London to Brighton bike ride - a view from the saddle
I have lived near Brighton for most of my life and so the annual L2B Bike ride was something I had always fancied having a go at. 2010 turned out to be the year when I would enter for the first time and cycle from Clapham Common to Madeira Drive with 27,000 other people.
The furthest I had ridden in one day (not all in one go) was 36 miles along the (very flat) South Coast cycle route, so I was a bit nervous when my alarm woke me up at 3am on the morning of this years event. 54miles with the dreaded 814ft Ditchling Beacon climb and I wasn’t sure that I was fit enough to ride that far. My aim was to cycle all the way, no walking allowed and as I was doing it on my own, no stopping at refreshment points. Lots of people make a day of it and do a few pubs en route.
My start time was 6.30 from Clapham Common and I had booked transport for both myself and my Specialized Sirrus sport (which I love!) from Brighton to London. The first vehicles were due to be loaded and ready to leave at 4.30am and so I arrived in a very busy Brighton at 4am to find lots of people still clubbing and joined a relatively short queue to wait for the transport. I timed it about right because within a few minutes there were a couple of hundred people waiting with me, but unfortunately no coaches or lorries for about another half an hour. It was 5am by the time we left Brighton and so nobody with a start time before 7am was going to make it on time. Not a huge issue as you could start at any point after your allocated time, but annoying if you wanted an early start to beat the crowds.
The coach I was on arrived in London at about 6.40 and as my bike had been one of the first ones to be loaded on the lorry, I had time for a quick toilet stop (in a women’s only portaloo, so very civilised!) before collecting my bike and heading to the start area. I have done some running events and so was expecting the normal chaos at the start but it was actually very easy and I was away and cycling at 7am.
The first half of the ride was slow, with lots of stopping and starting, but I was expecting that and at least it meant I couldn’t go off to quickly (although I’m not sure there was ever any danger of that happening!) On a couple of occasions the road was closed because of accidents and I had to wait 15 minutes each time for it to be re-opened. The crowds started to thin out a bit once the refreshment stops became more frequent and from 20 miles onwards it was fairly clear.
The atmosphere was brilliant the whole way and the marshals were fantastic, especially the ones at 16miles who kept everyone entertained until the road was re-opened. Cycling though some lovely parts of Surrey and Sussex with so many other people was amazing.
I was feeling fairly comfortable, but the South Downs were looming and I knew I had to get to the top of Ditchling Beacon before I could see the sea and feel that I was nearly home. Around three quarters of the people around me pushed their bikes up the hill, but I managed to continue cycling and it actually wasn’t too bad. The views from the top and the descent down the other side made it very worthwhile.
The atmosphere was brilliant as I turned into Madeira Drive and some of my family were there to cheer me home. I was in a group of about 20 people at this point and decided I would try and get past them all. I managed this, but had underestimated how far it was after that to the actual finish! I did stay ahead- just, but it hurt! It had taken me four and a half hours cycling time and I did cycle all the way, albeit very very slowly at some points due to the volume of people.
I had a fantastic day and will definitely be doing it again. Things I learned- it’s cold in June at 3.30am, so take something warm to wear. If you have an early start time and want to beat the crowds then you are better off making your own way to Clapham Common and if I can do it then anyone can! Oh and my bike was very well behaved and I love it even more now!