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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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