Typed this whole post out yesterday only for my browser to hang and lose the lot, hopefully I’ll have better luck today.
After 6 weeks off the bike I finally got the thing out of the shed on Saturday. After my last ride I came down with a nasty chest infection, then got very busy with work, so had no time to ride recently, the weather has hardly been inspiring either. Friston Forest isn’t the greatest place for a ride after heavy rain, but I went there anyway.
Knowing that the weather would have made sure the singletrack was in less than ideal condition I decided to go for a slightly different type of ride this weekend. I decided to start at Eastbourne and ride past the golf course into Jevington and have a bit of a wander about. Rather than worrying about how many tight and twisty trails I could ride at speed I thought I’d enjoy the scenery a bit. I even managed to get a little bit lost by heading out of Jevington on a different trail to the one I normally use. I wasn’t hugely lost, Friston Forest is a massive collection of trees that grow right to the top of the downs, you can see it for miles . I always knew roughly where I was but for about 4k I wasn’t exactly sure where I was headed. The autumn foliage was pretty impressive and it was all very enjoyable. Taking in the solitude and the fresh air and the rain. There was a lot of mud too. Ridiculous mud. In places frequented by horses the pathways were like quagmires. Horses really do make a mess of the place in the winter, always amazes me to hear that mountain bikers are banned from certain areas where horses are allowed for fear of us causing “erosion”. Anyone who thinks a horse does less damage to the ground than a bike is either an idiot or never goes outside after August.
I finally got to the trail head in Friston after a few scary, flinty, chalky descents and a lot of slipping and slogging up stupidly steep climbs. I bumped into a gaggle of other riders at the top of the fireroad, loads of people were out enjoying the mud. Mostly people over 30 too, in the summer I tend to see more younger riders on the DH/Jump bits of the forest but they tend to disappear in the winter. Eavesdropped on lots of talk about which trail had drained best and which bit was particularly muddy for a bit then headed off. Found some singletrack that was new to me and even in the bad conditions rode really nicely. Very much looking forward to getting back on that stretch of forest when the weather is better because it really was sweet and flowing. In a lot of places there was exceptionally thick mud on the trails and the bike was doing a lot of sideways movement. I know skillful riders can slide through corners at speed but I found the rear wheel of the bike was trying to overtake the front end on straight trails the ground was that slippery.
Had a little play about in the forest on the bits of trail I’m fond of then headed back for the long slog over to the car. Even downing a couple of energy gels I was knackered by the time I’d struggled my way back to the top of the climb out of Jevington. Once I’d huffed and puffed up that, it was a pleasant ride past the golfers and through a few puddles onto the road down to to car. This bit of tarmac is particularly steep, as I was coaxing the bike back to a halt after bombing down there as fast as I dared in the wet (just under 50kph) I noticed a burning smell. For the first time ever I’d managed to get my brakes hot enough for the rain to turn into little puffs of steam. I was quite proud of that.
23km and 573m of climbing, the Wall at Afan is the same distance but about 120m less climbing apparently. I remember the wall being a bit of a doddle compared to slogging up the downs.