Disclaimer bit first. The advice offered here is just that, there is no substitute for your own research and ultimate safety is your responsibility. You take on this challenge entirely at your own risk.
Firstly this is a personal challenge and you are under no obligation to get us involved, however in keeping with the ethos of the challenge a degree of evidence is customary in order to be included in the ‘Sub 24 hour club’. When we say 24 hours, that means total time or elapsed time, not moving time. A GPS log or Strava link is the gold standard, plus some fetching pictures/selfies at the start, turnaround and finish. Ideally please let us know beforehand, if we can, we will try and get down at some point.
How ever long it ends up taking, completing the Double is an achievement in it’s self and anyone who takes it on deserves respect. It will be an amazing experience regardless of the time taken, one you will never forget, trust me😊.
Alpine or supported
Your first decision is to decide if you want to go Alpine, this means taking all food, tools, spares and safety equipment with you. No direct support from friends and family you meet along the way, fix your own punctures and make all repairs yourself. Food – no stashing before hand, being given or buying. Basically you’re on your own! By all means have a mate ride with you for a bit, but make sure you open all gates and no drafting. If two of you are doing the Double as a pair, this is considered a supported ride.
If you go supported then all outside help is OK, as long as you do all the pedalling and open all gates, then by all means meet friends or family along the route and take on/purchase food, have the bike worked on etc.
Which ever way you decide to go, this is a big challenge. One point to consider is that you WILL have low points and if going supported it’s real easy to bail and get a lift straight home, however at 3am in the morning it’s a big shout calling on your emergency contact to come and get you. Far less chance of bailing if you go Alpine!
Details can be found here. The better you know the route the less chance of getting lost. Trust me in the middle of the night when the mist has come down, your tired, it’s so easy to go wrong, especially at the Eastbourne end on those open grass areas. I highly recommend using the gpx file on a decent device. I know it’s not always possible but try and learn as much of the route as you can, ride all the sections at some point. Learn the major turns, especially this one, a right turn when heading eastbound, your eye is draw to the trail ahead and even though there is a gate to open and signage it’s easy to get wrong.
Every year in early August the Boomtown Fair, an enclosed music festival pops up near Winchester on the South Downs Way. See map. Dates can be found on their website, but bear in mind there will be days either side due to the build up and tear down. You will have to divert around. See the Itchen Valley Parish Council website for exact dates. There is a signed diversion – apparently. I’ve been caught out and didn’t see any signage. I worked my round to the right (heading eastbound) and soon picked up the trail. Nevertheless serious stress not needed at the beginning!
No need to try and carry too much, there are plenty of public taps. Your decision is bottle or bladder in a backpack. This is down to personal preference, a single 750ml bottle is ample, but I would carry a spare in case you loose it. Cover in clingfilm and tape to the down tube if you have only one bottle cage:
Do factor in that a tap may not be working, so if you pass a tap and think I can make it to the next one, consider filling up anyway.
Not trying to teach you to suck eggs and assuming you are not Ian Leitch and are riding through the night, I would consider these as a requirement:
- 2 spare inner tubes (you are going tubeless I take it?). Be sure to wrap each tube in some form of protection, tubes are notorious for rubbing against objects and causing holes to develop over this length of ride.
- Multi tool and Chain Tool
- Quick link if applicable to your chain.
- Tyre levers.
- Tyre patch for gashed side wall (Toothpaste tube or Park Tool emergency tyre patch). In an emergency you can always use a gel wrapper.
- A couple of zip ties to tie around the tyre and rim to contain gashed side wall, this works wonders and has got me home!
- Tubeless tyre plug for quick repair of puncture.
- Basic first aid kit: Antiseptic wipes, small length of bandage, dressing and tape to treat a cut and stem bleeding.
- Foil blanket.
- Mobile phone. Don’t leave it on and run the batteries down. Turn off until needed. Tip – put into Aeroplane mode in case it turns on during the ride, that way it won’t run the batteries down so much.
- Lightweight waterproof jacket. Even if it does not rain it will keep you warm in an emergency.
- Lightweight thermal top. Don’t underestimate how cold it gets at night, especially on the descents and in the valleys.
Time of day to start
The consensus is to start later in the day. i.e ride the night section fairly early on when fresher, if only for safety reasons. Let’s consider starting first thing in the morning, do you really want to get up at some ungodly hour, how well will you sleep? I don’t know about you but if I’ve got to get up super early for something special I have a shit nights sleep.
What if it’s super hot? It’s easier to ride in the heat for the last half as you are naturally going slower and you won’t overheat so much. When I did the double it was hitting 30 degrees and didn’t even notice. I started at 7pm.
If you feel you can hit around the 18 hours mark, then an early morning start makes sense, completing the ride mainly in daylight.
Fuelling your ride
If you are attempting the Double then I’m sure/hope you know what works for you. All I would say is have you ridden over 12 hours before? Will you be able to eat solids? I can’t eat solids after about 10 hours. By no means is it a prerequisite to have ridden for 24 hours to take on the double, but know how your body needs to be fuelled, be it gels, energy bars or your favourite sandwiches! Whatever works for you.
Emergency food supplies. We know of only one 24 hour facility, if you know of more please let us know:
- BP Petrol Station Pyecombe – London Rd, Brighton BN45 7FJ. Gpx file here. Download and save to device and use if needed.
Bike GPS Device
You shouldn’t rely solely on your GPS for navigation, but it can be a real asset and help avoid taking wrong turns and wasting time. Battery life is an issue though. Be aware that most power is consumed displaying the map and the constant updating. So if you know the route, move away from the map display, the background navigation does not use much power. Flip onto the map when needed.
For existing units you will probably need a backup battery connected to the USB port. This can be very troublesome, so test thoroughly in advance.
I would recommend a rear light, there is a bit of road section especially at the Winchester end, so just leave it on and forget about. Just a cheap lightweight one will do. Front lights – not a lot to say, you know how long they have to last, just make sure you have some lumens to show the way! Can’t go wrong with Exposure lights.
Early morning dew – it can get very wet and slippery, so be prepared, it almost feels like it has just poured down with rain. Perhaps fit a light weight front mud guard.
A little tip from Richard Sterry, if you are riding over buttercups at night then you more than likely off course, as they don’t grow on the trail.