India – off road near home

We first met India when she raced Further last summer.

A race that nearly didn’t go ahead due to travel restrictions, but one that ultimately saw a small group of riders head to the Ariège Pyrenees in France to take on a gruelling four days of riding across (very) mixed terrain.

India scratched during the race, making her way back to the rider HQ for the ‘finishing’ party.

Whilst there, she decided to head back out and complete the course, despite the event having officially ended.

The act of finishing is something that should never be underestimated, and her grit and determination to get it done both captured, and embodied, the spirit of the race.

With the last 12 months forcing everyone to train closer to home, we went and caught up with India on the South Downs Way where she’s been preparing for racing this year, including both the Pan Celtic Race and Further.

“When I finally strayed off-road last year, the first ride I embarked on was the South Downs Way. A 100 mile stretch of chalky trails and bridleways, tackled over two days with my mum, who I owe my love of cycling to. The route begins – or ends, depending on which way you look at it – a stone’s throw from my doorstep, by Beachy Head in Eastbourne, and follows the ridgeline along the escarpment to Winchester. The undulating path racks up almost 4000m of ascent along the way, often prompting the sentence ‘why is it called the Downs, when there is so much Up?!’.

The sweeping hills of the South Downs have become a playground I return to time and time again. The relentless climbs are instantly forgiven by the vast expanse revealed at each crest, and rewarded by descents that have you grinning from ear to ear the entire way down. It is truly magical, with something spectacular to be witnessed at each turn of the head; perhaps a flock of paragliders swirling above, herds of cows and sheep adoring their new-borns all around, or gap in the clouds allowing a perfect curtain of light to fall on the shadowed towns below.

I used to find myself unable to fathom how people would happily ride the same roads or trails day in day out, especially if they were choosing to ride by themselves. I have always felt the constant need for new experiences, and craved company rather than solitude on my rides, but this mindset has shifted since exploring the Downs – a shift that has been very welcome. While I once wouldn’t have entertained even the idea of riding by myself for even one hour, I now look forward to multi-day trips alone with my thoughts. 

The South Downs has been the perfect training ground for races I have entered this year. Multiple climbs are steep enough to enforce hike-a-bike, which will inevitably occur both up the Cornish hills of the Pan Celtic Race and the hikes-that-you-definitely-shouldn’t-be-carrying-a-bike-on during Further. Combined with descents that are bone-rattling enough to emulate those of the Atlas Mountains, it’s surprising how much diversity and preparation you can get within a few kilometres of Southern Coastline. I’m really very lucky, and very grateful to have somewhere so beautiful to explore this close to home.”

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