Top 5 Beginner Tips to Train for London to Brighton Bike Ride
Cycling the 54 miles from London to Brighton is a brilliant, challenging and completely rewarding day out on the bike, but it can seem pretty daunting. For a beginner rider, it can seem almost impossible. But I’m here to tell you that it’s not impossible. With a little bit of training, some handy tips and the right mindset, you can (and will) cycle from London to Brighton!
“Easy for you to say” you might be thinking. You’d be right; it is easy for me to say - because I’ve led countless beginner group rides from London to Brighton, watching hundreds of beginner riders all completing the route and enjoying the ride. Was it always easy for them? No. Is Ditchling Beacon really hard? Yes. Did they feel a huge sense of achievement posing for pictures in front of Brighton Pier? You bet they did! Below are my top 5 beginner tips for training for the BHF London to Brighton Bike Ride:
1. Ride your bike. As much as you can
Sounds way too simple to be true, but the best way to get better at riding your bike, is to ride your bike! This definitely applies to getting out at the weekend for as long a ride as you can (ideally over 2 hour), but it also applies to commuting and riding to the shops. If your commute to work is 5 miles each way, then that equates to 50 miles a week Monday to Friday. That’s basically the ride distance every week. And don’t let anyone tell you these miles don’t count; they definitely do!
Whilst you don’t necessarily need to set yourself a target of hours ridden per week, the more you ride in the run up to the event the better you’ll feel on the day. Two hazards to watch out for here are ‘over training’ and being too hard on yourself if you miss a ride or session. It’s important that you build up your mileage and don’t do too much too soon (high cause of injury) and make sure you rest between big rides and hard efforts. Training too hard can see you not make it to the start line, let alone the finish line. And don’t beat yourself up if you miss a ride. Life gets in the way, and stressing about missing a ride will only demotivate you. Don’t be hard on yourself, adjust your plans and make the session up. Remember it’s supposed to be fun.
2. Join a group or club
By far and away the easiest and quickest way to improve your fitness, bike handling and enjoyment is by riding with other people. There are so many positives from group riding to improve and encourage your training, but it will also keep you safer and happier on the day. Riding with thousands of other people during the event will be a lot easier if you’ve been riding with other people in your training.
Not only will you push yourself harder in group training, but you will go further and explore more because you have the safety of the group to fall back on. Therefore your training rides will be more worthwhile and more fun. You’ll also learn new things from the other members of the group and make some friends along the way. Finding clubs or groups is also easy these days; either Google your local cycling group, or you can also join a specific London to Brighton training group ride.
3. Practise with your kit/nutrition
There is an age old saying that goes ‘never change anything on race day’ and it is incredibly true for an event like the London to Brighton bike ride. This applies to kit (don’t buy a brand new pair of shorts before the event), nutrition, and even what you have for breakfast before on the big day. If you’ve been eating porridge for breakfast before all your training rides, why would you then go and have a full English on event day?
Practise in the kit your going to use on the day, and train with the nutrition bars, energy gels and even water bottles you’re going to use for the event. A small change to your regime on the day can play havoc with your performance, and often drive you mad during the event. Imagine putting a brand new jersey on for the event, and then 5 miles in it starts to itch? You’ve only got to put up with it for another 49 miles. I’m sure you’ll be fine!
4. Look after your bike
Look after your bike. It is actually one of the easier tips to stick to, and can really optimise your performance. The best news is you don’t actually have to do that much! But, forget to maintain your trusty machine, and you could suffer the worst end to an otherwise glorious day - the mechanical DNF. You’ve trained hard, got your prep right and are feeling good, but due to a mechanical error your bike and you can’t make it to the finish. This is one of the cruelest ways to end a bike ride.
However it is easily avoided with a little maintenance. Staying true to tip number three, I’m not saying you should replace a load of parts the day before the ride, rather regularly clean your bike to keep it in top tip shape. Aside from the fact that a clean bike is scientifically faster, it’ll make you feel more ‘pro’ and therefore more confident. Another great tip is to take your bike in for a service around two weeks before the event. They will identify any possible major mechanicals and fix them, and also tune your baby up to be ready for the big day.
5. Preparation, preparation, preparation
Preparation is the key to success. You’ve heard this before, but whether you’ve really thought about it to the full extent is another matter. Good preparation covers all of the things I’ve mentioned, but also the small things like laying your kit out the night before, packing your jersey pockets and getting a good night’s sleep.
Make sure you study the event details and prepare things like how you’re going to get there. You don’t want the added stress of rushing around, worrying you’re going to be late and possibly missing your start time. If you’ve trained hard then you don’t want a little thing like being late to ruin your day. Practise your pre ride meals as well - carb loading is the accepted pre ride ritual, but it doesn’t work for everyone. Practise your event day prep on one of your longer/harder training rides. Set everything up as you plan to do it on the ride day, and do a ‘dry run’. Any issues will be worked out here, rather than on the day. You don’t want any surprises!
The only extra piece of advice I can give is to look forward to the ride and prepare positively. Yes it’s daunting, but you’ve set yourself a goal, you’re raising much needed money for the British Heart Foundation. Not only that but you’re getting fitter and healthier whilst doing it. You might not beat any speed records on the day, but who cares about that - just signing up for the ride in the first place is more than most, and you should be proud of that fact.
Happy pedalling and enjoy the ride!
David, Dirty Wknd Cycling Club
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