Durdle Door Gran Fondo

Lulworth cove photo

Lulworth Cove, Dorset

My past week had been building up to this day; I’d avoided doing any strenuous exercise in preparation for a 70 mile cycle to Durdle Door with Aubs, a friend from university.

If you had told me two months ago that I would even be thinking about doing 70 miles in one go I would have frowned and said no chance. But back then I didn’t have my Planet X London Road bike; instead I was using my Thorn Touring bike. It’s a lumbering slow bike with a Rohloff hub and has been my plodding and sturdy stead for the last 8 years.

Back to the ride in hand, I had prepared the bike and myself the day before. I nipped to Halfords during the day and picked up a last few bits and pieces:

  • Pack of 8 energy bars
  • Topeak Aero Seat pack
  • Halfords Bottle Holder
  • Dry lube and wet lube
  • Inner tube – for £1 as they were selling off stock!

I got my recent purchases home and tightly packed the repair kit into the saddle pack along with 5 of the energy bars. Once strapped to my saddle, the pack fitted in quite nicely. I was initially worried about ruining the streamlined aspect of the bike but the bag tucked under the saddle and didn’t get in the way at all. There are further details here – Topeak Aero Bag review.

The bike was now fully prepared and I stashed it away ready to roll out early on the Saturday morning.

The Ride

When the morning came I stuffed in a large carbohydrate focused breakfast and got the bike out for a final check over. It was ready to go, and so was I! The first mini-step was getting to Aubs’ house. I got there without a hitch. He was nearly ready and we left 15 minutes later to start the ride proper.

Stage 1. Bournemouth to Durdle Door

The first stage was surprisingly easy. We kept a steady pace going, not particularly fast but enough to eat up the miles. A frequent problem through the ride was my back aching as the London Road bike was a different position and so needed some adjusting to as I had only started riding it a few days ago. We stopped every hour to give my back a stretch and refuel ourselves.

The first mechanical happened during the first hour, we came to a steep hill and I shifted my left gear down. Once at the top I tried to shift back but it refused to change, I kept peddling but it still didn’t shift. After about 20 seconds the chain somehow slipped off and we had to stop. I have absolutely no idea how the chain came off as the bike has a small blocker that prevents the chain from slipping off. We quickly got the chain back on, and tried lifting the bike to change the left gear back. It worked fine and we were on our way again. (I later heard from a friend with the same bike that the left gear needs pushing hard to click in).

‘This way to Durdle Door!’ – the sign was a relief to see the sign pointing down a small road leading to the coastline. We cycled through beautiful rolling hills where the grass shimmered silver under the sun and wind.

Half an hour later we were peddling through the carpark and came to a stop overlooking Man o’ War beach. The view was astonishing, and I couldn’t believe I had actually got here after living in Dorset for nearly 3 years. At first I was relieved to be half way, until it hit me that Durdle Door wasn’t really half way, the second half of the loop was much longer and headed inland over the hills.

At first, I tried pushing my bike down the steep hill that led to the cliff overlooking Durdle Door but the hill was simply too steep. So we both hitched our bikes onto our shoulders and slowly made our way down, dodging the people that were milling around.

Stage 2. Durdle Door to Blandford

The return through the rolling hills of shimmering grass was a difficult stage, the wind we barely noticed before was now against us. I went down to a lower gear and slowly made my way forward, after all, you can’t fight the wind! My cycling partner went a lot faster and it didn’t take long for him to disappear from sight. I caught up at the next junction and after that the wind lessened as we left the coastline.

Overall, the second stage of the ride was by far the most gruelling. After the wind it was a constant upwards grind towards Blandford with me slowly being left behind as I struggled up hill after hill. We passed many small villages, but the one that stood out the most was Milton Abbas. The central road through it was a steep hill with small cottages either side and wide grass lawns in front, opening up onto the road. Unfortunately we didn’t dawdle and focused on the climb up the hill. Aubs was ahead initially but came to a stop when the hill got suddenly steeper; I passed him in my absolute lowest gear and peddled slowly on.

After that killer hill we glided along the top before a very long downhill into a small village. After experience the downhill, we realised we had definitely come up the right side.

Photo of view from the top

Stage 3. Blandford to Bournemouth

This was the final leg, a ride that dragged on and on as my energy ebbed.

We reached Wimborne and stopped at a junction to decide what to do about eating at a pub. After talking for a few minutes we decided to roll on home, then it happened:

“Aubs!” I shouted.

“I’ve got a flat.”

“What?” He asked, looking back at me with disbelief.

“FLAT!” I yelled back, steering into a driveway to double check that I did actually have a puncture. I pressed down on the rear wheel and it squished down, my heart sagged with it. We were in the last hour and feeling knackered. But a flat is a flat, and nothing can be done other than fix it.

I pushed the bike on a bit further and lifted it over a gate into a park, then got to work. My skill at changing rear punctures is non-existent on a bike with a groupset. I can do it easily on the Thorn as it the gears are compartmentalised into the Rohloff Hub, you simply undo the brakes, lift the wheel out and get too work. The problem with a groupset bike is that there’s the derailleur to worry about, the chain to puzzle over, the rear cogs to agonise about.

Aubs collapsed onto a bench whilst I got to work. Getting the wheel off was easy enough, changing the inner tube was the same as any tire on any bike, though I made the mistake of taking the entire tire off. The problem was figuring out how to get the wheel back on around the derailleur and making sure the chain was in the right place.

The first attempt I forgot to put the chain back on (I blame exhaustion!) and had to unscrew the wheel again. The second time I fiddled round and managed to get everything in the right place. All in all, it took about 20 minutes and I think went pretty well for a first puncture. Though I did identify what caused it, and my tire now has a medium sized cut in it from where a sharp pebble sliced right through it.

Aftermath

We stashed the bikes in the shed and grabbed a drink. I collapsed on the sofa; 5 minutes later we made our way over the nearest pub – which turned out to be a Toby’s Carvery. We went for a king sized roast beef and overloaded our plates with stuffing and potatoes. 45 minutes later our plates were empty, probably the only customers who had every emptied their plates completely.

I then cycled home, the punctured inner tube encircled about my neck so people knew that I was losing rational thought due to exhaustion.

Lessons learnt and thoughts for the rides to come

  • Food wasn’t a problem, though I only ate four of the eight energy bars. Next time I will take less energy bars and a more nibbly kind of food as well, such as a bag of nuts.
  • I didn’t drink enough! I had a one litre bottle which I only finished towards the end. Ideally, I would have finished that by the time I reached Durdle Door and refilled it. I also need to buy a proper bottle, as old lemonade ones don’t encourage drinking on the go.
  • This was a distance ride, we had mapped out 70 miles and we had to do those 70 miles. I’m going to focus on 30 mile rides with more exploration involved during May. I’ll choose a location and cycle there but take detours if I see anything interesting.
  • I should probably watch a few YouTube videos on how to change an inner tube properly before my next ride.

The Route:

Durdle Door Route

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One thought on “Durdle Door Gran Fondo

  1. Pingback: A Cycling Recap – 2016 | The Exploration Journal

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