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South Downs Way Doable on a Cyclo-Cross bike??

colinsmith123colinsmith123 Posts: 579
edited July 2012 in Routes
My brother and I are riding the SDW 100 mile challenge on 25th June 2011.

Me, 49years old, inexperienced MTBer. Relatively fit. Reside in the south

Brother, 62 years old with 48 years racing experience, very fit. Resides in the north.

He wants to ride his cyclo-cross bike, but I don't know if this is doable on SDW.

Any advice appreciated.
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  • Nick CodNick Cod Posts: 321
    Without trying to offend any cyclocross riders as I understand it cyclocross involves riding off road and negotiating obstacles on a what looks like a road bike but made for off roading.

    Forgive me if this seems a little narrow minded and if there's more to this discipline, my post isn't meant to offend.

    In regards to riding the South Downs 100 I guess it could be done on a cyclocross bike but I would keep in mind that it's a long journey and comfort would be at the forefront of my mind. That said I guess it depends on the individual but my personal choice would be a half decent XC bike

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  • pylwaglpylwagl Posts: 35
    I've seen others on cyclo-cross bikes on the SDW while I've been out, so it must be do-able. (Don't know how far they were going)Think I'd rather have an MTB myself though. An end to end ride would be rather demanding, although I have plans to do it myself (on an mtb) in summer.
    good luck to you

  • booldawgbooldawg Posts: 290
    I've not ridden the whole trail but did Winchester to Buriton last summer.

    Theres alot of chalky uneven surfaces to ride on - you'd be OK at the moment but wouldnt fancy it wet even with hybrid tyres on an MTB.

    Whereabouts in the South are you? If you're not too far away may be worth riding a section to see how it goes.
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  • diydiy Posts: 6,473
    Its doable, there is nothing particularly challenging on the SDW 100 from a technical point of view, but unless you are uber fit, I reckon you will struggle on the devils censored to eastbourne section which has the toughest climbs. From memory its roughly 1500m climbing in the first 65 miles and then 1500 in the last 35 miles.

    The big problem you will have is that the trails are hard packed and rutted with tractor ruts, which demand really good suspension to avoid the vibration fatiguing you.

    TBH I would think twice about doing on a hard tail let alone a cyclocross.

    I'm doing both the June and the July one this year, so if I see someone on cyclocross I will give you a wave as you will be the only one.

    I'm afraid based on your description of yourself, I doubt you will do it - I really hope you do, but I think its tougher than you think

    Good luck - its an epic ride, not just about endurance, but also about speed too. You need to go at a pace to avoid still being out their at 8PM at night.

    Last year I drank 7l of water and lost 4kg during the day.
  • certainly doable but you will feel battered and hands will hurt from fixing all your punctures :)
  • Obs1dianObs1dian Posts: 88
    A friend and I did it in late 2010 when we had just had all that snow... There was still snow on the downs.

    We're average fitness (whatever that means) and did it on hard tail bikes.

    The conditions were basically the worst conditions I've ever ridden in, we ended up walking down many hills and a lot of the Way was just sludge. Take it from me, ride it in the dry!

    However, saying all that we did manage to make it 54 miles from Winchester in 12 hours!! Still... we'll be having a crack at it soon as it's now a bit drier ;)
  • mrlargefootmrlargefoot Posts: 10
    I do different sections of the downs fairly often as i live in brighton and i dont think you would have too much trouble.

    As mentioned previously your biggest problem would be long sections of rutted ground that will shake the bones a bit over the course of 100 miles Its nice and dry at the moment which i guess means any of the mildly technical bits will be simple but any bits where the tractors and quads have had a chance to furrow the ground up will be super hard and bumpy.
  • AdsHAdsH Posts: 13
    At the risk of seeming very dumb how does a solo entrant get back to the start....... or do you have to take 2 cars?
  • diydiy Posts: 6,473
    Its the biggest inconvenience with the whole event. Essentially you have to find some kind person to get up at 3AM or whatever to drive you to the start and then find some way of getting home at the end from Eastbourne probably via the train.

    Alternatively you go back the next day to pick your car up.

    God only knows why they don't organise it as a loop.

    Fortunately if you don't make it all the way you are never that far away from a brighton or london bound train station.
  • Obs1dianObs1dian Posts: 88
    AdsH wrote:
    At the risk of seeming very dumb how does a solo entrant get back to the start....... or do you have to take 2 cars?

    Do the double? ;)
  • beechtreebeechtree Posts: 85
    At the risk of seeming very dumb how does a solo entrant get back to the start....... or do you have to take 2 cars?

    Train; Eastborne to Clapham Junction, change Winchester. In total takes about 2 3/4 hours. Last train on a Sunday leaves at 22:59 but takes a more scenic route.

    It's doable on a cyclo-cross, but as has been pointed out, fatter tyres and at least front suspension would make it more comfortable.
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  • Monty DogMonty Dog Posts: 20,614
    No problems on a CX Bike, did it 2 years ago and plan to ride it again this weekend on a singlespeed CX. there's nothing to technical and with the dry weather, expect any deep ruts to be long gone. Comfort is a factor particularly on the hands and wrists due to braking and not being able to let the bike run on long descent, but the lighter weight means the ups are a lot quicker. Do expect to be climbing out the saddle lots though. Riding in a mixed group, we're giving the MTBs a 90 minute head start over the two of us on CXs and expect to catch them by Storrington.
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  • Just signed up to this in July on my BMC CX, so I hope it is doable. I've done loads of similar distance rides on the road, but this sounds a whole new ball game. As a matter of interest, what food/spares did people who've done it take?
  • diydiy Posts: 6,473
    I would rate it as 2:1 road miles. On road (MTB with slicks) I've done a couple of 130 mile day rides, but that is nothing compared to this. On road you can maintain 15-18mph avg fairly easily, on the SDW 8-12mph is going well. It is the best part of 3000m of climbing. I was out doing the Devils censored to Eastbourne and back section this Saturday (approx 60ish miles 2600m of climb) and that was pretty tough given that the trail is quite muddy and we had head winds on the return section. Also the temp ranged from 11 degrees to 23 degrees as you climb up and down, which is quite hard to deal with.

    Last year I drank about 8L of water and burned the best part of 6000 Kcal.

    There are plenty of water stops, so I would take Isotonic supplement powders that you can add to your water and then power bars to give you the energy. I did post a recipe for homemade powerbars in general and I was using them on saturday and they were really good.

    Make sure you bike is in tip top condition as the trail seems to destroy almost anything after about 50 miles of chalk.
  • diydiy Posts: 6,473
    I'm guessing that the chaps on the cyclocrosses didn't finish given the conditions yesterday? It was the worse I have ever experienced on the ride. Thick mud, wet chalk, I think you can count the riders who didn't crash easier than those that did.

    Finished it in 14 hours though.
  • booldawgbooldawg Posts: 290
    For anyone considering riding all/part of SDW I'd recommend visiting the below website. Its the most comprehensive online resource I've found so far.
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  • AMcKAMcK Posts: 79
    diy wrote:
    It was the worse I have ever experienced on the ride. Thick mud, wet chalk, I think you can count the riders who didn't crash easier than those that did.

    Finished it in 14 hours though.

    Nice one - I thought the first 30-40 miles were a real slog in those conditions - worse conditions than last year's baking heat IMHO (and I thought that was bad) - at least you could roll along the tops/downhills at decent speed on the hardened ground then.

    In the end, we were late, got caught in the dense fog on the hills between the two last checkpoints and decided to call it a day when we missed a blue disc on a gate and got lost before retracing our steps.

    A bit gutting, but a sensible decision (we heard afterwards the guy who sweeps up the last riders to the finish also got lost).
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  • ShacksterShackster Posts: 257
    As a matter of interest, what food/spares did people who've done it take?

    I did (most of) this with Amck. I ate:

    Extreme carbo/caffeine powder drink for breakfast at 0430 (also had a bagel but couldn't force it down at that hour!)
    2 powerbars
    2 trek bars
    2 bananas
    10 isogels (mix of regular and +caffeine ones)
    About 3 packs of sports beans
    About 1 pack of powerbar cola energy shots
    3 sausage rolls
    1 ginster's chicken & mushroom slice (nice lunchtime treat at top of Washington!)

    I had two spare tubes with me but didn't get a single puncture. Also had sram powerlink, Park tyre patches, other normal trail stuff. Didn't use any of it! Saw plenty of punctures though.

    The one thing I would strongly recommend is taking some chain oil. I use finish line cross country which is supposed to survive wet conditions, but after the first 30/40 miles of being soaked with chalky mud and water my chain was dry as a bone and squeaking horribly.
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  • diydiy Posts: 6,473
    I can see how you got lost, my sat nav packed up (out of battery) just before the last check point. I've done that section enough times to know roughly where I was going but when you cannot see your hand in front of your face, you've no chance of seeing a marker or an acorn sign on a post.

    I heard the sweeper got lost too, just when we were leaving to go home they were starting to get worried about the number of riders still missing.
  • AMcKAMcK Posts: 79
    edited July 2011
    diy wrote:
    I just when we were leaving to go home they were starting to get worried about the number of riders still missing.

    When we got to the penultimate checkpoint, we'd just missed the sweeper, but the people there told us there were a fair few still behind us to come through. We didn't see anybody else at all, aside of a brief glimpse of the sweeper's group as they went over the hill.

    They had the same problem last year - people stop for whatever reason and don't call and let the organisers know, so they don't necessarily know who's still out there.

    Reading back that food list - bleurgh. Fewer gels and more bananas for me, and a couple of the new Hob Nob bars (nice). Otherwise, broadly the same.

    Finally - if you can go tubeless/sealant or use a conversion kit - it's a godsend. Still need to carry a couple of tubes, tyre patch just in case of a serious one, but I got one at the weekend, bit of fizz and just carried on rolling....
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  • njee20njee20 Posts: 9,613
    I'm guessing that the chaps on the cyclocrosses didn't finish given the conditions yesterday?

    Why would you guess that? In the slop suspension is no use and a narrow tyre will cut through better. Considering the dismal conditions 'cross races are often held in I'd say a CX bike would be rather advantageous on the Downs in the wet![/quote]
  • diydiy Posts: 6,473
    The lethal bit was not the mud, I think most can cope with mud, but the wet chalk which made it so hard to descend at any kind of speed.
  • The only disadvantage of a cx bike over a mtn bike on the SDW will be comfort on the descents. Totally doable on a CX bike though personally, I wouldn't do it. This year was a bit tougher than last year, with all the mud early on. My friends rear mech hanger completely snapped after only 17 miles ( on a brand new Canyon nerve !! ) so we had to removed the rear mech and shorten the chain so he effectively rode single speed all the way to Devils censored . Then at 73 miles, the jockey wheel cage on my rear mech snapped clean in half so we had to give up as we'd used the sram powerlinks we had as spares on my friends bike. I'm so gutted at not being able to do it this year that I'm going to do it again sometime this year ......
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  • diydiy Posts: 6,473
    Sounds familiar, I had so much gunk on my chain that I was limited between gears in order to avoid chain suck jamming the chain, so its easy to see how things were tested beyond their strength.

    There is another one this month.
  • Going back to my original question, is the SDW doable on CX bike? Well my brother turned up at Winchester on his CX, spat his dummy out because I was 2hours late getting to Winchester, refused to ride and went home.

    I cocked off at Devil's censored after 9hours. Enjoyed all of those miles and felt it not worth going to some dark places in my mind for the last bit.

    Looking forward to next year.
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  • diydiy Posts: 6,473
    I'm assuming you did the July run, not the June run.

    I'm still counting the cost on the bike of the June run.

    New chain rings, new chain, likely new cassette soon, two sets of brake pads. All as a result of riding 100 miles with the bike clagged up in chalky mud.

    Doing the 60/65 in 9 hours is a good time well done. Mentally its roughly the half way point as you have so much more climbing to do for the last 35, by which time you are having to dig pretty deep to keep going.
  • I did the June run. Aiming to go back and do the last 35 miles soon.
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  • SimonhiSimonhi Posts: 229
    In a similar vein, I'm looking to do this on a rigid single speed 29er MTB.

    What would be a good gear ratio to aim for, I normally use 54ish gear inches with a 34x18 setup for most local rides in Hampshire. I find I need the occasional walk up the steep stuff but otherwise it's ok.

    Would 50 gear inches be a better figure to aim for ?


    Si :-)
  • It's been a while since you asked about this - but I did the SDW in one hit on a cross bike back in October 2008, I'm planning it again one weekend over the 'summer'.

    I did it on a Specialized Tricross, 48/34 and 12-27 and had no problems with any of the climbs. There were of course some very tricky descents, and one or two really steep ones were actually quicker to shoulder the bike and run down. Same for a couple of the very steep climbs, one out of Pyecombe if I remember rightly was easier to do on foot. But that aspect didn't detract from the experience in anyway.

    I did have to get a new tyre at Amberley (a friend fetched one from Worthing for me!), was riding Michelin Mud 2's and shredded the rear. A temporary fix got me going again and I switched to a pair of Hutchinson's which got me all the way to Eastbourne without any punctures.

    I'd not done a great deal of long distance off road on it before hand, so learnt as I went along so to speak. Adjusting the angle of the bars was the biggest change, making it easier to descend on the hoods and still get hands round the brakes. Dropping the saddle height also helped for the descents.

    Its fast, technically challenging without the suspension and great fun, I'd recommend it!
  • njee20njee20 Posts: 9,613
    So you had no issues with some of the climbs, but walked a few? Contradiction, no?
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