♫Didn’t we have a lovely time… …the day we rode to Brighton♫

10 06 2011

Regular Muddy@rser Bob reports from a jolly day to Brighton…

It all started off with an innocent question in a text message from Chadders – “Are you doing the London to Brighton ride this year?”

My initial response was to tell him that I had different plans for that day and then, after a couple more SMS exchanges, we decided that we ought to organise a Slick@rse (The Muddy@rse splinter group for tarmac related activities) ride, on a different date from the official London to Brighton event. This was also an excellent opportunity to take the ‘belugabike’  out for its first proper run.

A forum post was hastily composed and things started to happen. The list of victims participants began to grow and we eventually agreed on Sunday April 9th as a date that suited almost everybody.

So it was that I found myself riding to Three Bridges station, to catch the train to Clapham Junction as this is the start point of the official ride – it was quite early on a crisp, cloudless April morning, and I was beginning to wonder if my decision to ride without a jacket was a wise one (My logic was that I’d be sweating like a pig for most of the way, so less layers would be more comfortable). At the station, I met up with Dave & Mark then boarded the train for the trip to Clapham. From there, it was a short ride to the rendezvous point where, after a short while, the usual suspects began to arrive.

Le Petit Depart

After a short session of bike ogling (and deriding, in the case of Rich’s hastily borrowed ‘Beach bike’) we were on our way along the pleasantly quiet streets of London.

Oh I say

The first section of the route is fairly flat and easy to follow, but this didn’t stop us from getting to the point where I just didn’t recognise the roads from my previous participations in the official event. A group huddle, followed by some map squinting and head scratching soon revealed that we’d been too intent on overtaking the guy on a tricycle to read the road signs properly and exited a roundabout one junction too late.

A TomTom-esque reroute soon saw us back on course and we quickly arrived at a short climb that lead us to the leafier suburbs and the hope that we’d soon be in the country. Unfortunately, this also heralded the approaches to the North Downs and some fairly long uphill slogs. Despite this, it was a relief to leave the city behind and to be cycling along quieter country roads, taking in the wonderful sunshine and the profusion of greenery that seems some much more prominent at that time of year. A quick refreshment stop and a fantastic descent into Chipstead valley lead us to the meet point with a rider who lives locally and could by bothered to ride to London merely to return to his starting point (It’s OK Steve, your identity is safe with us) 😉

It was from this point onwards that the differing speeds of the various riders led to a natural split in the group – with the faster, fitter people soon disappearing over the horizon. There was a brief regrouping (and strange discussion about the biodegradable qualities of banana skins) at the bottom of the excellent descent that is Markedge Lane – possibly in recognition of the milestone feeling engendered by crossing under the M25 – before the spilt reappeared and the bimblers amongst us were resigned to our own little group.

Now into the proper countryside, the route settled down into a series of undulating hills with notable climbs taking place a Nutfield, up under the M23, past Crawley Down (thanks for the impromptu water station, Paul) and Turners Hill before the lure of a pub finally got the better of us. A Muddy@rse shift system seemed to kick in, as the faster riders were just starting out from their lunch break as we struggled to a halt in the pub garden. Despite the best efforts of the bar staff to completely ignore us (I think that this is in the job description nowadays) we finally partook of a rather fine lunch, washed down with an excellent pint of beer (shandy, before you ask)

If I must...

Suitably refreshed, and resisting the temptation to have a snooze in the dappled afternoon light of a Sussex pub garden, we struck out for the coast. A quick whizz down from Turners Hill, and a surprisingly quick (for me, anyway) climb up the other side brought us to the wonderfully rolling descent into Ardingly. This road isn’t particularly steep, but seems to encourage the rider to accelerate to a satisfyingly high speed that takes almost no effort at all. More rolling countryside took us through Lindfield, Haywards Heath and Wivelsfield before ‘it’ came into view.

At this point on the route, the rider is left in no doubt as to the task ahead, as their entire vista is occupied by the escarpment of the South Downs. There is no obvious way round or through, so the inevitable has happened – we’re approaching the dreaded Ditchling Beacon. A quick stop in Ditchling village saw us refuel with water, energy tablets and the ever reliable Tangfastics before it was time to cease avoiding the task at hand – onwards and upwards, as they say (A bit less of the upwards, I’d say)

Oh My God! Having pushed up the beacon in 2009, due to the crowds, and riding up in sections at walking pace in 2010 for pretty much the same reason, this was my first clean run at the monster and it certainly seemed different. The worst things about the climb is that it winds its way up, giving no idea of whether the summit is around the next corner, and the sheer cliff face of grass that is almost constantly on your right, giving the impression that the climb does indeed go on forever. Finally though, there is clear blue sky above the horizon and victory can be sensed – the sight of familiar faces, willing you on, makes the achievement even sweeter.

made it!

After a well earned rest in the glorious sunshine, we set off in search of our fish and chips. The mood became noticeably more optimistic as it became apparent that it was downhill all the way to Brighton. Starting with a gradually downward slope for the couple of miles from the beacon to the A23, we were then launched into the almost suicidal descent of Coldean Lane and onto the main road from the University into the city centre before reducing to a leisurely spin past the Brighton Pavilion.

Feeling the glow

The final couple of hundred yards to the beach were blocked by the huge crowds that had gathered to cheer our heroic efforts the participants of the Brighton Marathon. It soon became apparent the Fish and Chip restaurant on the Pier was not an attainable goal, so we took the easy option and headed for the station for the train back home.

The sleep that night was well earned and all agreed that a truly spiffing time was had by all (even if with didn’t see half of them for most of the journey.

Well done everybody – London to Brighton off-road next time?




One response

15 06 2011

What a great write up, I really enjoyed reliving your trip with you. Good effort all round by everyone who participated and a flagship ride out for Sussex Slick@rse. Well done Bob in organising the trip.

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