Only do the rides that grab you by the guts and excite you, is my general rule. Which is why I don’t often find myself repeating old routes unless that feeling of twisting my stomach with joy and good-fear and making it hard to sleep is present. That’s the general idea, anyway. This was a route that had to be done over though, as similarly as the first time we did it, complete with gut-flipping feelings of excitement.
Last year Cynthia learned to cycle and it was a total joy to watch someone go from pedalling around East London’s Victoria Park, falling off when they scratched their nose, to a ride across London, and then blowing it all out of the water with the sixth bike lesson involving 60 miles from London to Brighton. What insane progress. And then she bought a bike (Blue, Claude Butler, second hand, from Hackney Wick’s Skinny Eric’s) and I found myself waking up to the happiest texts about punctures, pedestrians, the love and hate of a west-east cycle commutes, punctures, grease, short shorts, ’what is a roundabout,’ cycle lanes and cycling into a tree. Typical. It was brilliant. There’s a quick-fire video of it all here.
We’d finished last year’s London to Brighton saying we should do it again, on her own bike and having spent that year on the roads with all the confidence that comes with that. And so this year, celebrating Cynthia’s birthday, we realised it would nearly be a year since that first London to Brighton ride. Time for a do-over – Cynthia on her blue Claude Butler this time, instead of my old little yellow Tokyo Bike with its smaller sized wheels. And My-Ha and Chris doing it on single speeds.
We got ready. ish. Well, everyone else did.
The ride was basically a celebration the whole way. Loads of friends joined us, Cynthia wore her helpfully titled ‘Watch Out’ cap brought back from Keirin Berlin, and the weather rolled over and became some of the sunniest in ages so we all got the makings of cyclist tans.
As we rode up Ditching Beacon she mentioned that last year she’d struggled with the hill. For someone that can run a 100km race, that final hill before the endless open descent into Brighton was a new kind of obstacle. Last year she ran up the hill, pushing the bike up: ‘It was the first time I felt like there was something sporty I couldn’t do and I cried a bit up Ditching Beacon.’ This year, she whipped up to the top. I spent most of the ride feeling like a parent who finds themselves being thoroughly outrun by their kid. It was a fucking delight. Next year I assume she’ll do it on a carbon frame and speed there and back, stopping to meet us at the pub the rest of us have stopped for lunch at.
I’m so proud. And we had prosecco on the beach to celebrate. Here are some photos. This is the route we went, down a lot of cycle paths. It’s the exactly the same as the previous year we did it, but it’s a different route from the previous London to Brighton route I’ve shared. For one, it’s a Garmin route (I used my mobile last time) and it’s a lot more cycle path heavy which makes it nicer for newer cyclists. You’ll find yourself going alongside rivers for a bit of it. It’s a friendly route.