London-Edinburgh-London 2022

Location: Debden, Loughton, UK

The 2021 edition of LEL was postponed by a year (due to COVID-19, of course), and is now schedule to start on August 7 - finishing on August 12. There is a four-day option, to make the challenge even harder. The route is 1550km (963 miles), starting and finishing at Debden in north London; the northern-most point is Dunfermline (north of Edinburgh, over the Forth Bridge). I've plotted the 2022 LEL route (based on a 4-day schedule) to give myself a guide of hilliness and where facilities are located.

Are you riding the event too, or helping out along the route? Let me know in the comments below! If you're riding, what sort of schedule are you planning? Hare or tortoise?

Schedule

The 125 hour option is 5 days + 4hrs and would mean almost 200 miles per day, whereas the 100 hour option is 4 days + 4hrs at around 230 miles per day. The big thing to decide is whether to be a hare or a tortoise, ie, ride faster and stop at night, or ride slower and keep the sleeps to a minimum.

Personally, I'm a hare. I should be able to manage the 100-hour target as I've ridden much more than 230 miles in a single day - but not back to back for four days, so the name of the game here is pacing. I'll aim to ride a fair bit slower than previous big-mile days, but still allow myself a solid 5 hours of sleep each night. If it goes to plan I'll be able to sleep at Malton (north of Hull), Dunfermline, and Malton again on the return leg. Oh, the 100-hour start is also at the Guildhall in central London, adding around 20km to the first day!

Unless I'm "selected" as a fast rider then I won't be allocated a 5am start automatically, and will instead be given anything between then and 1pm. A 1pm start would mean only 9 hours of riding on the first day, getting me as far as Louth. The next days would be Moffat, Barnard Castle and Spalding. So there'd be an extra overnight rest in there, but I would still reasonably expect to finish within the 100 hours.

I will be using a power meter (and possibly a heart-rate monitor) to gauge my efforts, in particular to make sure that I'm not working too hard - especially in the first few hours of each day's riding. The big number to watch is power, but I shall also make sure that my cadence is nice and high, and that my "stroke energy" is nice and low. An HRM gives interesting data regarding stress on the cardiovascular system, but on the road it is influenced too much by things like digestion and air temperature to be monitored closely.

Ride companions

Basically, I'll be riding solo. I am however expecting (and hoping) to "buddy up" here and there throughout the journey as paths coincide. Whilst perfectly happy riding solo for long periods of time, I think that some informal companionship will help to break any spells of monotony.

Equipment

For maximum comfort and diversity of riding positions, I shall be on a road bike. So that's drop handlebars and a regular saddle, but with SPD pedals so that I can also walk normally when needed. I shall also fit clip-on aero bars, to give me increased efficiency on the flat stretches of the route. I'm well used to time trialing, and have never suffered back issues on the tri-bars, and in fact find that it is a more relaxing way to rest my upper body.

I will carry a water bottle and a mini thermos flask in two regular bottle carriers, and will also have use a small bag on top of the top-tube to carry snacks. Despite intending on traveling light, I will most likely need to use a bike-packing saddlebag for tools and spare clothes.

Clothing

I'm expecting considerable variations in conditions throughout the ride, so layers are everything. Base layer, short-sleeved jersey, gilet, shorts, arm-armers, leg-warmers and mitts will be my standard attire, plus a rain jacket & full-fingered gloves to hand if necessary. I probably won't bother with overshoes, but may carry a spare pair of socks. I'll have spare base layers, jerseys, shorts, socks and gloves in my drop bags, and maybe a spare pair of shoes in one of them.

Electronics

A big problem nowadays is how to keep the plethora of electronic gadgets charged up! I could go for a hub dynamo and be guaranteed of a power source, but that means a new wheel and does offer some drag on the ride. Also, I don't intend to do any night riding, so will be able to charge things up at my overnight stops. I may well carry battery packs with me, charging devices with them on the move where possible, and just charge them up overnight. This plan should work as long as my drop bags contain mains USB chargers.

My on-bike devices are:

  • iPhone
  • Garmin
  • Front camera
  • Front light
  • Rear light

Preparation

I'm not a stranger to day-long rides and to multi-day pacing, but not this volume of riding in a matter of days. So I have a bit of a plan to build up to the big event in August. There will be a steady diet of 200km audaxes of course, with the odd 300 and 400 thrown in as the daylight increases. I also plan to do a 600 in June. (I'd like to do a 600 in mid-July, but can't see a suitable one on the calendar.)

The LEL Organisation

For official information, head over to the LEL website. It's also important that enough people step forward to volunteer, so please see how you can help!

Getting advice

There's a dedicated section for LEL 2022 on yacf, plus chat about an unofficial route.

The official forum is the London Edinburgh London group on Facebook. Lots of interesting posts and questions, including information from the LEL organisers.

Previous experiences

To get some idea of what it's like to ride LEL, I've been reading back-issues of Arrivee. The Autumn 2017 edition and Autumn 2013 edition feature some good stories.

Grant Farm has an LEL 2021 route check when he rode the official route in 2021 after the event was postponed by a year. It's a great read, and gives good insights into surviving the big miles day after day.


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