London to Brighton Cycle 2012

Very quick post about the London to Brighton cycle that I participated in with others a couple of weeks ago.  There were four of us in our team from work and the story as to why we were doing it is long but essentially we were taking part to show our support for our work colleague Kathy Jelfs who suffered an anurism before Christmas and to raise money for BHF in the process.

Arrangements prior to the event were problematic.  Three of us four had not got our start pack a week before the event so when I finally got through to someone at BHF I managed to get replacement numbers for collection from the info tent on the morning.  The start packs then arrived the day before the event but having got replacements I thought I should use those rather than the ones that arrived.

I got the train up to Fenchurch Street okay and chatted with some chaps who were doing the same event.  The cycle over to Clapham was easy and I was there in good time on a lovely sunny morning.  Having got in touch with our other team members I headed for the info tent to get the numbers.  The foreign gentleman with poor english spent ages looking for the replacements and found 1 of the 3 so I had to fill in forms to get two more replacements!  All very unsatisfactory.

Click for event webpage

The four of us met up at the bandstand in the middle of Clapham Commom.  The place was heaving with people but it was okay at the banstand and we met up okay.  parking in the street nearby was easy apparently – good for future reference.  We sorted ourselves out and headed off.

We left relatively late at around 9.15am.  The first riders off started at 6.30am I understand and some of them finished the route in a little over 4 hours.  It took us over an hour to do the first 5 miles there were just so many cyclists and cars, and traffic lights, and police/marshals.  The first two hours were horrible. The next two weren’t brilliant either to be honest.

I carried my trusted Garmin gps sports watch on my handlebars the whole way down which recorded the whole sedate cycle to Brighton.  You can view the map and stats below. Click to link to the full Garmin Connect page.

Click image to open garmin connect activity page in new window

As we made our way through the streets we passed a rider in trouble who we recognised – a colleague from work who had had some mishap and was retiring injured.  Hope he got sorted okay.

We eventually got out of the built up areas and the traffic reduced but the density of cyclists didn’t.  We now started having hills to contend with with looads of people walking up the hills AND NOT KEEPING TO ONE SIDE and so it was a real struggle making progress.

We arrived at a major bottleneck just south of the M25 where we had to cross the A25.  We came down a hill on a single track lane only to arrive at the back of a sea of cyclists.  En-masse we moved forward 50 yards every few minutes.  Nobody knew what was happening really and we thought there may have been a crash but no – it was the queue to cross the A25 which was being controlled by human traffic lights.  We queued for 15-20 minutes.

Queuing for the A21. Liz and Simon looking back at me
The queue behind us for the A21 crossing

Coming down a steep hill off the north downs (I guess) one of our team nearly had a big off when a bag that was ‘secured’ to a lady’s back-rack decided to part company from said rack and fly into the road. Simon was close behind and brushed the bouncing bag with his leg and only just stayed upright.  Could have been nasty.

Soon after the A21 we stopped at a refreshment stop at a pub and had bacon butties and filled one end with water and emptied the other… After a 15 minute break we carried on and the ride became more rural and enjoyable though with still a horrible density of mixed ability riders.  A few uphill climbs were hindered by walkers and some of the downhills were quite dangerous and some were taking them far to fast.  we passed a nasty off on one hill near to Haywards Heath where a lady had had a high speed off on a hill.  paramedics were on the scene fortunately.

Cyclists on the ‘open’ road
Roger and Liz on the ‘open’ road

We stopped for a breather in Haywards Heath and said boo to a work colleague Mr Dan Wiscombe who rustled up a whole £5 to support the cause (still awaiting the rest).  From there it was a final push to Brighton which had the dreaded hill (?) up to Ditchling Beacon to navigate.  We stopped for water a mile or two before the hill and then took it on.  The three chaps in our group all managed to ascend the hill without walking or stopping unlike the vast majority of people and I got there first feeling pretty good actually.

Mayhem but a decent view atop Ditchling Beacon

From atop the Beacon the views were fantastic and even better the final stretch was all downhill to the beach! The roads and traffic in Brighton were a pain for the same reasons as the stretch getting out of London but were were soon there and crossed the line all together just over 7 (yes SEVEN) hours after leaving London.

It was great to have done the ride and I’m pleased I was able to do it but I have no intention of doing it again – just too many people (a view echoed by all our team members).  One of our number had done the ride a couple of times before and said this time was far worse than the other times he had taken part.

Simon and Liz in downtown Brighton
Yours truly in Brighton

We crossed the line, took our medals and goody bags (disappointing), took a few pics, and then wended our individual ways.  One chap was getting the coach back to Clapham Common, two were getting a lift back with relatives and I was – for various reasons – getting the train back without my bike that was going in my Brother-in-law’s garage nearby.

After crossing the finishing line. Pleased.

A couple of train journeys saw me safely back to Southend and I felt pretty okay physically both on the day and afterward and recovered pleasingly quickly.

I didn’t take that many photos but some of the few I did take are included here.  Others in our team took more and I’ll include those in due course if/when I get them.

Having said I don’t have any desire to do it again, I have indicated that I would have a go at the off-road version of the ride later in the year!

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