London to Brighton

by parksey   January 15, 2014  

Ok, so I'm toying with the idea of doing London to Brighton this year as part of a small work team.

I've never done this sort of distance, or this kind of mass participation riding before, so just looking for people's opinions, good or bad, on what it's like?

I'm particularly keen to know how challenging the route is, and whether the sheer number of participants cause any problems.

I guess it's ultimately a case of whether it's actually worth doing? The cause itself is of course worthy enough, if not particularly close to my heart personally (no pun intended!).

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London to Brighton was the first 'long' ride I ever did, and I enjoyed it. That said, the reasons I enjoyed it were not really to do with the event itself: it was the sense of achievement of finishing a ride longer than any I had ever done before.

The huge amount of riders involved is the biggest setback. If you happen to ride, rather than push, up some of the bigger hills - you will have to weave between hundreds of people who are walking their bikes.

The route itself is not hugely challenging, but if you don't normally do much cycling then it will be quite hard work! Ditchling Beacon being the famous 'big' hill - not easy, even for a seasoned cyclist.

Basically, it is a well organised event for a great cause, but there are better ways to have fun on a bike Smile

Claud And I's picture

posted by Claud And I [18 posts]
15th January 2014 - 22:21

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London to Brighton is a lovely satisfying ride whichever way you do it (on or off road). The on road charity rides are very busy from what I hear and you end up walking up the hills due to sheer numbers. I have ridden it several times but never in a mass event (as in general they don't appeal).
If you are doing it as part of a small group then it will probably be more fun and in terms of training the BHF website has useful training plans. 60 miles is not a ride you just show up to but 6-8 weeks training should do you proud.
Enjoy !

posted by arfa [542 posts]
15th January 2014 - 22:27

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I've never done it, but I do know that the numbers cause transport problems. To give an idea of the scale, if everyone, without their bike, wanted to get a train back to London, it would need about 30-40 12 carriage (maximum length) trains, in addition to the rest of the normal service which with it being a busy summer weekend is often packed any.

posted by Al__S [637 posts]
15th January 2014 - 22:27

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I've done it overnight, and if you're not used to this kind of distance, it'll be tough.
There are a few testing climbs along the route, culminating with Ditchling Beacon. With 50+miles in your legs its is a big ask, but you've got plenty of time to get is shape, so go for it! The sense of achievement when rolling down to the coast is great.

I found this site a great source of information before I set out.
https://sites.google.com/site/cyclingroutes/

As for the number of riders, it depends what you want out of the day. If you want to give it your best shot, and challenge yourself on the climbs, then you need a VERY early start time (7am at the latest I've been told), as the sheer weight of riders who are walking up the hills will force you to walk too.

Alternatively If you want a fun day out and aren't fussed about walking up the hills a later start time will do.

They're gonna hit the line almost together!

daloriana's picture

posted by daloriana [12 posts]
15th January 2014 - 22:32

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I am keen to do it from a personal achievement perspective, but then there are plenty of other organised charity or sportive rides that no doubt have far fewer numbers.

I do cycle pretty much every day myself, but even so my total weekly distance probably only equals the L2B route distance, so definitely got some training to do! Still, gives me something to work towards.

Have seen various pics of past events which show a lot of clearly very casual cyclists pushing bikes, but presumably this congestion dies down as the miles go on?

Logistical side of ending up miles from the car is a possible issue, but I think it can be covered by work. Train operators don't appear very accommodating though, BHF website suggests Southern don't allow bikes on trains at all that day!

posted by parksey [294 posts]
15th January 2014 - 22:37

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We have done the L2B ride for the last 5 years. The first year was a start time of 8 am and the ride getting out of London and on the hills was a nightmare. Now we leave at 6am and it's a wonderful ride. Thankfully we have somewhere to stay in Brighton overnight, so I can't comment on how to get back the same day.

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posted by MikeOnABike [31 posts]
16th January 2014 - 0:01

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I did the LBR as my first long ride, starting at 7am it was still carnage getting out of London. I had my front wheel wrecked when someone fell on it on the first climb. I managed to finish and vowed never to do the event again, I switched to doing the Action Medical rides which are much nicer.
The train companies will not carry bikes at all on the day of the ride leaving lots of bewildered cyclists at the station. Traffic that day in Brighton is gridlocked and getting home can be a nightmare.
The route itself is enjoyable except for Ditchling Beacon which is fine to ride up on the day of the event as the road is closed, if you can get to it early enough then there are not too many walkers. At other times when the road is open it is not a pleasant climb because of the heavy traffic and twisting turns result in a lot of impatient drivers. Climb is best done before 10am on a Sunday morning if the road is open.

posted by baggies2354 [20 posts]
16th January 2014 - 6:40

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I did the ride a couple of years back, it wasn't the longest i had done to date, but it was very challenging. Not really because of the route, or my fitness, but because of the sheer amount of people. The first 10 miles out of london is carnage, so very slow! I got thrown off my bike by a much heavier cyclist on a really busy incline. He was weaving all over and got tangled with me, sprained a wrist in the first 10 miles!! So be careful. Ditchling would be fine on its own, but with the amount of people, it takes a lot of concentration to get up there without stopping. People are walking on both sides of the road and sometimes getting off in the middle, ruining your rhythm. Overall the ride is a nice achievement and it feels good coming down the final straight, but its far too crowded. If you're going to do it, make sure you start early!

Canyon Roadlite Centaur/ Veloce groupset, Shamal wheels

Miles253's picture

posted by Miles253 [205 posts]
16th January 2014 - 7:00

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As everyone else has said the only real challenge on the route is Ditchling Beacon and that comes close to the end, you have ages till the event so gradually build up the distance in training and you will have no problems.

Everytime I have done it there has always been a bunch of wannabe sprinters off the start, which normally get passed about mile 10 when it starts to go uphill - start slower and cautiously as its busy then pick up the speed when you get out of London - its too easy to copy everyone else's pace at mass events like this.

From experience I would advise to go as early as you can - a 6am start makes it a breeze and you can be in Brighton before it gets busy. The later you start the slower the ride, and the more chance you have of gridlock on the smaller climbs with people walking. Also every year there are crashes on the descents and you stand less chance of being caught up in it.

If you do start late and are being picked up I would advise cycling a couple of miles out along the promenade towards Hove. Its pretty much flat and its easier to get to by car if you avoid the town and way less busy.

posted by andycoventry [120 posts]
16th January 2014 - 8:00

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Personally I wouldn't touch the BHF ride with a bargepole - mainly for the reasons stated above

If you want to do a supported ride with signage, feed stations etc then there's lots of other smaller events. I got roped into doing this one with work a couple of years ago - much more manageable numbers and much more pleasant. Just note that it goes into Brighton from the Devils Dyke side (also a challenging climb) and not Ditchling Beacon
http://www.capitaltocoast.org.uk/

As an aside, the guys from work were all pretty much gym-bunnies boasting how easy they thought the ride they would be and how they'd have no trouble keeping up with me. One guy even showed up with his neighbour's £8k Specialized. I was first one home by about 1h15 without trying that hard Smile

Edit: There's not usually any restrictions on bikes on trains back to London for the smaller rides. Obviously check with train companies before you go etc etc

posted by VeloPeo [221 posts]
16th January 2014 - 8:16

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Thanks all for the input.

Overwhelming consensus seems to be to start very early to enjoy it then, although I'm not sure quite how viable that will be as the team does include some rather more casual cyclists... Not really in the spirit of things if I start at 6am and have finished and left Brighton before they're even halfway round!

I guess it will be rewarding to at least say you've done it once, hopefully without walking up the Beacon either, and it might then be a platform for other, perhaps even longer, events.

posted by parksey [294 posts]
16th January 2014 - 9:56

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Well enjoy the ride, is it June this year? I would recommend Nightrider for a second bike event. 65 miles through the night, very fun.

Canyon Roadlite Centaur/ Veloce groupset, Shamal wheels

Miles253's picture

posted by Miles253 [205 posts]
16th January 2014 - 14:38

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Miles253 wrote:
Well enjoy the ride, is it June this year? I would recommend Nightrider for a second bike event. 65 miles through the night, very fun.

I was going to suggest Nightrider too.

I did it last year and I'm doing it again this year. No transport problems as you finish where you start, either Crystal Palace or Ally Pally. I started training in March last year for the ride in early June. The longest ride I did was 25 miles in preparation and I didn't really have any problems. I completed it at an average of 10.5 mph so just over 6 hours of riding. There are stops every 20Km or so and you get free cake at the halfway point and a bacon butty and bun at the end. You also get free sweeties and choccy bars at the stops.

It's limited to 4,000 people this year and you can get an entry through a charity other than BHF (worthy though it is) for about £40.

I am 59 and still carrying a bit of excess weight and did it on my 40 year old steel Peugeot with down-tube shifters. This year I've got a new MARIN and will be looking to have a great time again and hopefully improve my time.

Did Nightrider 2013 and 2014 for Parkinson's UK. Might just have one last go in 2015.

jova54's picture

posted by jova54 [628 posts]
16th January 2014 - 17:30

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It's a doddle; I did it a few years ago in a small team. It was the longest distance I'd done but I was pretty cycle fit as a result of commuting. We didn't 'hammer it' as for some people in our team it was a real challenge; as such it was quite enjoyable as we just went with the flow. Watch yourself for the first few miles but then people start to 'space out' more. Loads of refreshment stops so input will definitely exceed output. I did it on a hybrid but I was amazed at people with top-end road bikes pushing them up the hills. No pushing up Ditchling though (short and sharp), and there's a great downhill run into Brighton. A team meal in Brighton ends things off well. Logistics takes a bit of planning and a support van makes things a lot easier for getting home (make sure you read all the info on this as you can't take your bike home on the train for example). Only had one 'loony' trying to weave through everyone but came up to a bend shortly afterwards to find him sprawled over the road with first aiders round him. The year before I did it I drove the support van and, when I arrived in Brighton after a breakfast stop, the 'roadies' were finishing so if you don't want to hang around then be in an early start group.

Shades

posted by Shades [230 posts]
17th January 2014 - 13:59

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My situation sounds similar to yours, small work team of mixed cycling ability, but seems wrong to do anything other than just go with the flow and ride as a group, with frequent stops for refreshment.

Besides, a colleague showed me a couple of few-minute helmet-cam clips from last year and I was quite surprised by the congestion, so doesn't seem like it's actually possible to put the hammer down without starting at stupid o'clock anyway.

Liking the idea of a "support" van, that way we can bung all the bikes in in it to get there, then it can be driven to the finish to pick them up again once we're done. We've got a couple at work we should be able to use.

Nightrider sounds interesting though. Will give L2B a go first and take it from there.

posted by parksey [294 posts]
17th January 2014 - 20:35

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I did it last year with friends, raising £500 or so for the BHF - that fulfilled an old promise.

Downside: too many cyclists for a serious cyclist to enjoy the ride! I'd trained hard for it and was prepared to do every hill, but I had to walk most of them due to the volume of riders blocking the road. Bi did ride Ditchling Beacon by shouting people to move over, but on other hills that was not possible.

Also, the 'traffic control'. At one point we were kept waiting 45 minutes, en masse, until a near rebellion broke out and they had to let us out! Mad.

Upside: riding down Madeira Drive to the applause of a large crowd. That felt great. Raising the money. Being able to say 'I've done it'.

I would recommend cycling the route another time if you want to enjoy what ought to be a great route, and then do the charity thing but don't expect a smooth ride. Other charity rides will be calmer.

Good luck!

posted by Neil Smith 48 [16 posts]
17th January 2014 - 21:01

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I've done it once, last year.

Not again. Too many people, many of whom get off and walk at the first hill. It became very frustrating - I'm just a standard 38yr old slightly chubby chappy on an ally road bike and nowt special but I don't remember getting overtaken much, and I absolutely sailed past hundreds up hill and down dale. My main concern was that I was sharing road space with some pretty inattentive bike riders and gave them as wide a berth as possible.

That said, I saw my highest ever speed reading on the way down the big hill near the end when the crowd had dispersed - dangerous but fun and a cherished memory.

The offroad one ROCKS though.

posted by allez neg [4 posts]
17th January 2014 - 21:44

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agree on the off road - doing it tomorrow just for the sake of it !

posted by arfa [542 posts]
17th January 2014 - 22:02

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The bastard steep offroad bit of the last hill made me very happy at my oh so astute fitting of a road cassette on my mountain bike. Honest.

posted by allez neg [4 posts]
17th January 2014 - 22:10

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Neil Smith 48 wrote:

Upside: riding down Madeira Drive to the applause of a large crowd. That felt great. Raising the money. Being able to say 'I've done it'.

I think this is what ultimately sways my decision to do it, regardless of how enthusiastically we're able to actually ride it on the day.

I unfortunately live too far from the route to realistically do it other than on the organised event, but I've got decent enough riding round my way anyway.

posted by parksey [294 posts]
17th January 2014 - 23:18

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So, that's the registration in, roll on 15 June.

Better get some training in!

posted by parksey [294 posts]
18th January 2014 - 17:12

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I'm glad to hear that you took the plunge. I have no doubt that you'll manage the ride with only a little work beforehand. If you can ride 30 miles in training, you can complete L2B.

If you want the cycling itself to be the highlight, I hope you seriously considered taking the advice about starting early (close to 6am) - Once out of London, a lot of the roads are too narrow to accommodate the volume of riders and EVERY small incline will bottleneck. Mostly this means just getting off and pushing or standing still for long periods.

Most importantly, I cannot emphasise enough how much you will need to keep your wits about you at all times. The majority of those taking part will not have much experience riding at all, let alone in a group or on crowded roads. No signals. No road awareness. Expect people to swerve radnomly into your path, stop suddenly in front of you without warning (particularly as the road starts to go up) or come off the bike completely on a fast corner. Be safe.

Ultimately, though, you'll not regret taking part. The camaraderie of so many people for a good cause, the challenge of climbing Ditchling, the fun of descending Ditchling(!), and being cheered to the finish line. Embrace it and enjoy it!

Very best of Luck to you.

posted by thecyclingdad [14 posts]
18th January 2014 - 22:52

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Always wanted to do this ride & on moving to Brighton (well, the outskirts) many years ago, I finally signed up, and went on to do it several times.
It's a great ride, for a great cause, but the sheer popularity just put me off. I'm all for getting folks on bikes & raising money for charity, but every year it has got busier & busier, with more & more silly accidents, the only way to describe my last experience was to liken it to a cattle market.
People pushing & shoving. Far too many with absolute zero spacial awareness or any idea of how to ride in a group. People stopping with no warning to answer phones.
I was knocked off while stationary at traffic lights not far from the start, by a woman wearing toe straps, she'd done them up so tight she couldn't get her foot out, so used me to stop herself, Twice by people clipping my back wheel, once by a man who just veered into me. I never managed to cycle up the Beacon on any of the rides.
I decided that for my own self preservation that I might not make it out alive next time.
I had friends do it last year & were lucky enough to get in the first bunch of starters...and had no problems at all. So if you are going for it then get an early slot.

There are also other L2B rides, not just the BHF one.
I have done the Midnight ride once & Capital to Coast ride for the last 3yrs , slightly different route, but nowhere near as manic, It aslo has the advantage of multiple starting points, 1 in London, 1 in Esher, a halfway start near Haywrads Heath, or a Hove loop, still covering 60 miles but start & finish on the seafront...
Plenty of choices out there - Good Luck with whatever you decide to do

I'm only here for the cake

Dizzy's picture

posted by Dizzy [66 posts]
19th January 2014 - 20:07

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The volume of cyclists, or at least non-regular cyclists, does concern me a little, but I've encouraged a couple of new entrants to the team over the weekend such that there is perhaps scope for 2 or 3 of us to set off earlier than the rest to try and keep ahead of the masses.

This is really just a first attempt for me at a proper, organised distance event. The aim is to get more competent at that sort of riding, so hopefully it will be a springboard to other, less busy events in the future.

posted by parksey [294 posts]
20th January 2014 - 9:32

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Good for you. Smile
Just be alert, look out for each other and enjoy it as much as you can.

posted by thecyclingdad [14 posts]
21st January 2014 - 12:46

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Dizzy wrote:

There are also other L2B rides, not just the BHF one.
I have done the Midnight ride once & Capital to Coast ride for the last 3yrs , slightly different route, but nowhere near as manic, It aslo has the advantage of multiple starting points, 1 in London, 1 in Esher, a halfway start near Haywrads Heath, or a Hove loop, still covering 60 miles but start & finish on the seafront...
Plenty of choices out there - Good Luck with whatever you decide to do

Ive considered doing the night event as i find riding at night with little traffic to be amazing. How are they in comparison to the BHF ride? As well organised?

Canyon Roadlite Centaur/ Veloce groupset, Shamal wheels

Miles253's picture

posted by Miles253 [205 posts]
22nd January 2014 - 15:34

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There's always the Ditchling Devil for a smaller experience although further http://events.paudax.com/ditchlingdevil

You can give the cash savings straight to BHF or whoever.

posted by Benway [68 posts]
22nd January 2014 - 15:43

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I like the look of that ditchling devil and might have a crack at it - thank you for that and it's very convenient for me.

posted by arfa [542 posts]
22nd January 2014 - 16:23

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Glad to be 1st one to comment here Smile

Me and sis did both the London to Cambridge and to Brighton Night ride last year with moonriders.

If the weather is ok, the nightride is amazing. Quite an experience through London, and the quiet roads and stillness and getting lost and needing bike repair in the middle of nowhere .... Smile
Food stops were of a higher standard with free food/sweets/cakes/some energy drinks and fruits and a hot meal in the middle of the night. All 3 stops were inside heated buildings (1st one too soon after 25Km) with mechanics if you need them. Good signage (getting lost was my fault) and overall good organization.

Not too crowded and people of all abilities and speeds. Can recommend. Will be doing it in the future.

posted by gr3g0ree [63 posts]
25th March 2014 - 22:58

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