Taking part in the famous ride is like nothing I've ever done before
London to Brighton! Such an iconic bike ride. I’d heard about the ride on numerous occasions in the past but never thought I’d actually be taking part. Yet, there I was at the start line on Clapham Common, along with thousands of other cyclists ready to ride the 54 miles to the coast. It was a great atmosphere, almost festival-like as everyone stood happily in their queues waiting for food, mechanical assistance from Evans Cycles, toilets or simply to get out on the road. All of them with a smile on their face. Many people also in fancy dress – to name just a few, I saw a Super Mario, a parrot and a number of Morphs along the way. Others were wearing tributes to those they were riding for as everyone was raising money for The British Heart Foundation.
The start was a little slow as we made our way out of the city. Just six miles in the first hour. I did find it a little frustrating after the rides I’ve been used to but I soon realised that this couldn’t really be compared to any of my other training rides: 27,000 people were taking part, so you were always part of a group. At some points it was a little difficult to negotiate the crowds (especially on the hills) and there were a few bottlenecks while the marshals skilfully controlled both the riders and the traffic. It was a very well organised ride. I was surprised at the start that there would be no direction arrows to signpost our turns and the map I was given was simply a list of the pitstops. But with that amount of cyclists you simply follow the crowd; marshals were positioned at any junctions to lead us safely on our way.
I was also surprised by the number of fuel/water stops en route. Official ones came almost every 4 or 5 miles which was great to alleviate some of the crowds but also meant that you were never far from help or a rest stop if you needed it. My first stop was a little earlier than I’d planned at 13 miles as I was having some problems with my gears. A quick tune-up from the mechanics at the stop and I was back on my way. There were also plenty of unofficial stops set up by locals providing water or homemade cakes and lemonade. It was the supporters along the route that really made the journey. Clapping and cheering us along, they certainly made me smile. Many also taking advantage of the warm weather to practise with their water pistols and helpfully cool down any hot and bothered cyclists.
After more than five hours I reached the famous Ditchling Beacon – THE hill of the route. At a height of 814ft it was significantly higher than any other section of the ride. And one hell of a climb. I would estimate that 80% of the riders were walking up at this point but there were a few brave ones tackling the climb. Unfortunately I can’t include myself among them - with my feet clipped in to my pedals I wasn’t confident enough that I could keep pedalling and avoid other cyclists without falling over. I decided to be cautious even if I am a little disappointed that I didn’t push myself as hard as I otherwise might have.
Seven hours after I set off I arrived at the seafront. The crowds of riders had again gathered so it was slow moving down past the pier and along to the finish line but it was an uplifting moment to see the huge crowds gathered to cheer us across the line. It felt it was the closest I’d come to what it must feel like running the London Marathon (not that I ever will – I’m certainly no runner!). It was a great day out on my bike, even if not strictly a training ride…
Things I would do differently next time:
The British Heart Foundation (BHF) run the London to Brighton Bike Ride Series supported by Santander. For more information on next years rides, or to enter the Off-Road Ride 2012 visit the British Heart Foundation website.
Erica was wearing kit from Odlo including the 'Soul' Padded Shorts (RRP £110), 'Power' Cycling Top (RRP £75) and 'Defender' Waterproof Jacket (RRP £170). Visit www.odlo.com or call 0845 603 7289.
For more information on the Women's Only London to Paris Ride, call 0870 333 1662, visit Action Medical Research or contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Erica is riding a 2011 Ridgeback Radium road bike (RRP £799.99) For more information, visit www.ridgeback.co.uk or join the facebook page, facebook.com/ridgebackbikes
Posted: 01/07/2012 at 21:41
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