Anyone who has ever cycled from London to Brighton probably enjoyed a gentle 60 mile ride along quiet country roads and most likely rode during the summer months. Given that Team NR are aiming to each complete a minimum of 150 miles of training per week, we do not have the luxury of waiting for a warm, sunny day for a jolly down to the coast.
And so a plan was hatched that after work last Friday Anthony, Rob and I would throw on enough layers to make the Michelin man jealous and head off to Brighton. The route we had chosen was designed to avoid the majority of the rush hour traffic but it also presented its own challenges – about two-thirds of the route would be unlit. To solve this problem, we bought ourselves some high-powered LEDs and were soon ready to roll.
Almost everyone to whom I described what we were planning with our Friday night responded in the same way; “What on earth would you want to do that for? Are you mad?”. We were hoping they were not proved right. Getting out of London was a slow process but presented few problems. It was when we got out into the countryside that things began to get “interesting”. Here are a few things I learned during the ride:
* Our LEDs were powerful enough to provide a narrow corridor of about 10 feet of light. But when going downhill at 30+ miles per hour, 10 feet is covered pretty quickly. Our reactions needed to be spot on to avoid the numerous pot holes created by the harsh winter.
* There are a hell of a lot of pubs between London and Brighton. Attempting to count the number of increasingly inviting pubs along the route did not help to pass the time quicker.
* No matter how many pieces of clothing you wear (at final count, I was wearing 18 separate garments), cycling for 4 hours at 0°C will leave you wanting a warm cup of tea (or a stiff drink).
* We still have a lot of work to do before taking on the challenges of night time riding that come with RAAM.
Still, on the train back from Brighton (which was full of people who had been out enjoying a more orthodox Friday evening) we were contented with a successful trip. Our night time experiment had been a success as well as quite an adventure.
In other news, we have recruited our second crew member to add to Frank Cartledge (Rob’s dad and acting crew chief). Welcome to the team Phil Schock.