Guest Post: Vecchio Jo’s Happy 100 – Mark Tearle


I’m delighted to have another guest post. This time it’s from my friend and all round cycling advocate Mark Tearle, who also happens to be a very decent rider. You may know Mark from Twitter where he resides as @_BLIXA_, you may have seen his regular sportive reviews on http://www.cyclosport.org/ or from his enthuisastic promotion of the #30daysofbiking campaign in the UK. Even if you don’t know Mark, this is a good post and well worth a read. The video is from one of the rides other attendees Oli Pepper from http://www.morvelo.com/ and the photos are via Mark. Enjoy and thanks for reading …..

For the most part I am a bubbling cauldron of nervous energy.  It is pretty much that which gets me through the day to day – riding a bike tends to calm that down, usually.  Jo’s Happy 100 sits in that great cycling lexicon of “legendary” here in the South East so it was quite nice to be invited along, by virtue of being localish and on twitter rather than actually knowing Jo personally or anyone else for that matter, much to my burning blush of shame – I mean I get around, right?

As the day grew nearer I felt decidedly twitchier – 100 miles in March?  With people I don’t know?  I don’t know why I fretted so; I do this type of strange thing most weekends anyway and thrive on it – but the added responsibility of riding a borrowed bicycle too, gah!          

I had heard about Jo Burt of course; a mountain bike rider of some pedigree, creator of MBUK’s regular Mint Sauce comic strip and contributor to that ever popular ‘Cycling website of the year’ Road.cc. 


Anyway, before I start scraping the barrel and gush about all my industry great mates (though it feels right to offer Jo this sort of semi-formal introduction) I should bring this piece round to the actual point.  Riding a bike.  The ride.  There doesn’t need to be a reason to ride but the Happy 100 celebrates the spring forward of the clocks from GMT to BST just after the Spring equinox, marking the point in space and time when the sun moves across the celestial equator from south to north…this is good enough reason to me to do 100 miles in the Sussex lanes.

Up and at them then…early rise, which feels earlier due to the clocks changing – I can’t ever get up for work in the morning but always find that motivation to get my arse up and out at an unnatural hour for a bike ride – funny that! 

I arrived at Jo’s embarrassingly early, the first to arrive, though Jo politely pointed out that I was ‘on time’ – a Happy 100 tradition is to get the first kicks from litres of espresso coffee and kilo’s of waffles and other patisserie breakfast delights, with others now beginning to arrive, welcomes, handshakes, introductions, chat and gossip.


All assembled, then let us roll out…with route cards neatly taped to top tubes and stem we take our leave of Brighton and head east crossing the Adur at Kingston-by-Sea over the footbridge.  Having picked up one more stray just after Shoreham airport, crossing the A27 at the lights the first attacks began.

Plenty of bravado but no mean over-competitiveness as all will assemble again, just that element of pleasure and adventure pushing what is possible over those first 50 miles to the café.  Time to warm the legs on the first hill then, a little bit of farm track; regular thup, thup, thup of tyres over the joins in the concrete road now at 2:8 time signatures with the heart rate as the gradient begins to rise.

‘Bostalberg’ done, now for some pavé ‘Petit Brut d’Ecole, ‘Pont Demoli’ – was our first and only puncture here?  I forget.  Then some hills ‘Hammermen’, ‘Hammertwee’ aka ‘Hammerponds’ a rolling murderous bit of road that leaves you gripping hard to stay on the wheels of the stronger man, updown, updown, up… and some final pavé and strada bianche before lunch. 

Balcombe tea rooms is a pretty café – a table already laid out for the riders who are welcomed with open arms, Jo seems to be somewhat of a regular and I know my own cycling club frequent when the club run takes them north as opposed to south down to the Badgers.


Sandwiches and various hot drinks ordered and riders settle down for some alfresco chatter and dining.  The weather, glorious early spring sunshine with the temperature needle far above average for this time of year…legs were already out and exposed. 

With full bellies, eyes were then fixed on a very large birthday cake presented to Jo.  “CAKE!  Oh, Christ, alright why not?  Well it would be rude not to…”  Addled by the bright sun, and gorged on food it was time to settle up and leave – no haggling over the bill, evenly split with a fair tip for the hospitality…time to go.

Happy 100 part 2 with all the hills – we had already done a fair bit of climbing but now it was time to work off that lunch.  From Balcombe the route took us east, up then down into the reservoir at Ardingly before heading towards Ashdown Forest.  Pillow Mounds and Kidds hill en route (Asklimmen and Ashdown Muur respectively on the crib card) – the second time on both ascents for me in as many weeks.

200 meters up into the forest and our way is blocked.  Road closed.  Is that black smoke billowing from the forest?  The local constabulary officious and by the book (all for our own safety of course) will not let us through to the Crowborough Road junction that takes us out of the forest and on our way.

What are our options?  There was no appetite to retrace the route descending Kidds Hill on a loop that would take us 5 miles out of the way…ok, Google maps what do you have for us?  Ahhh, a bit of singletrack through the forest out of the way of the fire to get us back on track – having been subjected to Jo’s pavé there really was no objections…5 minutes later we’re back on route. 

From Nutley towards Newick – stopping in a lay-by for one of them “comfort breaks” Jo disappears over the hedge and appears with a ‘Bonk Box’…a stash of goodies to see us home; sausage rolls, sweets, cake, biscuits all washed back with cola and lemonade.

Now on towards Chailey for another couple of sections of pavé – ‘Croix de Barcombe’ and a section above Plumpton…rolling country roads, fast pace, sucking wheels and taking a turn at the front – riding with people who know what they’re doing is an utter blast…no skittish braking or jerky movements, smooth drafting and strong pacing. 

Just that enigmatic beauty Ditchling Beacon to overcome now…by this point my legs were starting to hurt on the hills.  Jo, generously kept me company as I grinded up the ascent, either that or he was hurting a bit too, though I doubt that! 

As the sun began to set we made our final descent into the city, just that final leg burning lump to get over at Hollingbury then down towards the sea.  The weather had held it couldn’t have been more perfect.  Home.