Ride London & How To Descend.

Hello and welcome to this weeks blog,  I hope you all had a good week.  As you may of seen there was a big ride going on last weekend,  No not the pro’s, even though they were there but the Prudential Ride London.  I’ll be covering the event along with all the ups and downs which inspired me to try and help more.

I know I covered going up a hill but there’s the art of coming down one as well, so I’ll share my techniques with you to try and help you out and prevent any big accidents. 

I’ve also been looking at some new tyres from Schwalbe, and testing the new oval rings from AbsoluteBlack.   Not forgetting the big bike show at the NEC in Birmingham, and the big challenge.

What a week though from Ride London to joining Jason Smith on his Everesting challenge in the middle of the night. More on this over the next few weeks, let me get on with this weeks edition.

We’ve all got a bucket list of rides to do and hills to climb, well the Prudential Ride London was always one of mine.   Every year I watched the tV and saw all these cyclists on the closed roads was always something I wanted to witness. 

Well this year I was fortunate enough to be selected from the ballot system for the PRL, all I had to do was get ready.  With all my training for my forthcoming challenge I felt ready for the PRL event, there was one final thing I had to do before the ride started.

Over the last few months all those fortunate enough to take part in the PRL were updated monthly,  with tips and advise on getting you around the route in the safest but most enjoyable way possible.  A whopping 26.000 cyclists took part in this years ride but I’m told more than 50,000 cyclists applied.  This is huge and so far is the biggest event on and off closed roads here in the UK, so what was it that made this so appealing to cyclists.

I wanted to do this ride because it was on closed roads but after riding it, I can see a more appealing factor about the event.  Yes it was good fun on the open roads and the route was well planned but the main attraction for me was the camaraderie along the route.  This was brilliant and I have to say the best I have ever witnessed.  It felt like every house I passed was there as spectators and they were cheering all the riders on. 

Before I get onto the route a bit more though, I want to take this opportunity to say thanks to a mate who managed to join me for this ride.  However I do feel a little responsible for the pace of our ride, what I mean by this is my mate was really hungover.  I know this is a huge event and my mate got drunk the night before. 

In my defence I never forced him to drink but we were having a good laugh and getting into the spirit of it all.  When I say spirit I mean a vodka chaser with every other pint and we had a fair few pints.. Its fair to say he was really happy with his bike and ended up taking it to bed with him.  Sorry even now I’m having a chuckle but when the alarm went off in the morning at a stupid time of 04:00  I knew he was going to struggle. 

When you hear the words “ Is it time to get up already” you know it’s going to be a long day.  However after a few miles……50ish miles he managed to find the energy to continue. Then at about 51 miles he really felt it in his legs…. no I’m joking we both felt it towards the end but all the cheering and the thought of a nice beer helped us get to the finish. 

There were a few things I noticed on this ride that annoyed me a little. One of them was we were all on closed roads so there were no cars, yet most if not all cyclists would still try and fit on the left hand side of the road. You might think this is being a bit silly but I’ll explain.  There were a lot of cyclists taking part in this ride all at different levels of ability, yet the faster groups who were clearly wanting to get round in a fast time never gave anyone much room. 

I never understood why the groups of faster riders would not just stay on the right side of the road,  then nobody would get in there way and they could go as fast as they wanted.  Even though it wasn’t a race I got the impression there were a huge amount of cyclists who were there to try and get round as quick as possible.  One way of reducing this is to adopt the thinking of The Great Weston Ride and don’t have timing chips.   Most if not all cyclists have a GPS or computer so they can see for them selves. 

Another annoying part for me was parts of the route,  when they planned this ride I understand they wanted to throw in a few hills and try to break the riders up a bit, well it never worked.  In Fact it had the opposite effect and not with the best out come.  On some of the more steeper hills I found they worked as a bottle neck and riders found themselves bunched up, this might not sound like a big deal but when you’re trying to get up a hill and there’s no room for you to either stand up or get past the slower riders in front it causes a problem.

Once you get to the top of any hill there’s always the decent to recover, unfortunately on 3 of the bigger hills there was an accident.  I witnessed all 3 cyclists lead in the road after what appeared to be a horrific crash.  I believe that two of the accidents had to be air lifted to a hospital for medical treatment.  If you’re reading this I hope you have a speedy recovery and don’t get put off of cycling, but I do feel these accidents could of been prevented. 

Whilst cycling with a huge number of riders I noticed so many things that cyclists were doing and by just understanding the way a bike works would make there cycling more enjoyable. Watching people ride along in the big ring and small gear struggling to peddle, wobbling side to side just to get a pedal stroke round was torture. 

Then there was the decent’s, I know we all love the freedom of not having to pedal and the wind through our hair but there’s a skill to getting down a hill and not falling off.  Over the last few events I’ve witnessed a few close calls for some cyclists and unfortunately of recent some who weren’t so lucky.  If it helps I’ll explain my technique for getting down a hill as easily as possible and keeping the speed you need.

The organisation for this event must of been huge, I mean to get closed roads and then marshals to cover the route was massive.  Not only must it of been a huge task but the stops were brilliant, they were well stocked and were able to cope with the number of riders arriving.  This has to be one event where there were plenty of stops, to be honest there were loads which was brilliant. 

I think the reason for so many stops was to stop the big groups of riders pushing through, it kind of worked but not completely.

Over all the PRL was a great event, riding on closed roads for the whole 100 miles was defiantly an experience.  I’m glad I’ve completed it but if you asked me if I’d ride it again I would probably say I don’t know.  I liked the group of riders and everyone was really friendly but the actual ride wasn’t that exciting.  The finishing line was well laid out and set up but once you finished the ride the volume of people was incredible, I mean trying to move around with a bike was a skill in itself.

If you’ve ever wanted to to ride through the streets of London on closed roads then this is defiantly a ride to do. I’m glad I’ve taken part in it but the process to get there was a long and drawn out, either the ballot or charity option was the only way to enter the ride.  Well done to all those who have completed the ride and I hope those who had a fall have a speedy recovery.

Thanks to all those in and around London for the hospitality it was great to witness.  Just one more thing that gets to me a little is the pictures.  What I mean here is the photographers you see during the course of the event.  Not forgetting these are digital pictures and require no printing or editing, however they seem to be worth more than gold its self.  Have a look a the price chart they offered us and you tell me what you think.  I agree getting a picture of yourself on the ride is a nice touch but to pay £17.00 for a digital picture is simply robbery, at least robbers wear a mask but this is a stupid price to pay.

If you took part in the ride let me know what you thought, did you enjoy the ride.  What were your thoughts on the day and if you know any of the riders who fell please let us know that there on the road to recovery.

Hill’s- some love them, others fear them!  I admit I love them personally but there’s a skill to riding them.  Last time I explained how I get up hill’s, well this week I want to share my knowledge on getting down them. 

If you watch the pro’s you’ll notice even some of them aren’t confident on getting down a hill, so I’ll try and share some ground rules to help with a safe descent.  One of the biggest rules when you’re going down hill is ‘NEVER and I mean NEVER’ decent on the hoods.  This is a quick way of falling off or ending up hitting someone or something.  Some of you may say “ That’s rubbish” the fact of the matter is you cant get a good enough control when braking from the hoods. 

The only way to have 100% control is to be on the drops, then comes the hardest part for some.  Relax you’re shoulder’s and don’t stiffen up to much, if you get to stiff there could be a chance you’ll get speed wobbles and thats not a good experience.  If you do get into a situation where a speed wobble is starting again, relax and just hold the bars with a minimum amount of pressure.

When riding a bike, rule of thumb is “ Where ever you look you’ll ride “ so if you look at the wet drain cover chances are you’ll hit it.  Drain covers, Diesel stains, Gravel and Mud are all bad things to encounter on a decent.  If the roads not clear then slow right down, if you’re on roads you’ve not been on before then always air on the side of caution.

Whilst descending if you feel confident and you want to pick the speed up, you need to be in the right position.  Most will crouch where some will try and sit on the top tube….not ideal and avoid at all costs, you’re not Chris Froome so don’t try to ride like him.   Crouch down, yes perfect but you’re speed will pick up quickly so hold on.  Then as you approach the corners you need to remember where to place the pedals, if you’re going round to the right lift the right side to TDC (top dead centre) lowering the left pedal to 6pm. 

When you’re doing this your also shifting the body weight to aid control, this also gives you more grip.  Most cyclists who want to go quick can do so in a straight line but when it comes to turning there’s a few factors that come into play.  One being confidence in your tyres, they may be skinny but don’t underestimate the grip and control they have. 

The other point to try and over come is braking, this again is an art.  Knowing where and when to brake will also have a positive or negative effect on your decent.  Brake too hard and it won’t end well, especially if your cornering, inertia will take control and you’ll end up heading the wrong way.  Feather the brakes to the required pressure making it possible for you to get round the corner.

So how do I get down hill’s, well to start I have no fear.  I don’t think about the consequences if I fall off at speed.  If I did I would be a lot slower, so I think about what ever’s in front of me.  I look at the corner and where I want to put myself and my bike, always looking at the exit point and the entry to the next corner. I keep my first two fingers covering the brake levers so I don’t feel the need to jam the brakes on to hard, most of the time I don’t touch the brakes.  I try and keep my body position as central as possible shifting sometimes shifting slightly when cornering to maintain stability.  On some corners when I’m flying down a hill I’ve been so far over the pedals have caught the floor, thats defiantly something you don’t want to experience.  When I do use the brakes I always gently apply the front first but only slightly.  This is followed by the rear at a slightly harder pressure, the reason for this is the front will have a greater effect and reduces the chance of the back wheel locking up and skidding. I was taught this when I rode motor bikes and carried it onto my road bike.  Then all I hope for is nothing runs in front of me or I a slippy road surface. 

Always remember you don’t need to be the fastest down a hill, you need to be the one who makes it down a hill.  If you’re not used to going down hills fast, then be careful and build it up slowly, it’s an art getting down hill safe and at a good pace.  Remember if you fall off its going to hurt and it’ll hurt more at speed.   Stay safe and have fun I do every time.

On the next blog I’l be looking at a super food replacement as well as foods for all, plus a look at the Oval rings I’ve been using for the last few months from AbsoluteBlack.  Don’t forget to like the “Cyclewithdel” page if you have any questions just send them over and I’ll reply straight away.

There’s also the NEC bike show coming up as well as my big Challenge, so till the next time stay safe and remember SMILE:-)

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  • Keith Trask

    Great write up on the PRL and thought your comments were very level headed and well thought. like the “Downhill” part of the blog 🙂

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