This weekend, rather than schlep out to the Heart of England audax, I decided to have a little adventure of my own and ride to the seaside. 315km of familiar roads – albeit ones I normally travel in the opposite direction (I might *possibly* have routed with the prevailing coastal wind in mind) and a focus on minimising stopping time. This would also be the longest ride to date with my bikepacking bags attached and around 60% of my TCR equipment in situ.

I faced some pretty rough weather (freezing, hail, rain, wind), but the Heart of England had snow and another friend riding in Scotland faced tough conditions too, so I think I others drew the shorter straws.

The ride out was pretty uneventful – I’d picked a relatively quiet route through the Surrey hills and left early enough that there wasn’t much traffic about. I had, however, noticed that my gears were making more noise than usual and changes were nowhere near as crisp and sharp as di2 usually is. Finally, after a down shift so noisy I found myself looking apologetically at the sheep I had disturbed, I stopped to diagnose the issue. To call my front mech misaligned would be kind (I had a more appropriate 6 letter word in mind…) – it was rubbing in just about every direction and looked pretty misshapen. The rear mech hanger was also clearly bent.

I’ve been making a point of riding my TCR bike everywhere (commutes and all) to get the miles in and noticed some heathen has been throwing their bike against it in the bike storage at work… it appears they’ve spectacularly buggered my drive train. Lesson learnt, I’ll be back on the cheap commuter from now on. Fair to say, I’m not a happy bunny.

After a couple of stops, a lot of swearing and some careful tinkering, I finally got the gears behaving again. I don’t anticipate needing to fiddle with my gears on the TCR, but it’s always useful to practice mechanical fixes in stressful environments. I’ll need to take a look before I transfer them to the new frame, but it didn’t seem like there was any lasting damage.

Back on the move, it wasn’t long before I was dropping into Bognor Regis and getting ready to charge along the flat coastal roads with the wind at my back. however, I was quickly reminded that these coastal towns are essentially retirement villages and that the locals, while lacking the malice of London and Surrey drivers, are just as awful behind the wheel. I cannot understand how there is no requirement for elderly drivers to prove their competence and, worse, they are encouraged into bigger vehicles where they’ll feel safer (and do more damage when they fail to react quickly).

I had the heart stopping experience of literally watching the slow motion realisation and reactions of an OAP on a collision course with me at a set of lights – a simple case of him not looking (which would normally result in a quick squirt of brakes and no harm done) resulted in me bunny hopping the curb and a near flattening. If I’m still trying to drive when my reaction times are that slow, I hope my family hide the keys.

Fortunately traffic in the towns was heavy enough that I simply coasted past and was light enough outside the towns that I didn’t encounter too many issues. In retrospect, routing through the towns was a mistake, but I love being next to the sea and a bit of traffic is a small price to pay.

It’s not until the approach to Seaford that the views start getting really impressive and the ride into Eastbourne is absolutely stunning. I had the road largely to myself and got that real sense of escapism that a lot of my recent rides have been missing – big open skies, epic views and a road twisting lazily over the horizon. I normally ride this road in the opposite direction, but the descent is largely spoiled by a ferocious headwind and I found the climb in this direction much more enjoyable.

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Leaving Eastbourne, the weather turned and I spent a miserable hour or two pushing through the hail, rain and wind, desperate for the turn back inland and warmer conditions. When that turn finally came, it was into the wind and fighting across the relentless lumps of Kent, heading for the Ashdown Forest. I’d have given anything to be back on that pan-flat coastal road, cold and wet as it was.

On the plus side, the Muc Off Hydrodynamic lube I’d been trialling was performing amazingly. I’d had my doubts about its sticking power, particularly considering I’d been too lazy to clean and lube my chain after a week of commuting. Despite the rain, grit and mud, everything was running smooth and quiet. The 4 hour ‘setting’ time might prove problematic on the Transcon, but I reckon this is probably the lube I’ll go with. It’s expensive, but really has proven itself time and time again over the past few weeks.

By the time I’d made it back to Surrey, I was flirting dangerously with the bonk. My efforts to minimise stopping time meant I’d eaten on the move apart from a quick petrol station stop for a sandwich and I was definitely slightly under-fuelled for the day. To make matters worse, all the little local shops seemed to be shut. I had a quick sit outside of the Rusper Village Stores to pull myself together and headed off, committed to attempting to get home before the man with the hammer caught me.

Fortunately, the shop at Newdigate was late closing and I managed to dive in and grab some fizzy drink and sweets before they had a chance to lock the door. I had a long sit outside, stuffing my face and trying to find some sunlight to sit in to banish the cold from my bones. The food did the trick and I set off much stronger, making good time over Box and getting home only a little later than expected.

A successful test for riding with the bags – no knee rub, plenty of room for the kit and easy to access food and water while riding. I’d even averaged almost 20mph for the first 100 miles without overdoing the watts. I think my body is slowly adapting to long days on the aerobars too – while my back and neck definitely still ache, I find myself being able to stay locked in position far longer and I get no residual soreness the following day.

I had hoped to put in another 300km on the Sunday, but bike issues put an end to that plan. Next week perhaps…

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