"London Edinburgh London (also known as LEL) is a 1500km self-supported cycle ride across the United Kingdom, between the iconic capital cities of England and Scotland. London Edinburgh London is not a race, but you have only 125 hours to make your way up to Edinburgh and back to London. It is a test of your mental and physical resilience."
Days blur, you ride day and night between each control where you can eat and drink, shower if you need, and rest for as long as you dare.
You need to manage your time at controls, sorting through bags, using the bathroom, queuing, eating and drinking, resting, refilling water bottles, applying suncream, using drop bags, repacking, staring vacantly into space etc.
The clock does not stop.
In 2022, due to extra distance and climbing required by last minute roadworks, the completion time for the event was extended to 128 hours and 20 minutes.
Three years ago, I lost a load of weight walking thousands of steps daily over a six-month period to shed a considerable middle age spread and to have a healthier lifestyle.Looking for ways to keep the weight off, my wife suggested joining the local cycling club. So in early 2020, having only cycled recreationally when young, and commuted occasionally to and from work on a single speed later in life, I bought a road bike and joined New Malden Velo, one of the friendliest clubs in London.
In that time, I have improved from wondering how I would cope with 100km club rides, to doing a 540km extended Lon Las Cymru ride in 2020, to completing a DIY 1000km London-St David's-London relaxed 7-day tour last year.
Watching a spate of endurance films recently, including the amazing Barkley Marathons, made me wonder where my own limits were, was I still as soft as I was when a teenager?When I stumbled upon the YouTube film of the 2013 LEL by MadeGood films, it seemed an appropriately sized challenge, large enough but with the real possibility of failure. I put my name into the ballot, it seemed like a good idea. Alcohol has that effect.
No one was more surprised than me when the organisers announced that this year all applicants would be eligible to ride.
Food and water.
From what I've read online most issues appear due to dehydration. Tiredness and the ability to process food, and therefore produce energy, are affected with even slight dehydration, so I carry two 1L water bottles, one of them containing a carbohydrate and electrolyte product, and try to consume 500ml per hour minimum.
With food I try and get 300 calories into me every hour, usually in the form of a bar. I wasn't sure the event food would be sufficient to get me between controls, so I carried bars with me, and stocked my drop bags full as well. I didn't consume any gels, mainly because I forgot to pack any!
The food provided by the controls was very good. I didn't go with any expectations so wasn't too disappointed when one control only provided cereal going north and south (looking at you Malton) and was sometimes pleasantly surprised. With 1500 riders to contend with and random arrival times it was no wonder food was sometimes not as plentiful as suggested. I didn't have any real issues; the volunteers did an amazing job.
Bike: Giant TCR Advanced 2, Wheels: BORG50C Carbon Clinchers, Pedals: Hope F20 Platform Pedals, Shoes: Five Ten Freerider Pro, Rear bag: Tailfin AeroPack S, Front bag: Craft Cadence Bar Bag, Aerobars: Profile Design Sonic Ergo 35a.
Weight including food, 2L water and small camera - a heavy 19kg.
Did I carry too much? Yes. The camera and camera batteries could have gone for a start, I found I didn't have the energy to take as many proper photos as I wanted, my phone camera did a reasonable job and I used that most of the time. The Tailfin is great, but weight could possibly have been saved using a seat pack.
The aerobars and risers weigh a bit as well, but I wouldn't have been without them. They allowed me to rest my hands and shoulders, go faster downhill and into the wind, and I could also use them to leverage my body slightly off the saddle, reducing saddle pain somewhat.
I used all the clothing I took, but nothing in the bike repair department as I didn't run into any issues. I'm not a gambling man so probably no weight to be saved there.
Mudguards weren't needed in the heatwave as there wasn't a drop of rain, but they did protect the paintwork from asphalt and stones worked loose in the baking heat.
Any more events like this and I'll probably rebuild my front wheel with a dynamo setup.
Looking back at the past six months I cycled ten 150-250km rides including the Dunwich Dynamo, the 300km Amesbury Amble audax, the 600km Wander Wye audax, two additional night rides with The Fridays, and reasonably paced club rides most Sundays.
I could have done a load more riding but the above worked for me, especially the two long audax's. Until you ride lengths over 200km you don't realise what you are getting away with on club rides, not taking enough water or food doesn't impact much, and any bike fit issues hide away. Over 200km and they all rear their head. That's the point of training, find the issues and deal with them so when you come to the main event you are as problem free as possible. I'd like to think I did all my homework, rather than just being lucky.
I slept for approximately 14 hours total over the five-day event. I think I managed it well enough having never put myself through sleep deprivation to anywhere near that extent before. I typically slept at controls after midnight for 2-3 hours with power naps during the day.
For me, 5 minutes head down on the handlebars gave me enough rest to dispel the dozies and carry on for another hour. A twenty-minute power nap under a tree, on a grass verge day or night, or at a control let me carry on for a few hours.
Only at one control were there insufficient beds, I did manage to get a blanket though, so sleep that night was amongst a few others on a wooden floor in a busy hallway. Tiredness and wax earplugs helping me to get at least some rest.
Photos I didn't get.
A photo of Chris from South London, we rode together for a few stages and kept bumping into each other.
Riders resting/snoozing by the side of the road under shade during the hot days.
Riders stopped in their tracks with heads resting on their handlebars.
Didn't see any of the velomobiles on route, would have loved to get a shot of them in action.
The guy on the fatbike.
Riders littered throughout small towns in the dead of the night, sleeping on benches and grass verges.
The state of bathrooms at some Controls. You're welcome.
Trails of red lights snaking away up into the hills.
The happiness and encouragement displayed by everyone at the controls, from volunteers cheering on each rider, to volunteers doing the least desirable jobs. 750 volunteers all happy to provide aid and I barely got a shot of any of them.
There was no better way to complete the ride than with a massive hug from my wife and kids back at Debden.
With 35 minutes spare under the original 125 hour time limit, no bike issues, and no serious health issues (we won't mention the grass verge, the truck and the narrow downhill blind bend) it couldn't have gone a lot better. One totally chuffed cyclist!
Time allowed: 128 hours, 20 minutes
Time taken: 124 hours, 25 minutes.
Total distance: 1536km.
Total climb: 13,560m.
Riders registered: 1900
Provisional rider completion rate: 60%