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Road bike for the South Downs trail?!

Posted: 7 Oct 2020, 1:34pm
by emilypattenden
Hello,

I have a Liv road bike which did me well on the London-Brighton (56 miles) a few years ago. I am hoping to cycle the South Downs trail (100 miles) in a few months as a fundraising exercise for a Turtle and Marine conservation project I am attending in march in Sri Lanka. Does anyone have any ideas/experience on this trail and if my trusty Liv road bike would manage some of the terrain? I've read it's mostly grassy etc...would it be doable?

Re: Road bike for the South Downs trail?!

Posted: 7 Oct 2020, 2:00pm
by mumbojumbo
I would imagine there would be several potential issues

1.steep gradients in some sections,so you may need lower gears-you can always push
2.track surface may require different tyres for grip and comfort
3.brakes may be inadequate
4. mudguards in event of mud

To suumarise may need modifications-probably better to borrow a mtb.

Re: Road bike for the South Downs trail?!

Posted: 7 Oct 2020, 2:12pm
by Shuggie
You’ll do a lot of walking, and slipping as the chalk surface is horrible when it’s wet, and then there’s the mud! I’ve done much of it in summer on a cross/gravel bike but definitely an MTB in winter, expecting to spend lots of time unclogging wheels etc.

Cheers, Hugh


I'm a trendy consumer. Just look at my wobbly bog brush using hovercraft full of eels Pro

Re: Road bike for the South Downs trail?!

Posted: 7 Oct 2020, 2:16pm
by emilypattenden
thanks both of you, really helpful but yes I agree it might be too challenging. would be a shame to borrow/buy a different bike when I am so happy with mine. Can anyone recommend some long distance road trails which would be more suitable? Aiming for about 100miles

Re: Road bike for the South Downs trail?!

Posted: 7 Oct 2020, 2:20pm
by whoof

Re: Road bike for the South Downs trail?!

Posted: 7 Oct 2020, 2:46pm
by peetee
The Winchester end of the South Downs trail has a lot of miles over predominantly chalk and flint. Puncture resistant open-tread tyres are a must if the ground is wet. Chalk has a nasty habit of looking dry enough to ride but being very slippery and cracked flints can be razor sharp.

Re: Road bike for the South Downs trail?!

Posted: 7 Oct 2020, 2:49pm
by hamster
The Isle of Wight round the island route is a beautiful but challenging road route of around 65-70 miles. Add in a ride from (say) Southampton and you have a nice Century.
Also look at the Wessex CTC New Forest Routes or part of the new King Alfred's Way

Re: Road bike for the South Downs trail?!

Posted: 7 Oct 2020, 2:51pm
by hamster
peetee wrote:The Winchester end of the South Downs trail has a lot of miles over predominantly chalk and flint. Puncture resistant open-tread tyres are a must if the ground is wet. Chalk has a nasty habit of looking dry enough to ride but being very slippery and cracked flints can be razor sharp.


Agreed, a chalk/clay putty that's incredibly slippy when wet, and fist-sized rocks on the SD Way in the dry. It's MTB territory really. You don't need anything more than a short-travel hardtail though.

Re: Road bike for the South Downs trail?!

Posted: 7 Oct 2020, 2:57pm
by emilypattenden
great suggestions, thanks guys! Yeah I think it's possibly too risky especially as would be doing alone, Isle of Wight idea appeals! Am looking up the route now

Re: Road bike for the South Downs trail?!

Posted: 7 Oct 2020, 3:16pm
by tatanab
I used to ride parts of the South Down Way (primarily between Winchester and Amberley near Arundel) when on club rides in the 1970s and 80s, days when "road bikes" were used for riding road races. Our bikes were normal lightweight touring bikes.

1. slippery chalk/flint - On descents I would often find myself on the limit of control, I dared not brake harder or try to change gear (downtube levers) because my tyres were at the limit - or rather my limit - on the surface, particularly if damp. 1980s MTB riders had advantages here. but lost out elsewhere.
2. gearing - I never found particularly low gears necessary, none of us had them, but I was younger then :D and, as has been said, I could l always walk if needed. I even rode a fair part on fixed wheel, much to the amazement of the trendy 1980s crowd riding their MTBs on routes out of a book.
3. mudguards, of course we had mudguards, and had to clear them regularly in muddy places if it was damp.

in short, you can ride any sort of bike at all but just accept that any particular one will have shortcomings in some sections - nothing is perfect.

Re: Road bike for the South Downs trail?!

Posted: 7 Oct 2020, 3:22pm
by Pendodave
emilypattenden wrote:thanks both of you, really helpful but yes I agree it might be too challenging. would be a shame to borrow/buy a different bike when I am so happy with mine. Can anyone recommend some long distance road trails which would be more suitable? Aiming for about 100miles

I go to the "routes" tab on cycle.travel when I fancy browsing for interesting multi day routes to attempt.

As for the sdw, I did it on a basic hard tail mtb about 20 years ago and would not go near it on my road bike!