Struggling up the nasty ascent out of Alfriston, there were three of us: Three middle-aged men travelling the South Downs Way on mountain bikes.
Monty and I were a little ahead when Tweeter, bringing up the rear, was severely displeased to be overtaken by ancient, hunch-backed hiker in shorts and wife-beater vest yomping up the hillside at quite a startling pace.
The grey-stubbled loony evidently stoppeth one in three for as he drew level with my hard-pedalling, hard-suffering friend he held him with his glittering eye and muttered succinctly "You know what your problem is? your saddle's too low, you need cleats on your shoes and you're in the wrong gear".
"So, did he say anything to you two?" Tweeter asked when he related the strange ecounter to us a few minutes later, lying in the sunshine on the iron age fort at the top of the Down (just a few metres above the Long Man of Wilmington, had we but known it )
Monty and I exchanged glances "Well yes - he said we looked... weary... he said he felt ... weary". And just at that moment a shadow flashed across us and we looked up in the sky "A buzzard?" I asked "some bird that's bigger?"
We were on the South Downs Way, some 80 undulating miles of it. Well, "undulating" is one way of looking at it. "back-breakingly steep" would be another way. But another way again would "astonishingly beautiful"
Fifty miles of bridleway we covered on the first day, then B&B in a country pub where, oddly, we met a wedding party, then thirty more miles the next day until after the hair-raising descent into Eastbourne that concludes the path we cycled another 30 miles along the coast to Rye and home. 115 miles altogether, four punctures, five new inner-tubes, one hair-raising double brake failure and a trip home for one of us to fetch a replacement bike.
And just one crash: myself, on day two, painfully and irritatingly: no blood to show for it! What's the point of falling off your mountain bike onto the hard flinty downs but having no heroic trickle of dried blood from elbow to wrist? Oil-stained calves alone don't make you a real biker.
The sun went behind a cloud and, re-energised by the view, and our rest on the ramparts, we got back on our bikes and pedalled away; it wasn't long before we caught up with the old man again, he was barracking a hapless inner-city group of kids on Duke of Edinburgh who were carrying insufficient fresh water.
We ignored him and pedalled on, like one, that on a lonesome road doth walk in fear and dread, and having once turned round walks on, and turns no more his head; because he knows a frightful fiend doth close behind him tread