1976, 60 Riders and a 95 Mile Route!
The first ever London to Brighton Bike Ride was in 1976 when 30 friends cycled from Hyde Park to Brighton. The bike ride is approximately 74 miles long and goes through some breath-taking country lanes in Surrey and Sussex and ends on Brighton’s world-famous seafront.
Approximately 750, 000 riders have taken part in the BHF London to Brighton Bike Ride since 1980, cycling 40 million miles between them! Speaks volumes about this route and the ride in particular , isn’t it. Partly famous as it is the day 1 leg of the London to Paris route, via Newhaven and precisely the reason we decided to try it out 4 weeks before our London to Paris ride.
On average, it takes around five hours to complete the ride ( are they joking!!! it took us a good 8 hours )
Our intention was to map out rest places ( pubs, restrooms, hills, etc) but nothing prepared me for what i experienced…..nothing at all!!!!
So finally it was saturday and we eagerly and excitedly caught the 6.30 am train from Solihull to London Marylebone. Our Duracell bunny, mom, was up and ready to say goodbye to us at the station. Of course, Vazzy took another nap in the train too….( i am tempted to put the photo of Varun snoring away in the train but dare not 🙂
Reached London Marylebone at around 8am and soon we were immersed in the steady stream of commuters and holiday makers. London! this city never ceases to amaze me…there is a certain magic in its air, a sense of freedom, thrill, suspense and mystery too.
Passed a whole rack of bikes parked right on the platform.
Some were really interesting, some pure innovative.
Soon enough, I was reminded of my mummy status…the boys left me alone, juggling with 3 bikes. Felt so embarrassed
Soon we set out on to the streets of London. The first thing that struck me was that London had become extremely bike friendly. There were Boris bikes parked everywhere, bike lanes on most streets and lots of people commuting on bikes. Impressive…..
Passed some wonderful spots and onto the cycle highway 7, a nice broad expanse that took us all the way from central London to the suburbs.
However, Ram’s experience of cycling in London does sum it all up too….
Cycling in London was some what a bizarre experience. It’s rare to find a place that is so geared up for cycling and yet to have drivers on the road hell-bent on knocking you over isn’t it? Given the number of cyclists on the road and the cycle super highways it’s quite strange that the cars and the lorries have such a scant regard for anyone on the road traveling without a steel cage around themselves. ! It took a while for me to get used to negotiating the streets , not really helped by the constant shrieking of the wife behind me who thought that I was on a suicidal mission.
Of course, what I would rather forget is the path via Tooting and Morden. The roads soon narrowed here to a single lane . Cycle lanes were virtually non-existent because they were hidden by innumerable HGV s along the road. Fruit markets, saturday shoppers, Big Issue vendors, kids in prams, moms in tow, half in and half out of the shops, etc etc…..in their midst, my men were on a mission…..they were trying to outdo James….our James Bond yaar…..by nipping in and out the traffic. sometimes it was Ram, overtaking from the left, or else it was Varun from the right. They would shoot off leaving me huffing and puffing, in all sorts of stress, phone less and helpless. so obviously as you can imagine, for the first 2 hours , there was hardly any chitchat amongst us. The moment our eyes would meet, we would just bark at each other and Varun would growl too!!!!
However all this changed once we reached past Mitcham.
Eventually the madness of the traffic gave way to the familiarity of countryside lanes.
That was the beginning of the climbs, one after the other….just long shallow climbs…..so we just saved all our hisses and spats for use at the end….. 🙂
After a nice downhill stretch on A237 manor road, we reached Coulsdon road, which was the first hill.
Slow and steady on jubilee way near grange pub.
Took left on to Rook lane and the left on to Alderstead lane which led to Shepard hill, another climb….aaarrghhhh
After a few twists and turns, we reached our much awaited next stop!!! By the side of a cricket field!!! Of course, it has to be….you are not an Indian if you don’t pause by a cricket ground and pay respect to it….whether there is a game going on or not!!! Dad and son dutifully stopped and ooh-aah-ed the game while I happily clicked some horsie pics to the left of the field :)))
The next few climbs kept feeling tougher and tougher and our progress slowed down to a crawl. Vazzy who is normally a very strong cyclist seemed to be flagging. The heat was relentless but we kept egging each other on.
One thing that seems to happen when you cycle with a group is that you can almost predict when the others want to stop and when someone will get lost
Ram: I am now quite used to getting an earful from Smita on most of the trips for zooming ahead of her……
Another climb awaited us : Rookery hill, loved it as we passed through its welcoming cool canopy of large leafy trees. Stopped again at the Dog and Duck pub to refresh and reload our bottles.
It was a lovely place and I wished we would turn back at this time. but the look on Ram’s face when i just had that thought in my mind made me hastily change my decision!!! By then, we came across some more cyclists who were headed to Brighton as well.
Back on the road and another climb just after Balcombe road….felt very dizzy and light headed….but carried on. Vazzy had disappeared and Ram was struggling too. Felt so weak and tired that i just couldn’t carry on, so we stopped at a petrol station to get some refreshments. I had heard somewhere that cycling for an hour burns 500 calories, so I had already prepared Ram all along the way that since we would be burning around 5000 calories, there should be no restrictions ont he junk i eat…..so there we were, munching away happily, on crisps and chocolate bars….ahhhh, heaven at last!!!
But alas, that was not to last long…..we were back on the saddle with renewed vigour ( what a difference calories make – positively and negatively too). Saw the hazy silhouette of a mountain range ahead of us and brushed it aside as it seemed too far away. Varun asked me if we were headed that way and i confidently replied that it was too far away and anyway, silly, we are heading towards the sea, we will go down from here, of course. Aaahh, how wrong I was !!! Each agonising turn of the wheel led towards the mountains and soon we were doing the painful but as promised by Ram, the last hill climb towards Devil’s Dyke. It was worth it and we were greeted with stunning views of the area.
A hot air balloon magically rose up and i really really wished i could fly away , then and there in that 🙂
(Ditchling Beacon is the highest point of the Ride at 815 feet. Takes around 45 minutes to reach the top, most of the people walk through rather than cycle!!)
Once that was done, the ordeal was over. The route was pretty flat after that and downhill sometimes too. we soon reached Brighton and cycled back amidst civilisation along the promenade. But there was a strange silence between us….no, we were not waiting to spit and hiss at each other again….in fact, we were rather in a melancholy state because we were at the end of the ride. the pain and effort that gelled us together would disappear soon and we would blend in with the daily shenanigans of life.
Reached a pub who directed us to another pub up the road. I dragged ram and varun towards that side uphill again only to find out that I had taken the wrong route ( drat!!! we cycled 80 miles without losing our way and I had to guide them along 200 yards and still I managed to get us lost!!! ) What followed afterwards was pure heaven: Pimms, wine, fish and chips and chocolate brownies!!!! Could you ask for more……oh yes, need a bed!!!
Caught the train back to london and reached at midnight….once again, London, i love London!
Cycled along the mad streets to our hotel and crashed straight into the soft welcoming bed of our deluxe suite ( free upgrade after seeing our sorry state, i think ) in the Bloomsbury Hotel, very close to all the stations.
It was only the next morning that we realised the beauty of the place….and excellent service too. Had to leave soon and headed back home…..
An interesting conference noted in one of the Bloomsbury hotel suites – Learn to be rich workshop: Rich Dad Education…..Hmmmmm, i wondered what education we were giving our son, who was busy oiling the wheels of his bike, trying to impress the two blondes who went past him, eyeing his cycling gear all over :))))
Ok, back to the pain…..hmmm, lets say it lasted for a while
would i do it again….of course yes….