Devils Dyke to Ditchling Beacon Killer Ride

25 06 2007

Today’s ride was attended by seven hardy souls who braved the heavy rain with a view to completing our first ‘killer’ ride, Devils Dyke to Ditchling Beacon without using the South Downs Way.

We set of at 10-30am from Devils Dyke accompanied by driving horizontal rain and a South West breeze. The first ribbon of singletrack was completed without incident although a couple of wheels were swallowed by badger holes with the riders relying on good luck rather than skill to avoid a tumble. The chalky surfaces were very slippery and the top inch was a viscous sticky mud, just the job to test our gears changing and braking abilities. As usual we suffered our first mechanical after 15 minutes as a brake securing circlip came lose, the owner was keen to point out that this was obviously the fault of a major on-line bike retailer. A quick repair and we came to the first steep and stepped descent. The exposed chalk turned the section into an ice-rink and Jim gave us all a demonstration of a dainty pirouette with pike twisting his ankle as he landed, painful. This was followed by the first singletrack climb up a rutted and rooty section that while not difficult demanded concentration and strength. At this stage one of our number decided to cut his loses and headed back. Now we were six.

The first brutal climb was tough but we all made it and had a satisfied glow that we had earned the descent down the other side. We began with a couple of hundred metres of singletrack that had calf kissing nettles, brambles, some pot-holes and as Ollie discovered a lot of deep fresh cow poo. After the singletrack it was straight down and across the A23. Now the real fun(!) started. The initial climb was rocky and slippery but it soon gave way to a singletrack mud bath. Safely through, everyone searched for sticks and twigs to de-mud the bikes. A brake repair involving the ingenious use of two zip-ties and we were off to begin the assault on a section of contour hugging singletrack that finished with a dodgy steep descent around a twisted tree. The subsequent singletrack around the edge of a chalk pit is a blast in dry conditions; however today it was not dry. One of our gang paid the price for his competitive edge as he slid on one of the many wet roots and took a cart-wheeling tumble down the side of the chalk pit still clipped to his bike. Luckily there were plenty of brambles to break his fall and it was only his pride that was dented. He was at pains to point out that the tumble was also the fault of a major on-line bike retailer, I’m starting to think they may have a vendetta against this guy. On we went through yet more mud and yet another climb before a whiz along a bridleway where for once we had gravity on our side. A puncture, yet more de-mudding and Jim left us, he was paying the price for continuing to ride following his ankle twisting tumble. Now we were five.

The rain hit us with a vengeance during the exposed climb up to and through the golf course and we hurriedly grabbed water proofs. The next climb really twisted the knife and we all felt it, even the guys that walked. A bumpy ride between two fields and we emerged at Ditchling Beacon to be greeted by yet more horizontal rain. Our victim of the online retailer hate campaign bailed at this point; however he had planned ahead and had brought fruit and nut cake that we descended on like locusts. Refreshed we continued on our way. Now we were four.

The ride back was uneventful apart from the slipping and sliding root dancing in Stanmer Woods. Back across the A23 and the penultimate climb up water filled vehicle tracks, at this stage we were all weary and were casting envious glances across to Devils Dyke pub sitting on the hill across the valley. The final descent included a healthy dose of yet more contour hugging singletrack. Our fun was briefly interrupted when we had to detour around a pack of confrontational cows with huge horns, we weren’t sure what breed they were but they didn’t show the slightest indication of getting out of our way. The final steep drop down a badly pock marked hill was dispatched and we had to face the final singletrack climb back to Devils Dyke carpark.

The ride distance was approximately 20 miles took us 5.5 hours with almost 50% attrition rate. This was a killer ride.

Thanks to everyone who came along, treated the rain and mud with a sense of humor and made this a fun day out.

Clicky for photos




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