Some last minute Ride London tips
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Back in 2013 I took part in the inaugural ‘Ride London 100‘ and absolutely loved it! But what’s it like if you’re not a regular Lycra-clad weekend warrior? What are some Ride London tips? 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 🙂
Whose idea was it to take part?
It was my friend Dan who first suggested entering ‘Ride London’. 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. I went with my mid 90’s Kona hardtail mountain bike … with the skinniest slicks I could get on the rims (1.3″ continentals). 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.
Those 12 Ride London Tips?
So what are the Ride London tips we’d suggest if you’re taking part this year?
- Do all/some of the necessary training.
- Make sure your saddle stuffer has all the necessary tools (plus pump) 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 (and smile) 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 ‘Ride London Surrey Classic’ bike race.
- Turn on Strava to record your journey and revel in the glory afterwards. Possibly go on 2G/3G to save as much battery as you can throughout the ride.
- Oil that chain and pump up your tyres as much as you can (unless it’s wet when you might want to run 10 psi less).
What should you 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.
So what was it like then?
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 forgetting 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 definitely 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. “Every” crossing, junction, obstacle had been carefully cordoned off so the route was completely closed. 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! 🙂
Would I ride ‘Ride London’ again?
Probably … but on a road bike. It was great to do it the first time. 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. I’ll be helping out on the baggage lorries as a Ride London “veloteer”. In fact I did try the race again in 2018 but it absolutely p****** down! Soaked to the skin and cramping up we took the sneaky cut option through Hampton Court Palace and turned our ‘100’ into the ’46’ instead.
If all this sounds a bit tame maybe you fancy taking part in one of the many world naked bike rides? Or better still try the family fun day ‘RideLondon FreeCycle’ which takes place the day before on the Saturday. Or if you happen to be in north Cornwall check out the tranquil (and flat) rise along The Camel Trail to Padstow instead. For those local to my home county of Hertfordshire then ‘The Greenway‘ is a delightful 13.6 mile off-road cycle around Letchworth.
Did I miss anything? Are there any additional ‘Ride London’ tips you’d recommend to this year’s hopefuls?