Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Cheap Bike does the 2015 BHF London to Brighton Bike Ride

First some of the pics.
The rest will have to wait a bit.
But, a very short summary.
I drove to London with the bike in the back of the car, and parked up.
Then cycled to the start (about 11 km).
Then I did the "event".
I had all my food and water in my front basket, with a side pannier with a few tools and bits and bobs (like a spare inner tune etc. etc.). I had a couple of spare bottles of water back there too.
I rode the event "straight". No stops (except for traffic signals!). No rest breaks. No "comfort breaks". I "went" before the start, and again, after the finish.
Just riding.
No walking on the hills, either.
I rode the event straight through.
I even "conquered" Ditchling Beacon (but only just!).
Took me about 4 hrs 30 minutes, including all the "stopped" time (like waiting at the lights etc etc).
So here are the first of the pics.

It is 4:07 am. I've been up about an hour.
I've had breakfast (porridge, made last night, and reheated in the microwave).
Kit all packed the night before.
Bike is in the back of the car (automobile)
Now to drive to London, which will take about an hour.

Arriving at about 10 past 5 (am), I unload the bike.
I've parked up in Central London.
Just had a cheese sandwich, too, to make sure there is plenty of "fuel" in my "tank".
The pannier (black and yellow) has tools, spares, etc, etc, and a litre of water.
The clip-on front basket has my main water and food supply.
I have about 2 litres to drink in the basket - about 1/5 litres of which is a homemade water and carbohydrate drink,
with a touch of salt added, and the rest is plain water.
As usual, I am riding Mermaid.
Mermaid weighs about 20kg "empty", and I have about 9 kg of stuff with me.

Not much traffic on the early morning streets.
the paln is to cycle from where I have parked to
the start of the event.
It is about 6 or 7 miles.

If you know where to look, there are cycle "shortcuts"
- like through these bollards on Queen Street.

Queen Street takes me to the start of CS7 (Cycle Superhighway 7).
Now I just have to follow the Yellow Brick Road
(well, it is Blue Paint Road, but you get the picture!)

Nice separated lane as I cross
Southwark Bridge

Lots of new building have gone up since I left London about
15 years ago - this one is "The Shard".

CS7 avoids the rather accident-prone
Elephant & Castle roundabout with a
short section through a park

Of course, folks park on the Cycle Superhighway, and the red
asphalt on the road reminds me that it is also a "bus" lane ...

CS7 takes me right down to Clapham Common, where I see some other riders

Congestion crossing the road to get to the starting area

The gates are divided up by allocated start time.
I have an early one (6 am), but I arrive about 10 minutes late.
With more than 20,000 (yep, twenty THOUSAND) entrants every year, staggered starts are the only way to handle the numbers!
Quick "sugary" drink and a "comfort break" before I start!

All sorts of bikes and rider enter - "roadies", folks on folding bikes (a Brompton is near the middle of the pic), and mountain bikers in their looser clothing with their fatter-tyred bikes.

Us stragglers for the 6 am start are waved through.
The actual "proper" start is the red gate in the background, which the "timed" gates "funnel" in to.

And I'm off.
About 56 minutes used before the start gate,
and about 12 km getting there.
Pretty soon we come to a stop.
London has a LOT of traffic lights, and is a very populous city (8 to 12 million folks, depending on what definition you use).
We started our ride at Clapham Common (about 6 kilometres or 3 1/2 miles from "The City")

...and we have stopped again.
It took a LONG time to get through the junction
at Tooting Broadway
Still in my "commuter" kit.
I really don't own much in the way of lycra.
You can see something of the variety of ages
and bikes in this pic.
Much more varied than a typical "sportive"
Traffic lights (signals) change - the line moves forwards a bit
and we stop again.

Slowly we are moving closer to the junction ...

A lot of folks have the bikes and the kit,
but have they got the "legs"?
This guy must have a very economical
pedalling action with legs that "straight" ...

At last, we reach the head of the queue.
Next change of the lights, and we will finally be
past Tooting Broadway!

And we stop again ay another set of lights - but no so long this time.

And another set of lights ...

... and then riding a long nicely. Looks like we are actually getting somewhere ...

... or perhaps not. Yet another set of lights :-)
Gives me a chance to improve my rather woeful "sprint" skills, though!
Having said that, on the early "crowded" stages some folks were clearly riding in an unsafe manners.
The "weavers" and all that. The folks who ride as if they are the only ones on the road, and act as if they have the who lane to themselves ...
I saw a "faller" with about 200m (200 yards) of the start.
How can you fall off within the first 200 m?
Either not looking where you are going, or brought down by another rider not looking where they are going.
On the stage out of London, a crash happened very close in front of me - a large man totally lost control of his bike, and his wheels slid out sideways and took out his friend too. Both landed on the tarmac (asphalt) at perhaps 15 mph (24 kph), so there will be grazed knees and elbows there. I had to swerve to keep clear of the second man's falling bike, so it didn't affect my wheels!

And finally, we reach the outskirts of London, and we get a clear run between the lights.
The riders are still quite dense ahead, though, and I am hanging back a bit because safety is more important at this stage than "drafting". To quote Alain Prost (the former racing driver): "To finish first, you must first finish".
Big charity rides attract a very mixed bunch of participants, from the wannabe racer to the folks dressed in clown outfits, and need to be treated with a certain caution ...

First hill, and there is a "walker".
And it is only a gentle rise.
Benefit of the doubt: maybe he had a
rough night last night,

Um ... bikes generally go better the OTHER way up ...
Bike problems on the hill.
Of course, Mermaid (my bike) has those lovely, heavy,
Marathon Plus tyres ...
And while my bike has a few "niggles" - it was certainly in
"usable" condition when I started. I was surprised by how many folks
I saw at the side of the road fiddling with their gears during the event.
Don't folks "prepare" their bikes beforehand?

More walkers, and we are still on a fairly gradual gradient.
Just how many riders did enough training beforehand?

It was a long, slow, drag up to Chipstead, and it revealed the folks that thought that they just needed to buy a "decent" bike and some "decent" bike clothes and they would be alright ...

But It's not about the bike, It's about the training, as this Brompton rider demonstrates admirably!
How come his folder can make the hill, but those Cannondales and Specializeds he passed can't?

Anyway, after the hill, there is a nice downhill slope! Belting along as we cross under the M25.
Of course, somebody managed to fall off on the downhill section.
Riders really should practice their skills BEFORE taking part in a big event.
Riders can also apply their brakes gently during steep declines to keep their speed down a bit (I certainly do!)

Plenty of rest areas for the "sprint and drink" cyclists.
As for me, I'm on a "no stop" strategy, with my
homemade carb drinks and water in my front basket.
I eat and drink as I roll ...

I had originally planned to ride at a heart rate of
140 bpm (more on the hills!). I spent most of the
event a touch over that. Mind you, I got plenty of
rest at all those London traffic lights!
the first 55 minutes (and the first 12km)
is for getting from my car to the start,
So at this point I have been riding in the
"event" for just over 2 hours,

Cyclists have thinned out by now.

This lady seemed to be fairly fit, but struggled
in places. we passed and repassed each other
at least three times. She has just overtaken me,
and is pullimg away again.

Another rest stop - another bunch of folks I pass.
The first rest stop was about 10 miles in, but then they
were every 2 or 3 miles after that!

The weather was great as were belting along a variety of roads. there was a 15 mph (24 kph) crosswind, but we were generally sheltered from it by all the trees and hedges. Result!
The sky was cloudy, and the temperature was about 12 Celsius (about 56F), so dehydration was not much of an issue.
Good riding conditions!

Same lady on the bike again. This was the time
I noticed she had hub gears. I asked her, and she
said it was an 8-speed. She shot off again.
I passed her, pushing, as I cycled up Turner's Hill
(about half-way), and I didn't see her after that.

Riders tended to bunch up near rest areas, and on hills ...

Still going a little faster than planned ...

Iirc, the lower part of Turner's Hill.
This one sorts out the field a bit.

Rest area partway up the hill

Looks likes he's going to take a break at the top ...
I'm still pedalling ...

The top of Turner's Hill.

And I made it, but the heart rate is up to 168!

HR start to drop back

I had remembered there being a big downhill after Turner's Hill.
But I was wrong.
There was amodest downhill, then this smaller climb, THEN a big downhill.

165 on the second, smaller hill.
Better than Turner's Hill, though!

ANOTHER rest area!
(but not for me!)

The folks in front are more "roadie" than MTB by now, but some folks still have mudguards (like the guy on the left)

Another hill (the start of the climb to Lindfield, iirc) brings its share of "walkers".
as this pic shows - it wasn't all "clipless" for the "roadies" - some had good old-fashioned toe clips,

up and into Lindfield

I reckon this is where the team I was with last year
stopped for a braek

It seemsa mandatory that every small place has at least one church and at lest one pub.
Is this where the recumbent riders hand out?
Yet another rest area ...
The field has thinned out again.
(but my hair hasn't! - I need a haircut!)
Pace is still a bit over my 140 bpm "target".
About 3 hrs 7 minutes in.
About 60 km done, with about 26 or 27 still to go.

Another slope, another walker ...
Another rest area.
Most rest areas had medics and mechanics available, as well as the usual food and water.

The "Boys in Blue" on a couple of motorcycles pass a group of riders.
the riders are bunched up again, because we are a short way after the rest stop.
As well as keeping some of the more crazy riders and motorists in check, the Police motorcyclists are also looking out for "fallers".

3 hrs 28 minutes gone, and about 20 km to go.
I had started to reduce my pulse a bit by this point
(although not too much - it is still 143!)

Feeling good, and still smiling.
No sign of the wall/bonk yet.
I guess my pace has been more modest
(despite my higher than planned HR),
and the homemade "carb" drinks are doing their job.
3 bottles at about 70g of carbs (280 calories) per bottle.

A different sort of "wall" is looming.
The dark shape on the horizon is a line of hills.
We are approaching "Heartbreak Hill" - Ditchling Beacon.(9% average, reaching 16% in places)

Approaching the town of Ditchling.

Ditchling is another of those pretty little English towns. The hills loom in the distance ...
Although the beacon itself is only a BIG category 4 hill, Ditchling has a dip in it, and when measured from the bottom of the dip, Ditchling and the Beacon combined make a Category 3 climb!

I am gently pedalling, mixed with free-wheeling
on the down hill bits in Ditchling.
I want to save something for the Beacon ...

Out of Ditchling, and the road has about a 3% rise on it,
just to siften you up a bit before the main climb ...

Then a rest area near the bottom of the main hill.
Many folks who say that they have "done" the Beacon
stop here for a nice rest first.
Maybe I should, too.
But I'm not going to.
It is a "no-stop" strategy throughout for me!

It's been a long day when folks are pushing on the 3% slope BEFORE they get to the main hill.
Me, I'm still pedalling.

No pics on the actual ascent, I'm afraid.
Everything I had was pedalling!
the steeper bits were right at my limit, and I reached a new Maximum Heart Rate (for cycling) of 180 bpm on the climb.
I spent all twelve and a half minutes of the climb with an average heart rate of 173 bpm, and I was surprised that I could sustain that rate for so long!

Then it is a fast downhill into Brighton, where I get stuck at almost all the lights (again!)

Done and dusted.
Just under 4 1/2 hours from the Start gate to the Finish arch.
No stops (except for traffic lights).
I needed a "comfort break" soon after I finished.
I am about to have a rest on the beach.
I was so whacked, I just lay there for while recovering.
But Mermaid came up trumps again.
And again it was shown to be the rider not the bike that matters over longer distances.

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