Angus Buchanan – 2days 13hours on the 28th June 2022. Although not a Double ride, we thought Anguses’ effort was worthy of mention – South Downs Way, North Downs and King Alfred’s Way in one go – epic!
In his own words
On Thursday 28th June I started what I believe is the first continuous, non-stop ride of the South Downs Way, North Downs Way and King Alfred’s Way the three iconic long distance bridleways in the South of England. The route I created started just south of Farnham, ran South along a 40 mile section of the KAW, joined the SDW at S Harting and then ran the full length of the SDW, linked up on road and bridleway from Eastbourne to Dover to the start of the North Downs Way, picked up the KAW again at Tilford and then did the remainder of the KAW running counter clockwise before finishing the last section of the SDW to S Harting.
I needed to do a long shakedown/preparation ride for the Atlas Mountain Race in October this year and check out how a long term injury was impeding me, or not, whilst testing the bike, kit, body and brain ahead of a longer sterner test in the High Atlas Mountains. Whilst I don’t think it’s necessary to do this sort of length of ride to prepare physically (having done a bunch of 300-400 mile rides, I know I can physically do it) it’s really important to make sure everything is dialled (it wasn’t, quite) as even small things can (and did), with lots of repetition over long distance, turn into big things before you know it. There’s a big difference between a broken thing here and a sore bit there when you’re 200 miles max from home and when you’re somewhere very remote….
I was riding a new Salsa Cutthroat – my last one having being very decently and recently replaced on warranty by Salsa. I’ve modified it with carbon cranks, stem, seat post, saddle and cowchipper bars which has taken about a kilo off it. I was running light with only a hip bag and top tube bag for food etc and front roll with down jacket/pants and a bivvy bag. Powered by a SON Dynamo and Sinewave USB to charge the garmin edge and iPhone. I took no more than 10 hours food at any one time and was running with two 1 litre bottles on a 4 hour stop strategy to ‘chunk’ the route sensibly and, unlike the Atlas, no issues with finding water etc at 24 hour garages whenever needed or shops/cafes in the day. I slept for one hour on the first night from 0300 to 0400 and woke just before first light and then for another hour on the second night from 0200 to 0300. Sounds like a little, but amazing how restorative even an hour of sleep is. With little sleep the mind starts playing weird tricks transforming shadows and objects on the edge of your field of vision magically into people or, sometimes exotic animals and reptiles – my ‘thing’ is crocodiles – may just be how the mind jumps to the wrong conclusions about logs and sticks….!
The route was fantastic, no issues at all on any of the navigation of the SDW, NDW or KAW and I found navigating the KAW counter clockwise one hell of a lot easier than the way it was designed (apparently) to be run clockwise, just because of the risk of headwinds on the Ridgeway. The nav can be fiddly from Reading to S Harting clockwise – counter clockwise everything is a lot easier to read, for some reason. The link section I created from Eastbourne to Dover was fine – tackled mostly in the dark on the first night which is fine, pretty flat and probably not missing much in terms of scenic views but would have been nice to see Pevensy Levels and Romney Marsh. Had terrible head winds along the SDW from the East on the first day and then the breeze swang round to the South West and hammered me with head winds in the opposite direction on the second along the NDW! Only other obstacle that was particularly painful was the deep sand on the paths at the end of the North Downs Way from Puttenham Common to Tilford with totally unrideable sections – actually, not even easily walkable…..I guess all of the super dry weather has just turned it all from pack to soft sand. Still, more like the Atlas Mountains than I could have hoped so great prep……
In terms of everything else – with one exception – the bike and set up worked a total treat, no problems at all with any of the kit which was super pleasing as I’ve spent years getting it dialled. The one thing that was a salutary lesson was the knee injury I gave myself – caused by stupidity and laziness….my right cleat was too tight and with hundreds of gates and a few road crossings and food stops you’re putting your foot down 400-500 times. Each time I twisted my right foot out of the cleat I was putting too much torsion through the knee. I noticed it getting slightly sore about 300 miles in and did nothing about it. By the time I finished it was hard to walk on and had swollen. Would have been a much bigger issue 500 miles in the 900 miles of the Atlas Mountain Race. Lesson learned……deal with problems early or they amplify….
I finished last Saturday at 2245 doing the 495 mile course in 2 days 13 hours. The course has 11,000m of climbing. So, hopefully a nice route mapped for anyone wanting to have a go and a benchmark time which I am certain can be done quicker but may be nicer to spend a week or more taking it all in – without the crocodiles….