About a year ago, in the Dumb Bell over a pint or two, Cashman and I were chatting, as we do and drifted onto the subject of cycling. I was in yet another enforced hockey injury sabbatical (see previous Hockey Masters post and my achilles issues) and needed something to keep me fit to try and limit the risk of my Psoriatic Arthritis coming back.
So we decided to enter the London to Brighton cycle ride and started our ‘training’ going down to West Hyde. From there we picked up the canal (nice and flat) most Sunday mornings and had a bacon sandwich at Lock 81 Cafe (highly recommended) and a cup of tea before cycling back. That ride is a measly 12 miles or so, not quite the 56 or so miles for the London to Brighton cycle ride!
Spring arrived and Cashman bought a new road bike as we thought that it could be a bit tough on his old mountain bike and we started doing some more training. At this point, we owe a huge thanks to Finchy, a seasoned professional who showed us some of his favoured local routes. Shortly before the actual ride I was riding 2/3 times a week through the long sunny evenings normally over 30 miles each time.
I used to love running as I explored the surrounding countryside and places I had never been before and beautiful views. Cycling takes this to the next level and Finchy showed us a whole series of routes around the Chilterns, predominantly via Ley Hill (where I might have occasionally curtailed a ride to see my mate Martin!), St Leonards, Cholesbury, Hawridge, Hyde Heath and more.
I surprised myself with my training and even hired a bike on the Isle of Wight, completing the round the Island cycle route with my brother in law. That was an epic achievement over a whole day covering almost 70 miles, glorious countryside and a lot of hills – who knew it was quite so hilly. The roads (unlike Buckinghamshire) were like cycling on a billiard table.
So the day itself came along and I had no qualms about finishing thanks to the IOW trip, just the odd worry about a puncture – but I have tyres that minimise that risk. It was a dry day, though overcast and cold at the start at Clapham Common. Thanks to Cash’s better half Ang for driving us there for our start (and for driving my bike back from Brighton too).
We set off a little later than we hoped at 8.30 and were quickly on our way. The initial few miles were a series of traffic lights and roundabouts, which was tricky with clip in pedals and we saw one or two people falling off their bikes at the lights! We were soon out of the suburbs and into some beautiful Surrey villages coasting along with the crowds.
We did stop for lunch, but the queues were so long we decided to press on without eating – we had plenty of reserves about us, so confident we could keep going. The ride was a delight until we arrived at the hill at Ditchling. This was an absolute killer, but I had gone ahead of Cashman so thought I would try and cycle the whole way up and relax at the top. I managed it!
The final ride into Brighton was a delight and the city is really geared up for cycling though again the constant traffic lights were there to stop and start us. By the end of the ride, I was tired but also ecstatic that i’d achieved what we had set out to do and tick it off my non bucket existent list. The time of just over 4 hours was pleasing too.
The beer with Cash and our families in glorious sunshine and hot weather was well deserved, even if I had to drink it out of plastic pint glasses.
The two long rides have really whetted my appetite and I’ve entered the London 100 cycle ride and hear in February whether I’ve got a place or not. In the meantime, with the darker nights, my cycling is restricted to the weekends and maybe a few more bacon sandwiches…
Below is the Strava route (slightly short) and a few photos of the day.
A huge thank you to everyone who sponsored me too, raising over £400 for Versus Arthritis.