The SDW – just how hard to do in a day

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  • The SDW – just how hard to do in a day
  • menothim
    Member

    I’m tempted to do the SDW event put on the British Heart Foundation this year, but given my lack of off-road miles I’m worried by hard it might be.

    I live inner city, so have become more of a roadie in recent years – 100 miles is no problem. But off road?

    So, how hard is it? And what sort of bike would be best? I have a Giant hard tail – this might be the excuse to upgrade it! Would a gravel bike cope with that ride, or is an MTB definitely preferable?

    Premier Icon weeksy
    Subscriber

    I did it last year on the same day…. The simple answer is… Pretty hard…. I’m reasonably fit, but it’s a long way and damn hilly.

    I did it this year on the Whyte T130 as i knew it would be a long long day in the saddle and wanted the comfort.

    DrP did it last year properly quick on a gravel bike…. But i wouldn’t fancy it myself. However the terrain is perfectly suited to a gravel bike that’s for sure.

    Premier Icon wwaswas
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    I tend to take the view that off road miles count double so imagine doing a hilly double century on road.

    For most people it’s 10-15 hours of riding in one day.

    People regularly do it on cross bikes but tend to pick their days. If you’re tied to one date then you might want something a little more forgiving of a wet sdw.

    I’d personally think a light hardtail with a rigid fork and light, high volume tyres was probably the best bet but people just seem to ride what they own and succeed 🙂

    Premier Icon tonyg2003
    Subscriber

    I’d agree – quite a bit harder than a road century and 10,000ft of climbing. More like a +150mile road ride.

    I’ve done it on good summer days with a westerly in just over 10hrs (very enjoyable) and once a miserable almost 15hrs in the rain slipping on Down’s chalk.

    qwerty
    Member

    How hard it will be will be hugely dependent on the weather on your specific day and the previous days prior. Too much rainfall and it’ll sap your energy / time, too much sun and you’ll fry, too much headwind and it’ll drain you.

    The BHF sort the logistics of navigation, food & drink for you, so that’s that sorted. But, it does tie you to just one date to do it on.

    I did it last year on a “long, low, slack” 27.5 HT which was fine. 29er carbon race bike would be ideal.

    I did a number of 100 mile road rides in my prep, plus regular 3-6hr local rides with LOTS of ascending.

    It’s all about prep & pace, eating & drinking & at the mercy of the weather.

    Premier Icon mccraque
    Subscriber

    I did it a couple of years ago. Training wise I built up to a couple of 60 or so milers (offroad) in the months before. I’m right by the SDW so used sections of it for training.

    I think the most important thing for the day was nutrition. We ate proper food at regular intervals and stayed hydrated throughout. Apart from one guy who got on the gels early and was a jibbering mess by Ditchling. He was a Cat2 roadie too…so one would have assumed that he knew what he was doing. (He did make it!). As a group though, we were mainly weekend warriors. A few Gorricks and longer rides under our belts, but nothing too serious. It is doable.

    Bike wise – a few of us were on 29 HT’s. I was very happy with that choice. Towards the final third, the hills get sharper and I was glad of the weight advantage even if my arse had taken more of a pounding than the guys on short travel FS’s. That said, it wasn’t that noticeable a pounding. There are no technical climbs. a few chalky boulders and a bit of loose gravel at worst.

    Set off at a sensible pace on a bike that you know and are comfortable on and you will be fine.

    mike_p
    Member

    I did the shorter BHF ride the other year, which is the last 35 miles or so from Brighton to Eastbourne. That’s a fairly big ride in its own right. The whole thing is a serious proposition, not just for the physical demands it puts on the rider but also for logistics. My BIL is a rider of some class, not a dour plodder like yours truly, and has attempted the SDW twice. Both times he got benighted following mechanicals (punctures mainly), out of food and cold. I did the Dragon Ride the other year too (240Km road) which was fairly brutal, and the SDW is much harder. Don’t underestimate it!

    brakes
    Member

    I thought it was fine. Some of the grassy drags were a bit of a slog. It was hot and windy when I did it, but the ground was solid. Did it on a full susser which was all I had, with stuff locked out most of the time.

    Premier Icon scaredypants
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    I did it on a 7 inch travel bike, platform shock but no lockouts. Was carrying loads of spares and with thick wallrd ST high rollers on (talk of greasy chalk and cut-up tyres). Longest off-road ride I’d ever done before was 70miles and I’d only done one road century

    Finished it but I was absolutely knackered, and I did walk on one of the longer late climbs.

    I wouldn’t do it that way again, obviously. Apart from that walk, I also can’t remember that last 30 miles or so at all 😯

    It’s very hard IMO, don’t underestimate it!

    The best bike would be a lightweight XC full-sus with some fast rolling tyres. But people have done it on all sorts of bikes. It’s bumpy too, especially in the summer, so using suspension will make it easier.

    I live locally and have a 29er hardtail and 120mm full-sus. Personally, I’d pick the full-sus.

    Premier Icon pictonroad
    Subscriber

    Sod doing it on a gravel bike. DrP’s best effort was on his rigid singlespeed 29er.

    It’s damn bumpy and the likelihood of multiple flint cuts could easily ruin your day.

    Short travel 29er and a tailwind.

    But mostly a tailwind.

    Premier Icon flange
    Subscriber

    I tried to do it a few years ago with my brother. Rigid 29er with appropriate gearing in dry and wind free conditions. It was FLIPPIN hard, we bailed at about 50 miles in. To be fair we set off late and hung around eating sandwiches at any opportunity. At the time I wasn’t massively fit but even if I had been it would have been a struggle.

    My tips would be keep moving at all times, eat properly and get an early start.

    Premier Icon njee20
    Subscriber

    I think the most important thing for the day was nutrition. We ate proper food at regular intervals and stayed hydrated throughout. Apart from one guy who got on the gels early and was a jibbering mess by Ditchling.

    I did the whole thing on gels (11) and High 5 (10 bottles I think), but not for everyone!

    Pictonroad nails it for me – light XC 29er would be ideal, but mainly good weather. I was lucky in that I had a bit of time off work, knew I wanted to do it, so could just wait for a window where the weather was good.

    Want to go and do it twice more – once to go a bit quicker; I went wrong twice, and once to do it a lot more slowly and actually look around me!

    It’s a big day, but like all these things if you pace yourself and keep fuelled you should be reet.

    Premier Icon Ming the Merciless
    Subscriber

    One successful,attempt and one failed attempt (do not set off like a scalded cat from Winchester on the hottest day of the year, you will feel very ill when you get to Amberley).

    Premier Icon Ming the Merciless
    Subscriber

    One successful attempt and one failed attempt (do not set off like a scalded cat from Winchester on the hottest day of the year, you will feel very ill when you get to Amberley).

    Bloody hard and probably not the most exciting way to spend a long day on a bike

    JoB
    Member

    one thing that’s alluded to a few times up there but i think is vitally important, having being involved in and accompanied several failed attempts is not faffing

    start as early as you can and keep stops to a minimum, and when you do keep them smooth and efficient, don’t sit down for a nice big lunch for example.
    there are also 100 gates along the SDW so stopping at each of them and having a chat/haribo/look at the view (as mountainbikers are want to do) is best avoided, just keep rolling all the time, it doesn’t have to be fast, just always moving, you can save a lot of time this way

    echoing most of the above, weather and trail conditions will make the biggest difference, ride what you’re most comfortable on, it’s a long day, and if you can do 100 road miles you can do the SDW, just don’t underestimate it

    oh, and don’t go the wrong way in the places everyone goes the wrong way

    Premier Icon njee20
    Subscriber

    oh, and don’t go the wrong way in the places everyone goes the wrong way

    If only you’d told me that before I did it dammit!

    I’d expect it to be way beyond my current capabilities, given my longest road ride is ~86 miles and ~6500 feet over ~6 hours moving time, during the last year. I’d hazard a guess it would require 12+ hours riding time plus breaks for me.

    Personally, I would aim to start at the Winchester end (for a likely semi-tailwind) not long after sunrise, somewhere near the longest day (20th June?) and ideally during a period of dry weather days. On the Wazoo, 29er wheelset fitted, probably with 2.35 G-One Speeds (although Panaracer Gravel Kings, maybe SKs, might be better).

    It’s an amazing way to start the day, the views from summits like Old Winchester and Butser, first thing in the morning.

    whitestone
    Member

    Not done the SDW but have done quite a few equivalent long rides so a few generic tips.

    [list]
    [*]How used are you to long days in the saddle? Properly long as in most of summer daylight hours?[/*]
    [*]Get your bike setup properly. What feels fine for a 3hr ride might be agony after 12hrs. This takes time (mainly recovering from incorrect setups) – see the first item.[/*]
    [*]Allied to the previous item, get your kit sorted. Don’t take stuff “just because” or “just in case”. Everything must earn its place. This is a real balance between able to deal with problems and having to bail.[/*]
    [*]As JoB says, don’t faff! 30 seconds at each of 100 gates adds 50mins to your time! Look ahead, figure out which side of the gate is the latch and which way it opens.[/*]
    [*]Try and do stuff on the move – eat, drink, check GPS, etc.[/*]
    [*]Pace yourself – the ideal pace is one that you think you could do all day and the next day. You should be able to hold a conversation whilst riding.[/*]
    [/list]

    I took about 18 months to get my bike setup correctly, if you do a 200Km ride and it’s wrong it might be 6-8 weeks before you recover (nerve damage, etc.) and can try something new.

    Good luck!

    thomthumb
    Member

    I’v done it a few times. You need to be relativley fit; helps if your in a group of similar fitness. 2-4 optimum any more is likley to faff. I’m not adverse to 100 mile gravel rides but not the SDW; in the summer (when it’s fastest) some of the dry bits can be brutal on your wrists; it’s likely to be ~ 10 hrs of riding time. that’s tough on rigid by any measure.

    event means you don;t need to worry so much about navigation, food or tap locations so much.

    i wouldn’t worry too much about off road miles – just make sure your fit, light and get some off road in. might be worth adding core strength workouts.

    Premier Icon brassneck
    Subscriber

    A friend did the BHF on a reasonable weekend warrior amount of training (few long ish days in the Purbecks) in around 13 hours. I would keep that sort of number in mnd if you’re not 100% sure of your ability and pace it on that basis. The organised ride does remove a lot of the bothersome bits, or at least mitigates things like running out of food and drink.
    I’d also focus on the climbing over the distance, be able to do that much – I thought it was around 4000M over the length? I’ve done a bunch of steady 90+ mile road rides on training under 2 hours, usually an hour, but I pack in as much climbing as I can.

    littlerob
    Member

    I did it in July. I was riding for 13:15 with a total transit of 15:15. I’d trained reasonably well (within the bounds of what time I had available) and had done:

    a) Some long-ish flat rides around Essex (e.g. 75 miles off-road).
    b) A few trips to the Peak to get some major climbing in.

    I’d never done 100 miles before, never climbed that much before (I logged 11,500ft) and never ridden for that long.

    To echo what others have said:

    1. Take some “proper” food. I had some sandwiches in additional to the usual gels/bars, and though by the time I ate my last one they didn’t look that great they were *marvellous*!

    2. Pick a dry day. I went in the rain and the chalk is lethal. I dropped the bike twice, and this resulted in a minor mechanical (dropped the chain a couple of times before I got it properly sorted).

    3. Know where you are going. I had a GPS route, but getting power for that long is tricky. I found that I couldn’t charge my Garmin 1000 on the out-front mount (the bar blocks the charging port) so mounted it backwards. Even so I made a couple of mistakes (I find QECP a bit of a headache) as there are just so many trails.

    4. Enjoy it. Its a lovely route.

    If you are interested https://www.strava.com/activities/1105992251

    Rob

    diawl2
    Member

    I did it with a mate a few years ago. Almost binned it about three quarters of the way through when I slid off on a wet chalky descent and put a nice little hole in my hand. Decided to carry on and finish. I found the hardest thing was the tedium. I wouldn’t do it again.

    bigyinn
    Member

    Having ridden Petersfield to Brighton a few times, you really want a spell of dry weather a couple of weeks beforehand to dry out some of the wetter woody bits, late spring early summer means you get a long enough day and you don’t get crisped. Having done it mid summer you can get properly cooked out there.
    Take it steady and try and pace yourself.
    I’ve only ever done it on a 5″ FS, but a shorter travel FS or even a hardtail will be fine.
    I’ve done it W-E and E-W and both are hard, W-E is preferable to avoid headwinds. The section East of ditchling has the worst climbs I believe.
    Oh and make sure you have looked at where the taps are in advance!

    brakes
    Member

    I just looked at my Strava for the day. I commented “bloody hard ride” so maybe it was harder than I remember!
    Set off at 7am, finished at 8pm.

    whitestone
    Member

    For inspiration (or desperation) some of the times for the double are impressive. That site also has location info for the water taps.

    Premier Icon njee20
    Subscriber

    If we’re doing Strava links – here’s mine, I also got lost at QECP!

    Dorset_Knob
    Member

    Hardtail + ThudBuster FTW

    Good luck – I did the BHF one many years ago, I’ve been trying to get fit enough to do it again for the last few years but haven’t quite get there; trying again this year, more seriously I hope.

    Download and follow the BHF training guides, they’re good at keeping you honest on the run-up to the event.

    (A good thing about doing it with the BHF is the comaraderie along the route which must be worth an extra 20 miles or so, and the fact you can get into a gate-opening-and-holding rhythm with the riders around you.)

    Good luck (again) 🙂

    Premier Icon theboyneeds
    Subscriber

    I’ve done it over 2 days many times but did over one day last year. It is very hard. Took 14 hours total (about 12.5 riding). Hottest day of the year. Nearly got heat stroke!

    Pick June/July for lots of daylight and a lightish hardtail is perfect. (I’ve done it full suss and rigid). My one dayer was on a Stanton Sherpa with 100mm forks.

    It is a cracking ride though. Just don’t bother trying it in the rain as the chalk is too slippy and sticky. And don’t forget to stop and look at the view from time to time.

    Premier Icon howsyourdad1
    Subscriber

    I did it years ago, was very tough , ground was muddy/ sticky ,forced to,walk a lot. Won’t be doing it again!

    will
    Member

    Did it last June, brilliant day out, perfect weather, a few tips:

    – I got the 5:30am train out of Waterloo to Winchester. Meant I arrived at 6:30am.

    – Used a 29er Giant XTC. Perfect tool for the job. CX wouldn’t have been any/much quicker, and higher risk of puncture and pain.

    – Work out which way the wind is blowing.

    – Rely on the water taps along the route

    – Most of the long/hard climbs are in the second 50 miles.

    – Carry all the food you’ll need.

    Plenty of photos of my ride on Strava here: https://www.strava.com/activities/1019227665

    dovebiker
    Member

    I’ve done it MTB, CX, SSCX, fatbike, overnight, double – even when going well (sub-10hrs) it’s still a hard day as you tend to push it harder. Weapon of choice for the summer / dry conditions would be a CX/adventure bike with MTB double chainset (24/38) shod with tubeless 40mm G-Ones – you’ll appreciate the low weight more or the climbs rather than gains of suspension downhill. Climbs after Ditchling tend to be longer, rather than steep – Southease against a strong easterly is a slog. Sworn never to ride with anyone not tubeless again after someone got 5 punctures on an over-nighter. A road rider will get beaten up a fair bit if they’re not used to riding offroad – good shorts and gloves essential. I’ve ridden it enough to know the route but have got lost, particularly East-West as it’s less obvious. Tend to avoid weekends around mid-summer because of the BHF ride / other users / getting held up at gates. Green, wet chalk in winter can be a nightmare – wholly different ball-game.

    HTTP404
    Member

    Did it last year. Iirc over 10hrs total riding time.
    Will make a big difference if you have a support vehicle. Less supplies to carry.
    Also a decent mapping GPS. Less pfaffing around for directions. Trails are marked but just makes it turn-by-turn rather than looking for signposts.
    Hardest part is the last half to Eastbourne.
    Started at 6am reached Eastbourne at 8pm.
    Fueled mainly on glucose / fructose energy drinks.
    And the last part on gels.
    Gave up on the oat bars after a 5 hours – they became unpalatable.

    Painey
    Member

    I did it two years ago (with McCraque who posted earlier). It’s tough but I was expecting it to be tougher. That said I did a LOT of riding beforehand. Not very quick riding but I would ride 45 miles into work and then same distance back.

    I should point out that being 40 yrs old (at the time of the ride) and 14stone, I’m not exactly lightweight and definitely starting to feel my age.

    However,getting used to long rides in the weeks leading up to it helped no end. I got to know how to stay comfortable on the bike. I swapped my saddle to a more comfy one and I made sure my bike was in full working order so I’d be confident it wouldn’t let me down.

    The most important thing though was to get to grips with nutrition, as has been said. Working out how to keep yourself fuelled over long distances and time (without hitting the wall) is crucial in my opinion.

    I also rode at a steady pace and rather than just drink water, I mixed in the bottle a powdered sports type drink at every water stop. You sweat a lot so that can really help. By spinning up hills in the granny gear I never burned out so managed to ride up every hill without stopping and didn’t even find the ones near the end that tough. In fact I enjoyed the last few miles as I knew I was going to finish.

    My Garmin gave me a moving time of 10hrs dead. It was probably more like 12-13 taking into account the food and water stops but I’m happy with that.

    The bike I rode was a carbon 29er HT, you’d struggle to find a better tool for the job.

    Premier Icon mccraque
    Subscriber

    I should point out that being 40 yrs old (at the time of the ride) and 14stone, I’m not exactly lightweight and definitely starting to feel my age.

    That’ll be the Premier Inn Winchesters 6 pints of San Miguel and Steak n Chips offer the night before the ride!

    DrP
    Member

    DrP did it last year properly quick on a gravel bike…. But i wouldn’t fancy it myself. However the terrain is perfectly suited to a gravel bike that’s for sure.

    Not quite – I did it sub 9 hours on my rigid SS, which was perfect (for me!). Though it’s an XC bike, i run fairly large vol tyres (Bonty XR4 2.4 front, Geax sag 2.2 rear at the time..now a 2.2 XR3 rear).
    Front sus would be ‘nice’. FS is not needed, but is fine if you have it.

    I’ve ridden about (ish..?) half of it, from winch to Worthing, on a CX bike.
    That had 32C tyres with tubes, up to something like 55psi.. Was fun, but not comfortable.

    I’d like to give it a bash again on the tripster with 2″ 650b wheels one day..

    It’s a fun ride. But.. make no qualms, ruddy hard going!
    There’s LOTS of climbing. But just remember, generally after each climb it’s flat ‘up top’ for a bit, then drops down again. Essentially, the climbs don’t go on forever.

    It’s a great ride though – rite of passage I reckon!!

    DrP

    curto80
    Member

    Hard

    Did the BHF 18 months ago. Very hot and got all kinds of sun/heat related afflictions.

    Whyte 901 and that was the perfect bike.

    Didn’t do any specific training (in fact was first time I’d ever ridden a bike more than 25 miles) but was fit from road cycling and running.

    Absolutely amazing experience though.

    Premier Icon theotherjonv
    Subscriber

    However,getting used to long rides in the weeks leading up to it helped no end. I got to know how to stay comfortable on the bike. I swapped my saddle to a more comfy one and I made sure my bike was in full working order so I’d be confident it wouldn’t let me down.

    Only done the SDW over 2 days but echo the above as my experience from doing some long events / 12 hour solo Gorrick, etc.

    In particular – the saddle you found comfy for a 3 hour ride where you are frequently shifting position might not be comfy after eight hours of predominantly sitting on it.

    Consider raising the bars. The climbs aren’t in general steep enough to become an issue with the front becoming all wanderey, and any losses in aero are way offset by less neck and back strain.

    Likewise, lose the helmet peak, so you don’t need to keep lifting your head to be able to see past it. YMMV but that was the single biggest (comfort) improvement for me.

    Premier Icon nedrapier
    Subscriber

    The climbs aren’t in general steep enough to become an issue with the front becoming all wanderey,

    Only time I’ve made it up Amberley Mount without dabbing was on a bivi ride with a couple of kilos in a bar bag!

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