The South Downs Way

Report by Doug Driscoll

One week on from our epic ride of The Ridgeway Trail, Suzannah and I took part in a South Downs Way event called 'The Lemming Trail' (because it ends at the top of Beachy Head. Get it?). Fully supported by Trailbreak and split over 2-days - stopping overnight at Shoreham-by-Sea Youth Hostel (or camping).

We rode this event on the tandem last year. 100-miles off-road from Winchester to Eastbourne doesn't actually give justice to just how hard this ride is. Think of riding up Ditchling Beacon - off-road - up and down, up and down, non-stop for 100-miles. Now you're getting the idea!

For anybody into mountain biking, this is an absolute 'must do'. I've seen some reports saying it is one of the best MTB rides in the world. And I wouldn't disagree. Stunning views all the way, mega climbs, awesome descents and I reckon it must be 98% off-road. Forget cafe stops. You are on your own up there. It's like a different world. Love it!

There are around 200 riders each year and some really good camaraderie. The tandem is always good for generating attention. It goes like a bullet on the descents and causes no end of expletives from other riders grovelling along on their lightweight carbon, full suspension exotica :)

However ... this was not be our year. The dream is over and the tandem is dead (RIP). We had only gotten a couple of hours into day-1 and were getting a little over-zealous because we were running in 2nd place. Giving it full welly on a gritty descent at around 30mph, the frame split in half. One moment we were full gas in top gear and the next we were lying in a heap - both fairly concussed. Miraculously Suzannah lept to her feet with obvious concern for me: "Wicked!" she said. "We've killed the tandem!". I, meanwhile, had to stay laid out for a couple of minutes whilst I tried to ascertain how many bones I had broken. My wrists were in agony and I was convinced they were both broken. And I kept coming close to blacking out. 10-minutes later though, other riders were arriving and I was back on my feet.

Our next challenge was what to do next? I didn't have a clue where we were and my Satnav had disintegrated in the crash. I called the event organisers and thankfully Martin (who I spoke to) worked it out from my description of the last climb and the surrounding scenery. Impressive! Turned out that we only had a 1-mile walk to a road crossing. We then had to suffer the indignity of around 100 riders catching us up and gaping in disbelief as we walked on carrying bits of the tandem.

Martin picked us up, but as he had 200 other riders to support, we had 2 choices. 1) Sit in the sag waggon for the next 2-days or 2) Pay for a taxi to get us back to the start and our car. £40 later ...

I'm glad to report that we are both well. Suzannah took a thump on her head but her crash hat saved the day. My wrists swelled up to the point I decided I'd need to go to hospital. But by the time I got home and cleaned up, the swelling was already starting to go down. I'm a lucky boy!

So that would seem to be the end our tandem days. Suzannah is too big and ugly for it now anyway. Next year she's on her own bike :)