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Route planning

when it all goes wrong

The following is a topic un-shamelessly copied from the Cycling Plus website, with the permission of the author. It proves the reason for proper route planning and choosing sensible roads.

My aim was to meet my girlfriend down in Eastbourne on Saturday where we had a party to go to. I'd cycled down to Oxted before, so was pretty comfortable with the A23 section out of London onto the A22, but I had a pretty nasty surprise with a hill I thought was on the A25 "Best avoid that at all costs!" I thought... It was a pretty long climb, about a mile or so on a dual carriage way with no bridle path or footpath. The area in the gutter to cycle in was pitted with recessed grids and to make matters worse, going up, the road bends round to the left so, you never see the top and, more importantly, when I'm out of the saddle in my little gear, pushing and panting like hell, the lorries that thunder round don't see me until the last minute. It is a hell road.

A hell road that I thought was on the A25, but just wanted to make sure there were no more hell roads like it on the A22, hence the post!

I wanted to do this run to get the milage, at about 65 miles it would have been the longest non-stop journey I would have done, so I was keen to get it under my belt.

I was checking the weather all week and it looked favourable, I checked on here and there didn't seem to be any issues with the A22, so planned my route.

I set off on Saturday from Hackney in a drissle. "It's ok, it will stop soon" I went over London bridge, Brixton, Steatham, as I weaved my way through the loonies in cars that live in Croydon, it was still raining. I munched a whole packet of Jaffa Cakes, sticky peanut bar and 3 bottles of Lucazade Sport and I was drenched through. I looked up at the looming clouds and a small splinter of doubt crept in. I looked down at my computer... 10 miles.

I survived Croydon and headed out of London Through Purley and off on the A22. With the M25 looming large I took a large roundabout and headed into... The Hell Hill!!! Arse! It was on the A22 all this time! - I now know it as Caterham Hill and it still brings me out in a cold sweat. I got about a third of the way up, pulled my back mech up a couple of larger gears, got out my sadle and climbed up at a comparative crawl. The speed and proximity of the traffic flying past worried me, but there was nowhere to stop, climb off, take another route.

I tried to focus, look at my front wheel and just concentrate on the road, I kept looking down at the trip reading and flinching when a lorry went by, when something hit me. I looked in front and saw someone waving out of the car passenger window that had just gone by, I looked back to see a half eaten apple rolling down the hill behind me. I just couldn't believe it. I reached the top and coasted down the other side shouting and screaming like a tramp coming down off meths. I was so angry at everything, the cars speeding by not giving me any room, the highways agency for not making provisions for bikes, the weather for being so ****ty and for people who are w@nkers at times.

The proceeding stretch was pretty flat and some of it even had a nice wide area to the left of the road to cycle on, but the rain that had at least stopped for the time being had soaked every inch. My feet had gone numb and I couldn't feel my fingers. The clouds where so low the cars had their headlights on. I went through East Grinstead and onto Forest Row (a very pretty town if you're in that area.) I dismounted and phoned my girlfriend who Hadn't set off from her mother's in Reigate yet. I'd had enough, I'd covered over 40 miles, I was cold, wet and disheartened. She told me that, yes, she'd pick me up, but that she was 40 minutes away. "Really!" I was quite impressed I come so far, but I was shivering and needed to carry on to stay warm. I pulled my beanie Hat on and popped my lid on again and set off back down the 22.

Has anyone ever been through the Ashdown Forest? Hmm - there's some lovbely undulating hills there. And lots of cars going at breakneck speed. I got to the top of a climb that had dense tree cover and emerged onto the crest where the trees made way to a view that took my breath away. A view of golds and orange flecked trees that stretched out into the distance, there was a break in the traffic, the roads went silent but for my laboured breathing I'm sure, but can't confirm that the clouds parted and a little ray of sun came out. I heard a faint singing of angelic voices and then felt like someone was pushing me along.

then I had a coughing fit, blew snot out my nose, took andother swig of my grimy bottle and gound on. Narrowly escaping the 3 inch grid that threatened to throw me into the path of the wazzocks in the car behind me.

The roads flattened out and I left the Downs behind me. Now it was just souless A road ahead. dual carriage way and no space to ride, the only thing to keep you amused apart from the constant near-death experience was the miltitude of souless roundabouts and dim laybys. I took advantage of one to climb off and have a pee (a layby that is, not a roundabout.) and hear a car pull up behind me. It was my girlfriend.
I didn't know if I should laugh or cry. I'd done a spit over 50 miles at that point, but had a further 15 to go. I was numb all over and black with grime.

As I sat in the car with the heater on full blast and the windows steaming up, I looked on the rest of the journey and doubt if I could have made the last 15 miles. The roads were terrible.

We drove back the next day. Down the same route. I saw a couple of cyclists. Looking up, there were a few clouds in the sky, but apart from that the weather was cracking.

If you were out on Sunday, you got the good weather.


Don't go down the A22 on a bike.

It's awful.

The response to this?
I'm sorry you had such a hard a time of it. Does it help to know that while you were slogging and surviving down the A22 there were quiet country lanes to either side of you, just a few hundred yards away?

Make sure this doesn't happen to you! Plan your routes sensibly. See here for route planning advice.

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