We're aiming to do one of our favourite rides this coming Saturday - the ZigZag Special - so what better way to spend a few hours than out, checking conditions and enjoying the ride.
This was also my first ride escaping out to the Downs since completing the End to End. How would it be back on a saddle (ouch!) and turning the legs over?
Fantastic! For one thing riding conditions on the Downs are great. The ground is very dry - if anything creating a few areas where you have to be a little cautious of the loose gravel and rocks, where before there was mud and more mud.
Climbing is that bit easier with no back spin and descending is fun, letting the bike roll and swoop.
And surprisingly I didn't feel too tired - though riding a bike without paniers is a lot easier than with.
(And its my birthday so despite feeling a bit older I'm happy to have the chance to enjoy the lovely countryside on our doorstep.)
Vital stats: around 22 miles in about two and a half hours, 1,800 ft of climbing and around 1,600 calories burnt off and waiting to be put back on tonight.
There's still space on Saturday's ride so check the site and book.
Hope to see you on a ride soon
Just back from a terrific adventure, cycling from Lands End to John O'Groats with our good friend Ray.
Here at ZigZag Cycling we don't just organise fun rides for others - we also like to take part in our own adventures. And doing the End to End has been a personal goal of mine for some time.
Great to have the company of our friend and supporter of ZigZag from its earliest days, Ray.
We were really lucky with the weather - atrocious for most of the first day and then after just got better and better.
One of the many memories I'll keep will be handing over all our sodden kit in a big bucket to our B&B host - and have them returned early next morning all toasty warm and neatly folded.
Everyday seemed to be marked with acts of kindness and generosity. We met so many interesting people - random encounters outside shops where we'd stopped for supplies or others along the way.
Just ten miles in and Ray was helped by the guys at Open Shed in Penzance to fix his gears. Next day and we both needed new brakes from tackling those big Cornish hills in the rain - big thanks to Matt at Cycle Action in Torpoint for setting us up safely for the monster ascents and descents over Dartmoor. Other really helpful bike shop stops included Pedal Power in Clitheroe and Philip Lang in Glasgow.
Star B&B among so many was Margaret's lovely Cobden Farm Guesthouse. She cooked a big evening meal for us at the end of one of the hardest and longest days of cycling, knowing there'd be nowhere else to eat that late and in such a remote spot.
For me that area was a lovely revelation - I'd not heard of the Forest of Bowland. It stood out as one of the many breathtakingly beautiful places we rode through, up and over.
On and on. Into the stunning Lake District, over the border and into Scotland stopping at Ecclefechan for haggis, tatties and neeps. And then into the majestic Highlands at Glencoe.
The feeling of elation, mixed with exhaustion at the end of each day's riding - between 90 and 100 miles most days - was great. No where did it feel better than at the legendary Crask Inn - the most remote pub in Britain.
And then on to the End. We did a short detour to Dunnet Head - the most northerly point in mainland Britain (and much more beautiful than John O'Groats).
For anyone thinking of doing the same, top tips we were told by others and fully endorse: wear two pairs of shorts for extra padding and use Chamois cream liberally; travel as light as possible (hence the beards); respect the distance and eat eat eat.
Back home now and we've a busy schedule - there's the usual mix of great regular rides on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Nick is getting in some serious cycle training in Majorca this week in preparation for his personal callenge: Ironman Sweden. And our next big mountain bike event will be the Team Dean challenge, doing the whole of the South Downs Way over two days.
Hope to see you on a ride soon.
A great ride today with one of the Team Dean riders, getting in the miles and big climbs - and (almost) no mud at all on the Long Mud Bath.
Steve, from Haywards Heath, is part of the team preparing for the epic ride across the whole of the South Downs Way over two days in July to raise support for the Sussex Cancer Centre. So perfect timing to be out getting in some distance and big hills.
We adapted one of our favourite routes - the Long Mud Bath - to take in a long stretch of the South Downs Way, then working our way back along some nice little known trails, mixing in open Downland with woods. In Steve's words, a "perfect ride."
Nutrition is a key part of training for and completing long endurance events - so good to try out our new recipe for booster bars (oats, peanut butter, nuts, seeds, apricots...) with a short feed stop each hour.
Conditions could hardly be better - so dry that even the notorious mud bath failed to live up to its name, offering the tamest of puddles.
Steve's booked up for one more long ride before the big event - our Bear in the Woods ride in two weeks which Nick will lead. Still room for more wanting a final bit of distance training before tapering down (or anyone else looking to explore the lovely trails).
In the meantime I'll be away cycling Lands End to John O'Groats - occasional FaceBook posts and tweets to follow.
Vital stats from today: just over 30 miles, 3,340 ft of climbing, over 2,000 calories burnt and countless more about to be put back on!
After a week which included some miserable weather the sun appeared on Saturday morning and well timed it was too. James and Melanie came down from London for the ZigZag Weekend Special staying at the Mill House Hotel in Ashington and enjoying the great food at the Red Lion of Ashington conveniently located only a couple of minutes walk from the hotel.
We had the pleasure of providing hire bikes for the weekend which performed well and James in particular seemed to relish the downhill sections taking no time at all getting to grips with the hydraulic brakes. Melanie improved throughout the day on her use of the gears discovering the wonders of the "granny gear" for the steep sections, we all love the "granny gear".
We planned a great route exploring the South Downs National Park heading out to the west, climbing up from Washington through the grounds of Windlesham House school and onto the Monarchs Way trail. The route included a few challenging climbs up onto South Downs Way including Amberley Mount after lunch which both James and Melanie bravely opted for over a route with a less aggressive gradient.
After passing through Burpham including a quick stop to enjoy the views of the River Arun over to Arundel Castle we enjoyed lunch next to the river in Ashington before taking a more direct route back to the hotel for a total of 3hr30 ish in the saddle and covering a little over 25 miles.
One useful suggestion we will have for our riders in future is that denim jeans are not really appropriate for mountain biking on the South Downs.
James and Melanie said they enjoyed the day which was a real challenge for them. I think they both did very well and we would certainly welcome them back for another ride soon.
A busy weekend for us at ZigZag Cycling - first up, some tuition and an enjoyable ride with a great father and son team.
Down from North London for the weekend, Mike and Louis wanted to give mountain biking a try.
So it was out on the course we use for our introductory skills session - practicing descending with a big grin and climbing without crunching the gears too much.
Young Louis got the hang of the downhill position in no time - though didn't enjoy the ups so much. Brilliant show of perseverance though and he even opted for a slightly longer route back.
Conditions are excellent - the trails dry and free flowing. It was noticeable how many more riders are out enjoying the Downs as well as the flat Downs Link.
Meantime, Nick is exploring the best of the Downs with another couple of riders as part of our Weekend Special, a full day of riding today and a morning ride tomorrow - part 2 of the weekend's blog post to follow.
Well done Louis!
Last week we trialled our four day, Winchester to Eastbourne South Downs Way Experience - enjoying lovely sunny weather and all the comforts of our partner hotels along the way.
The South Downs Way is one of those must-do epic mountain bike rides: 100 miles and over 10,000ft of climbing along beautiful rolling countryside.
It can be ridden in a day (and some choose to do the double of both ways, though that's not something we've ever felt tempted to try). For our ZigZag Cycling Experience we've opted for spreading it out over a more leisurely one half day, two longer days and a final short celebratory ride into Eastbourne.
And being a bunch of softies, we've also gone for some lovely big on comfort hotels along the way. With Spring making a belated appearance it was time for my partner Anne and me to experience for ourselves what's on offer and also check out stops and and other features along the route.
As you'll see from the photos below, we had glorious weather all four days - making for dry riding conditions and the scenery at its best.
For Anne, who's only taken up mountain biking last year it was quite a challenge - especialy the second day (though might have had something to do with having to leave the first luxurious hotel). Highlights included the lovely active holiday feel, delicious regular snacks (the Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall booster bar recipe to follow), interesting people we met and being attacked by a territorial pheasant.
We're now away for a short hiking and cycling break, about to explore the wilds of Skye and other islands. Nick is around and ready as ever to share the best of the Downs.
Meantime, many thanks to everyone at the Langrish, Mill House and Star hotels for making us feel so welcomed
random collection of photos:
Back from a group ride with members of Team Dean, preparing for the challenge of the South Downs Way over two days - now just ten weeks away.
Dean first got in touch with us at ZigZag Cycling last year when recovering from cancer and wanting to get back in shape and at the same time give something back to those who had helped. He decided on doing the South Downs Way over two days as a way to raise money for the Sussex Cancer Centre and has been enrolling friends and family - check out the FaceBook page. We've been helping with coaching and other support.
And now the event (organised by Purple Trails) is just ten weeks away: 6 and 7 July. So time to get to some big hills, take a look at where everyone is and offer advice as needed.
We had a group of eight for the ride: Dean, Mike, Graham, Steve, Dan, Gary and Rod - and myself.
And what better route as a training ride and preparation than the Big Dipper - taking in the ups and downs from Truleigh Hill to Saddlescombe with an extra loop past the Chattri Memorial and up Newtimber Hill. Lots of runners and other riders out - great to see the hills alive with so much energy.
Vital stats: just over 25 miles, 2,600ft climbing, one 150 yd wheelie by Dean.
Tomorrow we're checking out the South Downs Way Experience, our four day tour from Winchester to Eastbourne with some lovely hotels along the way.
Then I'm away with the bike for a real off road adventure, on the island of Raasay off Skye - Nick will be doing the New Start Ride next Sunday.
In the meantime, well done to Dean and the Team for today - and keep going for the big ride ahead
Had a great technical road bike session with an almost all women's group from Horsham Amphibians Triathlon club this morning.
At ZigZag Cycling we're always keen to help with pretty much any form of pedal power. Today was all about helping out with road bike technical skills for one of the Sussex triathlon clubs, working with Personal Trainer Tony Goodsell.
Tony and I took our group of twelve riders (just one other lone bloke - good on you Gareth) out along the quiet country roads, checking on bike positions and cadence as we rolled along. Then we had some fun practising the art of close group riding - a real booster for long training rides when it feels like you're always heading into the wind.
Next month we'll do some race preparations and practice transitions. This is the bit where you stagger from a swim to your bike, get in a muddle and mess - all to go through the same again transitioning from bike to run, checking your legs really are still there despite how it feels.
In the meantime, we're back to some great mountain bike riding in the next few days. Tomorrow we've got a big ride with Team Dean - preparing for the challenge of the 100 mile South Downs Way over two days in early July. And the very next day a friend and I will be doing a test run of our own South Downs Way Experience - Winchester to Eastbourne over four days with some lovely stops along the way.
So watch out for the blog - and come along and enjoy the fun
Well done to everyone who took part today
Back from a lovely weekend in Devon including a big favourite mountain bike trail at Haldon Forest Park with Tom, my son and one of the founder members of ZigZag Cycling.
This is an amazing fun activity centre near Exeter - attracting a mix of hard core mountain bikers and young cycling families.
The Park has a series of graded mountain bile trails. We whizzed round the testing red route, known as the Ridge Ride Trail. Its not particularly long - took us just over 40 minutes - but because you have to concentrate pretty much every second of the twisty, turny way, it feels a lot longer.
The trails weave along high ridges and in and out along beautiful forest single track paths, constantly up and down so you're either letting the bike flow or putting in a quick thigh burning effort. Momentum and balance - and the odd steep drop - to test your technical skills and sense of exhilarating fun.
This coming week we're hoping to do some work with Team Dean - preparing for their big challenge of the whole of the South Downs Way over two days in early July (more of which soon). And there's some cycle skills for our triathlon club colleagues. Then next week a trial run of our South Downs Way Experience.
So watch this space - or better still, come and join us on a ride soon