I used to do the London to Brighton every year. When I got back into cycling after a 10-year gap (excepting 4 miles a day on a Brompton), I committed to doing it again as a very concrete goal for regaining my cycling fitness!

Not being a morning person, I'd booked myself in the latest departure slot: 9.30am. A couple of fellow members of the London Cycling Meetup Group, Ben and Yenhsi, were in the same slot, so we met up at Hyde Park and rode down to the start together.

I'd bought some oral rehydration sachets to mix with water in my water-bottle, and carried four bananas. I had the first of these at the start.

Things were running a little late, and it was nearer 10am by the time we set off. In general, the ride was very well organised, but there was one big exception: traffic management out of London. First, they'd only closed the roads in one direction, which meant we had oncoming traffic and so couldn't use both sides of the road, halving the capacity. Second, junctions weren't closed off, so the ride was halted at many junctions. The upshot of this was that it took two hours to reach the first refreshment stop just 10 miles away, with far too much of that time spent stationary.

Things did gradually speed up as we headed into outer London. (Don't ask me where - it was sarf of the river, guv.)

Some more 'serious' cyclists on one of the cycling forums question why anyone would go on such a crowded ride, and suggest it would make more sense to do it as a small group on a different day, but to me this misses the point. The magic of the LTB is the atmosphere.

Most of the cyclists doing it are not super-fit roadies used to doing 50 miles before breakfast, they are perfectly ordinary leisure cyclists. Indeed, some of the bikes probably hadn't even seen the light of day since last year's ride. It's an amazing thing to think that ordinary people of average fitness can cycle to Brighton. What would seem like a super-human feat if contemplated on an ordinary weekend suddenly becomes possible because there are 26,999 other people doing it with you.

Once out into the country, the ride thinned out and the pace stepped up.

Mirrors were a great benefit for overtakes, and it was a pity more people didn't have them, especially on the downhill stretches where the TRICE excelled. My pace might have been slow on the uphill parts, but I was doing 30-40mph plus down every hill. :-)

While we may have left the London congestion behind us, combine a narrow lane with a hill-climb, and things get crowded again.

Fortunately it didn't last too long, and things then thinned out once more.

In between the official refreshment stops are unofficial stalls, most of them community affairs raising money for their local charities. I stopped at one of these for a cup of tea, bacon roll and a slice of fruit cake. One of the great things about a long cycle ride is the guilt-free calories. :-)

Trikes are slow uphill (they are heavy, and you can't stand on the pedals so can't get your bodyweight to do half the work) and fast downhill (very stable at high speed, and no fear of going over the handlebars if you have to brake hard), so I got separated from Ben and Yenhsi. We had each other's mobile numbers so we could meet up at refreshment points.

The refreshment points were typically village halls, schools, etc, and were very well organised. There were separate entry and exit points, typically with a couple of hundred metres between them. To keep things flowing, marshalls were preventing anyone entering via the exit points, and it would have been utterly impossible to turn around and go against the flow, so if you missed the entrance, you couldn't get in.

The more astute of you will have recognised that I'm getting my excuses in early here ...

So, I was about 100 metres past the entrance to one of the refreshment points when Ben phoned to say they were inside it. There was a steep grass bank 2-3 feet high separating the road from the grounds of the refreshment point. No problem, I thought, I'll just ride up the bank.

It was too steep, my rear wheel just spinning on the grass. Which was when I had my Bright Idea ...

My plan, which Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time, was to take a run-up along the pavement and then ride up the bank diagonally. Anyone who has ever had any off-road driving training will know that this is in fact a Very Bad Idea: if it's too steep to get up it in a straight line, it's too steep to try it at an angle.

Sooo ... I made my run-up, steered up the bank and almost reached the top of it when the upper wheel lifted, the trike went over and I ended up underneath an upside-down trike. With, ooooh, about 400 people watching.

Several of them kindly helped me extract myself. There was no damage to the trike, and only a small cut on my elbow. The first-aid people cleaned up the cut and put a small dressing on it while I dusted myself down and did my best to look like a person who had not just flipped a trike.

If anyone took a photo of my embarrassment, do please send it to me. :-)

The TRICE got a lot of attention even when I wasn't performing acrobatics with it. If I'd had a quid from each person who said one of the following, I'd easily have raised my £250 sponsorship goal:
"That's cheating!"
"That looks comfortable"
"I'm getting one of those for next year"

The route is quite hilly, but the South Downs are cruel enough to save the worst 'till last. At about 50 miles into the ride, just when you could do with a nice flat bit, you reach the infamous Ditchling Beacon. This is a very long, very steep hill. Specifically, it climbs over 650 feet in one mile!

Trikes are, as I mentioned, hard work up hills. But they do have one secret weapon: as there is no need to balance, you can ride them as slowly as you like. I dropped into the 30T bottom gear and set off, determined to cycle all the way without stopping.

It wasn't that I had any moral objection to stopping, it was just that I was pretty sure if I came to a halt, I wouldn't be able to set off again.

I'd like to pretend this photo is blurry because I was rocketing up at high-speed. In fact it's blurry because I didn't dare ease off long enough to increase my camera's ISO in the shady section at the bottom of the hill.

The hill was long. I was slow. My legs were killing me. I was, on three occasions, overtaken by pedestrians. But I made it!

Ben and Yenhsi, who were doing the ride for the first time, had stopped at the refreshment stop at the top. But I'd done it before and knew it was all downhill from there, so carried on.

My maximum speed on the trike to date had been 47mph. There were 4.5 miles to go, the run into Brighton was the longest and steepest downhill stretch and I was determined to break 50mph.

I'd fairly recently changed the chainrings on the TRICE, swapping the 26/42/52 for a 30/48/60 set. The 30T had proven itself adequate to climb the Beacon, and now it was time to put the 60T to the test and see if it could enable me to break the magic five oh ...

The downhills were slightly frustrating at times, as roadies would be pedalling like mad in a full race tuck, thinking they were the fastest thing on the road, and I'd be stuck behind them wishing they'd pull in to let me past.

My horn (which makes a whistling sound) was useful, but only at close quarters, so I'd have to continually brake, whistle, accelerate and repeat.

This was the case on the early part of the hill, but then I was fortunate enough to hit a stretch with the right-hand side of the road completely empty, so I let rip.

I was taking frequent glances at the speedo on my GPS. When it hit 49mph and I could see congested road ahead, I knew I had one last chance, so gave it every last gramme of effort and left my braking as late as humanly possible (TRICE brakes are extremely good!). The result:


There are people lining pretty much the whole of the latter half of the route, cheering you on, and the reception in the finish lane on the sea-front is just fantastic. Applause, cheering, whistling, the works. If you were one of the cheerers, I can tell you that it's very much appreciated!

Especially as Brighton itself decided to welcome us with rain. But I didn't care. Waterproof on, medal collected, I was straight off to the fish-and-chip shop, where some conveniently-placed cones made for a TRICE parking space directly outside. :-)


The return transport arrangements (an optional extra) were excellent. The organisers laid on sets of two coaches and a juggernaut for each batch of about 100 riders. The bikes were loaded into the juggernaut with great efficiency. An advantage of the TRICE was they decided to load it last, so it got a big space all to itself and was the first bike to be unloaded back at Clapham.

A 5.5-mile ride back to Liverpool Street, a train ride and then the final 2 miles home. 73.2 miles in all.

If you'd like to ride the route yourself, you can download the tracklog below. If you have a Garmin GPS with Mapsource, then the .gdb file is the one you want; for anything else, the .gpx file is the universal exchange format so any GPS worth its salt should be able to read that.

london-to-brighton.gdb | london-to-brighton.gpx