Preparing For London To Brighton #3: All The Way To Brighton

Early evening in Preston Park, coming into Brighton

Early evening in Preston Park, coming into Brighton

This time next week, me and James will be near the end of our London to Brighton ride; we may even be tackling Ditchling Beacon, striving to make our way to the top and questioning the very meaning of life and why we would ever choose to attempt such a thing. As such, we have now reached that point in training where we are still keeping active without stretching ourselves too much ahead of the big day; the peak has passed, and now it all rests on keeping motivated.

Over the last few weeks I have been gradually increasing the distance in my weekly rides, to the point where Wednesday’s journey covered over 45 miles. Having become thoroughly acquainted with Cycle Route 21, I decided to branch out and venture down Route 20, which runs from London to Brighton and crosses Route 21 as you approach Three Bridges. Starting on the regular jaunt along the worth way to Crawley, I turned off at Maidenbower and made my way into Tilgate Forest. As the suburbs give way to tranquil, lush woodland, you can’t help but feel relaxed by the general peace and quiet- save the occasional clip of golfers on the nearby course.

The only downside to Tilgate Forest lies south of the M23, where you enter a section dedicated to logging. Suddenly the woodland thins and the path becomes harsh and unrelenting, even boggy in a few places. Sadly, there was even one occasion where I had to dismount as I did not fancy ruining my bike with the big event so close. Apart from that episode, my cross bike just about handled the terrain. A mountain bike would be fine, but it would be a nightmare for a proper road bike.

Route 20 through Tilgate Forest

Route 20 through Tilgate Forest

GOLF! SPORTS! FLAGS!

GOLF! SPORTS! FLAGS!

Well, that sure looks welcoming...

Well, that sure looks welcoming…

This is a shame really, because once you are beyond this section, the rest of the route is beautiful smooth road; the stuff that cyclist’s dreams are made of. The gradient is either downhill or very gradually uphill, taking you through Handcross and the villages of Staplefield, Bolney and Hickstead, before following the A23 to Brighton. There are some truly fantastic views of the South Downs as you approach Brighton, and if you can forgive the occasional din of the dual-carriageway on some of the sections, then it makes for a lovely ride.

Once in Brighton, I briefly took in the marina before making my way to the train station; there is an immensely smug kind of satisfaction as you walk against the general stream of exasperated commuters as you casually walk along the platform. My plan was to get the train to Gatwick Airport, and follow route 21 back into Crawley and along the Worth Way. For some reason I naively believed this would be a piece of cake, but after getting thoroughly lost in the North terminal I had to ask for directions. It was probably quite a remarkable sight, watching a bemused cyclist fully clad in lycra wandering around arrivals and departures, gradually getting more and more desperate.

Once I was finally back on track, the route was relatively straightforward, save the ache in my legs which was gradually intensifying. I’m aware that 45 miles must sound a very daunting prospect to many, but as I have been adding half a dozen miles each week, it only seems a little bit further than my previous ride, and as I finally arrived home that evening, I felt like I could just about handle nine more. After all that cycling, you would probably imagine my body has transformed into an impressively athletic build, but as I used the ride as an excuse to get through half a tub of Ben and Jerry’s, I realize I still have some way to go with my willpower.

Village life, Handcross

Village life, Handcross

South Downs in the heart of Sussex

South Downs in the heart of Sussex

Brighton is love, Brighton is life

Brighton is love, Brighton is life

So far me and James have raised over £300 in sponsors, which we are immensely proud of, but given we are riding on behalf of such a fantastic cause it would be amazing if we could raise even more. On one Christmas Day, one of my close relatives suffered a heart attack, but thanks to the quick response of those that treated her she is still with us and just as jovial, nearly ten years later. Every penny towards the British Heart Foundation goes towards the fight against cardiovascular disease, and would be greatly appreciated- not just by myself, not just by James, but by everyone involved in the British Heart Foundation’s work and the recipients it benefits.

That’s it then; all that lies in between now and the ride is stretching, healthy eating and a bit of light training. Do I feel ready? Bring on the beacon is all I’ll say!

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