Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Cycling London to Brighton

Turning a year older means another birthday to celebrate. This year I decided I wanted one to remember, so I went to Waterstones and bought the finest road map I could find and planned a bicycle ride to Brighton. The planning ended up being slightly rushed being at midnight on the eve of my birthday, but I didn't want to pass up my dinner at OTTELENGHIS, the most wizard restaurant in all of Islington.

The Planning

After consulting with the TwitterSphere, you fine folk suggested that the best way to navigate a long ride is by using a good, old fashioned hard copy map. Something I was pleased about because I didn't fancy dipping my toe in the MAMIL pond and buying bike GPS or fancy phone etc. However in retrospect, perhaps GPS would have been more sensible because my route planning ended up being quite complex. Like a birthday trifle, it was made up of three parts:

Part One - Crouch End to Tooting

Using my trusty (and very battered) TFL cycle map, I planned the route to take me into the city, over Blackfriars Bridge and onto the CS7 all the way to Tooting.

Part Two - Tooting to Copthorne

This is where I used my creative skills. The road map I bought doesn't show the quiet country lanes, so for this part of the journey I took photos of a detailed map I found online using my phone. Tricky, but it worked!

Part Three - Copthorne to Brighton

Time to whip out the road map where I marked the route to follow the B2028 and B 2112 to Brighton.

The Ride

After opening my lovely presents and finally getting that handbag hugger which I first saw on Velo-City-Girl, we set off at 8am for the big birthday ride. Cycling through and out of London at rush hour was the one of the most challenging parts of the ride. It made me realise how easy and simple my cycle route through Islington to work is compared with navigating the quirks of the CS7, oh and trying to cross the river without getting squashed!

Once out of London, I felt free and easy, pedalling through beautiful, autumnal country lanes without a car in sight. What a delight! We even managed to stumble across this scenic spot for much needed refuelling.

Looks perfect doesn't it? Well, the ride wasn't all roses. It's something of a cliche now and I'm afraid to say it again, but my chain came off at least a dozen times! I think it's fair to say that this blog has cast spell over me and every bicycle I ride. I ended up having oily hands for the whole journey.

Oh, and try eating Japanese rice crackers after putting your chain on a gazillion times. And before you say it, no I didn't bring latex gloves or hand wash! I wouldn't want to risk squashing my packed lunch burrito with all that bicycle paraphernalia!

After lunch, we set back onto the road and found ourselves on the never ever ever ever ending B2028. It was something straight out of Groundhog day. To top it off, I had to experience the delights of Turner's Hill. Man oh man, it was quite a mission to get up that beast with just a couple of gears and no pavement to seek safety on. Once at the top, I knew I would be rewarded with downhill roads for a while until the big......Ditchling Beacon.

Once in Ditchling territory, the Beacon loomed in the distance like a big fat spot which won't go away. My supplies were getting low and I learnt a valuable lesson that 1 litre of water and a couple of orange juices do not cut the mustard for a day of cycling. Thankfully I stopped at a corner shop for an emergency purchase of water which made me feel better for the remaining miles. Unfortunately, Ditchling Beacon still hadn't gone away.

With just a few gears on my 80's mean machine, there was no way I was going to tackle such a hill and succeed. I have cycled London to Brighton before so knew what I was in for. I hopped off my bike and made the long walk up the hill. Once at the top, we were treated to views of Brighton and the South Downs. Cruising down the beacon into Brighton was a relief and deserved a refreshing birthday pint in the pub as a reward.

Thought the ride was over? I still had to get home! We caught the train back to Victoria and faced the 8 mile ride home to Crouch End. Getting through one way streets after a mammoth bicycle ride was an absolute killer!

And then I was home. With 80 miles and around 4000 calories under my belt, I zonked out and slept the aches away. It was a birthday I will never forget!

Have you cycled London to Brighton before? What route did you take?


Adam Edwards said...

Next time, an easier way back might be to get the First Capital Connect Thameslink train back to St Pancras, change (same platform) for the stopper to Kentish Town and then cycle. Less miles! Not allowed Monday to Friday rush hours, but ok weekends and bank holidays.

Next train to take your bike on is South Eastern HiSpeed to Folkestone or Dover and cycle along the coast. I keep meaning to and not quite getting round to it!


Lady VĂ©lo said...

Well done on your cycle and happy (belated) birthday!

I've not done that ride, but The Boy has with some of his friends... I didn't join them as I didn't think the Pashley Princess would be the best bike to do it on... perhaps next time they do it, I will! x

Anonymous said...

Happy birthday! Great blog, by the way.

But I have to ask: is there something wrong with your chain? Did you accidentally buy one in an XL? :-)

I've been cycle commuting (not in London) for over a year and my chain has _never_ come off. Well, except for that one time when I didn't know that my small son had been playing with my gear shifters when he'd helped me put the bike in the shed...

mattioats said...

I've done it twice, a lovely ride. The second time I went up Turner's Hill from the west after it really surprised me first time around. A gentler slope and not much traffic.


I've you've got somewhere to stay overnight, going along the coast to Portsmouth or Chichester the following day is very nice.

Biking Needs Solutions said...

More birthdays for you, and more biking escapades to experience and share!

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