London to Brighton Bike Ride 2009
On Sunday the 21st of June 2009 I took part in the annual London to Brighton Bike Ride for the British Heart Foundation.
We'd stayed the night with a family member who lives in Mitcham who lives around 4 miles from the start. I ate breakfast, showered, dressed and left at 6:45 for my 7:30 start, arriving with plenty of time to spare at 7:15. As the route passes the end of the road we were staying in, I followed the stream of cyclists in reverse but needed to hit the pavement in a few places to avoid the completely closed roads.
Unsurprisingly, there were lots of cyclists on clapham common, with the 7:00 starters still leaving at 7:30. I got through the start gate (and had my card stampted) at 7:45.
It took a full hour to cover the 4 miles back to to Mitcham riding past the road I'd started from due to lots of stop/start for traffic and cyclist-related congestion. After a relatively uneventful ride, we eventually made it up the hill to Woodmansterne (where I got married) 12 miles in to the actual ride at 9:30, where I met my wife, brother in law and mother in law. Refilled water, ate some food.
Getting back on the bike, there was a nice fast run down rectory lane before dismounting and walking up How Lane again due to congestion. I stopped off at rest stop D 20 miles in for a bacon and sausage sandwich, and to rest my legs briefly.
I left stop D after a decent rest expecting to gently spin my way up Church Lane, to discover massive congestion. Not even a walking pace - a few steps at a time, taking 30 minutes or so to cover maybe 1/4 of a mile. Turns out the delay was due to letting cars past so cyclists can cross the A25 road a few at a time. Eventually we got past and carry on through a reasonably flat section of the route. I was starting to run low on water about 27 miles in, so called in at stop F for some water. This turned out to be a mistake, as Burstow scouts were insisting on a minimum donation of 20p for a refill of tap water. It even tasted odd, the little gits.
I moved on quickly after getting the water with the intention of my next stop being Turners Hill. Pretty good and mostly uneventful run up to Turners Hill although I walked up part of the hill at this point as my legs were starting to get tired. I stopped again briefly for water which was being handed out by the extremely energetic kids from the local church, and decided to pass on this extremely busy rest stop.
It's a nice fast run run down to Ardingly, where I made a proper stop. This turned out to be the right decision as it's a nice location for a rest, with a good BBQ, and decent cups of tea on offer from Ardingly Scouts. I was definitely starting to feel the tiredness at this point, so the rest was welcome.
I was expecting a nice easy run to the bottom of Ditchling beacon at this point, but the route profile we were given lies a fair bit. Lindfield was pretty, but the extremely long hill up through haywards heath is unpleasant and extremely draining. I gently spun my way up this trying not to wear my legs out.
I stopped at Wivelsfield for more water and a brief rest, then on to the bottom of ditchling beacon. Again as you approach the bottom of Ditchling Beacon there's a few miles that are surprisingly lumpy and gently uphill, which doesn't help. I stopped at the last stop before the beacon for more water, a hotdog, a banana and a rest before tackling The Hill.
Ditchling beacon, at 700 feet of climb in just over a mile was exactly as hard as I'd heard. While I suspect I could (slowly) cycle my way up if I were fresh, after riding over 50 miles I had almost nothing left in my legs. I walked up slowly, just like most other people.
Eventually made it to the rest stop at the top, where I stopped for a quick cup of tea, a banana and to appreciate the amazing view before the run down the hill. Leaving the top of the beacon there's a reasonably gentle downhill at first that gets steeper. Finally, you come round a corner for the big descent. I set a new personal speed record of 42.9 mph at this point, and that was going 'slowly' on the brakes due to the 'slow down' warning signs. I could have gone significantly faster given how quiet the road was at that point -- I almost wish I had
The last 3-4 miles through Brighton are fairly frustrating with a lot of stop/start for traffic, especially as you know that you're so close, but it is thankfully all flat. Finally I made it to madeira drive on the sea front, the finish line in sight. It was an amazing feeling crossing it after so much effort. I got my card stamped and collected my medal, grinning like an idiot.
Then I realised I had about 20 minutes to get to the coach back and I had no idea where it was. I asked one of the marshals who directed me back past the 2 piers and on to Hove sea front. About a mile away was what the paperwork said - in reality closer to 3 which I could have done without, especially as it involved navigating round hordes of pedestrians and tired cyclists. I made it with a few minutes to spare, loaded my bike onto the lorry, and collapsed exhausted on the coach, a total of 61 miles down. I'm a bit annoyed that I didn't have enough spare time to make it a metric century.
It was extremely hard (for me, anyway), but an amazing amount of fun. I'm also extremely pleased to say that so far I've raised over £700 for the BHF.
- My photos of the event
- This site has a load of info about the London-Brighton route, including the elevation profile.