An abortive​ attempt at the Southern Rough Ride Sportive Route. Ankle deep mud and my chain would not stay on (again!). Great fun though.


This weekend I had two different sportives, both start from Amberley Working Museum in West Sussex. Wiggle The Rocket (road) on Saturday and Wiggle Southern Rough Ride (MTB) on Sunday. Things did not exactly go as planned, but we had great fun regardless…

I drove down on Friday and stayed overnight in lovely Arundel. After the traditional pre-sportive curry, I settled in for an early night and was up bright and early the following morning. After breakfast, I was just about to set off for the venue when Andy texted to say the start time had been put back to 8:30am as things were still icy. The start of things to come…

I made the short drive over and the main car park was already full so I parked outside the station, as directed by event staff. A few of them recognised me and came over to say hello and have a quick chat. A lovely way to start an event :).


I walked with my bike down to the event HQ and met up with Andy, then went to register and get my rider number.

I’d just done this when there was an announcement that there was sheet ice on roads not 2 miles into the ride and that in the interests of rider safety the event was cancelled. One of the event organisers showed us a video of the ice and I totally agree it was a great call to cancel the event as there would be carnage on the roads otherwise.


Andy and I made an executive decision to return to the hotel, swap to MTB clothes and ride the Standard route of tomorrow’s MTB event as ice on that would be a positive advantage, freezing any mud on the course.

We returned shortly afterwards with our mountain bikes and set off. All was going well until about 2 miles into the ride and the dirt track we were riding up turned into a muddy quagmire. The soil is very chalky around here and this combined with the mud made for a very sticky mess around the forks and wheels in general. We kept having to stop and try and clear some of it off the bikes as we could not actually turn the wheels otherwise.


Some of the sections were un-rideable and we ended up walking with the bikes over these. I then managed to pick up a puncture in my front tyre, which turned out to be 2 different punctures, one of which was a thorn literally about an inch long!

Puncture fixed, we were starting to feel a bit demoralised and Andy said “I’m only EVER going to say this once, but shall we swap to the Short route” :). I readily agreed as it had stopped being so much fun a while ago.

We carried on and the route took us along a ploughed field which looked like a heard of cows had trampled through and it was ankle-deep mud and really hard going.

We soon agreed we’d head to the nearest road and head back to the hotel on tarmac as we were closer to Arundel than the event HQ at Amberley by now. My Jeep was at the hotel so we could drive back to the event HQ and pick up Andy’s car.


Near the hotel, we spotted a BP garage with a jetwash and so cleaned our bikes (and ourselves!) down. Got loads of strange looks from passing drivers, but it did what was required and was a really funny way to end what was at times a bit of a frustrating ride.

The chain on my MTB was still playing up for most of the ride and coming off all the time any time any mud came near it. I had this problem on the first ride on the bike from my local bike shop to home and we’d assumed the manufacturers had fitted the wrong chain and replaced it with the correct one.


My MTB is a one-by and every time the chain is muddy and I swap to a bigger ring at the back and thus am cross-chaining a bit, the chain at the front won’t stay on the chainring. It’s obviously not supposed to happen like this as a MTB must be designed to get very muddy and still work, so I’ll be taking it back to my local bike shop so they can liaise with the manufacturers for a fix on this as it’s un-rideable as it is.


Eventually, back at the hotel, we cleaned up and went into town for some well deserved food and beer. We were saying that the course was so bad we’d abandon the MTB event tomorrow and try and do the road ride we were supposed to do today, as the weather overnight was warm and the roads would not be icy.

We did also say the MTB event tomorrow should be cancelled and later saw that it had indeed been cancelled. Another great call from UK Cycling Events as it was a recipe for disaster and 200+ riders struggling (no idea of the actual numbers but there would have been a LOT of riders!) in mud would have left the countryside in a right mess, let alone potentially been dangerous for riders.

Not exactly an ideal introduction to MTB riding and MTB sportives for me, but I can see that on a drier day this would be an amazing route and seriously good fun to ride.

Onwards and upwards.

Route: click here