Get ready to RideLondon and a packed weekend of cycling!

Unless you've been living under an Olympic Stadium-sized rock, you'll know this weekend is the inaugural RideLondon cycling festival.  But you'd be forgiven if you hadn't yet twigged just how HUGE Britain's biggest cycling participation event is going to turn out to be.  Don't worry if you've not yet made your riding plans because ibikelondon has you covered...

Consisting of four major cycling events, there's something for everyone on two wheels this weekend; from toddlers on bicycle trailers right up to international cycling champions.


Our streets will be packed with families and fun-seekers on the RideLondon Freecycle; an 8 mile site-seeing tour of central London on closed roads providing safe cycling in the capital.  Some fifty to eighty thousand people are expected to attend, riding the circular course from Tower Hill to Buckingham Palace via the Houses of Parliament, London Eye, St Paul's Cathedral and other well-known London landmarks.  You can ride the route as many times as you like, and join the course anywhere that takes your fancy (although traditionally the Mall gets fairly congested) between 9AM and 4PM.  There's also a series of "Festival Zones" along the routes in Green Park, Tower Hill and St Pauls, with BMX and Bike Polo demonstrations outside the cathedral.  Bring some food, plenty of water, sunscreen and water proofs (this is England in summer after all!) and expect things to be fun but busy; the opportunity to ride in safety totally unencumbered by threatening motorised traffic in central London is a hugely attractive proposition and if the sun is shining it is guaranteed to be packed with people riding bikes of all shapes and sizes!

For stressless family-friendly access to the central London route, the London Cycling Campaign are hosting a series of guided "feeder rides" from neighbourhoods across London. Details are here.

Saturday evening sees the RideLondon Grand Prix; a new format criterium event on a fast course around St James's Park.  Spectators will be treated to thrilling races by our future Paralympian heros, kicking off with a hand cycle race at 17.00, followed by an all-ability mixed gender "young stars of the future" race at 17.45, and finally the Women's Elite Criterium at 18.00 which will be well worth sticking around for.  Team Wiggle Honda leaders and stars of the 2012 Olympic track Dani King, Laura Trott and Joanna Rowsell will lead a fast field around St James's Park back to the site where Lizzie Armistead historically won Team GB's first medal at London 2012.  Australia's Jessie Maclean and IG London Nocturne victor Hannah Barnes will compete alongside a long list of fantastic female riders in this fast and furious short course race.


The RideLondon 100 is London's newest sporting event and looks set to be epic - think "the London Marathon on bikes" and you'll begin to understand the scale of it all.  Some 20,000 cyclists will be setting out early on Sunday morning from the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for a 100 mile spin on closed roads through the capital, out past Hampton Court and in to the Surrey Hills, before following the 2012 Road Race course back to London for a finish in front of Buckingham Palace.  Roadies of all calibre have been out training for their big day, and hundreds of thousands of pounds have already been pledged to the charities that people are riding in aid of.  As anyone who has run the London Marathon will tell you, it is the good will, cheering and support of the spectators who really make the event special, and RideLondon organisers will be hoping to re-capture a little Olympic atmosphere and see plenty of the public lining the route ready to shout Allez!  BBC and Eurosport cameras will also be out capturing the action so if you're taking part be sure to stand out from the crowd if you want your 5 seconds of fame.

The weekend builds to an exciting climax on Sunday afternoon with the RideLondon Classic; a 140 mile pro men's race leaving the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (spectators welcome!), with a looping route around Leith Hill three times, then on up Box Hill, before sprinting back to London over Putney Bridge, up Whitehall, around Trafalgar Square and finishing on the Mall around 5.30PM.
Broadcast live on BBC One, BBC Red Button and Eurosport, Tour de France Team Time Trial stage winners Orica Green Edge will compete (let's hope their bus doesn't go anywhere near Admiralty Arch).  Team Sky will also participate (the only chance to see them race on UK soil in 2013?) with home-grown talent Ben Swift hoping for a solid race.  Enduring cycling favourite David Millar will ride for Garmin Sharp, whilst up and coming racer Ian Bibby will be riding with his all British Steel team Madison Genesis - anyone who saw Bibby at the Winter London Nocturne at the Excel earlier this year will be keen to see if he can keep up with the big boys and still ride with the same level of style.  Most excitingly, Tour de France 2013 Green Jersey winner Peter Sagan and the rest of Canondale will also compete, providing what must be one of the most mouth watering road racing line ups in Britain of the year. For a preliminary start list see Cycling Weekly.


The easiest way to find the best spot along the route to watch is, of course, by bike; rolling road closures will make driving in London problematic on Sunday.  You can watch the elite racers set off from the newly re-opened Olympic Park and mark their progress on big screens before heading to the big finish on the Mall if you are staying in London.  But if the weather is fine why not pack a picnic, dig out your Team GB t-shirts, grab some chalk or some home made banners and head for the beautiful countryside that is on our doorstep to make a day of it?  This comprehensive PDF spectator's guide from RideLondon shows you where to go and has detailed route maps and timings.  And if you do have to drive for some god forsaken reason in London this weekend, jolly well plan ahead!

Did I mention that all of this cycling excitement is free?  Aren't we lucky!  Good luck to all the ibikelondon readers taking part this weekend; whether that is your first cycling century, or your first ride in town with the kids, chapeau and have fun!

For a fantastic overview of the logistical challenge behind getting the RideLondon festival ready; from idea to reality; see this great article in Cycling Weekly.  Credit where credit is due; regular readers will know London's Mayor Boris Johnson frequently infuriates me but this was his idea so well done!

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congokid said...

How strict are they on the compulsory helmet requirement (rule 2.6)?

ibikelondon said...

Hi @congokid As I understand it the helmet rule is only for the events on Sunday, which would seem to be standard practice for most UK road events - you don't need to wear a helmet to take place in the Skyride, sorry, Freecycle on Saturday.