Well, recently she swung by my house and left behind a shiny new Kinesis Tripster ATR for me to look after! Lucky me! Especially as I'd been eyeing up a 'gravel bike' for a good few months now.
Since the delivery I'd already been out for a few quick blasts on it (circa 30 ish miles), but recently I'd been looking for a ride/route to really 'test the metal' of such a fine bike! I'd been toying with taking it along the South Downs Way and had a date in mind - however in the weeks before I'd been nursing a knackered back/ribs (from a 0 mph tumble..) so opted to cover the Winch - Worthing stint via the SDW, then ride another 30ish miles on road/gravel - this should give me enough miles for this month's grand fondo!
Then a thread re-emerged on SingletrackWorld that had everyone waxing lyrical about this bike - and it really seemed it would meet all my 'new bike needs' - it should cover road, gravel, cross, MTB - brill!
I was all set to buy (I mean, the bike fairy was all set to drop off..) one from an online store, when Jimbo sent me a message saying South Downs Bikes would be able to price match.. ONe phone call and 6 hours later, I was stuffing some titanium, rubber, and alu into the boot of our car!
A week or so later and Jimbo and I were on an early train heading towards Winchester, both staring lustfully at our bikes and trying to justify (to ourselves at least) that "if we had them, titanium bottle cages would really finish the bikes off"...
(I hope the chap on the CX bike that was waiting for some 'internet strangers' to turn up and ride the whole route finally found his companions...)
We ignored the 'walker/rider/ separation at the start, and simply bimbled our way through the field and up the first road climb fairly effortlessly.
We had been keeping a descent pace - aiming for a casual, photo packed, 12ish mph average.
Even when the ground became rockier and the hills pointed up, we were still doing fine. We both kept commenting about how comfortable the ti frame/carbon fork combo really was!
One thing I was finding was that the skinny bars (42cm on this bike, as opposed to 70ish cm on the MTBs) felt a bit narrow when taking on the slippy/rocky climbs - not sure whether to climb on the hoods or the drops really?!)
- Butser Hill is a laff to simply let the brakes off and hoon it down - I knew this bike would be a real eye opener down there!
- QECP cafe was a few pedal strokes on, and coffee and cake time was fast approaching.
Well, the Butser descent was teeth rattlingly eye wateringly good/dangerous fun on the Tripster!
Strava says I topped out at 58kph (36mph) - I'd have to believe that as I could barely see where I was going, least of all look at the GPS screen!!
But sorry chaps, we must plod on!
Skirting around the side of QECP and climbing up and out, Jim and I idly chatted away about all things bike related - both STILL commenting about how comfortable our backsides were, and how we felt we were enjoying this ride much more than the 'figures and stats of this bike' should have been allowing us!
Descending on the drops is a must as it not only allows you to absorb some of the shock through the wrists, but it's also the strongest grip on the brake levers, and I'll admit we were dragging them on most of the steep off-road descents!
We were also highly amused by the 'profanity stricken gangster rap' blaring from the window of a quaint cottage in leafy rural Sussex..
As it stood, Jim was finding the blinding sun and kamikaze bugs a bit too much for the eyes, so we decided to leave the SDW as it crosses the A29/Bury Hill, drop down via the road route into Amberly (again, topping out at 58kph - the same as Butser Hill!!)
We then tabbed it along towards Storrington, where Jim picked up some sarnies and a pair of sunnies from the shop he works in (South Downs Bikes), and we carried on towards Steyning.
It was here our paths divided - Jim was feeling it in his legs and opted to peel off, head through Steyning towards the seafront via the Downs Link..
I carried on North via a fast mix of road and dirt tracks, before heading back South again. I took a slightly different route back from Steyning than Jim - sticking to the road routes meant I could smash out the additional miles needed for the grand fondo, as well as getting home in time to spend some time with the family!
50ish miles of tough South Downs Way, followed by a faster and slightly easier 35ish miles of local 'back lanes and dirt tracks'!
This bike really is a great bit of kit..Held at gunpoint, and forced to only keep one of my bikes, I think you'd be hard pressed to justify letting this one go!!