A Review of The London to Brighton 2017 Bike Ride

2 women cycling on beach

Nailing Ditchling Beacon on a heavy tandem (again)

By Jude Brosnan

This is a ride review of the British Heart Foundation's London to Brighton Bike Ride on 19th June 2017 (the hottest day of the year). Some vital stats:

  • Number of bananas consumed: 4
  • Number of people hilariously shouting “SHE’S NOT PEDDLING ON THE BACK”: 15
  • Number of hills we walked up: 0
  • Bike: a Viking Timber Trail Tandem with a loaded Ortleib pannier on the back

My friend Chandni and I have been riding tandems together for three years so we’ve pretty much got it down. The British Heart Foundation's London to Brighton Bike Ride was a breeze. We had no issues. The British Heart Foundation organise the ride so well, they’ve been doing it for years and have perfected it. They provide marshals along the way so there is no navigation involved, most of it is on closed roads and when it is not they make drivers drive at 10mph with hazard lights on.


There are 15 official rest and refreshment stops and lots of additional pubs along the route open for riders to use. People gave us lots of room (Chandni wears a hi-vs vest that says ‘Caution Blind Cyclist’), we had no technical issues and we finished with lots of energy. We had saved up all our gossip so we had plenty to talk about after the ride.


Someone once told me that at the bottom of Ditchling Beacon, you are only half way. It’s a tough climb. It’s just under a mile and the average gradient is 9% with it reaching 16%. Lots of people walk their bikes up but the tandem is too heavy so we had no choice but to cycle. 


I reassured Chandni that it was no big deal if we couldn’t do it, but she wasn’t having any of it and we powered through. I'd like to say it was down to technique and fitness but mostly stubbornness played a huge part.


You see, I have history with Ditching Beacon. My late father was the world’s worst person to buy presents for. Whatever you gave him he’d say, “You shouldn’t have wasted your money.” If we tried to replace something of his that was worn and old he’d say, “Mine is perfectly good” and defiantly cover it in duct tape “SEE!” I gave up buying him presents at a young age which he was thrilled about.


In 2012, on his last Father’s Day, Chandni and I did the ride on a tandem for the 1st time and much like 2017, we nailed Ditchling Beacon. After cruising downhill I called him and said we cycled up Ditchling Beacon on a massive tandem, in dresses, going past lots of Lycra cyclists walking their bikes. My dad loved it. He could go and say “guess what my girl did?” That cost nothing.


Something about cycling to beach means I have to eat fish and chips and get in the sea at the end. The next day all that hurt was my sunburned nose. Also, maximum respect to the Chelsea Pensioner who had his whole crew came down to Brighton to meet him at the finish line.


Jude Brosnan is a keen cyclist who regularly pilots tandems with visually impaired stokers.