Monday, 3 October 2011

Ride of the Falling Leaves

On Sunday Dr Matt and Dr Doug rode the Ride of the Falling Leaves, organized by Dulwich Paragon and Mosquito Bikes.

As we rode down to the Herne Hill Velodrome for the start we discussed the possibility of doing the 80 km route instead of the full 110 km; we didn't have to decide until the actual fork in the road which one we'd do. The weather was hot and humid, and neither of us was feeling particularly fresh-legged; 80 km might be more useful, in terms of training/fitness than slogging through an extra 30 km just for the sake of saying we did it. I think both of us were thinking to some degree of our ride to Whitstable on the hottest day of the summer, when 12o km of pretty much flat riding turned into a quest to drink as many liquids as we could just to maintain sanity. And this ride, we knew, was not going to be flat.

We won't spend time talking about the logistical organization, because it was exemplary: low-key and efficient. Nice job, organizers! Not long after arriving at the velodrome, we were passing through the electronic gates and... onto the velodrome track! The sportive started with a lap of the track. If you've never ridden on a 30-degree banked curve, well: it's weird, and fun, and a little scary at first, and frankly, we would've gladly spent the whole day riding around and around and around. Surely a club field trip is on the cards at some point?

Anyway, off through London, in a gang of about twenty or so riders. There was a brief run-in with an overly aggressive Land Rover driver, but otherwise it was smooth sailing and before long we were out in the countryside, and pelting along at a pretty good clip. I can't speak for Matt, but despite the reasonable pace (in fact, getting out of London, a large number of riders seemed to be taking it unusually slowly; normally your humble TroisV riders are not the quickest on the road and yet we were passing people like it was our jobs (which it isn't)) my legs still weren't feeling all that spectacular. After about an hour of riding, we once again discussed and decided to take the 80 km turn when it presented itself.

Your Heroes are ready to depart.

The route was fun; some rather hairy descents on narrow and gravelly lanes (well-marked with warning signs, it should be said), long albeit gentle uphill drags, long albeit gentle downhill drags, farmland to the left of me, farmland to the right (here I am, etc.), the sun warming up (we started riding about 8:50 am). We fell in with a more or less consistent group; they seemed to outpace us somewhat on the flat, but we usually passed them going up the climbs. The other riders were friendly and chatty and my (our?) legs started to feel a little bit better. At some point I looked at my odometer and saw we'd cycled 73 km, and first started to think that maybe we'd missed the 80 km split. A little while later Matt said he'd begun to think we'd missed it; I checked the odometer: 93 km.

And not long thereafter we hit Toys Hill. Toys Hill is rated 7 out of 10 by Simon Warren, author of 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs. A significant stretch of it is 18% grade. Back in December 2009 Dr. Doug had to walk his bike up part of it. We climbed. Actually, Toys Hill was really hard, especially having covered that much distance already, but it was only the beginning of a series of tough climbs that really only finished when we'd hit the outskirts of London. The series of climbs was broken up by the feed station (marked by a gleeful sign that said: FEED!), which featured water refills and delicious apple cake. We only stopped long enough for two bottles of refill and two slices of cake, and jumped back on our bikes. Soon enough we were climbing yet another steep hill (not sure what it was called [Sundridge Hill - Dr Matt], while a patient driver followed us all the way up to the top, and a couple other patient drivers waited to descend until we'd passed. A few riders came off their bikes and walked this climb; I came pretty close to my limit, the outsides of my quads in particular aching with a ferocity that made me wonder whether the muscles might just pop out of my skin and lie down in the ditch. I should point out that this pain was a different type to that I experienced on the Urban Hill Climb a couple months ago; nonetheless, I think that experience helped to get me over the crest.

Once we turned towards London (and gulped down a couple energy gels), and knew there were only about 10 or 15 km to go, the pace picked up and once again we fell in with a pretty like-minded peloton (some of the riders were the same ones we'd been more or less riding with for most of the day) and though the last couple of hills through urban trafficky red lights busses seemed a bit cruel, we sailed into the cricket ground where the route finished in good spirits, and glad that we'd done the long route after all. On the way into London we realized that we were going to have a more than respectable time, and so it was: 4 hours 20 minutes, which was well beneath the silver time of 5:30, and not all that far out from the gold standard of 4 hours. The TroisV is pretty damn proud of the TroisV.

Here's the cyclemeter stats:

Route: Ride of the Falling Leaves
Activity: Cycle
Google Maps URL:
Shortened Google Maps URL:
Import URL:
Started: 2 Oct 2011 08:41:01
Ride Time: 4:07:26
Stopped Time: 14:40
Distance: 104.01 km
Average Speed: 25.22 km/h
Fastest Speed: 73.72 km/h
Ascent: 1093 meters
Descent: 1060 meters
Calories: 3260
Official: No



  1. Nice jerseys...and apple cake, sounds like a nice challenging fall ride.

  2. I had a browse around this website and really enjoyed your articles. The 120km bike ride on the Ride of the Falling Leaves, sounds like a really long journey.