Despite waking in our own beds, we put thoughts of forgetting the whole thing to one side and were on the road by a respectable ten past nine. With another short day and with no more than 900 metres of climbing, riding a bike certainly seemed preferable to mundane life administration. Going to Hoxton Post Office to pick up the box we bought in York to put things in that we no longer needed so we could send it home would have to wait. Yes, it was official, the Royal Mail was faster than our bicycles.
To the South Coast
We had discovered a relatively quiet route to Newhaven last year and, wanting to stick to that as much as possible, relegated Komoot to a supporting role. That said, we let it do its thing up to Farthing Down and the Avenue Vert and – apart from an over complicated meandering to Southwark Bridge – Dulwich, Crystal Palace and Croydon flew by in quick succession.
With 17 miles in an hour and 45 minutes, we celebrated our fine progress by stopping for breakfast at Purley Station. Within four miles of that, we went up on to the down, plateaued briefly so we could admire the views of London before heading up into the trees towards a speedy, 40mph drop off the edge of the world, or at the very least, Surrey.
With a nod to Komoot, we couldn’t have an entire ride without a little gravel, but that soon turned to road, then to familiar road, then to the standard ‘we’re heading to Brighton’ road. On the plus side, this made the Crown at Turner’s Hill fair game for a just-over-halfway-therefore-surely-time-for-lunch bowl of cheesey chips and a pint.
On the negative side, I can’t help thinking that London to Brighton, despite being iconic and despite being punctuated with three interesting climbs, is best suited for a day out in a classic car than as the basis for an epic ride. It was this thinking that drew us to Newhaven and, just after passing through Ardingly, we veered southeast, roller coastered up and down and to and through Lewes before finally heading towards the coast.
With one of the only two roads between Lewes and Newhaven having been ticked off last year and with the other one depicted in a slightly less busy looking colour on the map, it seemed obvious to opt for the relatively traffic free option. As we powered along, halfway up a valley overlooking the River Ouse, pushed against a tightly bunched set of contour lines, we discovered that ‘relatively traffic free’ is a pretty woolly statement in Sussex.
Still, it wasn’t long before before we dropped in to Newhaven and were pootling towards the harbour at around 4.30pm. Photos and high fives out of the way, our focus turned towards the nearby Hope Inn for some liquid celebration. A pub regular was fascinated by our trip and hearing our story he, just like the comedy trio at Lincoln and the man holding a gate open for us by a different River Ouse, seemed interested to resurrect or develop their own cycling careers.
Doing it all again
Seeing the country transition is what makes a trip like this special, whether cycling or hiking. From the wilderness of the Dales, to the farmlands of the midlands and to the urban sprawl of the south, the slower pace forces you to appreciate your journey more.
Yes, there could have been improvements. Giving Komoot carte blanche meant we dallied with the A1 far more than our nerves would have liked; shorter days would have given us more time in some of the towns which deserved more than just fleeting glimpses; and finally, despite the advantage of free accommodation at home, it would have been nice to avoid London completely.
Finishing this trip, we turned Newhaven in to a pub crawl as we headed up to The Ark for food and eventually caught the train to Lewes to get a connection to London Victoria. By 9pm we were home and already planning our next trip.
Day Six: Islington to Newhaven