Back in 2013 I took part in the inaugural ‘RideLondon 100’ and absolutely loved it! But what’s it like if you’re not a regular Lycra-clad weekend warrior? Well as two mountain bikers (back in our “yoof”) but with the odd ‘London to Brighton’ bike ride under our belts it was manageable but still a bl**dy long way 🙂
It was my friend Dan who first suggested entering and after we successfully got in we decided to ride for the charity ‘Shelter’. Dan insisted on using his heavy (but lovingly modified) 1980s Raleigh road bike and I went with my mid 90’s Kona hardtail mountain bike … with the skinniest slicks I could get on the rims (1.3″ continentals) … and we both just about got away with it. I remember seeing one guy on a Brompton just 2 miles in as he looked over at me and said “I think I’ve made the wrong choice!”
As far as training went, with one of us being based near Cardiff and the other in Hertfordshire, we never trained together and both did our own thing. For me that was hopping off the train a stop early after work and cycling the 7 miles home on my Brompton. It was hardly the training of champions but was psychologically sufficient for the big day ahead.
We stayed in a hotel near the start at the Olympic stadium as that meant we could drive down the night before, cycle a short ride to the Expo on the Saturday to pick up our numbers, and not have the “faff” of getting up early and into London on the train for our early start times.
So what was it like?
We were given different start times so Dan was ahead of me by about 20 minutes but we’d organised a rendezvous point 3-4 miles down the road … and that worked well apart from almost forgotting to look out for him when I sailed past while talking to someone else.
There’s actually an initial rolling 2 miles before the 100 miles starts but that’s a nice loosener to get up and out of the start area. Very soon I realised there were some delicious bikes around … and this was definetly the case of “all the gear BUT all the idea too” which made me feel somewhat of an amateur on my mountain bike. However at the other extreme, albeit in a smaller minority, there were people on cheap, heavy old mountain bikes with fat tyres who looked wholly unprepared for what lay ahead.
After a few miles in it became quite evident that the effort put into the event was quite remarkable with “every” crossing, junction, obstacle having been carefully cordoned off so the route was completely closed off. No mean feat I’m sure.
Cycling down The Mall in just under 8 hours waving to the crowd felt fantastic. I just wish I could have done a stylish “Peter Sagan” wheelie right down the middle of the road! 🙂
Top 12 Tips?
- Do all/some of the necessary training.
- Make sure your saddle stuffer has all the necessary tools for any mechanicals.
- Add a few energy bars/gels in there too.
- “Safely” slipstream your friends/others while riding along. The best scenario was when we’d find two advanced riders in front riding along chatting, side-by-side, and we’d then take a wheel each so we could have a chat too. With the consent of those in front of course who acknowledged to us that they didn’t mind us tailgating them. Occasionally you’d hear the “whop, whop, whop” noise of the rear disc wheels of a train of team enthusiasts flying past. Attempts to latch on to the last man proved futile, even just for a laugh, as was their sheer speed, and the types of bikes that Dan and I were on.
- Stock up on the pasta/carbs a few nights before just as you would if you were taking part in a marathon.
- Look out for the cameras on Box Hill and along The Mall finish line.
- Check out the tribal paintwork on Box Hill that was painted for the 2012 Olympics
- Don’t be put off by Leith Hill or Box Hill. From what I can remember I found ‘Ditchling Beacon’ on the London to Brighton bike ride far worse.
- Get yourself a souvenir t-shirt from one of the parks at the finish.
- Hang around in the late afternoon to watch all the pro riders come through in the RideLondon Surrey Classic bike race.
- Turn on Strava to record your journey and revel in the glory afterwards. Possibly go on 2G to save as much battery as you can though.
- Oil that chain and pump up your tyres as much as you can (according to what’s written in PSI on the sidewalls)
What did I take?
- iPhone (I’ve since bought a ‘Quad Lock’ case and attachment for my iPhone which sits nicely on the stem).
- Cards/notes in a slim Oyster card holder (rather than taking my whole wallet).
- iPhone battery charger but I didn’t actually need it as the phone just about lasted the distance.
- Germoline, Vaseline, Imodium and a small canister of suncream for protection and any “rubbage”
- Thin yellow windproof jacket for the stops.
- Cycling shorts and top (with stuff stuffed in the rear pockets).
- Helmet and gloves.
- Clipless shoes and cycling socks.
- Saddle stuffer containing ‘Kool tool’, inner tube, puncture repair stickers, tyre levers, 5 chewy bars, dextrose tablets.
- 2x water bottles.
- My bike/helmet number + safety pins.
… and on the evening before the ride I took off the Crud Catcher mudguard, gave the bike a dusting down and tucked away any flapping cables etc. to reduce any drag. The “power of incremental gains” as Olympic team coach Dave Brailsford likes to say. NB. I’d already replaced the front Rock Shox with rigid forks to lighten the load and improve performance.
Would I do it again?
Probably … but on a road bike … but it was great to do it the first time, and this year my girlfriend and 4 other friends are taking part! I wish them all the best and hope to see them safely at the finish in good time where I’ll be helping out throughout the day as a “veloteer”.