Over the Ashdown Forest and back


Yesterday I met up with Warren and Malcolm for a group ride – the first for a few weeks as we’d all been distracted/busy with one thing or another. On the bike front, it was my first group ride since the bike fit and Malcolm’s first with his new wheels from Harry Rowland (http://www.harryrowland.co.uk/7301.html) – some lovely Ambrosio Excellights on PMP hubs and they looked terrific.


We met at the usual spot in Chiddingstone and decided to ride out and over the Ashdown Forest via Cowden and Hartfield. Malcolm set off at quite a pace and I struggled for the first hour to keep up but with a bit of grimacing here and there never fell too far behind. Malcolm was attacking every climb and we were all riding at a fairly brisk pace on the flatter sections.


It was the first time Warren had been into the upper part of the Forest – it’s a great ride going up roads like Colemans Hatch Road, where the gradient is probably only about 5% but fairly consistent and the views off the side are terrific.


After about an hour or so I started to feel better and was more comfortably keeping up – Warren is back to good form and was definitely the strongest of the three of us. I pointed out that we were riding pretty quickly, Warren agreed and said he’d struggled at one point but Malcolm seemed surprised by our comments. We pressed on still keeping the tempo on the higher side of medium.


Once we got to Nutley via Chelwood Gate I explained about the road I knew across the top of the Forest (Crowborough Road) and the cattle grids on it that mightn’t be great for Warrens wheels. Malcolm said he knew another way via Fletching so we headed that way instead as it’s always good to learn some new roads.


After Fletching we rode down and into Uckfield before heading back up onto the Forest via Maresfield. By the time we started the climb into and through Maresfield Malcolm was really starting to struggle. He’d been struggling a bit as we went into Uckfield but he was finding it harder and harder. Malcolm tried to insist that we left him as he was going to drop in to see a friend but we wouldn’t listen as it’s not part of a group ride to leave someone behind. After a bit of a debate we rode on more slowly to make sure we didn’t drop Malcolm.


Eventually back near Withyam we said farewell to Malcolm and Warren and I pressed on. A quick stop in Groombridge for some drink and snacks and we climbed up Groombridge Hill and rode together down to Fordcombe. At the point I turned around and headed for home.


It was a great day out – good weather, good company and good riding. By the time I got home I’d ridden 91km and had climbed 1100m.


It was still hard work but I’d felt much better on my bike than the last ride – so hopefully my legs are starting to get the hang of the new position. One thing I am noticing that I’ve not mentioned before is that it’s now much more comfortable to climb while in the saddle – before the bike fit I spent a lot more time up on the pedals – so I think I’m climbing now whilst using a bit less energy.


I’m looking forward to the next ride now rather than being quite so nervous about it. The school holidays have started, so now I’ll be trying to balance work and family in the fuller sense when arranging my riding schedule – but it will be great to have the kids around more (a bit more difficult for working though).


Thanks for reading.