Trip report: Brighton (UK) – Breskens (NL) – 325km

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Once I made my decision about the new bike I would be buying, I made the agreement to save shipping costs and meet the people that build the bike by picking it up myself. That also meant I wouldn’t order a bike in the United States πŸ™‚ The choice was finally made and I scheduled my trip from Brighton to Utrecht: the original route would take me across 480km of unexplored roads along the coast lines of the England, France and Belgium.

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Friday, 19th of February: at 06:00 I woke up to take the train to Schiphol. Unfortunately the only flight that was reasonable priced and scheduled was a flight with Easyjet. As you can expect, things went bad. My flight was delayed 1,5 hour, the crew was wining about my helmet that was attached to my small backpack while I paid for additional luggage already. No flying with Easyjet again for me this year, I’ll work a few additional hours to pay for a decent experience.

After a flight with great views and a short ride with the train to Brighton I had a nice 6km walk to the Mason Progressive Cycles shop. Welcomed by Dom & Callum and some coffee, I was immidiately provided with all the insights about their bikes, production processes (really cool to see the actual raw materials) and brand history. No marketing b*llshit, but true enthusiasm about their products. With many years of history in the bike industry, Dom knows what bike needs. Read the following interview with him to get to know some background: First Look: Mason Progressive Cycles. That article actually got the brand on my radar, way before I was searching for my next bike.

Check out this great video about the Mason Progressive brand:

So there I was, near the sea at Brighton, enjoying the sun. Just 5 minutes after I started riding in west direction I was treated with a great tradtional English shower. After getting used to the fact that there are no real bike lanes and everyone is riding and driving on the wrong side of the road I was really enjoying the new bike. Power was transferred well to the wheels, the 28mm tyres made riding comfortable, especially on the some times bad conditioned road in the UK. Before I knew I arrived in East Dean. The views were simply breathtaking once the air had cleared again:

east-dean

After a short stop and adjusting my saddle height a few millimeters, I went on to ride, via a little detour in Westham, to Bexhill were I scheduled a refill of my water and have some fresh food. I could only find a shabby gasstation, but that was enough for then. My clothes were dry again and I was still happy and enjoying the beautiful UK country side. After riding through Hasting I had to climb for 3km and the bike including the big saddle bag were quite steady. I expected the big bag would wobble but it was stable enough to do some standing climbing. It started to become dark quite soon and I was a bit hungry so tried to increase the speed a bit. I was done with the semi bike lanes or as we would call it bad quality sidewalks so I decided to just take the A259-road to Folkstone. No cars were harmed in doing that, so I expect the people are used to have bikes on these kind of roads. The directions in Folkestone were not really clear and I had to climb a bit again so I missed a few turns and lost some time but eventually I found the downhill B2011 which ended in Dover. The harbour is not really prepared for people wanting to take the boat by bike so I just followed the car & motorbike signs. The port workers were a bit thunderstrucked when I told them I was riding back to Amsterdam. After passport control I had to wait another 45 minutes before we could board the ferry to Calais. After a nice diner and some coffee during the passage of The English Channel, I was loaded up with energy and finally had a chance to put on dry clothes. I was up and running full mode again, looking forward riding through the night.

border-calais

At 23:05 I was back on the right side of the water. I did made a more detailed route for this part so I used my Garmin to get out of Calais as soon as possible. I knew that in Belgium there would be dedicated bike lanes along the beach side. Due to the immigrant related issues that the areas has, the whole area was full of guards and surveying police vans. They all looked a bit awkwards when I passed them by bike in the middle of the night with this bad weather. After 40 minutes I was already completely wet again, to much wind and not the right clothes to keep me dry enough. The only one that keep me warm was riding my bike, so that was what I did. 2:45 later I arrived at the Belgium border where I expected some kind of border control but there was nobody to be found. No questions and I had all the time to take a selfie at the middle of the road:

border-belgium

After riding for another 1,5 hours I started to get thirsty and hungry and was not sure about the level of hapiness since I was soaked and still had to go another 300 kilometres. The roads were becoming better and I hoped to find some 24/7 shops to be able to stock some water and food again but that took me another 2 hours. Eventually I found a little shop that was happy to help me out with my request for water and food. I deliberately took the road close to the sea, to pick up some of the impressions of the Atlantik Wall. The picture below actually shows one of the cycling lanes that I took. Really impressive in the dark night: those canons are so big they hover above the road.
Canons Oostende Atlantik wall Photo by Gancho Todorov

After a short break in Bredene and got some new energy I tried to get up to speed and feel less cold again but I never really succeeded. The strange thing was that I was not really tired in the traditional sense, no sleepy feelings but just normal fatigue in the muscles which makes sense after riding 10 hours already. I started doubting about quitting and riding to Brugge and get a train back. Something in my head said I would be feeling better and less cold if the sunrise would start so I continued my scheduled route towards Breskens. After another three hours riding in the rain and cold wind I was done. There multiple options but at that moment I could just think of one: get to the closest railroad station and get some dry clothes in between. Luckily the bakery could provide me both with fresh bread and some dry t-shirts. I completely lost the sense of time but the big clock in the bakery made me aware of the fact that I was awake for 25 hours already. I decided to quit and get the ferry to Vlissingen so I could take the train back to Utrecht. After all this was a training to see how my new gear and my body would act through the night and not to see what my physical limits are. My body was not having problems with the lack of sleep at all, good to know and experience how your body acts in these circumstances. Next week I’ll be training in Mallorca and I didn’t want to risk a cold at this moment in the year. 325km is a nice distance considering the 8 hours of rain and serious winds I had to endure and riding through the night is an effective way of training. I had half of my Saturday left to clean my bike and do some work πŸ™‚

Gear and food lists

To get an idea of the things you can or should take during rides like these (and a nice packing checklist for my next trip), here’s my list of all the things I had packed. A detailed review of the Mason Resolution will follow sometime in the next weeks. First of all, my clothing:

  • Craft Performance Bike Stretch Jacket: really keeps you warm due to great insulation. I’ll need to get another jacket to keep me warm because this jacket was a bad combination with all the sweat condensation. Especially in cold circumstances, it’s important to keep as dry as possible, which was not possible with this jacket.
  • 2 Craft Stay Cool shirts as my first layer
  • Pearl Izumi Elite bib tights, as backup I had an old Craft one too.
  • 2 Pearl Izumi bib shorts, best fitting and most comfortable that I have found until date.
  • Pearl Izumi gloves, not waterproof so next time in february I should really take my Shimano ones, those made built for the winter and are winterproof.
  • Agu Winter Socks – awesome product. Its warm and keeps dry easily.
  • Classic Shimano Overshoes, not waterproof but they did their job. Riding with mudguards already saves a lot of stray on your feet.
  • Fizik M3B Uomo shoes (with Boa closure system)

Next to that, I carried some secondary gear:

  • Oakley Flak sunglasses: the weather report predicted a day of sunshine, but next time I’ll leave it at home since there were continuous showers in England.
  • Garmin Edge 810: worked fine and battery life is great when you only use 1 data screen and no active routing. One lessons I learned is that my route making skills need to improve. Made a few extra KM’s and had to search for the right way multiple times on my way to Dover since I just use the Strava shortest route mode. That does not equals the safest or most suitable roads for a roadbike… I never use the direction giving mode (maybe that’s why I rode some extra KM’s :)) but the options the Garmin gives are crap anyway so the trick will be to make detailed routes before riding.
  • Apidura Saddle Bad, regular: big enough to put in my normal clothes I use on the trip to Brighton and my second set of riding clothes
  • Sigma Sportser USB front light & Toppeak Redlight Aero USB back light: great lights with OK battery life and both chargable via USB.
  • Xiaomi 5000mAh powerbank to charge my Garmin GPS, mobile phone and front light.
  • Power adapter for UK power outlets
  • 2 Elite 750ml bidons
  • Cable lock, it’s 190cm and lightweight, enough to keep my wheels and frame together. Only used it at the boat to prevent drunk truck drivers stealing my new shiny wheels.
  • Alpkit dry bags, one for my clothes, one for electronics and one for the rest of the stuff. They simply do what they are made for: keep my stuff dry.
  • A set of hex wrenches to adjust the bike.
  • A small backpack for food and all the secondary gear.
  • Topeak tri Drybag to keep my electronics close together and next to the Garmin units. I do have to find a better way to attached it to the bike because it was not really stable.

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Food & Drinks
This is a short list since I wanted to rely on publicly available sources along the way. I packed a few SIS Go Plus Caffeine gels in case I would get hungry. Next to that I carried a number of SIS Go Hydro tablets to make sure my electrolyte levels kept OK. I sweat a lot and these tablets really help me against getting cramped calfs. Especially during +150km rides, these tablets are gold. The other reasons I’m using these is the lack of calories (only 15kcal per liter.) so a great resource during endurance rides. To make sure I had something to eat, I packed 4 small muesli breads. During the trip I bought two bacon sandwiches, 4 nut flapjack bars, a good portioned size Fish and Chips on the boat to Calais, a bag of nuts, two Treacle Waffles and two chocolate breads. Together with 2 cokes, a bottle of Aquarius, 500ml of coffee and 5,5 litres of water I made it to Breskens. A total intake of +/- 4700 calories.

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Some numbers to end with

Total riding time: 13:17:31
Total distance: 325,1 km
Average moving speed: 24,5 km/h
Total calories burned (via Strava): 5379kcal
Total calories taken: 4723kcal
Total amount of fluids taken: 6,5 litres

Let me know if you want to join me next adventure!

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