“'Sussex on a Shoestring’, how does this one sound? Three days, lovely views, we can stay in the YHAs along the way, it sounds budget”, I messaged my friend on the other side of the world. Moments later it was all booked and confirmed. We were going to Brighton for a sea-side sight-seeing bike-ride!
Except it wasn’t a sea-side sight-seeing bike-ride, because we didn’t actually read the description. When we got to Cycle Brighton to pick up our bikes, the kind man told us we needed mountain bikes for the route we were doing, and my friend and I giggled in glee.
Three hours later we flopped down on a verge outside a McDonalds, taking shade from the big M sign, gobbled our picnic like savages, and realised we were a third of the way through the first day.
We traversed through grass, gravel, tarmac, inclines, declines, and paddocks. We braved our way through a field of energetic, lively horses and pushed our bikes past massive cows. When Beth’s pannier came loose, we fixed it to my bike, and when we rode down a steep gravel hill in the setting sun, I bailed and winced as the gravel dived under my palms. Little did we know at this point we were only 100 meters from the hostel.
The next day I had my hands wrapped in bandages and my big-girl pants on… as well as my rain jacket, my spare t-shirt stuffed in my shorts for extra padding, and grim determination on my face. We made it to Lewes and got said pannier fixed, shopped at Waitrose and then proceeded to eat everything we bought in the carpark. Classy.
In an exposed paddock, the wind lashed us from the right, and big heavy drops started to fall. Beth and I were in denial and agreed to not acknowledge the rain. It was after getting off my bike to open the thousandth gate of the day that I suddenly couldn’t handle it any more. I needed a whinge.
“My bum hurts. My hands are killing me. I’m trying to cycle with my knuckles to lessen the pain, so, my cycling posture is bad. I’m hungry. I’m tired. It’s getting cold. I’m thirsty. I don’t even like cycling.” Beth reassured me that we only had 11 miles left in the day.
We somehow arrived, and a hot meal was a blessing. I didn’t manage to get in the shower before the taps ran dry from some problem with the tank, so grimy pyjamas it was. I didn’t care. As long as I could lay down.
The next day we ordered a full English breakfast, the sun was shining, our exhausted bodies were adjusting to the extreme exertion and we were on the home straight. We cycled through pig farms, cows, sheep, cars, and lots of poo. Suddenly we were invincible. We laughed with each other. We returned our bikes triumphant and almost wished we had another day. Almost.