A year of centuries 11/12

The plan for my penultimate century ride was to be a simple one. With little choice of days I could ride it, I decided to go for something simple, yet familiar.

The ride was to be from Hastings Pier to Brighton Pier via Eastbourne Pier and back. It was due to be quite windy, but I wasn't expecting storm conditions. I contacted my friend Alex to see if he wanted to ride part of the ride with me, and he was up for riding from Hastings Pier to Beachy Head.

I left home at 7am and the ride was easy. I had a tailwind to Hastings. I met Alex at the pier and we started riding south-west towards Eastbourne. The wind was noticeably strong. The plan was to stop in Bexhill for breakfast as I would have done 20 miles by then and then continue to Eastbourne. Having completed 5 miles into the wind, Alex was already grumbling. We stopped for about half an hour. Continuing on to Eastbourne, there is plenty of open coast line. Something we could hardly avoid.

By the time we reached Eastbourne Pier it'd taken us 1hr 47min riding time to complete 15.7 miles into the wind. Alex called it a day and decided not to ride any further into the wind. I stopped at a shop to buy some food for the next bit of the journey and we parted company.

It's a short ride from the pier to Beachy Head and the foot of the climb is sheltered. It was a relief. Once over the top of the climb, you are 500ft up and totally exposed to the elements. The wind was very strong. Dangerously strong. I was also side on at this point, having to fight the 50+ mph winds of Storm Clodagh with a lightweight bike and cars passing me closely. You need all your strength and concentration to ride in conditions like this. I knew it wouldn't be long before I was headed directly into the wind again and riding in relative safety again.

At this point I was briefly considering my options regarding my route choice but decided to carry on regardless and complete my original route.

I was now on East Dean Road. A long downhill section where I hold my personal speed record at 52.5mph. Today there was no chance of that being beaten. I was having to pedal hard downhill. My Maximum speed was 22.8mph with an average of 9.8mph. Not what you expect dropping 276ft over a mile!

Back in shelter, I had a nasty steep climb into Friston. At the top, shattered, I took a break in a bus shelter. I stopped for just under 5 minutes but it felt like so much longer. The next section to Exceat is downhill again. a drop of almost 500ft over 2 miles. Due to the wind, that took a whopping 10 minutes! My fastest time is half that.

There's a bit of shelter now until I reach Seaford. Heading down Sutton Avenue, directly into the wind, the names of pros painted on the road from the 2014 Tour of Britain couldn't make me ride faster. The closer I got to the seafront, the harder it got. I stopped at the public toilet on the Esplanade and had to film how strong the wind was. I wish I'd been able to film trying to get back on my bike afterwards. It wouldn't stay on the ground. I had to move the bike behind the building to get the tyres back on the ground. It was now a slow struggle along the seafront. The spray from the sea was hitting me in the face from 50-100ft away. As the path headed back away from the sea it was rideable again.

Arriving in Newhaven, the sheltered climb out the other side was welcome. Climbing hills is not normally a preference, but is to prolonged wind.

45 miles in I arrived in Peacehaven and stopped for lunch at Subway. Getting back on the bike, 6 hours had now elapsed from when I started! The next 7 miles into Brighton were to be a real mental and physical challenge. It's rolling hills from here but the sheer concentration required to keep the bike straight was more than I would ever expect. I was struggling to move the bike forwards at some points. At one point I was at least 100ft above sea level when I was hit with a shower of water. It took a split second to realise it hadn't started raining. Instead the waves crashing at the cliffs below had been picked up by the wind and blown over the top and into me.

Back at sea level and riding along Madeira Drive to the Pier was no better. The wind was still strong. It wouldn't be long before I could turn around. When I arrived at the pier I decided to visit a local cycling cafe that I haven't managed to visit before, only to find out that it's no longer a cycling cafe. I decided not to stop.

The plan for the return trip was to head inland a little once at Exceat to arrive home by the 100 mile mark. However, I'd realised that I might be a little short as my calculations hadn't factored in the bit to Hastings at the start. Not a problem I could work it out as I went along.

The ride was very fast at times. With the wind behind me I got a massive boost. It felt like a big hand gave me a push while already doing over 20mph. It was a great feeling. However, even though it was easyish most of the time my legs were very tired. Having ridden into the wind for 40 miles had taken so much out of my them.

At the 60 mile mark I stopped at Subway again for a coffee. The comfy armchairs were just what I needed. Getting back on the bike was a chore. Arriving back in Seaford, the Esplanade was a different sight than earlier. The beach had been deposited onto the road in places and there was a foam where the sea had been whipped up by the wind.

Turning inland at Exceat meant that I didn't get the bonus of the tailwind at all times but it did mean that my legs didn't have to fight up many hills. The plan was to ride to Berwick, Arlington and Hailsham before turning south at Herstmonceux. 85 miles in I arrived at Windmill Hill and was exhausted. My hands were hurting at this point too. I had a sit down outside a pub in the dark and had some food. I knew with 15 miles left to go, the easiest way would be riding to Bexhill and getting the train back.

Arriving in Pevensey with 9 miles left to go, I just wanted it to end. It was tailwind all the way now. When I arrived on Bexhill seafront, I decided to take the seafront path. It was dark and deserted. Riding at 25mph I arrived at the Colonade and suddenly hit beach! I'd seen it a split second before and braced myself. Thinking it was a one off, I accelerated. However, this stretch was littered with shingle deposits. I turned off as soon as I could. With just under 2 miles still to go I did a loop via Ravenside Retail Park and back to the station. I arrived at the station. It was over. Such a relief. I got a ticket and got the train home. The ride from the station back home is just over a mile with the wind behind me. It was all over for a few weeks at least.

A photo posted by Toby Field (@fatcyclerider) on

A photo posted by Toby Field (@fatcyclerider) on

A photo posted by Toby Field (@fatcyclerider) on

An idea of how windy it was.


  1. I hate headwinds but I don't think I've been brave enough to tackle ones like this. Great effort and nice write up as usual.


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