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February 27, 2014
It's a concept that may be met with apprehension by a lot of this blog's readership – as it was at one stage by your writer - but at the weekend it became apparent that riding bicycles doesn't necessarily have to be done on tarmac.
A former devoted man of the road such as myself (Josh), would not have previously let nobbly tyres within sight of my Mavic Open Pros, let alone adorn them. But when circumstances change, and solitary 6 hour road rides are no longer a necessity...the lure of exploration reigns supreme, and alternative forms of bike riding become inevitable.
On Sunday my colleague Kris and I did just that, and headed out into Eastbourne's back garden of the South Downs. With no real direction in mind, and no real destination planned, we headed up onto Beachy Head, then dropped down cross-country to the Belle Tout lighthouse, and Birling Gap (where, I might add, there is substantially less cliff than the last time I was there pre-storms). From there we slogged over picturesque downland to the fringes of Friston Forest, before plunging into its labyrinth of singletracks, fire tracks and deathly root-lined bike paths.
With only a few cuts and bruises to show for our endeavours, we eventually emerged in the village of Jevington, which for those who aren't local claims to be the birthplace of banoffee pie. Extra midriff bulk averted though, we proceeded up 'Eastbourne Lane' (which if it used to be THE way to get to Eastbourne, must be pretty old), and came out with vistas of the local countryside and town below which as a roadie I simply haven't been privy to.
A few bites of muesli bar later and we skirted our way around some of the town's peripheral downland, before making our way back down the final strands of singletrack back onto the seafront...bodies intact, bikes filthy, and with required energy releases wholeheartedly spent.
And what a way to do it too; in homage to the fundamental aspects of bike riding that we all love, free from structure, destinations, timeframes, data - and, on this occasion most importantly - roads.
Training for something can be great, and 23mm slicks will always represent bike riding in its purest form for Yours Truly, but every once in a while it sure is good to do something different.