Archie McKellar – 29h 58m 49s on the 26th June 2020. A valiant effort by Archie in far from ideal conditions.
In Archie’s words:
Riding the SDW had been a commonly talked about topic for months before this event with the like minded cyclists from my work. In particular my friend Will with who I was planning on doing the 2020 WalesDuro bike packing event in early July, so we thought the SDW would be an ideal training ride for this. Fast forward to March 2020 when Covid-19 hit and I find myself furloughed off work from April until maybe November, so I was commonly riding 150 miles+ per week in the first few months. On the lead up to my SDD attempt, I had ridden three 100+ mile road rides, the longest being 7h 46m in the saddle and the most elevation in a single ride being 5300 ft. I thought this would be a good level of training to take on the SDD, although I had never
actually ridden any of it before…
The week of my ride came so I said to Jess (my girlfriend), Dad, Will & Martin (friends from work) that I planned to do it on the Friday of that week; telling them my plans made it harder to bail out. I was originally thinking of riding to Eastbourne, camp there, then ride home on the Saturday as I liked the idea of bike packing and had never ridden the SDW before so wasn’t sure I’d make the double.
On Thursday 25th June, I packed up all of my gear into my bike bags and prepared all of the food I’d take. I mounted this to my bike for a quick ride around the Farm where I live to make sure everything felt good then put everything in my car ready for the morning. On that evening, I was reading up more on the SDD which Martin and Will had been talking about a lot, so I thought I’d give it a go rather than staying in Eastbourne overnight. I kept my sleeping kit in my bags in case I got too tired and needed to rest.
Ride Summary – Winchester to Eastbourne
On the Friday morning of the ride, I ate porridge and banana for breakfast then drove to Will’s house in Winchester (free parking!) ready to set off. Will wasn’t able to make the whole ride with me anymore so had planned to ride the first section with me to Beacon hill (about 13 miles). We set off at 6:45 with the sunny blue sky getting increasingly warmer. We got to the statue, took a couple of pictures and were on our way. This was the first time I’d properly ridden with all of the bike bags and a full Camelbak of water and food, so I was already feeling quite a weight penalty, but comfortable. We soon got to Beacon hill and from that point I was on my own.
It was getting hotter by the hour and I didn’t have a clue where any of the water taps were, so I brought up the SDW tap list on my phone and found the Cocking tap (35 miles in) to refill – I’d consumed 4 litres by this point already! I spoke to 3 guys who were riding to Hassocks for a train back then carried on my way.
I filled up again at the Amberly tap then carried on and got to the top of Sullington Hill, 53 miles in, where I found a freshly made bale to lean against to eat my lunch (rolls, pork pies and banana bread). I stopped for 15 minutes, all feeling good, then carried on.
I rode another 30 miles, filling up at the Botolphs tap on the way, then stopped for 15 minutes a couple of miles after the A27 crossing for a quick rest and more food. All feeling good at this point. I carried on for the last 19 miles to Eastbourne.
I finally reached Eastbourne at 18:55 with a riding time of 9h45m. When I stopped to rest and eat more food at Eastbourne, I knew I had used 12 hours to get there so if I were to make it back to Winchester within 24 hours I’d need to leave fairly quickly and ride at a similar pace. My average riding speed on the way there was 10.2mph so fractionally above my target of 10mph. I was stopped for 30 mins then made a start to the journey home.
Ride Summary – Eastbourne to Winchester
The first 10 miles back were okay, but my average speed had dropped to 8mph. Beyond this, the fatigue was really starting to set in, so it made every mile seem like an hour long. I made it to the top of the hill just before the river Ouse at 21:30 (112 miles in) then stopped for some number 2 business, chicken noodles from my stove, tuna pasta and warmth in my sleeping bag as the temperature was now 12°C. I was stopped for about 50 minutes. I put my thermal base layer on (wishing I also had leggings), packed up and was ready to go again.
By this point it was 22:15 so I had to get my lights out to see. The descent to the river felt very, very cold!
I filled up with water at Southease Church, then kept on grinding for almost another 4 and a half hours to Washington until 02:45 but had only covered 29 miles and was still 54 miles away from the statue in Winchester. I was so cold, it was windy, misty, my legs were aching (particularly my left knee) and I just knew by this point that getting back to Winchester within the 24-hour target was impossible. I set up camp just down from Chanctonbury Ring, away from the wind, ate the rest of my pasta and consumed an SIS Rego recovery drink then slept for an hour and a half until it was light again at 4:30 am. I fell asleep in no time – the nap was definitely needed.
I packed up just in the nick of time before the heavy rain came down and set off again at 5:15 am. I was now cold again, getting soaked without a proper waterproof jacket and having to ride very cautiously due to the heavy rain. After riding for a couple of miles in the rain, this was the LOW point of the whole ride for me. I stopped and googled the nearest train station, which was Amberly, only 6 miles ahead and right next to the SDW. I got to Amberly which felt like it took an age but fortunately the rain had eased a little, so I filled up at the tap then carried on grinding out the miles thinking “I didn’t get this far to bail out and grab a train home…”
I met Martin my friend from work, who had planned to ride some of the SDW that day anyway, on Harting Beacon at 08:45am with exactly 30 miles to go until the statue in Winchester. After the 150 miles of solo riding to this point, it was great to ride with someone I knew for the last section. My left knee was starting to hurt again by this point and the wet weather mixed with the lack of chamois cream was not doing me any favours…
Having Martin to follow was very helpful at this stage to keep my speed up and to keep me moving. I knew I would have stopped multiple times if he wasn’t with me and I was actually thinking “when are you going to turn off home, I’m dead and need a long rest”, but I’m glad he rode all the way to Winchester with me to finally complete the ride. We briefly stopped off at the café van on old Winchester hill (in the rain) for me to grab a coffee and piece of cake before quickly heading off for the last 16 miles before getting too cold. This was a painful last grind, especially for my knee, but the sun came out and before I knew it, we’d climbed up what was the last of 40 monstrous hills for me and made it to the statue in Winchester at 12:45 pm. What a relieving and joyful moment that was!!
As Martin set off back home, I looked at my Garmin and saw 195.7 miles with 2 miles back to Will’s house, so I had to make that up 200 miles of course, who wouldn’t?! On the way back to Will’s, I rode up and down Bereweeke Road next to Peter Symmonds College two and a half times to make up the distance then I could finally come to rest at last, taking on recovery drink, tea, biscuits and sweets while talking about the journey with Will. I won’t be doing that again for a while!
Strava activity link:
Recovery following the ride
Once I’d got to Jess’s house (my girlfriend) from Winchester on Saturday 27th at about 15:00, my day consisted of eating, napping and lying down. I was suffering with chafing, handlebar palsy in my left hand (compressed nerve causing general hand and grip weakness) and a slightly dodgy left knee.
The Sunday 28th was also a very relaxed day still feeling very tired and fatigued. I did plenty of stretching and foam rolling to help relieve aching muscles.
On the Monday 29th, I was still suffering with the effects of chafing and palsy, but the knee pain seemed to have gone away and I was no longer feeling excessively tired. Now back at my house, I spent the day servicing my bike and sorting all of my kit out from the ride. I also went for a steady 22-mile road ride in the evening to get my legs moving and help recovery – this brought back the left knee pain towards the end of the ride and probably didn’t help the chafing…
Things I learned from the ride
• Make yourself aware of exactly where all of the taps are on route.
• Ride most, if not all of the SDW in small sections before the double to familiarise the route, or at least watch a video of the route someone has made.
• Use the local end of the SDW as training for the double, the excessive elevation which I was not used to, killed me.
• If possible, plan pub/café take away stops to eat proper hot meals on the way so that you have plenty of fuel to burn, and to reduce the need to carry as much food and a stove.
• It gets very cold at night and very unpleasant if its raining/windy. Take the correct clothing for these conditions.
• Applying chamois cream for a ride this long is a must, particularly if it rains, I found out the hard way…
What did I take?
• Canyon Exceed CF SL 8.0 XC MTB
• MET Echo MTB Helmet
• DHB cycle shorts
• Ridge cycle Jersey
• DHB cycle gloves
• DHB cycle socks
• Shimano SPD cycle shoes
• Garmin Edge 530 with HRM chest strap
• Normal glasses
• Lifeline Pavo 2000 lumen front light
• Exposure Trace Front light (for backup)
• Basic clip on rear light
• Apidura 1L waterproof Expedition top tube bag, which included:
o RAVPOWER 16750mAh battery pack
o Micro USB cable (to charge Garmin and lights)
o Phone charging cable
• Apidura 17L waterproof Expedition saddle bag, which included:
o Microlite Sleeping bag
o Bivvy bag
o WolfBase Sleeping air mat
o Odoland camping stove (including saucepan and cutlery)
o C300 Gas cannister
o Small toothpaste tube
o Small sun cream tube
o Basic cotton t-shirt (to sleep in)
o Boxer shorts (to sleep in)
o Thermal base top (which I put on when the sun went down)
o Plastic bag for all of my rubbish
o All the eaten whole food listed below, plus:
§ Trail nut mix (not eaten)
§ 2 sachets porridge (not eaten)
• Camelbak Ratchet 3 litre hydration pack, which included:
o £20 cash
o 2 X inner tubes
o 3 X tyre levers
o Tubeless repair tools and stiches
o Puncture repair patches (better safe than sorry)
o 4 X Small cable ties
o 4 X Large cable ties
o Multitool kit (including Allan keys, chain tool, chain quick link and spoke key)
o Black electrical tape
o Piece of old tyre (to repair large tyre slits)
o Piece of old inner tube
o First aid kit (Plasters, bandage and antiseptic wipes)
o Toilet roll
o 10 X Baby wipes
o All the eaten gels and energy bars listed below, plus:
§ 4 X SIS GO Isotonic Energy Gels (Not eaten)
§ 4 X 60g Wiggle Energy bars (Not eaten)
What did I eat on the journey?
• 9 X SIS GO Isotonic Energy Gels
• 5 X 60g Wiggle Energy bars (3 Apple 2 berry fruits)
• ½ bag of jelly babies
• 85g Chicken noodles (boiled on site)
• 120g serving of tuna pasta (pre-made)
• 4 X small pork pies
• 2 X small sausage rolls
• 3 X pork sausage and lettuce finger rolls
• 2 X chicken and lettuce finger rolls
• 2 X slices of banana bread
• Slice of carrot cake (From café van)
• Coffee (from café van)
• 900ml bottle HIGH5 energy drink (in bottle cage)
• 800ml bottle HIGH5 energy drink (in bottle cage)
• SIS Rego Recovery drink powder (800ml Taken before nap at 3am)
What I wish I’d taken that I didn’t
• Chamois cream
• Leggings/leg warmers (It gets very cold at night, especially on the descents!)
• A light rain jacket (To help keep my body dry, but more importantly warm, in the rain)
Did I take anything un-necessary?
• I could have done without the stove.
• It would also be good to set off confidently knowing I’m able to complete the double, within 24 hours, on nothing more than food stops so then I could do away with the sleeping kit to save weight and bulk.
Tips for future attempt
• Include at least one training ride a couple of weeks before the event about 10 hours long to get my body used to the time in the saddle.
• A lot more steep hill climb training (use the first quarter of the SDW).
• Start the 24-hour attempt in the evening (probably 6/7 pm after a big nutritious meal) to get the dark section done out of the way on a fresh mind and body.