home      my running story      races from the beginning      talk to me       product reviews      

Wednesday 17 May 2023

Ride London 100 2022: Still Got Lost & Jumping on the Pain Train & New Friends

There’s something about cycling events and absolutely horrific alarm clock times. Today’s alarm time was 0230hrs alarm. Dreadful.
I hadn’t wanted to leave my bike in a car next to the road all night, so I had to try and manoeuvre my bike and kit into the back of my car without waking up any of the neighbours or offending them with my creative swearing as I trapped my fingers in various painful ways.
I’d booked the car park at the last minute, so I was driving towards it hoping it wasn’t blocked by the multiple Ride London road closures. I had no clue what I would do then. I didn’t think Londoners took well to ancient Skodas dumped in their leafy streets very kindly. It would probably result in a massive fine as well as the arm and leg I was having to pay for Congestion Charge and Emission charges.
Luckily, the car park was easy to find and no road closures blocked me and even better, it
turned out that it was only a mile from the start of the ride. Easy peasy, right?
I parked up and dashed up to the car park kiosk. I clearly looked like I was about to dampen the concrete car park floor as the kindly car park man let me use his loo. Bonus. This also meant I could avoid the portaloos at the start. AND there was toilet paper. Today was starting well.
Bike set up and ready to go, I joined a gang of cyclists just leaving the underground car park to find the start. Hooray! Our adventure was starting! We all set off in a confident group only to find ourselves in a dead-end street. Who’s navigating here?? Someone should have been navigating? We all just follow each other, right?

We got ourselves turned around and headed back in the opposite direction and found a flow of cyclists, all numbered up heading in the same direction. Cycling over Westminster bridge at 0530hrs was amazing. London was so still and quiet and there was hardly a car in sight! Not even an Uber on the pavement with the hazard lights flashing! Weird.
Not like London at all. No horns beeping, footsteps on the pavements, noise from the speakers of the tourist buses or taxi drivers swearing! Peaceful and calm in the morning light except for the tick-tick-tick of bike wheels.

Navigation after the bridge was simple. The start was in Parliament Square, so I just needed to aim for Big Ben. Even I couldn’t miss that, right?

And neither could the other thousands of cyclists who were all tightly packed into the most enormous start funnel I’d ever seen. I got into the queue. And stopped. And stopped. And stopped. The funnel was about a mile long! Who would have thought it took so long to get people over a start line?

Finally, we were under Blackfriars bridge and the start gantry was in sight. But it was still another half an hour before we actually reached it. And of course, despite the preparation that everyone had, there were still people weaving around all over the place trying to clip in or stopping because they’d lost their friend or had dropped a snack and couldn’t possibly leave without it.

I went off like a rocket the first 10 miles but it was SO exciting. Gangs of cyclists flying past so I’d hop on a quick train of bikes and we’d all go off in a rush for a mile or so then we’d get split up going around people and the group would dissolve, so I’d hop on the next train. Brilliant fun.

The central London part passed quickly with all of the fun and excitement, but I did notice that the grey roads and underpasses were surprisingly hilly! I didn’t realise quite how bumpy London is - particularly the A12!

But before long we were out in the countryside between the high hedges and sunny fields of Essex. This year’s ride London Essex was deemed quite flat - it certainly didn’t have the Leith Hill or Box Hill of Ride London Surrey but there weren’t very many flat parts – it was quite rolling. No real hills but no flat bits either.

I popped in at the ‘Welfare Station’ at mile 30 for a water bottle top up. Well I hoped it was a drinks station … a ‘Welfare’ could mean anything from counselling to bandages to a cuddle with a dog! Luckily it was the drinks I’d hoped for so grabbed some hydration tablets and water. Was told “Ooh first woman!’ by an excited attendant but I said “Nope! Just the first woman that’s stopped!”
I hopped back on the bike and got the next few miles under my tyres.

There were a lot of marshals who had a range of different states of excitement for their jobs. There were sections where they were all on their phones and sitting disinterestedly on walls to parts where the marshals were more excited than the cyclists and cheering and shouting support to each rider! The enthusiastic marshals were a delight! You HAD to smile when someone cheered for you like this!
I stopped for a snack just after mile 40. Despite the large numbers in the sportive, there were large sections when I was cycling on my own and on absolutely clear roads without another cyclist. And that was boring. I could have ridden around Warwickshire for the same experience. And without a 0230hrs start!

I finished my snack – and my sulk - and hopped back onto my bike, but when I went to push off, a gang of about 200 bikes came past. And past. And past.
I waited and waited and waited for a space to pull out. It was like the A30 … but with more lycra.
Aid station at Mile 53, I parked the bike and went to refill my drinks bottle. It seemed a small aid station until I rounded the corner and there where tents and tents and gazebos of snack, bananas, gels and all sorts! Like a temporary cycling festival!
I grabbed some crisps and a banana and refilled the bottle and realised that my feet felt like ice. Despite the sunny start it was quite windy and the sky was cloudy. I took my shoes off and massaged my toes in an attempt to get some bloodflow back into them. Ouch! Cold feet are miserable.

I started chatting to a lady in the gazebo. This tiny little gazebo felt like the only spot in the entire aid station that was out of the wind. Her husband joined her and we talked bike for a bit. I mentioned I was on my own and was invited to join them.  I was delighted. I was bored of cycling on my own and some chat would make the miles go quicker. Thank you Caz and Stu. I rode with them for a bit and noticed their observations were really good. Always shoulder checked, checked before pulling in. So I asked them “Are you motorcyclists?” Turned out they both were. We chatted bike for a bit and talked about our favourite motorbiking routes. Wonderful! The miles flew past!

Caz had also recently returned from a cycling training camp in Spain which sounded tough but divine! Mountains and sunshine – bliss! Some inspiration for summer training! We had planned to stop at the 75 mile aid station but in the end we didn’t bother. It seemed so close to the finish so we scooted on past.

Stu led while Caz and I chatted for most of the ride. He was a very strong cyclist and the towing was much appreciated. I’d definitely had far too much fun at the start hopping on and off the quick trains and it hadn’t done me a lot of favours, leaving me with tired legs now! The houses were more crammed in together now and the roads and concrete were our scenery now, replacing the fields and hedges of Essex. And I knew we were back in London by the constant smell of weed.

We ticked over 100 miles and the finish line was nowhere in sight. Dammit. This had been sold to me as Ride London 100 … not 105 miles. Where’s my medal and snack?
Caz had been feeling super-strong at the end and went on ahead. Stu got a notification on his watch that she had crossed the line a little while before we reached it.

I hadn’t realised it but the finish for Ride London Essex this year was actually ON Tower Bridge. Wow! What an experience cycling across without worrying about the traffic and being surrounded by hundreds of enthusiastic cyclists!
101.9 miles and done!

Caz and I swapped phone numbers at the end with the plan to head out on the motorbikes. From one set of two wheels to another! I met up with my school friend Abi who had cycled one of the other London routes on a cargo bike! She lent a very stinky me her cardi, treated me to a ride along the Southbank and over Blackfriars bridge and a stop off at Gordon’s wine bar for a non-alcoholic wine.

The perfect end to a long day.
  • Look like you’re going to piss your pants and the attendant will let you use the loo
  • Cycling is more fun with friends
  • Wine always helps 


  1. Sounds fun Sarah & you always write 'fun stuff' 😆

    1. Thanks Mike! It definitely got better towards the end with friends! Couldn't have been too terrible as I've entered for next year too!! :)