The Finish LineThe Ride

Last week I took part in the London to Brighton Offroad Bike ride, organised by the British Heart Foundation (link).  I did the road version a few years ago which totalled 54 miles.  I tried to ride it ‘properly’ (yes on my full suspension mountain bike), but soon got very frustrated with the amount of forced stops due to bottlenecks, people crashing etc.  Instead I should have just enjoyed it for the day and stopped off at more of the village fetes and pubs – that’s the plan for next time I think.  I hoped the offroad version would be full of more serious riders, thinking that the distance of 75 miles alone would deter those who had not ridden or trained recently.  It mostly did, but there are always some people who should not have entered.  Now I will admit that I hadn’t done this kind of distance – a typical ‘long’ ride for me is 40 miles and taking 4-5 hours with 2000m of climbing, all offroad battling the natural single tracks around the Chilterns.

Only a few miles from the departure I managed to get knocked off – I was riding on the outside of the pack and the guy to my left decided he was going to overtake, pulled out without checking over his should and clipped by bars as he pulled out.  I got sent over the other side of the road and splatted on the tarmac.  Suffice to say he did not stop, did not even acknowledge what he had done.  I was glad he didn’t stop – despite being a charity event and not a race he would have received a piece of my mind.

That aside, getting out of London was quite nice – through Richmond park, riding next to the river was nice and scenic.  There were a few hold ups once we started to get into the trees – I have never seen a traffic jam in a forest before.  After queuing and taking one step at a time instead of riding we get to the source of the issue – a slightly muddy corner.  I couldn’t help but think really – was that it – but yes, that was the cause.  Djeez some people should come out my way for a muddy ride to learn some handling skills.  The route took us through Surrey Hills but unfortunately missed out all of the good bits (probably best to be honest based on the lack of ability demonstrated by others).  Most of the climbs or more like slopes or ‘slight uphills’ were full of people walking or riding slowly and badly, weaving all over the place.  For those that could actually ride up we were constantly battling people that wouldn’t move over a few centimetres to create enough safe passing space.

Still, frustrations aside we battled on, racking up the miles on the (very) boring disused railway lines.  Between 4 of us we only had 2 issues: 1 puncture (to be expected with 300 miles between us), and a strange one – rear mech spring lost tension.  I presume the spring had jumped round inside it, meaning it wasn’t fixable but could be nursed home as long as it was kept on larger rings to try and take up some slack in the chain.

Then we approached ‘it’ – we could see it in the distance – the Beacon, but to get to it – the ‘feared’ hill (Beeding Hill to be exact).  I hadn’t done it before (only on the road on my MTB, but that wasn’t ‘that’ hard), so I did not know what to fear – as we approached it I could see the gradient, heard the scare talk of how flinty, steep, slippery, dangerous it is etc.  So I started at a slow pace (well, that’s all you could do due to people in front), and we progressed up the bottom section at a steady but maintainable pace.  To set the scene – it is like a gully, wide enough to walk on the left, ride on the right with some ruts and loose flints in the middle.  So we are spinning up the hill; I can see people in front riding but bailing – falling off, suddenly stopping and trying to get out of the way of fellow riders huffing and puffing up the hill.  All of a sudden the rider in front of me fell – his front wheel locked up in a rut and his bike laid across right in front of me.  If I stop now I will not get going again, hell I didn’t even have time to stop and tried to avoid him but just ran over the edge of his rear wheel.  I managed to squeeze past a few riders where space allowed as the pace was slowing.  This happens continuously for a few minutes, until I realise there are only a couple of people riding ahead, but even they soon gave up.  I was the only one riding up this hill, everyone struggling to walk up it on the left.  To my amazement a lot of people were clapping and shouting words of encouragement – a strange sensation, but it powers you to the top.  I made it to the top with no feet down!  It is a killer of a hill for sure, but it makes me appreciate that with so much local hilly riding around the Chilterns how fit I’ve become and how far my technique has improved in the last 4-5 years.

The descent down to Brighton was a nice flowy farm track across the fields – very fast and dry, but too many people keep dragging the brakes all the way down and panic braking and slowing the pace down.  I managed to squeeze round most of these but I couldn’t go my desired pace – full speed and brake at the bottom only!  Once down on to the road it takes you the ‘scenic’ way into Brighton – over the in land dock and around the cement factory to the finish line about a quarter of a mile from the pier.

London to Brighton Offroad Bike Ride – Summary

Weather: I was watching the weather all week leading up to the ride, expecting it to be a wet one.  To my surprise there was very little rain in the week preceding the ride which meant the ride was dry, luckily!

So we left at 08:30 and arrived at 18:00.  My Garmin showed a moving time of 6 hours 32 minutes, 9 hours total.  About 20 minutes stop was due to waiting for a mechanic at the last stop to take a look at the rear mech and other than a few 1-2 minute stops the rest was due to the bottlenecks.  So how did I find the longest ride I have done – good fun, very flat, a bit of boring fire road mile munching, not that much climbing (1200m total – I can do that in 15 miles around me), and challenging with the final hill.  It felt good to achieve that much time in the saddle and complete a challenge (my bum is still recovering, but I think my new seat is now moulded to shape!).  So would I do the London to Brighton offroad bike ride again?  Absolutely! Just for the chips and beer on Brighton pier!  Despite the small amount of climbing it is a good test of stamina, plus it is a fun day out with lots of other bikers – there is much socialising to be had in the bottleneck queues.  I would like to see more flowing single track with technical sections, but I can see this will only add to the queues.


British Heart Foundation London to Brighton Homepage:

Bike: Giant XTC Composite 29er 1

My Strava time:

My gpx file (recorded on Garmin Edge 500): 20130921 – London to Brighton 2013


Bleeding Hill, and the finish – we made it!

James climbing Bleeding Hill Becky climbing Bleeding Hill Kev climbing Bleeding Hill We Finished The Finish Line

You must be logged in to leave a reply.