The Skyline is a long ride with the guide estimate of between four and seven hours but it is not a trundle ride. It starts with the same one hour climb as the White’s Level and as this was ride number four I could feel it in my legs as we wound upwards. Less busy on an early Sunday morning, and well drained, Alec with his fresh legs was making me work off my breakfast very quickly. I enjoyed this single-track climb but some others thought it pointless and that a fire road climb with this as a downhill section would be a better use of the hill.
After an hour or so we cut off from the shared section of trail and headed out on the Skyline proper. Much of the early trail is fire road climbing but there are some single-track sections interspersed to make it more interesting. A clear day is a prerequisite for this trail in order to see the panorama spread below you when you reach the higher sections, and for a midway break we stopped above the lake at the point called Rising High.
We all preferred different sections of the single-track with some preferring the fast and swoopy, some the very loose rock sections and some the bits with the technical obstacles. Again we wore pads and although none of us took a tumble, do not underestimate the difficulty of some sections. Steep drops, large rock steps and slippery water splashes abound and all of made use of all our suspension travel, including my Nomad with a 36.
One surprise was the length of some of the sections where tiredness can play a part. A moment’s lost concentration could prove a painful experience, but you could always break the longer single-track sections into two parts. One strange thing we all noticed was that the longer sections punished your arms and we all complained about wrists, hands or forearms. Something which the locals might be used to, but to all of us South Downers it made the last few sections a little more difficult.
If you like all day rides then this could be for you, but if you do not like long climbs or technical singletrack then probably not. With pads and full packs and stops to eat and drink it took us over five hours, so you could ride this and the White’s Level on the one day if you are really keen but it would be tiring.
Sitting in the cafe at the end of full day’s ride with the sun streaming in through the windows laughing about our exploits, this made the whole trip for me. I had enjoyed all the rides but sitting back watching the others smile through their tiredness made me realise that the weekend had not been about the riding it had been about time with friends.