Jun 28, 2011

30 degree London to Brighton

This time in a fortnight we’ll be on our third day of LEJOG and on our way to just north of Gloucester. For now though it’s about working out how much training to do in the last few days before we head of to Land’s End.

While Dan went large this weekend and took part in a full triathlon, I opted to stick to the bike. I have been using my ride home to squeeze in some useful hill climbs by taking a detour via Crystal Palace which has been working the old thighs pretty hard. This weekend I thought I would put this training to the test and follow last weeks BHF London to Brighton route sans a few hundred amateur cyclists. My plan was to ride there and back which would be a 110 mile round trip, which is almost as far as we will need to cover on average heading up to John O’Groats and I think this would have been doable had it not been for the conditions.

It took me a little while to get going in the morning and my early start ended up being more like 10:30. On leaving the house it became quickly apparent that the twenty odd degrees promised by the weather people was a little bit of an underestimate as it all ready felt in the mid twenties and we were nowhere near midday yet. This was going to be a sweat pouringly tough day and I was only carrying a litre and half of water on the bike. Anyway I set off regardless with a stomach full of porridge.

Again the training so far this year must be doing some good as I am now feeling really comfortable on the bike and able to push when I need to and able to get into an adequate rhythm once I was out of the London traffic, which isn’t until you get past the M25 at this time of the day. The traffic was making me regret my extra couple of hours in bed.  One day I’ll manage to do a solo London to Brighton without going the wrong way. I almost managed it this time apart from a 3-4 mile detour into Reigate where I was too focused on passing a female cyclist to notice that I had cycled passed the turn into New Battlebridge Lane, on realising my mistake I made a u-turn and found the correct route and carried on . Once you hit Nuffield Road just outside Reigate though it is a lovely ride.

I remember the first time I did this route, which was actually only last year, and was not prepared for the number of climbs on the way down and even now I forget quite how tough it can be. Especially in 30 degree heat, I was really relishing roads that were tree covered, giving me some restbyte from the relentless sun. Everyone obviously knows about Ditchling Beacon before they tackle the ride but there are plenty of other ascents to tackle that on their own will take it out of you and the combined 53 miles is always a good ride that will push even the most prepared cyclist.

I normally make a required fuel stop in Lindfield, about two thirds down the route, but as I was carrying the bare minimum I had no lock so had to forgo that and make the porridge last a few miles longer. I was hoping for a roadside cafe, but didn’t think I had seen one on any of my attempts so far. As Ditchling loomed however I could feel my reserves dwindling fast and the last thing you need is to attack the beacon when low on energy. Luckily I spotted a garden centre that was advertising a food court just outside the village of Ditchling so made a stop and managed to get my bottles filled up and grab some well needed grub including a couple of perfect for the job, locally made, date slices.

No more putting it off, once I had let the fuel settle for 20 minutes or so I took on some more water and headed off to take the dreaded Beacon Road that takes you to the top of part of the South Downs. I have to be honest here and say I have never made it all the way to the top without at least one rest. This time however I was determined to make it all the way no matter what. As you start bottom it seems like it starts off gently enough but that doesn’t last, the whole tortuous ascent is only around 1 mile long but with an average grade of 1 in 10 it is no easy task. Again despite the 50 miles I have already travelled in baking heat I feel like I am the best prepared I ever been to take it on and once the proper climbing starts I get into a good rhythm and get my head down. One of the features of this, and actually all the tough climbs I have done, is that there are a couple of false dawns that fool you into thinking you’re almost done before turning the corner to find there is still another, steeper, portion to do. This is normally what gets you mentally, it’s the seemingly never ending nature of the climb, this time though I kept on pushing through and found that swearing at the tarmac made me feel much better. It all came together and I made it to the top in a oner, all beit a bit on the slow side near the top, but with just enough energy at the end to make a half arsed sprint finish as you know there will always be a few other cylists at the top resting after beating their own demons.

With that done, it’s a fairly easy ride down into Brighton, just make sure if you do this route to head over the bridge at the end of Ditchling Road, rather than heading down to the A23. That route is a much better way into the City and one more easy climb is paid off by a lovely downhill ride all the way down to the cathedral.

Once at my end point the idea was to head back home on the same 2 wheels that got me here but to be honest I was totally spent. The combination of the heat and not taking on enough water meant I couldn’t face it and actually felt I had done enough this close to the big one, Land’s End to John O’Groats. As I write this, the big one is looming large and only a week and a half away before we head out. I have to say if the riding is as good as today it’s going to be epic.

Link: Kinetic cycle app data from the ride

Links and information

  • Just Giving charity page We have set up a page to raise money for The Alzheimer’s Society, please donate if you can
  • Map of our route We initially used Google maps to plan the route, here it is in it’s entirety.
  • Mule bars for energy These yummy natural bars will be keeping us going all the way up to John O’Groats
  • Strada Wheels These guys hand built a new set of hoops for Martin to ride for the trip

Our photos

'In or oot'Tartan rug hiding stuff, on the drive homeCooling off in Loch LomondYachts off InvernessThe morning afterThe first puncture, CornwallOne down...to goRehydratingCelebratory breakfastBristol docksThe evening ritualRiver WyeCaloriesAn ice bath substitute in Loch LomondFeet upFlaked out in GloucestershireFeet up 2Puncture!Beer, protein shakes and Mule BarsSilhouette on the Erskine Bridge