Posts Tagged ‘London To Brighton Bike Ride


preparation, preparation, preparation…

I almost called this blog post Le Tour De Surrey but decided against it at the last minute…
Last year, Hauling My Carcass and I completed the London to Brighton Cycle ride. We had built ourselves some bikes (him a singlespeed and me a fixed gear) and there was a certain sense of satisfaction to be gained from completing the ride and doing it on something that you have created. Not long after, HMC brought my attention to the Dunwich Dynamo – a 200km, overnight, unmarshalled and unmarked ride to Dunwich in Suffolk from a pub in Hackney. “Not this year, you understand, but we could enter next year…”
Fast forward 12 months and it is almost upon us… 200km on a pushbike is a long way by anyone’s standards. It is longer than many of the stages of the Tour De France. It is also overnight. And we are not, I repeat NOT, finely honed athletes training full time. And we do not have top of the range, super light, race bikes… we have opted to build another couple of bikes and use those. Both are steel, both are at least 30 years old, both are now singlespeed.
We decided that we probably ought to do a bit of training before embarking on this little adventure so a 77.87km bike ride was executed on day 5 of Juneathon, followed 2 weeks later by the 85.98kms of the London to Brighton. It was strange how last year, the focus was on completing the London to Brighton and this year it was relegated to “a bit of training” for Dunwich Dynamo. We decided that we needed an additional long ride, with everything that we would need to take for DD to give us a good idea of what to expect.
At 8am yesterday, I arrived at HMC’s house with my bike in the boot of the car and a massive back pack containing food (lots of food), tools, waterproof jacket, bottle of water, hydration pack and an entire change of clothes. This was what I was planning to take to Dunwich so this is what I would train with. We set off just after 9am and made our way through the undulating Surrey and Sussex countryside, basically heading south. The route was mostly country roads and surprisingly quiet considering the sun was shining and it was a beautiful day. A quick stop around 50kms and then we pushed on to 80kms when we finally stopped for lunch. We perched ourselves on a grassy bank outside a golf club on the outskirts of Ditchling and had lunch. Half an hour later, we were back on the bikes and, now heading East then North and with approximately 60kms still to ride, we decided that we would do two stretches of 30kms each with a little rest in between. At around 115kms we stopped for 10 minutes and agreed that we needed to find a place to buy Coca Cola… strangely we both began to crave it and maybe it was our bodies crying out for liquid and sugar and caffeine. Cola safely procured a couple of kms later, we then pushed through the last 30kms which contained one of the most horrific hills I have ever had the misfortune to have to cycle up. Steep, long and with a surface like an adolescents complexion it was really tough and saw us both dismounting, walking slowly whilst pushing the bikes and cursing.
Psychologically, the last 15kms or so is easy. and it was nice to be back somewhere I recognised and could almost picture how far we had left to go. We arrived back at 5.30 pm having completed 147.76kms. We were both weary but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be (helped immensely by the nice route plan by HMC and the almost perfect weather). Dunwich Dynamo is 50kms further but less hilly. The real test will be cycling through the night, but with under 2 weeks to go, I am feeling much more confident of completing it than I did.


juneathon day 20: juneathonitis and london to brighton

Juneathonitis – noun: injury, real or imagined, obtained during a constant exercise routine undertaken in the 6th month of the year. See also complete Juneathonitis and compound Juneathonitis.
And on Saturdays run, I think I had my first case, which I shall call Juneathonitis of the second metatarsal. And it was such a little thing that caused it, I am actually quite pissed off that it happened.
I was out on my run on Saturday morning and it began to pour, really hammer down for about 5 minutes. During this 5 minutes, I was rendered partially sighted by the combination of rain on my glasses, volume of rain falling from the skies in front of my eyes and sweat being washed into my eyes by the rain. So this injury is clearly the rains fault. And the tree’s fault too. The tree that pushed it’s root up into the tarmac causing a bump about 2cm high and 2cm round to stick up from the surface of the path. Which I couldn’t see in the rain and which I landed on in the Vibrams, with the ball of my foot and I felt the bones in my foot kind of flex around it. Except the one that landed directly on the bump kind of flexed the wrong way. And now it hurts. Quite a lot when I walk but much more when I run. So I may be doing more cycling than running for the rest of Juneathon.
And talking of cycling… Today’s paltry Juneathon effort was a 5.7km round trip on the bike to the bikeshop to give it a little TLC after yesterday, which brings me nicely on to…
Sunday’s London to Brighton saw us up early (6.15am) to get everything ready for a 7.30ish exit to drive to Clapham Common. There were three of us riding: myself, Hauling My Carcass and his Mum, but there were also HMC’s Dad, wife and 10 month old son travelling in the car with us and who would drive to Brighton to meet us once we set off. We loaded the Mystery Machine with the bikes and bags and people and set off. We parked up in Balham, unloaded the bikes, said our goodbyes and cycled the remaining mile to the start on Clapham Common.

A fully laden Mystery Machine

The whole race is very well organised so once at the Common, we headed straight for the Start Gate. Starts are staggered and we had been allocated an 8.30 start which actually didn’t set off until about 8.50 but no-one really minds. The route out of London is slow as the volume of cyclists trying to navigate the capital’s already messy roads. I noticed my headset was quite stiff so stopped briefly at one of the roadside bike mechanics for him to give it a tweak and a few minutes later we were back on our way. As you leave the stopstart of London the field thins out and it is possible to hit a reasonable pace and before you know it you are into the Surrey countryside with it’s undulating landscape, each uphill rewarded with a sweeping, freewheeling downhill. This is what I missed out on last year as I was riding the fixie and HAD TO KEEP PEDALLING. This year, on the singlespeed, made for much broader grins. We stopped at The Crown pub at the top of Turners Hill to eat the food we had brought with us. I had a 465gm tub of pasta and I’m astounded that I ate the whole thing and some flapjack and jelly babies and a Voltz Energy Shot and then managed to get back on the bike. The second leg saw us get absolutely soaked as not one but two heavy rain showers drenched us. The scene of the second drenching was Ditchling Beacon, the highest point on the route and, I can confirm, completely impossible to cycle up on a singlespeed. There were plenty of people walking and even the hardiest of hill climbers were spinning in their lowest gears to get to the top. I had to give up when the combined force of my legs, my body weight and all the strength I could muster in my arms was not enough to turn the cranks any more. But there is no shame in walking this part of the course. The long, descent into Brighton should have been a high speed, whooping career down the other side but, because of the lashing rain, the surface was incredibly slippery and we were (rightly) marshalled to keep our speed down. A bottleneck at the bottom and then it’s back to stopstarting as we snake our way through Brighton to the finish on the seafront. There is quite a crowd there to meet you at the finish and their cheers and waving and support allow you to pretend, just for a second, that you are about the collect the maillot jaune.

85.98kms later beside the seaside

So to someone who fancies taking part I would say, definitely do it. At least once. Take more food with you than you will need. Get the bike checked over before you set off. Train a bit. Watch out for the handful for whom this is the only bit of cycling they do – for they will weave and snake around (often whilst talking to their friends and not paying attention) and it is these people who almost had each of the three of us off in seperate incidents. Wear a helmet. The marshalling is great, the organisation is great, the support from the crowds dotted along the route is great. Take a waterproof jacket and suncream and a sense of humour and you will have a fantatstic day – as we did.


juneathon day 19: brighton – briefly

Firstly, thank you to everyone who wished me good luck for today’s London to Brighton Cycle Ride. Secondly, apologies that this is going to be a short post as it’s late, I’m knackered and I want to go to bed. I promise that I will give a full and frank account of today’s activities in tomorrow blog post.
So… the highlights: Up at 6.15 am to get everything sorted and to get ourselves to Clapham Common, start the ride at 8.50 and make slow progress through South London. Once out of London, it was a fairly straightforward trip. The route is great, marshalling fantastic and the support when finishing in Brighton, 85.98km later, is enthusiastic. Could have done without the two very heavy downpours but a great day nontheless. More tomorrow but until then… Good Night.


juneathon day 18: a friend of dougal

See that snail... that's me that is

And not purely because todays 11.13km run was executed at a leisurely pace owing to tomorrow’s London To Brighton Cycle Ride. I have spent the rest of the day preparing everything for tomorrow’s activity. I’m off to stay at Hauling My Carcass’s house tonight so the three of us who are riding tomorrow can set off to beautiful Clapham Common en masse. So, I have an overnight bag in addition to all the stuff that I’ll be taking on the bike ride tomorrow.
So far, the contents of my backpack for tomorrow consists of:
1 x 2 litre bladder
2 x Spare Inner Tubes
1 x pump
1 x puncture repair kit
1 x 15mm socket & wrench
1 x Bike Multitool
1 x “First Aid Kit” (consisting solely of plasters and ibuprofen)
1 x mobile phone
1 x waterproof jacket
1 x bag raisins
2 x banana
1 x container of pasta in tomato sauce
1 x bag dried pineapple & mango chunks
1 x flapjack
1 x spare t-shirt
1 pack wipes
1 small towel
2 x Voltz Energy Shots (Refresher Flavour)
£15 cash
I will, literally, be carrying eveything I need on my back. I’ve tried to take everything I could possibly need partly as a precaution and partly as training for Dunwich Dynamo… I need to ensure that cycling a reasonable distance with a loaded back pack is feasible / do-able and want to be forearmed.
So, all things being equal, this time tomorrow we shoud be on our way back from Brighton. See you on the other side…


juneathon day 17: on the verge

As it’s Friday, the last day of the working week and the eve of the weekend, I awoke this morning with a spritely demeanour and the idea that I would get out for an early run before the days events began to steal time from me. Early morning pre-run preparation complete (capuccino downed, running gear on) I set off on a short run. Lower limbs were tender from 17 continuous days of activity and my feet felt particularly sensitive this morning – not painful but aware of every nuance and texture beneath the thin sole of the Vibrams. Perhaps it was because my feet were fresh out of bed that they were registering every detail of the ground but because of this, I opted to run on the grass wherever possible… so much kinder on the ankles and knees especially after almost a continuous day of rain yesterday. I got a few strange looks as people walking towards me moved over on the path to let me past and I, seemingly, snubbed their kind gesture by staying on the grass verge. I ran down into the park and across the soft, springy grass. Around the perimeter of the park is a running track – not in the traditional 400m oval sense of the phrase, but a route around the perimeter of the park marked out in white paint, that follows the edge of the grassy area and is almost exactly 1km long. It is also interspersed with exercise apparatus, presumably so that you can break up the crushing monotony of a 1km run with some dips on a set of parallel bars or some chin ups. It was noticeable how much harder the surface of this 1km loop is – even though the actual ground is the same, the dirt has been compacted over time by hundreds of pairs of feet pounding it’s surface. It felt almost like running on concrete. So I completed one loop of the track (fighting the urge to stop for a quick set of pull ups) and then headed back home along the towpath. There is a certain satisfaction knowing that my days run (only 7.6km today) was completed before work. I just have to fathom out how to squeeze tomorrows activity into an already hectic day and whether another run or a short cycle ride is the better option for the day before a 54 mile cycle ride to the seaside on Sunday.


juneathon day 14: fix up

Today I had a job to do. A job for work. To some this may not sound much like work, some may even dream of doing this for a job. Today I had to do a “comp shop”. This means that I catch the train into the West End and spend approximately 6 hours walking the length of Oxford Street, Regent Street, Carnaby Street and parts of Soho taking pictures of shop window displays. Sometimes I have to photograph the interiors of stores and this obviously requires some stealth and cunning as the people who own the stores or who work there do not want me snooping around with a camera. I sometimes like to see how obviously I can stand and take photos without being asked to leave or being forcibly ejected. That helps pass the time.
It does however grind you down, shop after shop. And you end up spending money. Many lovely things pass before your eyes and it is like slowly being brainwashed, with everything clamouring for attention and screaming “Buy me, Buy ME, BUY ME!”. Also, assume that, at a conservative estimate, I cover 2 miles an hour as I saunter around the streets and shops… that’s 12 miles walked today.
Although, walking around the West End had one advantage. The fixed gear bicycle is the cycle couriers transport of choice and many are to be seen chained to lamp posts or nipping through the traffic. Almost all are customised or tricked out in some way and it was great to look at the variation and individuality on display and to see a bunch of wiry limbed couriers with crazy facial hair stopped for lunch and try and marry up the courier to the bike from the assorted ones leaning up against the wall.

My Lovely Fixed Gear Bike

All of this served as inspiration for today’s Juneathon activity… I knew I was going to cycle today but had planned to get the singlespeed out and have another ride on that before London to Brighton on Sunday. Instead, I grabbed the fixie from the garage and completed 24.46kms of narrow handlebarred, continuously pedalled fun.


juneathon day 13: an anniversary of sorts

I’m rubbish at statistics, but my WordPress Dashboard reliably informs me that this is my 200th post. That’s 200 little parcels of gibberish that, over time, I’ve left on your virtual doorstep, rung the doorbell and then run away sniggering.

200 posts since February 2009… put like that it doesn’t sound quite as impressive. Anyway, today against my better judgement (but with an eye on the schedule for the rest of the week), I went out for a run. Legs were still weary and calves still tight from yesterday but once I started, I felt reasonably ok so decided on the out and back loop following the river. This has become a Juneathon staple but serves a number of purposes. It is long enough to feel like I have actually put some effort in. It is varied and / or pretty enough to stop me getting bored and it is a route I know so well, I can effectively let my mind wander and let the legs and the subconcious get me home. And it’s 11.1kms to add to the Juneathon tally.
The rest of the week looks like this: Bike ride Tuesday, Run Wednesday, Run Thursday, Bike Ride Friday, Run Saturday and then to round off the week The London To Brighton Bike Ride on Sunday. And after that we are into the final third of Juneathon.

Thank you for all the comments and feedback over the past 200 posts. Onwards to the next 200…

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