Riding the MITIE London Revolution

Peruvian Wharf in London’s Docklands is not normally known as a busy place at 6am, but last Saturday things were different. There was a tangible buzz of excitement and anticipation in the air as over 1000 riders gathered in this piece of ex-industrial wasteland. The reason for this gathering? This was the start of the 2013 MITIE London Revolution – the largest multi day sportive in the country.

For those that don’t know, London Revolution is a 2 day ride around the perimeter of the greatest city on earth. The ride passes iconic London landmarks, cruises along scenic leafy back roads,  and takes in some legendary Olympic sites – including Box Hill and Herne Hill velodrome. And I was going to be riding every mile of it.

Pre-ride Support

Everyone has their own reasons for signing up for challenges like this. In my case, it was as a key part of my training for a larger event – the Deloitte Ride Across Britain (more on that in a future post!) which takes place next month.

During the months and weeks before the ride, we were sent training plans, ride details, kit lists, and motivational emails regularly by the excellent Threshold Sports – the company behind the event. Following the advice in these emails gives everyone the best possible chance of completing the challenge.

For me, as it was part of training for the RAB, the distance wasn’t overly onerous, but the multi day aspect of the event – including the camping and base camp routine – would surely be great preparation.

My Ride Day 1

Having left my house at 5:15am to catch the first tube across London, I arrived at Peruvian Wharf – bright and early on a cold but thankfully dry morning. The forecast had been for rain all weekend, it was a relief of at least starting in the dry, and hopefully a sign of things to come.

Once registered – a painless process that took a matter of seconds – I received my event wrist band which assigned me to the ‘yellow’ group for the weekend. This colour indicates where you should drop you luggage and also which zone your tent is in at the overnight base camp. With luggage dropped, last minute bike fettling done, it was time to leave.

We lined up at the start and waiting to be set off – the start is staggered with a group setting off every 5 minutes or so. This ensures that the roads don’t get flooded with enormous groups of cyclists and also staggers the arrival at the pit stops on the route.

We set off on the roads of East London a little after 7:45 for an relatively uninspiring few miles as we struggled to free ourselves from the grip of London. Town riding, traffic lights and roundabouts litter the first 20 miles or so of the ride, but thankfully with light traffic due to the early start.

Riding the MITIE London Revolution

All of the urban riding is soon forgotten though once you breach the M25 and enter the picturesque Essex lanes. Surrounded by woods, parkland and green space, you are truly free of the shackles of London. Soon you are riding through the beautiful Epping Forest as you criss-cross the artery like motorways and major A-roads leading into the City.

The first 40 miles pass very quickly, and end with the first feed station. Well stocked with flapjacks, crisps, Cadbury’s chocolate and water it’s a welcome break from the saddle. The nervousness that was evident at the start of the ride has been replaced with excitement and the feed stop is a-buzz with people talking about their ride so far.

Mechanics stop station

Leaving the feed stop you are back into open country, and soon crossing the River Lea and on your way into the Chilterns – a truly stunning corner of the London outskirts. Things got noticeably hillier here, and as this is my normal training ground, I started to recognise bits of the route. The second feed station comes after a couple of big hills in the grounds of a large old school. As it was around lunchtime by the time most people reached this stop – at 74 miles – the presence of sandwiches along with the usual sugary fare was very welcome.

The home straight to the overnight stop at Windsor Racecourse was dispatched in a blur – we managed to average well over 20mph for this section – and soon we were welcomed into arms of the base camp with over 100 miles covered in a little over 6 hours riding time.

The Base Camp

The base camp was buzzing when we arrived despite there being very few riders back, and we were guided to the secure racking where we were to leave out bikes – the exact place to leave you bike is guided by the colour of your wrist band making it much easier to find among the hundreds of bikes!

Bikes racked up

Bikes racked it was time to be assigned a tent for the night. The tents are pre-erected by the Threshold team in neat rows, again divided by coloured zone. I picked up my inflatable sleeping mat and my luggage and put it in the tent before seeing about the important elements of the evening – a complimentary sports massage and a much needed shower.

Getting in reasonably early meant no queue for either of these facilities, and I was massaged and clean within about an hour of arriving at camp. The massage was excellent and helped with my stiff upper back no end. The showers were plentiful, hot and powerful and the perfect way to refresh.

Riders were arriving thick and fast now, and it was great to watch people cross the line, a lot having cycled the furthest that they ever had on a bike. The joy on peoples faces is a wonderful sight.

Soon it was time for dinner – a mighty fine spread served in the grandstands – and to relax with a beer in the chillout tent. The camaraderie of shared experience was evident everywhere you looked, and the atmosphere in camp was superb.

dinner time

Tired, and aware that I still had 90 miles to cover on day two, I retired to bed at about 9:15 for a surprisingly good nights sleep in my tent.

My Ride Day 2

The morning begun with a 6am alarm to give myself plenty of time to eat a good breakfast and get my things packed and back on the luggage truck for onwards travel to the finish. Breakfast was superb with a range of cooked items along with healthier options, and set me up well for the day ahead.

Tents at the London Revolution

Again we were greeted with glorious sunshine, and even a bit of warmth in the sun. I could tell, this was going to be a good day!

Day 2 was a ride around the south side of London, visiting Surrey and the scene of the Olympic Road Race at Box Hill before heading back into London via Crystal Palace and the Hearne Hill velodrome. We were told that the distance had been extended a bit today due to some road closures which had increased the distance by a a few miles. The route is fully signed so there’s no need to worry about getting lost, it really is a massive feat of logistics signing such a long route around such a big area!

There were 3 rest stops on day two, coming at 24 miles, 48 miles and around 75 miles which broke up the ride a bit more than on day one which was certainly welcome. The route down to Box Hill is through the stunning Surrey countryside and – as with most of the route – avoids the typical main routes to give you the best cycling experience possible.

Climbing box hill

The climb up Box Hill is one of my favourites, you just have to find a rhythm at the bottom and you can spin all the way to the top without any great trouble. Most people chose to stop at the top of Box Hill for a chat and to catch their breath before heading onwards towards the second feed stop.

Break for a sandwhich at London Revolution

The second feed stop again provided sandwiches as well as a range of sugar laden energy giving food and gave people a good opportunity to stop and chat before the final push back up into London.

After a few more stiff climbs, it wasn’t long before the magnetic pull of London reclaimed us as we made our way through South London towards Crystal Palace. Having climbed the traffic heavy and seemingly endless Amerly Hill into Crystal Palace, we chose to take an impromptu rest stop at the wonderful Cadence Performance for a well earned coffee and a piece of cake. The push back into Central London saw more traffic and potholed roads, but also saw us ride around Herne Hill and across Tower Bridge and along one of Boris’ Cycle Superhighways back towards Peruvian Wharf.

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Crossing the finish line was a lovely moment with plenty of people applauding our efforts. We were presented with a lovely medal and goody bag before collecting our luggage and setting off home with nearly 200 miles covered and a massive sense of achievement.

Want to ride next year?

I have no doubt that I’ll be signing up to next years event – the experience and organisation were second to none – and it bodes really well for the Ride Across Britain in a few weeks which is organised by the same team. If you’re riding something like the RAB or undertaking a big challenge, then the London Revolution really is a great preparation event. If it’s your main focus then it also presents and excellent challenge of endurance.

If you think you’d like to ride next year, and to be the first to hear about next years event you can register interest at http://www.london-revolution.com/register-interest/

Footnotes and thanks

Thank you very much to Threshold for covering the cost of my overnight camping – I registered for the riding aspect event at my own cost but intended to stay elsewhere – the base camp experience really made the event for me.

If you rode the event this year, Threshold Sports are keen to hear your feedback. As such they have produce an survey for participants which you can find at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/MITIERevolutionposteventquestionnaire

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13 Responses to Riding the MITIE London Revolution

  1. Joel Levitt 22/05/2013 at 3:27 pm #

    I also completed the ride and agree with pretty much all you’ve said here… would definitely recommend it for anyone cyclists out there and even if you do it on your own (like i did) everyone was really accommodating to ride in a bunch or chat along the way.

    • Sam 22/05/2013 at 3:29 pm #

      Glad to hear you had as good a time as I did Joel. The friendly atmosphere was really outstanding as you say!

      • Joel Levitt 22/05/2013 at 3:37 pm #

        Haven’t heard a bad word about it yet (apart from cursing when halfway up the hill)

  2. Rachel Taylor 22/05/2013 at 4:08 pm #

    The second day was really tough and you had to have your whits about you cycling back into London.The distance on day 2 was more like eighty eight miles which was a shock.I t was a great weekend though and I was so proud to get to the finish line.

  3. Matt 22/05/2013 at 6:27 pm #

    Sounds good but I must admit I was put off by the music festival cost for the camping. Difficult to get an unbiased view if you didn’t have to pay yourself but I’m interested to see if other riders thought it represented value for money.

    • Simon Wilcox 23/05/2013 at 9:54 am #

      I paid full price for this year’s Revolution including the overnight.

      In my experience the organisation was excellent and it’s easy to see when the money went. It was perhaps a little on the steep side but the facilities were great, including the complimentary massage and decent, hot showers (worth that price alone to be honest!). There was good quality food and plenty of it.

      But I think the best part was the intangible “we’re all part of this together” that I don’t think I would have got if I’d stayed outside the camp. I don’t know how you put a price on that.

  4. Alan Moore 23/05/2013 at 10:18 am #

    How much is the entry, camping etc.? Seems odd to miss that off entirely, even if Sam got a freebie.

    • Simon Wilcox 23/05/2013 at 10:24 am #

      For now it’s still up at http://www.london-revolution.com/the-ride/pricing/

      MITIE London Revolution incl. overnight: £169
      MITIE London Revolution excl. overnight: £78
      MITIE London North (single day): £39
      MITIE London South (single day): £39

      The overnight stay was therefore £91 which is a bit pricey but did include showers, dinner, bed and breakfast as well as evening entertainment (although I was too tired to really partake of that and sacked out at 21:15! There was a film and the bars were open until 22:00)

      • Alan Moore 23/05/2013 at 10:26 am #

        Well done Simon, thanks!

    • Sam 23/05/2013 at 1:48 pm #

      Sorry Alan, I meant to include the costs but it completely slipped my mind with the other details!

  5. Pawel Chalacis 24/05/2013 at 11:14 am #

    I’ve been there. Great weekend! I’ve done my piece of report here: http://50bpm.com/362-km-long-weekend-london-revolution-event-report

    Do you know of any other events that are similar to London Revolution that are going to happen this year?

  6. Skippy 25/05/2013 at 9:40 am #

    In past years i have ridden more than half the Tour de France for the W/end price ! Guess the organisers rely on the desire of people to want to interact , to justify the 91 quid accom price ?
    Guess it keeps out those on a budget !

    Having covered many of those areas during the London Olympics , i can recommend people get out on their bikes and visit those areas . Well worth the effort and you can choose your routes to avoid the traffic and hassle of coping with having to overtake groups of other riders.

    One of the problems i discover , regularly , is that people tend to bunch up across the road rather than ride in 2 files . During the Giro , with the Bank Med. rides , people would bunch around Moser or Motta and oncoming drivers would get a shock as they roared around blind corners .

  7. Barton 28/05/2013 at 3:12 pm #

    Loved the write up. (I was very excited to see what looks like a cyclist of the female persuasion in the last photo. I know, sounds weird, as I know we are out there, but we rarely seem to be in the money shots.)

    Re: the camping thing. Is it typical on the multi-day sportives to be able to have the tent already set up for you, so all you need to do is occupy it? Not even take it down? I ask b/c I am doing a 5-day cycle event for MS in July. Camping was an option, but you had to bring your own and were responsible for its set up/take down. And of course, the equipment would be counted against your luggage allotment (& w/o access to washer when camping, you really need more space for more clothing). The last thing I want to do after 80+ miles in the saddle is set up my tent (especially since it’ll probably rain – it always rains when I go camping). So, I am shelling out the funds for hotels/b&bs/etc along the route.

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