London to Brighton Cycle Ride

London to Brighton Cycle Ride

Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

The Ravenous Rambler is feeling tired and stiff. On Sunday 15th June he cycled all the way from London to Brighton for Heart Foundation.

It was an early start to get to Clapham for 6am. There were crowds of people there. People queuing for the loo, last minute mechanical problems and general mayhem like soldiers preparing for battle. I stood with about three hundred other people under the starting funnel and we collected our map and got our ID card stamped. Then into another funnel for the actual start. People standing around nervously ready to go over the top. Light banter and looking at each other’s kit and wondering how fit they were. Then we were off and as we started it was difficult to get a clear piece of road. Then there were traffic lights that everyone wanted to ignore except for the policemen and road wardens shouting “Stop”. It was a bit start and stop at the beginning through London and then out to Croydon but then the road opened up, the field cleared a bit and we were off across beautiful countryside. This was England at its best; a blue sky, small roads curving their way over the North downs and then winding their way to the South Downs and the heights of Ditchling beacon.

Some of the villages had put on festivals with brass bands playing and everyone was out to see the thousands of cyclists coming through. These villages were ancient. Thatched roofs, old churches, commuter land near Gatwick Airport. At one stop the jets came overhead with undercarriage down on late finals. Had I really cycled to Gatwick Airport! At each refreshment stop cyclists were strewn all over the place, there were stalls selling cakes and sandwiches. Water for free, tea and coffee and cold drinks. You could talk to anyone – we were all in it together. We minded each others bikes and we shared stories. There were many tales of injuries. We were the lucky few who had survived. Then I caught site of the South Downs and my heart fell. It looked huge. A large green grassy ridge that we had to cross to get to Brighton. It must have had the same effect on invaders many years ago. As we approached, everyone slowed down, they were reserving their energy for the big push. Now there was no talking, this was serious, we were confronting the enemy once more…
I wanted to cycle up but the big problem was going to be negotiating the crowds. People had a tendency to stop in the middle of the road. Earlier in the day, I had been forced to walk up a hill just because of fellow cyclists stopping like this in front of me. It made it impossible to ride unless you were skillful in avoiding the stoppers.
My tactic was to call out to everyone around me – “keep going’, “don’t stop now”, “coming round’, I called out all the time to warn the people in front and those behind what was happening. I tried to be as polite as possible, it was strange because I was the only one doing this but once I had started I carried on. It got me up the hill. It only really got a struggle at the top at the last bit but otherwise I made it with little effort.
After a stop on top, the drop off the beacon was a delight – up to forty miles an hour on my speedo, not that I dared look at it very much. Coming in to Brighton was tricky – there were so many traffic lights and the crowd bounced up but it was the best place to finish along the Brighton frontage and there were so many people! The Brighton front has to be best race finish in the world. The road runs parallel to the sea along a wide boulevard. There were flags and barriers up to keep the crowds at bay. And were there crowds, the whole place was a carnival. Thousands of supporters (and Mrs Rambler) all looking out for their charges. I felt a slight fraudster – had I really done this – did I belong here. Well, yes I did, I had cycled all the way from London to Brighton, I hadn’t walked up Ditchling Beacon and I was proud of my achievement. Many thanks to all my sponsors.


One Response

  1. Amazing tactics! Around here, police generally block traffic for walks, runs and I should think for bicycle rides, all for charity.

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