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Old 05-21-06, 03:02 AM   #1
stapfam
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South Downs Way failure

Friday night and we got to Winchester but plans were changed when we arrived. Torrential rain and high winds meant that Camping was out so a trip to the local travel lodge and we were in bed for a goods nights rest. 5 am and we got to the start and Tandem assembled in beautiful weather but high winds. 6 am and we were off. Not so many riders but seemed to be a lot of hammerheads going for it right from the start. First part is a long climb up to our first meeting point about 3 miles in where we cross a road and we felt good. Considering the amount of rain that had fallen in the last week, and in particular the night before, The trail was good but a lot of branches down on the trail. Which meant that we had caught a lot of the hammerheads.

Then it started. After the 3 miles you are on proper offroad and not good paths. The first 20 miles to the 1st checkpoint were covered uneventfully, and found ourselves coming in only about 5 minutes behind the leaders, Quick loo stop here, and a bite to eat and we were off. You now start the South Downs Way proper and we were warned that there was a bit of flooding and plenty of Trees down for the next 80 miles. Our time was on par with the previous years so no worries yet. The next 5 miles or so were on good trails but we started to find MUD. Still, there was plenty of standing water to clean the drive chain, but I did get worried when I noticed that not only were my feet under water in some of the puddles but so was the rear cassette. 15” of standing water and you can’t see any rocks or holes in the trail. Then we started to find out what the weather can unleash. The high wind that had been behind us veered through 90 deg. and gave us a side wind in places at about 35 mph. Not bad in the wooded sections- except those trees down were a pain when you had to fight your war way through the branches, but on the open sections that wind was something to be careful of.

Only other problem we had was Chain suck in granny gear. The whole drivechain was covered in mud and at one point we got to the back up and washed off the whole system and cleaned and relubed the chain. 1 mile later we met the back up again and had to do exactly the same again. That chain suck locked up the cranks completely and we became worried about using the small chainring on the front so some hills were taken with a great deal of effort and very slow cadence in middle ring. The conditions were getting worse but we had not lost much time by the 50-mile mark. Only about 40 minutes so plug away.

The trail had dried out a bit but a problem we had found right from the start started to get worse and that was grip. Some of the hills were long and steep but we had always ridden them before. It was not energy that stopped us climbing them but lack of grip. On one particular hill we lost grip – wheels spinning like crazy but the tandem going backwards. Ok, This was on a 20% slope but it was getting that any hill over 10% and we were not able to cycle and walking. Then one big 15% hill and we loved it. Good surface and it is about 1 mile long and twist’s and turns in a little gully so no wind. Then just at the top we turned a corner and caught the wind full on. It stopped us dead. The wind had changed again and was coming from the right front quarter. Things got hard from here on and some gust's were up to about 50 mph. A bit further on and we got to some tall Radar pylons, and we started to think about the ride. The wind going through the pylons was deafening. Stuart and me talked a bit and we were going to stop at the 65-mile mark. Got there and they decided it for us. People further on were being blown off the bikes, the wind was going up to full gale force in a couple of hours and Rain was Expected.. From here we would have at least 4 hours on a good day, but we were now pushing 2 hours late and we would not get in before the light failed. We stopped.

Don’t want to say we failed which is what we did, but those conditions were too bad for us. Once again we were the Only Tandem to attempt the ride, and actually met several Tandem riders out there doing the ride on solos, and they thought we were Nutters for doing the ride. We had done the ride in 2003 and 04 but that was in far better conditions than yesterday.

Pictures will follow on of the ride- When I get the camera from my backup crew, but in the mean time. A couple from the Bit after we dropped out as my wife went out walking the dog. The big puddle on one of the shots by the way was not there 30 minutes earlier. One rain storm and that appeared
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File Type: jpg DSC00995.JPG (17.4 KB, 62 views)
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Old 05-21-06, 03:26 AM   #2
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Stapfam,

No failure at all! You and Stuart rode 65 miles into hell, thumbed your nose at the devil, and told him where to put it. You are still THE KING of all things off road for all of us who read BF-50+! Way to endure! Way to inspire us all!
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Old 05-21-06, 04:23 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by pastorbobnlnh
Stapfam,

No failure at all! You and Stuart rode 65 miles into hell, thumbed your nose at the devil, and told him where to put it. You are still THE KING of all things off road for all of us who read BF-50+! Way to endure! Way to inspire us all!
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Old 05-21-06, 05:41 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by pastorbobnlnh
Stapfam,

No failure at all! You and Stuart rode 65 miles into hell, thumbed your nose at the devil, and told him where to put it. You are still THE KING of all things off road for all of us who read BF-50+! Way to endure! Way to inspire us all!
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Old 05-21-06, 07:09 AM   #5
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Stapfam - Sorry to hear of the awful conditions. Sometimes it is just not meant to be. There is no failure in knowing when to leave a course. I call it wisdom!
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Old 05-21-06, 07:20 AM   #6
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Exciting read, stapfam. Well done - but please improve the weather before we get to B-ton next Monday!

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Old 05-21-06, 07:44 AM   #7
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My goodness. What an incredible feat. I just can't imagine anyone riding 65 miles in those conditions. Most people just don't realize the mental fortitude it takes to keep going to even get to the 65 mile mark. Great job Stapfam!!
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Old 05-21-06, 09:46 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Artmo
Exciting read, stapfam. Well done - but please improve the weather before we get to B-ton next Monday!
If you'r at Brighton- Give us a call, work 10 miles from there and only live 25 away. And if its tomorrow- take your Raincoat.
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Old 05-21-06, 11:01 AM   #9
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Some pics got off the camera. not many but that is all I have got so far so it will have to do.
First is at the start showing the Blue sky, We are just left of centre with the tandem centre foreground. We are in the leggings.
second is an action shot through the woods
third is after I had changed out of the Mud clothes and the bike had been cleaned---Twice!!! I am inspecting the Drive chain to find out why is keeps locking up.
And the 4th is about 10 miles before we abandoned and just at the top of a 1 mile15% muddy climb that we actually rode all the way up.

Haven't seen the rest as they are still in the camera 10 miles away
Attached Images
File Type: jpg start.jpg (46.3 KB, 54 views)
File Type: jpg woods.JPG (33.6 KB, 54 views)
File Type: jpg Clean bike.JPG (52.9 KB, 52 views)
File Type: jpg riding.JPG (48.3 KB, 57 views)
File Type: jpg sun.JPG (33.5 KB, 56 views)
File Type: jpg smiling.JPG (52.4 KB, 59 views)
File Type: jpg truleigh.JPG (37.6 KB, 60 views)
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Old 05-21-06, 11:03 AM   #10
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I would definetly not call this failure. If you can put up with those conditions for 65 miles, that's a triumph.
I felt pressed yesterday when I pushed myself to go 25 miles without stopping (I did stop once for a couple of minutes) and this was under good weather conditions.

Your stories are an inspiration to me to keep going, good job in making it to the 65 mile point!
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Old 05-21-06, 11:30 AM   #11
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That beautiful English countryside...even if you brought much of it home glued to your bike. Stapfam, so many people here talk good sense. You had 65 miles of the most outrageous, butt slapping, kick out the jams FUN......and you know it. Besides, my impression of you is that now you have an excuse to train even harder and stay even more focused......even more fun as some here seem to define the word.....and a reason to ride on more!!

I believe you earned that Big English Breakfast on this one. Gotta stoke up for next year.
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Old 05-21-06, 11:36 AM   #12
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You know, Stapfam, if the original goal of the ride had been 50 miles, you would have been feeling fantastic to have surpassed that goal by 15 miles. Same ride, same distance. It's all how you look at it.
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Old 05-21-06, 01:23 PM   #13
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I concur with the other posters, stapfan, no way was that effort a failure.

I can barely imagine riding on wet, muddy, slippery steep grades - not to mention doing it on a tandem.



A tip of the helmet to you.
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Old 05-21-06, 01:29 PM   #14
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The ride was an inspiration. the bike cleaning must be a horrible job!
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Old 05-21-06, 02:11 PM   #15
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The ride was an inspiration. the bike cleaning must be a horrible job!
You must be joking- Pulled it out of the bike shed this morning and let the torrential thunder storms wash it off. The good weather is still trying to find us. All I had to do wash wipe it down and it is nearly clean. It is now official-- We have Drought conditions in the South East of England.-- Tell me about it.
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Old 05-22-06, 05:46 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stapfam
If you'r at Brighton- Give us a call, work 10 miles from there and only live 25 away. And if its tomorrow- take your Raincoat.
It's next Monday. I'll email you.
Great pictures - you guys are tough. It's hard enough riding the hills on the paved roads around there, so I can only imagine what it was like on your ride.
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Old 05-22-06, 08:02 AM   #17
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This "failure" has been linked to the Rogue's Gallery web page.
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Old 05-22-06, 10:42 PM   #18
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Stapfam,

Thanks for the ride report. I know this ride is a big event for you -- full credit, I think, for bravery and stamina, but given the conditions, it does raise doubts about your sanity

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Old 05-23-06, 05:48 PM   #19
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Great job and great report.

I'll bet when you look back at these rides, this year will stand out the most.
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Old 05-24-06, 12:40 AM   #20
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Great job and great report.

I'll bet when you look back at these rides, this year will stand out the most.

Hope you are right.
in 2001 I did a metric century- Circular route and it rained. It rained and it rained. Also had 70 mph winds that always seemed to be in the face for the whole ride. Finished the ride in a worse state than last Saturday but if you talk to riders nowadays about hard rides- that one always comes up as one of the classics.
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