"I can't believe I'm here" - 54 miles from London to Brighton on a pedal bike...

Sally Leahy is one of our trustees. One week ago, she tackled the 54-mile London-Brighton Cycle with 14 other brave (and a tiny bit mad?!) people, who were all looking to achieve something remarkable and raise funds for our work too. This is her blow-by-blow account...

5.30am: Alarm went off and the whole idea of getting from my comfy bed in Islington to the pier in Brighton, by bike, seemed a little ludicrous, but I got up and set off anyway...

6.00am: Whizzed smugly past last night’s party go-ers returning to their beds looking a little worse for wear.

6.45am: Arrived at Clapham Common wondering whether the 7 miles that I had cycled to get there (more than my usual weekly amount of exercise) was enough to justify my sponsorship?

7.00am: Met up with the rest of the Choir with No Name gang, all looking fairly keen and ready to go the distance (54 miles). Was a little intimidated by the fact that Ian had actually got a plan for the ride including optimum speed and the pros and cons of his clear go-faster glasses, whilst I hadn’t even studied the route.

7.15am: Felt a bit more on a level when another member of 'Team CWNN' turned up on a borrowed bike with a cycling helmet that could only balance on his head because the strap had broken.

7.30am: Spent a lot of time procrastinating: going to the portaloos, filling water bottles, working out who was going to cycle with who, taking photos and generally putting off the inevitable.

Here's a bunch of us, posing for thte camera just before we set off:

8.10am: After the departure of Emma’s lovely friends, Emma (our London choir manager) herself, and choir members Dave and Carol, we set off in our little group of three: Jen (the Choir with No Name's amazing fundraiser), me, and South London choir member, JJ. We were already about an hour behind Ian!

8.50am: We were all glad to get out of the constant roundabouts and traffic lights of London and pass through Carshalton Beaches. In fact there wasn’t a beach in sight, just a reasonably pretty bridge over a pond, but hey, we were on our way!

9.10am: Discovered there are far more hills in Surrey than any of us had expected. Hmm. Also discovered my first gear cog wasn’t working and this was a bit of an issue up hills. JJ gave up on her gears altogether and walked the torturous ascents.

9.30am: JJ then demonstrated a no-fear, dare-devil approach to the downhill sections and came rushing past, feet on the cross bar, whooping!

10.00am: Stopped for a loo break at a football ground in Chipstead (I think) offering tea, coffee and breakfast. Resisted the temptation to tuck into a bacon roll and decided to plough on until lunch.

11.10am: Our “plough on ‘til lunch” plan was aborted when I found myself cartoon-style feet whizzing round on pedals with no gears engaging. Stopped to queue for a mechanic.

Queued alongside a guy who was on his second puncture of the morning and seemed mainly cross about the fact that all the slow members of his team had caught him up. I was glad I wasn’t in his team.

Jen and JJ kindly waited with me for a good 40 minutes. Mechanic explained that I could now get 1st gear but only by going down from 3rd gear, and I could get 2nd gear but only going up from 1st gear. Right...

12.30pm: LUNCH!! We met up with everyone else from Team CWNN, including Emily and her gang, who had set off after us. The only person not there was Ian, who had already finished the entire race and was strolling the streets of Brighton!!!!

Ian (our Moving on Up Co-ordinator) rocked up to the Brighton seafront at 11.30am - some kind of speed record?!

12.45pm: Jen and I laughed at the height of someone’s plate of food and then proceeded to fill our plates just as high. We were hungry!! The general feeling seemed to be one of total relief; Dave and Carol were on good form and as JJ said  “I can’t believe I’m here”. The fabulous food reinvigorated us all for the next (slightly shorter- hooray) stretch.

1.30pm: Erm, we seemed to still be at lunch!

1.45pm: Most people had left so Jen, JJ, Emma and I were bringing up the rear. (No jokes about big-bottomed ladies in padded pants).

3.00pm: Many hills later Jen, Emma and I reached the legendary Ditchling Beacon. Tried to ignore the looming wall of green 183m above sea level and just steeled ourselves for a gradual ascent with twists and turns. Some wise keen cyclist had advised me to “take in the stunning views to the left to distract yourself.” Ha ha. Felt a bit disappointed in myself as I got off and walked. Jen meanwhile kept going like a Trojan and cycled all the way up. Well done Jen.

3.30pm: This was the most depressing sign of the whole journey:

3.53pm: Reached the top and could at last enjoy the views to the left and an icecream!

Overheard two teenage boys who arrived the same time as us with inspirational exclamations:

“That’s the last time I do anything for charity.”

“Ha that sign says now enjoy the view - I don’t want no view, I want a taxi!”

By now we had left poor old JJ way behind. Partly because she was walking up hills and partly because she was stopping to take loads of photos on route and chat to fellow cyclists!

She texted to say “I’ve just seen the sign for Ditchling (village).” Realising she was probably an hour behind us, we decided to head on to the finish.

A more encouraging sign helped us on our way:

4.50pm: We crossed the finish line, cheered on by our much speedier Choir with No Name team mates (including Ian - who had finished a whole 5.5 hrs before us!!!).

JJ soon followed and we cheered her over the line. All felt mighty proud of ourselves and a little weary.

(L-R: Jen, Sally, and Emma)

Roll on next year!!


If you've been inspired by Sally's endeavours and you'd like to do something brilliant and fundraise for the Choir with No Name, please get in touch - we would love to hear from you. Find out more