The Dulux London Revolution is considered one of the best two-day events in the UK with its complete loop around London, taking in the Surrey Hills to the south and Chilterns to the north and crossing the iconic Tower Bridge on the route. The ride has undergone a few changes in the couple of years since I last rode it, so I was looking forward to seeing the improvements and taking on the challenge.
There are a number of options available for the weekend, from individual days, to an overnight camping (and new for this year, glamping) option plus if you are feeling particularly hardcore, the Ultra option - all 300km in one go. We went for the all-inclusive weekender, which was riding both days, an overnight stop at Windsor racecourse with dinner, breakfast and a whole host of extras.
The starting point for the ride on a sunny Saturday May morning was at the Lee Valley Athletic Park, which despite turning up early was packed, leading to a bit of a queue for the carpark - where our cars would be left for the weekend, with security guards - but not too long, leaving plenty of time for registration and sorting out. Once registered, you put the usual number on the bike and get a tag for your luggage which is dropped at the relevant coloured truck; your colour determines the luggage truck, bike store and camping area. From there you are free to join the start area, which was refreshingly clear as despite the numbers riders had been leaving for a good while.
Once underway there is around 25 miles of urban riding, quiet and fast at first until the skyline gets obscured by bigger and bigger buildings as you hit the capital. Although there isn't much traffic, the stop-start rhythm of the endless traffic lights allow for plenty of chat amongst the small groups to make new acquaintances. Soon enough the landmarks start appearing and that crossing of the always impressive Tower Bridge, pretty much devoid of tourists this early on and ideal for a snapshot.
Heading due south out of the city the first real gradients make themselves known and as you pass Crystal Palace the road climbs steadily and the scenery gets much greener, upwards for the next seven miles and topping out in the rural countryside. The first of two feed stops comes at 34 miles and is a welcome sight as the warm weather means I've pretty much done two bottles, and breakfast seems a long time ago. As with all Threshold events, the stops are superbly stocked with a huge variety of goodies, both sweet and savoury. Water and High5 are in plentiful supply, along with a coffee van should you need a kick start for the next leg.
From here we head down to Lingfield, which marks the turn west along the lower portion of our loop, picking through the countryside and skirting Gatwick airport; the planes a reminder that you're not too far away from the metropolis. Passing south of Reigate the terrain loses its flatness and starts to roll somewhat before heading into the Surrey hills. Another feed at 67.5 miles facilitates lunch, with the same excellent selection plus the addition of sandwiches and wraps for a proper feed. Don't fill up too much though as straight after you will be tackling Pitch Hill and Combe Lane, but the views are worth it and the descents just enough to recover a bit of energy for the last push.
Heading north west now the landscape changes again, this time to heavily wooded areas punctuated by open plains, the gradients falling and rising almost constantly, groups now thin on the ground and mostly individuals pushing on through the rain, the sunshine petering out but the temperature remaining just high enough to not warrant full rain gear.
Approaching Windsor the traffic build up and the roads get bigger, but it's mercifully not a long ride to get through it to the racecourse and your first glimpse of the expansive event village and sea of green tents, perfectly aligned in neat rows, welcome after 102 miles. First stop is the secure bike park, as mentioned sectioned in colour zones, then off to the tent allocation, who assign a tent number based on colour zone also.
After that it's up to you, but I chose to collect my bag, unload into my tent then go and get a piping hot shower in the remarkable Posh Wash shower trailers. By the time I was sorted and changed, and my home for the night organised I had a wander round the huge festival village, which featured a large bar area, numerous food trucks and all sorts of fun stuff for the kids too. By now rather hungry I headed for the rider's food marquee, which had a range of 'street style' food and tasty too. It was quiet when I went in and ate, but there was a big queue when I left stretching quite a way - something they will need to work on for next year.
Off then for a massage while most were after food and again, no queue here at least. The students from Birmingham University are a Threshold fixture and they do a cracking job, it was nice to catch up with one of the girls who I have met previously on the Ride Across Britain. A quick pint in the bar area, which was very nicely set up, and an early night for me.
Early to bed, early to rise - 5am to be precise, and I wasn't the only one as riders shuffled through the dawn light to their morning routines, the usual stuff sorted it was off for breakfast. Porridge, toast, pastries, bananas and a full English were on offer, but the same issues as dinner became apparent as when the masses hauled out of their tents the queue was horrendous again. To their credit, the Threshold staff (including the Director) were handing out food and drinks to those waiting, and a quick chat revealed that they would completely overhaul the arrangements for next year as it was obvious that it just hadn't been right this time around.
With the tent cleared out and with my bag back on the truck it was another relaxed start to the ride onto the sleepy urban Windsor roads. Although today will be shorter in distance at 86 miles, there is a fair bit more climbing and the weather report is for warmer temperatures - but thankfully no rain.
The first ten miles eased us into the ride, the gradual climb up and fast descent into the pretty town of Marlow signalling the start of the day's climbing. A literal rollercoaster of roads on which the climbs which were steep but mercifully short ensued as we arrived at the first of today's stop at Princes Risborough. As with yesterday the stop was a struggle to tear away from with the choice; the oddity this morning was Prime Beef Bars - a snack bar made with meat and other ingredients, which had the most unusual texture but were most tasty. I liked them so one for the pocket. Here's that warning again though - don't overdo it as straight out of the feed was a pig of a climb out of the town, hard work with a full stomach!
Now we were in the Chilterns proper, in which the route meandered to take in the nicer climbs and stunning scenery the area has to offer, a strain on the legs but a feast for the eyes. When the cycling is this good you don't notice the effort (or time) half as much, so descending into Chesham, which signals the last of the Chilterns the time has flown by, which you will then do on the next section of road which is fast and flowing.
I managed to drop into a group of strong lads and we absolutely hauled the few miles before the dips and rises started up again and we parted ways. Soon enough the lunch stop arrived at Chiswell Green for another chilled stop to get the calories in - a little more enthusiastically with the climbs behind us. The following section sees you hopping over and trailing the M25 and eventually the A1 at Potters Bar. The good news is that although the last section is back through urban areas, it's pretty much downhill and not too busy. Turning into Lee Valley with 188 miles in your legs won't dull the need to sprint for the line, especially if there are other riders with you and the warm welcome and cheering from the waiting crew and supporters, who will present you with a very handsome medal indeed for your efforts.
Once done, there is ample space to chill out; the centre's facilities are available for use and there are a few food trucks and a bar to top you up if you need it before the journey home.
Although the changes to the route were minor from what I remember it was just as good, with a fine mix of lanes, climbing and scenery. Threshold once again ran a tight ship with expertly choreographed logistics and great support, from the facilities at basecamp, the mechanics at the stops and on the road, plus the fully (and clearly) signed route and on-road support. The camping is a fun experience, and Windsor racecourse was a great venue for the overnight stop with the festival area housing a good variety of attractions. The food provided for riders was good with reasonable portions, but those queues need sorting for sure. Another nice touch is that there are photographers around the route both days, and you are given the pictures for free after the event.
Overall: highly recommended.
Entries for the 2019 London Revolution are open now at www.london-revolution.com.