I’m writing this post in a rather delirious state. I’ve had two hours sleep in the last 30 hours, so please excuse me if I don’t make sense.
This morning, I completed The British Heart Foundation’s first ever London to Brighton Night Bike ride in 6 hours and 30 mins, which includes three rest stops, and photos along the way. Excluding the stops, I managed to ride 60.2 miles in five hours. Epic and amazing are words that I do use quiet frequently. However, in the truest meaning of the words, this bike ride was both epic and amazing.
Starting from Clapham Common, over 4,700 of us made our way through the back streets, passing Croydon, Crawley, Burgess Hill to finally ride into Madeira Drive, Brighton. Here’s a map of our route. So far, we’ve managed to raise half a million pounds for their Broken Hearts Appeal. They need to raise £50 million pounds to fund research to mend broken hearts after a heart attack.
I have never done anything like this before. In fact, I only started cycling last year as a way to get fit for my Base Camp Everest challenge. At the time I was riding my little Brompton, but for this cycle, I decided against it and upgraded to a secondhand hybrid bike. However, there was a couple who did ride their Bromptons. I commend them.
I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. After an hour’s wait in the queue, I, along with three others started at 1am.
The start at Clapham Common
We started off quite comfortably, cycling through the streets of London, passing through places like Tooting Broadway,and getting shouts of encouragement from the drunks. We nearly got lost at one stage, where we all passed by a sign. There we all were, around 30 or so cyclists, scratching our heads, looking for a sign and wondering where we went wrong. Thankfully we had only missed a turning, and it didn’t add too much time onto our ride. Soon we were off again.
Once we were out of London, it was black, except for the lights of the bikes (and the odd car passing by), shining the way. My lights however, were were rubbish and did nothing except glow weakly on the front of my bike. Memo to self – test the lights before embarking on a very long and dark journey! Thanks to the copious amount of glucose in my system and devil-may-care attitude I developed, I tore down the hills, slightly scared that I might hit a pothole and fly off my bike. It was exhilarating.
It was so quiet that all I could hear was the whirr of bikes as they passed me. At around 3am, the birds started to wake up and an hour later, were singing the dawn chorus. The weather was perfect, not too warm, no rain and a slight breeze. There’s something about doing things in the dark and under the moon and stars that make it that much more special – dare I say – magical? Ok – maybe not magical, but you get what I’m trying to say.
Sunrise over Sussex taken at around 3am
The hills were bearable, until we hit Devil’s Dyke. I’ve heard it was hard, and was planning on walking up it, but as soon as I saw it, I attempted the slow and arduous climb. The thing about Devils Dyke is that it’s deceptive. Just as you thought you’d completed it, there’s another hill to tackle. I got half way when I decided to walk and coast down the other side, only to be greeted by yet another steep hill. At this point swore very loudly, hopped off my bike and I decided to walk. It was up this dastardly hill that I felt the burn at the back of my legs.
Realising that I spent too much time taking photos, I decided to jog up the last bit of the hill to make up some time. One woman shouted: “Are you mad? Why are you running up Devil’s Dyke?” To be fair, we had just cycled some 50 odd miles in the dark…
The last uphill of Devils Dyke
I am and always will be a Sussex girl and I was coming home. I remember seeing a seagull just before we got to our third and final rest stop at Burgess Hill, and knew I was back! Cycling along the glorious Downs with the morning sun is one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. The South Downs is one of my favourite places in the world, and this just proved what a beautiful place it is. I couldn’t get back to the sea quick enough!
The South Downs
After coasting down the hills at high speed, the flat along Brighton and Hove’s sea front was a little difficult, especially as I knew how far away the finish line was. It felt so far yet so far! I cycled as fast as I could, but after nearly six and a half hours, my thighs were beginning to feel the burn. My cycling buddy, Phil, gave me some very good advice, which was based on Lance Armstong’s technique where you spin your gears. The idea is that you prevent a build up of lactic acid, thereby not knackering your legs. I have to say, it worked for me. Thanks Phil! You saved my legs.
Tomorrow will be interesting. I’ve yet to seize up, but that’s because I’ve made a conscious effort to keep moving. I’m off to bed to catch up on my 40 and more winks. So far I’ve nearly raised £200 and there is still time to sponsor me!
If you would like to join 2013’s Night Ride, you can register your interest with The British Heart Foundation. Phil has also written a post on the same ride.