One week on, guest blogger and road cycling novice Matt Nash updates us on his performance in his first big bike ride - the 54-mile London to Brighton. But did he make it up the infamous Ditchling Beacon? Read on to find out...
My London to Brighton experience started by registering at the ride’s starting point in Streatham Common. Having queued for about forty minutes we were issued our numbers and set off on our 54-mile journey. I felt good. I’d eaten well the day before, taking on plenty of carbs and I'd ensured I was well hydrated. That morning I fed myself up with a large cereal breakfast and electrolyte drinks and was fuelled up ready to go.
The atmosphere was lighthearted, lots of excited people from all walks of life in a variety of shapes and sizes, and all sorts of bikes! I’m no expert but I laid eyes on some that didn’t look like they’d last 54 metres let alone 54 miles. There were loads of grinding chains and cogs, squeaking wheels and some metal mudguards shaking around and clanking against tyres.
Just as I’d finished having a good nose at the equipment that people were riding, my attention was then drawn to people’s attire. Three women in different groups were cycling in capes and two men sporting mankinis. They must have thought it was aerodynamic or something. Maybe it’s something Team Sky’s Dave Brailsford and his “Marginal Gains” unit can look in to.
The cycle out of London was pretty easy going, the road was quite flat and we built up a decent tempo. Thankfully the day was mild, but it was essential to keep taking fluid on board. It seemed that punctures would be the theme for the day after I saw one lady trying to repair one after only five miles. As myself and my ride partner Frank were making decent time, I was hoping that I wouldn’t become part of that particular theme. Unfortunately, seven miles before Ditchling Beacon, my luck ran out and my back tyre blew. It took me 15 minutes to change the inner tube and get us back on our way, but something wasn’t right.
Somehow the ride had become harder, even going downhill. About 100 yards from The Beacon I got Frank to look at my back wheel. From his vantage point, he could see that one of my back brake pads was rubbing against the wheel. I’d just cycled seven miles with half my back brake on! I was cream crackered. Once I’d sorted the problem we started the ascent of Ditchling Beacon, but I was carrying no momentum. Frank on the other hand was climbing it like a goat and I had to let him carry on as I experienced what cyclists call “The Bonk”. It’s not as pleasurable as it sounds, even though there’s a decent amount of puffing and panting. My legs had seized up and I had to abandon my ascent about ¾ of the way up. I was gutted because getting up The Beacon in one go was my main aim for the ride.
- On top of The Beacon with my Viking Tre Valle!
Having got to the top and enjoyed the view for a few moments while our legs recovered, we then made our long descent into Brighton. This was thoroughly enjoyable and speedy - there were certain points where we had to seriously keep our wits about us, such was the speed we were carrying.
After just shy of five hours and having counted 45 pubs en route we rode along Madera Drive and down to the finish line on the promenade with a real sense of achievement when we got to the finish.
This had been a thoroughly enjoyable challenge, but one that has left me yearning for more - and also to settle a score.
One day Mr D. Beacon, I shall be coming back to see you…
Support Matt's London to Brighton ride via his JustGiving page.