For some people riding 100 miles is a challenge, for others it is about how fast they can do it on closed roads. Maybe you just like being part of a mass event, like the idea of a medal or just want the chance to explore new roads outside of your own area. And, of course, many do Ride London for charity. There are many reasons, but the idea is to enjoy it …. here’s our view on things that may help you do so.
We should be open here and state that we are writing this from experience as the writer hasn’t entered this year, so doesn’t have all the pre-race information that riders may have been sent. Consequently, this is generic advice based on the writer’s 5 Ride Londons, 7 Etape du Tours, Marmotte, Maratona Dles Dolomites and more … the ground rules are fairly similar across Closed Road Sportives / Gran Fondos …. there are racers and there are tourists, make sure you all get along fine and it will be a nice day.
THE PROTOCOLS ON THE ROAD
However much organisers of British sportives shout about it not being a race, the reality is that any timed event on closed roads appeals to people who want to see how fast they can ride without the hinderence of traffic and slowing down for junctions. This is never going to change, accept it. Equally, however much a few tourists may hinder your speed, they have as much right to be on the road as anyone else. Look out for each other and be considerate.
THE KEY THING ON (BRITISH) CLOSED ROADS IS TO KEEP TO THE LEFT UNLESS YOU ARE OVERTAKING. IT’S SIMPLE, IT’S THE SAME RULE AS MOTORWAY DRIVING. IF YOU BLOCK THE WAY FOR FAST RIDERS, EXPECT ABUSE. HOWEVER FAST YOU THINK YOU ARE, THERE WILL BE SOMEONE FASTER COMING UP, SO KEEP LEFT.
WHEN PULLING IN OR OUT (ie CHANGING YOUR LINE) LOOK BACK TO CHECK THAT THERE IS NO-ONE BEHIND YOU … AGAIN IT’S THE SAME AS MOTORWAY DRIVING, YOU WOULDN’T CHANGE LANE WITHOUT LOOKING BACK WOULD YOU?
You will almost certainly see accidents, people lose concentration and ‘touch wheels’ it’s easy in tight groups. Just remember that Ride London attracts a lot of people who are not used to riding in large groups, however careful you are, somebody else may be losing concentration, so stay alert.
If you are in a group, on somebody’s wheel, you need to be looking over their shoulder as well as at their back wheel so that you see the same braking points as they do and don’t get caught out if they suddenly brake or swing out to avoid something ahead.
Do not ‘half wheel’ riders in front … if they suddenly swerve to avoid a pothole you may both find yourself on an NHS waiting list during a nurses’ strike.
STAY LEFT, STAY ON YOUR LINE UNLESS OVERTAKING AND ALWAYS LOOK BACK BEFORE PULLING OUT ... BE AWARE OF OTHER RIDERS AND REMEMBER THAT THEY MAY NOT BE AWARE OF YOU!
(footnote: when doing overseas Sportives / Gran Fondos the protocol is usually to stay right)
GETTING THERE AND BACK
Of course, travel arrangements will depend on where you live, your start time and your ‘support team’. Take a look at our guide to taking your bike on the Tube (link below), but if you have a really early start then maybe a hotel or a lift into town from a friend or relative is what you need. One suggestion is to get a lift to somewhere like Marylebone at the end of the Westway and then ride to the start from there. You’ll soon realise that there are hundreds of others all heading towards the start so you won’t be alone and there will be very little motorised traffic around. Ride London usually organise parking points, if you’ve entered then you will have details already we assume,
Getting back should be easier as public transport will be running. It may be best to cycle to the most appropriate train station, but remember that you can’t take a bike on deep tunnel sections of the Tube.
AT THE START
It can look a bit confusing when you look at the start pen guide you are sent, but don’t worry, they have loads of marshals who’ll guide you to the right place, it usually works very well.
If you are too early, then it can get a bit cold standing around. One solution is to take a bin-liner with arm holes cut in it to wear at the start then throw away once you begin. We have seen riders do the same with disposable plastic decorating overalls.
Take a banana, bar and maybe a tin of fizzy drink to consume whilst waiting for the start … they may just prove a good investment later!
FEEDING & DRINKING
If you are undertaking a 100 mile event, you will be well aware that hydration is very important. There are Feed Stations en route for topping up water bottles, so be aware of where they are and keep hydrated along the way. We recommend adding hydration tablets to your water.
When it comes to feeding, no matter what you may read from experts, our opinion is that we are all different. Different food, different amounts and different intervals. With apologies, we can’t give you a routine that works, because it may not work for you. We encourage riders to discover their own needs and limits during training rides. However, we would borrow a quote from Emily Chappell who once said, ‘long distance cycling is just an eating competition’. If you don’t have fuel, you will ‘bonk’ and once you’ve bonked eating something is (almost) too late. At least we would make the point that whatever you eat when you’ve bonked will take a while to have any effect.
Another thing is that whilst lots of energy drink and gels may work on shorter rides, too much of that stuff on long rides can cause issues, so we recommend that you balance those products with some natural food.
We recommend a tri-bag on your crossbar with a few bars, Haribo, gels etc for use between Feed Stations. Toepeak do excellent Tri-Bags (other brands are available of course).
The Ride London-Essex route is fairly benign in terms of climbing, some rolling terrain but, unlike its predecessor Ride London-Surrey, there are no hills that might be defined as ‘classified’. This makes for a fast ride and none of that congestion on hills caused where slow riders don’t move to the left.
And talking of congestion, some of the roads in the London part of the course involve cyclists going in both directions so you only get half the road. Be sensible if overtaking slower riders and if you are not overtaking, keep left.
ENJOY THE RIDE!