London Brighton Bike Ride
The London to Brighton Bike Ride
Every year around 30,000 riders climb on their saddles and roll out for the annual London to Brighton bike ride. It's become one of the UK's most popular sportives in recent years. Now in its 51st year, the L2B is a gateway ride to many cyclists and perfect for those wanting to dip their toe in shallow sportive waters, rather than jump straight in at the deep end. Roll up and join the fun.
The London to Brighton bike ride is a great choice for anyone wanting to take part in a sportive but perhaps you’re not quite ready for the likes of The Etape, more about plumbing with Brighton and Hove Life (brightonandhovelife.co.uk). It’s also perfect if you fall outside the normal 50-70 age range that most sportives seem to be aimed at and are wanting to join a ride with people of similar ages. The London to Brighton bike ride is one of the UK's most popular sportives.
With it's famous start/finish line in the iconic cycling city of London, and a staggering 15,000 riders this year in total, it is pretty much guaranteed that you will not be alone on your cycling endeavor. As the London to Brighton Bike Ride rolls into the capital for 2016, I see it as the perfect opportunity to introduce my favourite weekend ride. I have been writing about architecture and history since 1993. Dont miss the underwater tunnel!.
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No Strava palaver
Ditchling Beacon is a familiar sight on the London to Brighton road. Its there pretty much the whole way down to Brighton, and Id always been curious as to what lay behind its formidable facade. From the outside it looked like a good climb, but how good was - or indeed is - definitely up for debate. It has had a recent revamp - a well needed one, with new tarmac and a repaving of the whole climb in 2016 - but how much difference did it make?.
Instead it was the wind that made us suffer a bit up there, and at a few points towards the finish, when we were on flatter or slightly downhill terrain, left me wondering if my knees might just explode with a few hundred metres to go. The legs felt fine - as they always do on a decent ride - but its perhaps the highest dose of pain Ive ever pushed through in that period between 20km and 1km to go, before sprinting for home.
So this is how it stands: we have in our possession 5 poor quality photographs, taken on a smartphone, of what a reasonable person might believe is a view from the summit of Ditchling Beacon only it isn't because the 120m climb to the top of this unremarkable hill is barely noticeable amongst surrounding topography – unless youre already there and you know exactly where to look. I forgot how long its been since Id cycled a 90km route though.
I also forgot that, for some reason, Id decided to pack my rain jacket for the ride. And, as it turned out, Brighton yesterday was not Mortirolo. Its just the Alps coming closer to England - or was it more like England becoming like the Alps?. Having cycled down to Brighton from London a good few times, I knew the distance - 90km - wouldnt be an issue, nor the climbing. Tough and unpleasant as Ditchling Beacon undoubtedly is, its no Mortirolo - our new standard-bearer as the most stupendously hard climb weve done.
Youre having a laugh
At the start I awkwardly tried to avoid a tutu-ed rider in front of me. It resulted in a choking, coughing off-road sprint (which is always a good result). The section was about five kilometers long and mainly off-road on some sections and on the road for others. Great to see local riders from two of my favorite shops Rock N Road and Cycle Lab putting their team skills to the test. My home breakaway buddy was also at the race but her little girl came down with the flu so she had to sit this one out ….
You've probably done the above , often with horrific consequences. Why not consider the seemingly absurd suggestion to ride easier ? Remember that the 100 miles is essentially a training ride rather than a race. Nobody is going to hound you for it, so it's no big deal if you take your time. I'd always recommend riding at least one sportive as a part of training for an ultra, just to get the mind/body connection in order & to have some fun on the bike.
_. If you've never heard of LSR then let me enlighten. It stands for Llanberis Sportive Ride and occurs every year over the August bank holiday weekend. It's classified as an Audax which is a group of cyclists who race against the clock rather than other riders; it's a long distance sportive which means you clock up the mileage and enjoy the scenery without having to worry too much about making sure you're keeping up with your counterparts and such like.
Things were going swimmingly until I was at the bottom of a large hill buzzing through a series of chicanes and came upon a group of riders who had come to an abrupt halt. A little confusion and a few moments later, I understood that the course had been shortened due to a tight schedule. My heart sank immediately as I wasn’t prepared for this change in plan (this was not disclosed n my recce of the route).
You'd have to be made of tungsten steel to not warm to the relaxed atmosphere. There was almost an old school club feel, which I liked: up for a ride with no racing involved and people just keeping up with each other. So on Friday I left London, drove down to Brighton, picked up the bike and rode it back to London in what was, for me at least, a relatively comfortable ride. Thats not surprising.
Chip on my shoulder
So I let them go to the front, where they overtook a group of walkers, then a second group. I figured theyd ease up on the climb. Well, when we came to the steepest part, I braked and they whet past me like Id been stood still rather than trying to pace myself. So I overtook them again as soon as we levelled out. And I just kept over-taking them all the way back into Crawley, including at traffic lights where they were too impatient to sit behind me.
It was a straight road with a large, one-way roughly painted on the road. You could take the lane by the way or roll off the side and clip in over the kerb and onto pavement (not at all ideal). The inside of the lane was naturally taken by Hula Hoops, so I stayed to the outside. Not out of any malicious or competitive reason, but because they were taking their lane. Chipstead was the first Hoe Lane climb of a loop described to us beforehand as having two climbs in “The North Downs”.
The second, on our return, is sharp and narrow, with a biff on the inside or else go over the top and take a mile-long slide home into the valley. (You may have seen it on Eurosport – there was a women’s race here during the Olympic Games). At half-a-mile long, this dead-end climb was straight out of the Tour of Flanders, but the gradient was quickening all the time. Yellow Jersey made a break for it; I just kept on his wheel and he looked at me over his shoulder, as if to say: "Hey, wait for my mates.
" Thats when I pulled alongside and said under my breath: "No chance. " And away he went. The Hula Hoops and I had been at it with some back and forth. Theyd dropped me, then I was on their wheel, until one of them pulled away again. Then I was back on his wheel, and as the climb started to stiffen I got a little bit more aggressive, at which point the guy up front shot off up the hill.
London-Brighton is probably one of the most famous sportives in the UK, regularly attracting more than 1,000 riders. But it's not the scenery you go for. You go to London-Brighton because you want to ride fast and hard for between two and five hours, including up and around the famous South Downs. The feed stations are a real highlight of the day - there are 15 on what can be a long ride. While they're mainly just stocked with sweets and biscuits, there was always plenty of water to drink and I think there was even a few flapjacks when we went in 2013.
If you’re not familiar with long distance bike rides in the UK, the London-Brighton ride is a popular sportive that draws the biggest crowds. Feed stations are part and parcel of these events; I can’t imagine doing a 200 mile ride without enjoying a cup of tea, eating an energy bar or two, and possibly downing a bottle of Lucozade Sport (or 2). But most bike riders won’t do 200 miles in one go.
. so what about on the shorter end? And what about urban rides?. Many of the bigger, more famous sportives could learn a thing or two about feed stations from London-Brighton. I’ve done past New Forest events which rival the distance of this sportive and received only a handful of cereal bars to keep me going for 100miles and over 6hours of riding. In contrast the Feed Stations provided at London-Brighton were tasty, filling, plentiful and best of all they made sure you didn’t leave hungry!.
I’ve taken part in a lot of sportives but few have impressed me as much as London-Brighton . It’s the world’s biggest sportive – 350km over two days – and, crucially, has an array of well-placed feed stations. There were eight in total; 30miles (50km), 90 miles (140km), 140 miles (225km), 164 miles (265km), 194 miles (312km), 220 miles (355km), 256 miles (410km) and 300 miles (483). The London-Brighton bike ride has been the sportive to do for over three decades.
Beacon of slope
The first thing to point out about Beacon of Slope is that it accurately gives the distances, so dont assume it will be a tough slog. Its not actually a tor at all, which i found was a bit of a shame, but I suppose the route is uphill enough without any extra effort. The advantage of the Beacon and its location means you can tackle both London-Brighton and if you feel like pushing your luck even further, the Forest Way.
We were unfortunately not able to make it to Ditchling Beacon since we arrived in Brighton later than anticipated, but we still made it a great stop. The ride in from London-Brighton was excellent as well; with no cars on the road, it felt like a whole new world opened up to us: one that was much more enjoyable than the one inhabited by cars and stress. One of the things I love about cycling is how fast it makes you move through landscape, and how much happens when your eyes are on the horizon rather than on the road.
Ditchling Beacon is the first peak that you start to see once you leave Brighton, looming in the distance. It's big, it's distinctive and nobody forgets it. With an estimated 20,000 riders pounding the tarmac every May, the event sees a massive spike in cycle training every year close to the big day. Many of the bigger, more famous sportives could learn a thing or two about feed stations from London-Brighton. Ive done the route umpteen times.
But it's not all about the runners you know. Brighton is famous for it's beach and the actual pier. This event was no exception to that and I would love to run it again in a couple of years time when I'm a bit more comfortable with running, just so I can relax beforehand knowing there will be lots to see if I get tired! By the way, thanks to my Dad for coming down and spectating.
He also took some photographs of the race which you can find on my Facebook page . As you round the clifftop to the left, towards Rottingdean, the road is uphill then becomes level as you face a slight headwind to finish. I knew it was going to be flat all the way here even though Im sure there are a few rolling hills in between Brighton and Rottingdean but I was glad to find it a lot flatter than expected.
In fact, Brighton is the only place Ive ever really seen a finish klaxon. Its this big, brassy horn that sounds at the end of races on the pier. It has definitely been known to cause some severe earache moments for the people standing behind it when its being tested out!. It was the first time I have ever done a run in the UK, and I have to say that I really enjoyed it.
The atmosphere was great, there were lots of other people taking part, everybody was cheering you on and there was a nice flat finish once you reached the beach. I'd advise anyone who hadn't yet had the pleasure of running on the south coast to do so. Its easy to travel to from London, and its great to have a forward thinking race organiser hosting such an event. Well worth the trip over if you're in the area.
I saw a homeless girl of 15, sitting on the pavement, abandoned by everyone, with her possessions lying next to her. She rocked back and forth in distress. I could tell she was high on drugs. I was angry with myself because I had just won an Olympic triathlon bronze medal and she had nothing. She had no one to help her out of this downward spiral, no one to support or revive her. Then I thought about my own daughter Lacey (11) and what it would do to her if she saw me in that condition and it made me even more determined to focus on helping others, like this poor girl.
An elderly woman, probably in her eighties, with a walking stick and two shopping bags of clothes (her worldly possessions?), was trying unsuccessfully to push her way into the crowd that had shown up to watch us finish the race. She was looking over people’s shoulders and waving her stick like she was commanding them to let her through. She looked overawed and overwhelmed. Her face said it all – she was staying strong but wanted someone to let her through.
I hadn't seen a look so desperate or vulnerable since my grandma died suddenly last year. I suppose these days I see so many people with their iPhones held out, taking pictures and movies of me after the finish line that it doesn’t really make an impression any more. But this guy was different. He had a camera, not a phone. He was elderly, with slight stooped shoulders, like he’d been through some hard times.
In his hand he gripped something very tightly, like it meant a lot to him; what it was took me a few seconds to realize as I passed by him. As I was walking back to the start house, one of my supporters, a young man in his twenties, who had a prosthetic leg and was running with the aid of crutches and muttering some words of encouragement to me in passing, had collapsed just near the finish line.
The emotions that washed over me were complex. On one hand, I felt an urge to stop and help him because it was my race and I wanted it to end well for my supporters. But I also knew he wasn’t alone. A woman, standing a little away from me and the crowds, dressed in a red hoody with a yellow strip down the arms and on the back it said 'we are family'. I recognised her immediately as a table captain - I had seen her around all day at other stations.
So what did you think?', I asked. Her eyes lit up with recognition and she smiled for the first time in a while. 'It was amazing,'she said. The annual We Are Family Biathlon event takes place at Brighton Palace Pier in aid of Brighton & Hove Albion Community Trust. The biathlon was a challenge about taking on a run, while carrying an adult on your back and a towel over your hand, followed by swimming 100m with a bath towel, then racing to assemble an Ikea chair.
What sort of bike?
But the bike ride itself was only a part of our adventure. To really appreciate the Jura, you need to get off your bike and walk. We started at Wildhaus in the Engadine and then headed south towards Nods. From above, the three lakes seem to be hemmed in by almost vertical banks, but upon taking a closer look youll find that there are tracks running alongside the lakes, just waiting for you to follow them down to water level.
In fact, they start before youre even halfway up to the first lake! Theres no missing them: theyre flagged with this sign. One of the most memorable rides Ive done with friends was a London Loop ride (details from the same link). We set off at lunchtime, one Friday, and over the next 24 hours we covered 280 miles around London. Not all in one go: youll do circles within circles. It starts in Richmond Park, home to some amazing deer, and ends in Greenwich Park, location of the park tube station – and this ride is designed to make you go round again.
Do you bike for recreation, fitness or transportation? Im guessing that if your reading this post you might be more oriented towards commuting to work, but Ive ridden the route to Mt Shasta. In the two weeks before the trip I rode 100 miles each week on my road bike. Thats a ton of miles for someone who normally rides about 9 milles each week, mostly on a trainer inside on rainy days. Components. For complete bikes, theres now a bewildering choice of components from mainstream manufacturers, often in sub-£500 bikes with couplers and mudguards included.
You can also get fantastic deals on new used bikes. See our blog about where to look for a cheap bike . My first experience of self-supported touring was on the wonderful Monmouth to Mevagissey path . Its a sometimes lane, sometimes cyclepath, sometimes towpath threaded its way along the banks of the River Wye, which connects Lake Bala in North Wales to the Severn Estuary. But theres no way Id cycle the route as described in The Ride.
Youll need to add at least an hour to your journey, and itll need to be done on a geared bike. '. A long, flowing finishing straight. And what is a bit of a secret is that if you go "off road" for the last 30m or so, you can go onto the beach and take in some beautiful scenery with your supporters. By the way, I share some of my own tips and tricks in this post.
How much traffic is there?
What I want is a quiet, pretty, interesting road that takes me quickly from place to place without much traffic. Ideally theres lots of green, hedgerows, maybe some pylons or the odd wind turbine for variety. But mostly greenery. Id like more places to stop so Id be inclined to take a break fairly often. Because id be moving fast Id prefer not to get distracted by random things too much; the hedges should probably be bare enough for me to see and mostly you get the hedges you pay for in this country.
Id prefer it too not be too addictive; if Id drive it every week Id be very tempted to surf around the whole serie. The roads that are the easiest to bicycle on are all dual carriageways, as they have a cycle path (often slightly narrower than the carriageway) on one side, which is reasonably safe and quiet. The very worst roads are those four lane roads outside the Blackwall tunnel approach in east London (A12).
These have two lanes each way with no hard shoulder to speak of. If you use them you will get knocked off even if you ride sensibly and predictably. Cars very rarely leave a gap sufficient for you to get past. There are a handful of quieter routes on offer, but theyre not especially scenic. You could head straight south into Surrey, but then you have to use busy roads to get out of it again.
It would be better to swing west from Guildford and try to hook up with the Downs Link before joining the South Downs Way near Winchester. But its still over 30 miles and therell be a lot of A-roads involved. There are plenty of options to be found between Ipswich and the M25. Borehamwood is relatively busy, but has interesting things like Steetley Ponds. Edgware, Mill Hill and Enfield are not particularly quiet, but still have some nice lanes.
After that youre into Essex and London - their own article is coming up shortly. But which of these crowded roads should you watch out for? These are the ones that will make you curse your chosen route, and wonder if it really was quieter or faster to take the direct A23 rather than sticking more-or-less due south along the C25. You're thinking of walking from the ESS, and that's a good start as it puts you off the roads.
Is the route signposted?
Is the route signposted?. Theres no such thing as a package tour that follows our route exactly, though some people have suggested this. Instead weve given you an outline of the whole route, which can be ridden in several different ways. We strongly suggest using maps and a compass: if you feel apprehensive about using compasses, please take a quick refresher course at your local outdoor education centre before setting off; or look for an appropriate smartphone app.
We started by riding along the Downs Link, which is a dirt track that starts just south of the A23 at Cuckmere Haven. It soon peters out so we continued on the Beachy Head route, a narrow and often bumpy tarmac road, one that youre unlikely to be familiar with unless youve ridden in this area before. Theres not a lot of traffic on this section and its perfect for filtering. If youve come straight from Glastonbury, your first view of Brighton will knock the stuffing out of you.
It looks like a set from Blade Runner; steeply descending to the beach, it stretches forever into the distance. We did this ride late at night and, arriving in the darkness, I was terrifiedand wondered if wed have trouble finding our overnight accommodation. There are numerous ways of getting from London to Brighton. You could go out via Guildford and the northern hills, or Preston Docks and the South Downs. The route weve chosen is through the south-east, incorporating part of the London Orbital, or Le Grand Rond as it is sometimes called.
Went for a ride today despite the weather and we've covered 83 miles, but I can't decide whether its been worth it or not. The route from London to Brighton (our destination) is one often taken by tourists, and is consequently well signposted. Touring cyclists who ride on the road tend to avoid motorways, but we are also avoiding the more touristy B and C roads wherever possible. This is one particularly smooth road, but like many quieter roads, it isnt signposted.
How do I get back?
I’m usually in a bit of a rush to get back home, so generally don’t have time to make any more complicated trips than I have to. That and I don’t want to mess about with trains that are full of people heading into London, so I use the North Downs train line and head from Brighton up past Worthing. The train goes a bit far north as it goes via Dorking, but doesn’t take long to get back towards London, and you can always hop off at one of the stations before (west of) London if you fancy riding along quieter roads for a while.
So it was my first time back in the UK for a month and I had some friends visiting from Seattle. We were going down to Brighton Beach (no, not the Russian one) and would be back on friday night. All was well except that I realised I'd forgotten my bike lock and padlock at home. This is essentially a no-no when it comes to taking your bike on the train. I briefly considered driving but decided against it because of several reasons:.
I was on a cycling holiday, and after a morning biking out of Brighton, I was looking forward to getting back to the city. When it came time to catch my train, I made the mistake of taking my bike down to the platform without noticing that bikes were banned at this time. After asking a few people where I could put my bike (without success), I took the photo above. So, how do you get back from Brighton without your bike?.