Location: Debden, Loughton, UK
London-Edinburgh-London is a 1500km audax with maximum time limits of 125 hours (for most riders) or 100 hours (for a few faster riders). For 2022, everyone set off on Sunday August 7th, at scheduled intervals between 5am and 4pm. There were 20 controls along the way, at 13 different locations; the routes north and south were similar, but with some control point differences.
Looking for notes that I made prior to the ride? Head over to the event page for LEL 2022!
There was an official "real-time" live-tracker at londonedinburghlondon.com/ridertracking used by a great many riders, but I eschewed that in favour of a home-brewed tracker on my smartphone. You can see that at cycling.routes.fun/dotwatch/LEL-2022.
Drop bags One drop bag (Malton) was fine, and I was able to bring most of the contents back with me on the way home. I ditched a temperamental battery pack and an un-needed pair of flip-flops.
Sleeping I managed to get a very good, deep sleep every night (3.5 - 5 hrs). This was probably really helped by me being ahead of the "bulge", so the controls were very quiet. A sleep sack was a last-minute addition to my luggage, and I reckon that this also really helped with my sleep as I could cover my face with it.
Clothing My minimal supply was adequate, given the good weather; much colder or having any rain, and I think this would have been a problem.
Nutrition The food and drink at controls was great, and easily sufficient for my needs. I actually spent almost no money! Even the largest distances between controls (over 100km) were not enough for me to make any mid-way stops. The mini thermos flask & water bottle were perfect for hydration when cycling.
Devices My electronics (phone, Garmin, lights, camera) all behaved themselves, and I was able to charge things up at USB ports at the night-time stops. I did use my Qi battery pack to charge the phone beside me at night.
Skin care The Vaseline "lip therapy" that I took with me was great for keeping my lips, nose and seat area from getting sore or dry. I took deep heat and anti-inflammatory gel, but didn't need to use either.
Pacing The first day and a half of riding in a group was stressful; I do prefer riding solo on long rides, as it is healthier for me to manage my own pace. From Monday afternoon onwards I rode on my own, and found it much easier to tap out the miles. It had been good to get an extra control done in the first day (whilst in a small group), but the night riding was unpleasant.
Bike configuration I didn't bother with mudguards - which turned out to be a good decision, but could have backfired. Putting new tyres on was definitely a good decision! However, I lazily didn't replace the rear gear cable before the ride; it didn't break but the fear of it breaking was preying on my mind every time that I had to crunch it down into bottom gear! The ride certainly involved a lot of gear changing...
Dot-watching There were a few people watching my progress on my own dot-watcher app (where I needed to manually tag my location at convenient intervals), and they commented how easy it was to check in on me. I also found it easy to update my location, and rarely found myself out of range of mobile data. I'll definitely be using this for future events!
Pre-ride preparation I was happy with the volume of cycling I got in prior to the event, mostly DIY audaxes and with a few calendar events for the longer distances. Not sure that attending a beer-fest on the Friday, or spending all day Saturday on my feet shifting drop-bags at the Debden HQ, were ideal preparation for the ride, but all effects seemed to have worn off by Sunday.
Here is my ride on Strava. Note that Strava actually claims that I burnt over 34000kCal, which equates to over 8500kCal per day. No wonder I wanted to eat all the time!
Ride on 2022-08-07 04:00:04, at
1538km in 59:26:30
|Average speed||25.9 kmh|
|Max speed||74.5 kmh|
|Average heart rate||123 bpm|
|Average power||146 Watts|
|Elevation gain||15029 metres|
By the way, my Orro Terra is around 4 years old now, done quite a few miles, but going strong. I bought it locally from Dr Wheelgood in North Walsham, and the owner Tom Hill has helped me to keep it well maintained over the years. My advice? Buy local if you possibly can!
Other equipment used: Kinetic K1 wheels; Vittoria Rubino Pro G2.0 28mm tyres; Prime J-bend aero bars (very cheap, but good); Shimano SPD pedals & Fizik X5 Terra shoes; Apidura Expedition top tube bag; Blackburn seat pack.
After a 4am alarm I drove down to Debden in readiness for a day of volunteering. Tim Decker was in charge of the show but kept involvement light-touch amongst the various teams. I was in the bag-drop team, and had an enjoyable time working with several people (Martin, Paul, Lene, Cristina... other names escape me!) to get filled-up drop bags checked, scanned in and piled up. We were fairly busy all day and had the occasional small queue, but were never rushed off our feet! That evening I went for an hour or so's spin along the start of the LEL route, cutting across to the east and coming home on the LEL finish route. I figured that a bit of familiarity here wouldn't hurt, and it was good to stretch the legs a bit after a day of standing around and heaving bags!
I was in the first group off at 5am. There were 50 or so of us, and we rode in a fairly large group for the first couple of hours, forming smaller groups in the fenland dash to St Ives and then Boston. After Boston we were much more thinned out (I was in a group of three or four), and during the stretch from Hessle to Malton I settled into a group of four: Ken, Dave and Lee. During that time we agreed that progress was good enough for us to continue on to Barnard Castle that evening, but when we set off we found ourselves in a group of around 8 or 9. As the sun set I found myself getting mesmerised by flashing red lights, but with the twisty poor quality back roads I did appreciate the extra front light power coming from fellow riders. It was a very slow 110km to Barnard Castle with lots of sharp climbs and descents, and I was very glad to reach the control around 1:30am as the night chill started to get into me.
Our little group agreed to a late wake-up of 5am (which still only gave us less than 4 hours sleep), and I woke up reluctantly but having slept deeply. We set off slowly into the Pennines (initially with Aaron, but he wasn't happy riding at our pace up the climbs) and pushed on nicely over the double peaks and through Alston. Mild weather with sunshine and a light wind made the going pleasant, and we kept working well as we reached Scotland. I was however getting increasingly mentally fatigued with all of the stress of group riding, and had the lucidity to reach a decision of riding solo from then on. I felt rude as I bid my brief farewells to my comrades, but immediately knew that this was the right thing to do as I was able to concentrate fully on my pace and my body's needs.
As I was riding alone I started thinking about the previous day, and realised that I'd been eating much more than I should have done - just because the food was free! So I resolved to eat only according to need. On reaching Dunfermline in the early evening I had a small meal, downed a wee dram of whisky, stuffed a roll into my back pocket and set off for the next stop - Innerleithen. I didn't have a route to hand to avoid Edinburgh (to avoid evening crowds and save some time), so swallowed that pill and found myself rolling into the hills south of the Scottish capital as darkness fell. I had to put my rain jacket on to stay warm, and progress slowed down, but I reached the control safely a bit before midnight. I think I went straight to bed and had another great night's sleep!
I was back on the road around 5am, a bit chilly but enjoying the rising sun in a clear sky. Eskdalemuir was a welcome stop for a small second breakfast, and I pushed on strongly in the rolling hills. I started greeting riders heading north as I re-entered England, and it was at Brampton that I encountered my first properly busy control. Not wishing to queue for food, I grabbed a flapjack, filled my bottles and scarpered - hopefully just enough to get me back over the Pennines!
Well, the two big climbs in the Pennines were hard work (and involved a brief stop at the St John Chapel pop-up cafe), but I managed it and enjoyed a big refuelling at Barnard Castle. Pushing on to Malton, I collected the rest of my stuff from my drop bag, refuelled a bit more and got to Hessle with only a bit of night riding.
With another good night's sleep, I got up fairly fresh for another 5am start and enjoyed the short ride to Louth in the Lincolnshire Wolds. After that I knew that there was just a bit more climbing before the much more manageable Fens - and the weather was great! With a brief stop at Boston I had a blast over to St Ives (and the wind even managed a bit of tailwind) and pushed on steadily through Cambridge to Gt Easton. The only problem was that my feet had started to hurt in the heat (it was around 30 degrees by midday), so I was stopping occasionally to soak them. At Great Easton I really did soak them - and thanks to the volunteers there for supplying bucket and sponges for a nice cold shower! After that I wound the effort down and just enjoyed rolling around the quiet lanes on the run-in to the finish. By the end I felt tired but physically in pretty good shape.