Sun, sea and cycles: riding from London to Brighton for BHF
On Sunday me, Kjell, Maria and Enrique (plus two ringers, Jack and Victor) donned our lycra and topped up our water bottles for a 54-mile cycle from London to Brighton to raise vital funds for British Heart Foundation. With the temperature soaring to over 30 degrees, the dreaded Ditchling Beacon to climb and Enrique on a fixed-wheel bike, would we make it to the finishing line? Read on to find out…
Fighting for every heartbeat
British Heart Foundation is on a mission to end heart disease by funding pioneering research into the diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular conditions. We’ve been working with them for a while now and, since there are a few keen cyclists in the agency, we pulled a team together for the biggest event in BHF’s fundraising calendar: the London to Brighton bike ride.
BHF really pull out all the stops for this event, which is more of a family affair than a race for hardcore riders. They offer training advice in the lead up via British Cycling, as well as fundraising support from a dedicated team. The 54-mile route, which passes through some really beautiful countryside is well planned and includes large sections where the road is blocked off. There’s also medical and mechanical support available throughout the day.
So, we had no excuses not to smash it, right?
Feeling the heat
Except that we turned up on the start line on Clapham Common with weather forecasts telling us that it was going to be a scorcher – the hottest day of the year so far! We all love a sunny day but as we were all cycling to Clapham and back from our homes, this was going to be at least a 60-mile day for each of us. Gulp.
Enrique was in the least-enviable position: he’d decided to tackle the epic ride on his fixed-gear bike, courier-style. We were a bit concerned about his well-being (and sanity) until Enrique informed us, just before we set off, that he’d ridden semi-professionally in his native Spain!
Feeling the love
Luckily, the day took a little while to warm up so we were able to break the back of the journey on our first leg. We had a lovely time riding alongside lots of people having a great day out, from dads and daughters on tandems to the obligatory Boris bike-riders to someone on a Chopper, and even a Penny Farthing enthusiast!
Here are Kjell’s thoughts on the spirit of the event:
“It was fantastic to be part of such a huge community event which brought people together for such an excellent cause.
“A highlight for me was seeing the communities we cycled through on the route. People lined the streets to hand out water, flapjacks and spray riders with garden hoses to cool down!”
Our first stop was the lovely village of Turners Hill, which is 30 miles into the ride. The local pub, The Crown, was pretty irresistible… so we didn’t resist!
Once we were well rested and (ahem) watered, it was back on the road for toughest part of the ride.
Climbing the hill
Ditchling Beacon. This beast of a hill has a 9% gradient and is just under a mile long. It also happens to be near the end of the route.
By the time we got there the temperature was over 30 degrees. A couple of us managed to cycle to the summit – the rest of us struggled to just about walk up it. We were rewarded with quite a view.
But from that point on, it was all downhill in the most exhilarating way. The last few miles are one long, breezy, magnificent descent into Brighton.
Crossing the line
We rolled into Brighton some six hours after we’d set off (there were a couple more strategic ‘water’ breaks along the way).
The first thing we did after crossing the line on the seafront? Dumped the bikes, ran to the sea and dove straight in.
The BHF had laid on a magnificent village at the finish line, with live music, food stalls and BHF tents. It was a brilliant atmosphere and a great finish to a really amazing day.
Here’s Kjell again:
“We work with so many charities who organise events as part of their fundraising strategy so it was fantastic to take part in such a well-organised and fun event. We saw the positive spirit of the third sector in full force.”
We quickly decided to celebrate at the first bar we saw… Volks on the seafront.
Here’s Kjell sporting his finisher’s medal as the team (ahem) rehydrates.
Bring on next year!
We hit our fundraising target but you can still show your support for BHF’s amazing work by donating vital funds to stop one of the world’s biggest killers (heart disease).