used a 2006 RockHopper). Some guy was on a SS 29’er – he cursed it for the last 20 miles.

    Take your time it’s a long way


    I’ve only done it once – end of June last year. Just spotted a weather window and went for it. Overnighted in the YHA at Truleigh Hill – which made the 1st day quite long given I had to ride from my house to the Train station then across London between terminal stations.

    Crammed enough stuff in a large Ortleib seat pack and 18L Camelbak for the jaunt.

    Bike Hard tail – inbred set up 1×9
    Saddle sore – yes needed some cream on 2nd day – should have applied it in the beginning.

    Premier Icon tallie

    I did it in a day with a mate in June last year. We live fairly close so did a couple of training rides including Winchester to the half way point (50ish miles) in about 4 hours, so were fairly confident in completing it in around 10 hours…

    We set off from Eastbourne into the teeth of a howling gale (20mph headwind gusting 30)and finished in Winchester 17 long hours later. I lost count of the number of people along the way, who told us, as we were pedaling in a low gear down hill, that the prevailing wind direction is West to East in the UK. It started to rain at QECP and with hindsight the decisions to do a loop then eat our own bodyweight in cake at the cafe probably weren’t the best.

    I’d offer the following advice:

    [*]Choose a day or direction that provides a tail wind…[/*]

    [*]Nav can be tricky, waymarking is poor, if you’re not familiar with the area a bar mounted GPS / Smart phone might be useful.[/*]

    [*]If you’re doing it with a mate work out a gate routine (we didn’t) as there’s one roughly every mile and lots of time can be saved here.[/*]

    [*]Take good note of where the taps are as they’re the only water sources on route.[/*]

    [*]There’s lots of good accounts on line – worth doing a quick google – the SDW Double site is an excellent resource.[/*]



    I’m hoping to do this at the end of May on my 29er SS, mostly as it’s my only MTB. Is it all pretty SS-friendly? I usually ride 32×18 around the Surry Hills but I’m thinking 32×20 might be more suitable for this.

    Also, what the trail marking like? Will I be ok navigating with just the gpx file from the south downs double site?

    Premier Icon offthebrakes

    Formatting gone wrong?

    Member is a useful site I would also recomend taking the Harveys map


    my 2 cents.

    I live down here in Worthing which is about 10 miles from the SDW. I’ve ridden the route pretty extensively. Did it in 2 days last year, doing it in two weeks over 3 days with the wife and will be doing it in one go in August with a mate.

    I would say there are a couple of key things to plan for when attempting this.

    – Do you want to have fun and enjoy the scenery? Do it in two or three days then.
    – If it’s your first time do it with a group over 2/3 days to get to know the route. Then if you like it come back and try it in one go later in the year. It’s pretty easy to take a wrong turn on some sections and half an hour here and there adds up over 100 miles.
    – Take advantage of the prevailing wind. Winchester to Eastbourne is the way it blows 95% of the time and blow it does when the sun is shinning.
    – Your tolerance for long periods of abuse in the saddle – if it’s lower the Five might be a better option setup in a light XC fashion. The route isn’t to technical but after 60 miles of stutter bumps a bit of comfort can go a long way. I ride a hardtail with a shokpost.
    – Get a good map that shows the location of the water taps. Some of them are tucked away and hard to find if you don’t know the general area. A GPS is also a good idea. I have a Edge 800
    – I would try and get a three day period available to do the ride so you can go when the weather is working for you, the weather will really be the key to making it in one go.
    – Good or new tyres would be a great idea. The flint stones in the trail are razor sharp and rip the heck out of your tyres. My wife slashed all the way through the cords on some brand new Crossmarks.
    – A comfy (wider than your SDG) saddle is a must, I use a Brooks B17 and it’s great, going to be trying a Selle Italia Flite Gel Flow shortly to try and get the weight down. You don’t need to be able to get off the back of the saddle to ride this, just need all day comfort. The first time I did the ride was on a Fizik Gobi and the ass pain was blinding by the end. Point is, find something you can spend 10 plus hours with stuck to your rear.

    The first section (Winchester to roughly Steyning) is longer but easier. The second section has the majority of the climbing and it is basically back to back steep climbs and descents.

    It’s well worth a go though and help is never to far way should anything nasty or mechanicals happen. Hope that helps and hope you decide to give it a go.

    Premier Icon weeksy

    Not sure i fully agree mate.

    We took 3 wrong turns, 9pm, 1am and 3.30am The last one, i took on my own, added on about 4 miles of epic downhill and having to climb back up.

    I also did it on a bike that was 2 days old and i’d never sat on the saddle before…

    and into the wind…

    and at night 🙂

    Premier Icon nedrapier

    I’ve done it a few times with mates over 2 days. I think that’s the best way of actually enjoing it.

    A couple of us are planning to do it in a day later this summer (“summer” dependent!). Not because we particularly want to, or think it will be fun*, but just so we can tick it off and stop thinking about it!

    Get the Harvey Maps map of the route. plastic, sections on one sheet, taps marked.

    *Type 2 fun maybe.

    Type 1 fun = fun while you’re actually doing it
    Type 2 fun = not fun while you’re actually doing it, but fun in retrospect
    Type 3 fun = not fun while you’re doing it, or thinking about at any point in the future

    Premier Icon wwaswas

    some bloke’s planning on doing the sdw ‘triple’ once it all dries out a bit.

    I don’t think he’s expectign fun, either, tbh.


    Anyone want to do this on Saturday 19 May, weather permitting?


    I’ve done it in a day twice, both with BHF and took 12 hours and ten hours. But conditions very good on both occasions and its still a slog, head down, painful in extremis, really shagged on the last 30 miles. Great sense of achievement but not really fun.

    Last year did it in 2 days with mates, plenty of beer in the evenings and enjoyed the scenery more.


    I am sat here sorting B&Bs out for a 5 day SDW with the wife, kids & dogs. I have to keep reminding myself that you lot are talking about doing it in one or two hits.

    We are bound to enjoy it……. aren’t we?


    Yes, I get it…I’m really just looking for the achievement, and would like to find someone willing to share the pain with me….misery loves company they say…:)

    Any takers? 0530 start from Winchester, looking for a 10-12 hour ride.

    Premier Icon wwaswas

    5 day SDW with the wife, kids & dogs

    are the kids still in a trailer?

    I’d suggest you try and do a recce ride ‘en-masse’ to make sure you’re comfortable with the descents as much as anything – some are fairly steep/bumpy. Also, a lot of it tends to be tractor wheel ruts with a ridge in the middle and you may find the track ont he trailer doesn’;t cope – it’ll end up half in a rut and half out.

    But, if it all works for you and the weathers fine I think it’d be a great adventure 🙂

    +1 for possible trailer issues

    Rolled mine with asleep daughter on steep rut avoiding slope. Thankfully she didn’t wake up (phew) and no harm done, but definitely worth checking (or be prepared for a slowww journey whilst you manhandle the trailer over ruts)


    Premier Icon benmotogp46

    Just to add to my original post – I have now achieved the SDW in a day and what a day it was!

    The five of us went from Winchester to Eastbourne with great conditions in 17 hours and 20 minutes. It would have no doubt been quicker if we didn’t have 5 punctures and a chain break. Also, riding in the dark for at least 3-4 hours can really slow the progress as its quite hairy only having a limited vision!

    I made a blog of the ride and it can be viewed here if anyone is interested:



    The British Heart Foundation are holding the event on 21st July 2012

    I’m afraid 21st July has already passed!!!

    I’ve don’t it twice as part of the Maxx Exposure South Downs way challenge, I enjoyed both times immensely.

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