I remember once after winning an Olympic Gold Medal Sir Steve Redgrave saying if you see me get in another boat again you can shoot me or something like that. For a moment on Sunday morning I was not ever getting back on a bike, after I’d relaxed a bit and had time to reflect. Now I can’t wait to get back on and complete another challenge.
The goal was to complete London to Brighton in sub four hours. Annoyingly I was 38 minutes off this target & already I’ve started to analyse how it could be improved next year, more to follow later.
It was a truly enjoyable experience. Much better than last year, mainly due to being 52 minutes faster, but generally just better. There were highlights which I will outline some:
I cycled about 10 miles to meet my friend (@GrabsNowBlog – itsupforgrabsnowblog.com) for the ride at the station. This involved a course on Map My Ride I had set up as part of my commute to work. The training paid off and even with my full backpack of equipment I took 9 seconds off my best time. This really got me in the mood for a good nights cycling from London to Brighton. So the train came and we were on our way to the capital.
The first challenge was to cycle across London, so this was my first experience to test out the work done by Boris (Mayor if London) to promote cycling. The routes are clearly labeled and road a different colour in places which helps. My friend knew the way and I followed him. It was ok, but in rush hour I’m not ready yet!
All safe and arrived at Clapham Common about 8.30.
We got ourselves settled and had to take a photo of the start empty. I didn’t get the chance last year so had to this year. Whilst drinking a coffee we were interviewed for Magic Radio on why we were doing the ride. The love of cycling, the challenge and the fact its a great charity – The British Heart Foundation. When you arrive early you are able to settle, take stock and chat to people. We were asked to move the bikes to the racks to help with the start and got chatting about the ride. As an “experienced” night rider (twice now), first time riders ask you what to expect and how it is. I gave advice from my experience and threw in a caffeine gel as she was very helpful. Plus as my friend said “he has enough energy gels to cycle to France” He could well have been right!
So the night drew in and more people arrived. It didn’t look as busy as last year, which official figures showed, 3000 from 4700 in year one. Maybe this was due to the night ride being after the larger more famous day ride. Anyway it was time to get ourselves ready for the night ahead. 11pm came and the first riders were called to the start “red ride number to the start please”. My friend had a green number with a 11.30 start time and mine was gold with a midnight time. After a few discussions with organisers to try to start earlier, I was able to swap with a very kind gentleman who was cycling alone and wasn’t in a rush. It meant we could start together. Let the banter continue. At this point I would also like to point out we were a four as another cycling friend from MapMyRide had joined us with her cycling companion. We moved slowly to the front and then came the moment of being on the official start line as in the photo. The light went green and we were on our way, I managed to start the stop watch without crashing as well as get into my cleats, cool, calm and collected, some would say with panache. It came apparent we could cycle quite quickly and comfortably so we said goodbye to the ladies and got on with the job. Remember at this point the target was sub four hours.
Cycling through London is busy and in places dangerous. London busses are big. They have their own parts of the road which they share with cyclists! Traffic lights and the night busses meant thew first section of the ride (14 miles) took an hour which is slower than anticipated and not helpful, but safety is important. I’ rather 4h 38 mins, than dead or injured. The second stage went well We arrived at the second stop (29.5 miles) in 2 hours 2 minutes. We had made up some time here on the flat sections and I remember travelling at some high speeds on some well-lit sections. It was just before this stop we encountered our first major difficulty. My USB powered light was running low and my friend needed to change the battery. No problem, just see te cycle mechanics and buy a new light for me, change the battery for @GrabsNowBlog and all would be good. So after a bit of a haggle I buy a front light for £20 (actually it did a very god job) and we were ready to go. Except @GrabsNowBlog had somehow manged to put his new batteries into his lights in such away they broke. No problem just buy another front light. An expensive stop this was going to be, but things happen. “we don’t have front lights” my friend was told. “yes my mate has just bought one” “that was te last one” was the response. Surely as a bike supplier on a night ride you would have a large stock, I know I would, or they had already done a bumper trade in front lights just 2 hours into the ride, possible, I think not too! So this leaves us in a bit of a situation. Back on track with the time but with the hard hill still to come, but with limited lights. To top this off the light didn’t exactly fit well on my oversized handle bars so this was not ideal, however with one light between us the time was out of the window and it was get through this the best we could. So were off again the new light doing a great job, especially if I held it into position. This meant not being able to have full control of both brakes 100% of the time, but we couldn’t have a second light failure. It got to the stage were we had to stop and I used medical tape to secure the light to my frame. I just need to go to a DIY shop for a longer screw and the light will be fine, but that didn’t help at this point in time. So adjustments made and off again, one light shining the way for both of us. I didn’t hear @GrabsNowBlog when he shouted his chain came off and he did a great job of getting it back on in total darkness. Well done mate and sorry for not hearing you.
Dawn was approaching and visibility was becoming easier. It was also at this stage of the ride last year I became cold. Remembering this we layered up before leaving the second stop and we remained at a comfortable temperature for the second half of the ride. So after a very scary section of riding we arrived at the third stop. 17.5 miles to go from here including Devils Dyke – that hill! Despite “light gate” as we have called our whole incident with the lights, we had still made good time reaching the third stop in 3 hours 20 mins. We decided to rearrange the bags again, which actually we, or I had done at virtually every opportunity but forgot to mention until now, got ourselves ready for the final 17.5 miles and the climb of Devils Dyke. We could see now and I wanted to see just how I could cope with the famous climb. On went the GPS app and I recorded my progress. @GrabsNowblog was content to continue at a steady pace and said it was ok for me to give it a go, so I tried my best and build a steady speed to “attack” the hill.
I will say at this point that last year I did not get off ans walk up the hill and @GrabsNowblog didn’t either. However I did but actually if I didn’t I would have fallen off my bike and slid down the hill. probably still clipped into my pedals. I marched up the final 20-30 metres of the hill actually overtaking people who were still riding there bikes! The hill might not be the longest but after no sleep and 50 miles it’s a bit of a challenge. At the top I ignored the opportunity for a photo and started to descend the hill. Thinking about his I was suffering from lack of sleep and just wanted to get to the finish. I covered the last section on 1 hour 4 minutes (including the hill) not bad for 17.5 miles and descended with quite some pace. I managed to overtake people and the power of a rad bike came to my advantage again on the run into Brighton. Again traffic lights held up our progress a bit, but we were thankful of the break, even if they were annoying. At one set I remember saying to a rider “bloody traffic lights” lack of sleep has strange effects on you. I managed to catch some decent riders and became involved in bunch sprints to the next set, I wasn’t as quick but keeping an average speed and not having to stop at every set helped me overtake most of the riders along the sea front and cross the line on my own. it was lime winning a stage of the tour, I crossed the line, alone,shattered but still able to raise both arms above my head, as though I had actually won a tour stage. Collected my medal and water and started to reflect by a blue weely bin. After stopping the app and replying to a few messages I realised the stop watch was still running. I quickly stopped this and due to the app I was able to adjust the time accordingly to end up with 4h 38m. Shortly after @GrabsNowblog came in to a big cheer from the crowd and PA system and we were spent. Our bodies had been through a gret ordeal and it was time just to sit or lean against the barrier and do nothing. After about 15 mins we got the bikes on the beach and had our celebration beer which had travelled down in @GrabsNowBlog’s bag another great effort here mate.
We then had the pleasure of watching other cross the line and took pride when we saw red numbers who had started before us as we knew we had overtaken people. The PA announcer was good fun to a point but after three hours of listening to him saying well done you have cycled 60 long miles I turned to my friend and said no we cycled 60 miles, not long ones, or short ones just 60 miles. The lack of sleep was really evedent how. A few hours later the girls crossed the line after some mechanical issues with twisted chains but all safe. It was then time to arrange breakfast, but before that I had to cool off in the sea which had the effect of an ice bath the water was so cold. Well it is at 8am in the morning. Breakfast was eaten the girls went off to their family BBQ and @GrabsNowBlog and I went for a well-earned ice cream, a chill out on Brighton beach and a nice cold beer. Same again next year, most defiantly.
The journey home was another very interesting experience which I will blog about soon. See you all next year for the third London to Brighton night ride.