A few weeks ago, I had a day off. And, like any normal person would, I chose to cycle down to Brighton (cue eye roll) so I thought I would tell you lovely people aaaaaallllll about it plus some top tips!
I pretty much followed the route that the official BHF ride takes – which I found on Bikely by Googling it. It practically goes past my front door so I cut a couple of miles off #winningbeforeievenstarted
It is nice basically once you are out of zone 6! And fairly quiet really until you get to Brighton, bar a busy fast stretch round where you cross the M25. If anyone tells you it is flat, it is not. Just FYI, just because you are cycling “down to the coast” does not mean you are cycling downhill, but in general, it is nothing horrendous.
Couple to point out if you like to know what you are getting yourself in for.
- How Lane, Chipstead. Here, I got caught up by a man on an electric bike who said “I wish I was as fit as you”. Note, at this point, I was practically cycling backwards so I don’t really think I was giving off a great impression of the benefits of cycling up hills.
- Church Hill, Nutfield – that’s the little spike at 15 miles!
- Turners Hill. Less of a spike but just a long, continual drag (aka about 7 miles of drag!)
- And the final one, Ditchling Beacon. It’s actually not *that* bad if you had fresh legs, and probably would be easier if it didn’t come 45 miles into the ride. It is also very windy at the top, but, you know once you are there, you can see the sea and it is basically all downhill.
I did not use any GPS. My iPhone has diabolical battery life (it’s over 2 years old, which we all know is the turning point) so I didn’t want to risk relying on it, and I haven’t got a bike computer, just my trusty 920XT, which is great for telling you how far you’ve gone, but less so if it’s in the right direction.
So, I WROTE IT ON A PIECE OF PAPER. I know, daring! Actually, it’s not really that hard a route – there is lots of “keep going along the road for ages until you hit a t-junction” and I just used Google maps every so often when I thought I had missed a turning. And I didn’t miss any.
Food and nutrition
I realised I should probably take some snacks with me rather than just rely on breakfast getting me through. And like the true pro I am, I took a cereal bar and 4 gels taken from my “gel supply”. Point here is that lots of things in my “gel supply” are probably (definitely) out of date, lots of them have been race freebies and lots of them I know I don’t like the taste of but I keep them anyway.
- I like Go ahead cereal bars (but not as much as the yoghurt coated Eat Natural ones)
- Putting a gel that you thought was just an empty wrapper in your back pocket is risky
- I had a REALLY gross French apple flavoured gel (can’t remember where I acquired it), it was bleurgh so never again.
- I can actually only handle two gels in a period of about 3 hours because the taste is just too sickly
- I should probably put more than one bottle holder on this bike because I definitely ran out of water
I decided to ride the Liv, mainly because it won’t get much use during the winter (because white winter bikes are not a good idea) plus, it’s lighter and a stiffer frame. This is the furthest I’ve ridden on it and I have to admit I was a bit worried about the long distance on an aero frame when I’m not reeeeeally used to it…but it was super comfy!
Wore some bog standard full length Shimano tights, my NEW SHOES (also Liv, colour scheme matches my bike – may have been on purpose), overshoes, Canterbury base layer, jersey (from Lidl and still going strong), buff, headband and Sealskinz gloves. I took a jacket with me if I needed it, but it was generally not too windy, nor too cold, which was a relief because it would have been a misery. Unfortunately i have no “outfit of the day” photo, mainly because I was so wrapped up you could only really see my eyes, plus, I just couldn’t be bothered.
Safety, niceness of roads & traffic
It is relatively traffic free once you get out of London (and obviously, it picks up again when you get into Brighton). Yes, lots of country lanes, but wasn’t harassed by many 60mph+ drivers which is great. The roads typically were in pretty good condition (I can imagine having a regular charity bike ride on this route helps with this) and it is always a good change to get away from traffic and traffic lights and loads of other cyclists.
On the negative side, if you get into trouble (in my case, this would be something more than a puncture) you would be a long, lonely walk from any train stations. Which isn’t ideal. When I rang my dad on Brighton beach to tell him I had arrived, his first instinct was that he was going to have to come and pick me up!
Have to say, one of the best things was the cycle lane when I picked up the A270 through Brighton – mainly because at bus stops, they took the cycle lane behind the bus stop (i.e. the bus stop is on its own little island) rather than it spitting you back out into traffic whenever there is a bus in the way. London take note! (although don’t think there is enough space)
I wish I had a great story about having fish and chips on Brighton beach but…I didn’t. I sat down, rang my dad and boyfriend, cycled to the station, got paranoid about locking up my bike with only one lock, bought my ticket and went to M&S whilst ice-skating my way round in my cycling shoes (not quite yet used to cleats that aren’t recessed like MTB ones)
I bought apple juice, a cheese & onion sandwich, chocolate flapjack (my favourite) and chocolate milk (which I didn’t even drink until I was in bed that evening)
I got back to Clapham J, cycled (slowly) back to mine and had a bath. I was then so tired that I bought a pizza, and drank 2 small (large) glasses of red (maybe in the bath and/or in bed) and watched rubbish tv all evening before falling asleep at about 9pm. #trainlikeanathlete
Now I’ve ticked that off the list, my next thought is to do the offroad route...which looks incredible (75 miles of fun)
Ever cycled down to Brighton?
Where should I aim for next?