Monday, July 20, 2009

So what is this London-Edinburgh-London (LEL) business anyway?

On Sunday, July 26, 600 riders from over 34 nations will set off to complete the 2009edition of the 1400K London-Edinburgh-London (LEL) randonee and I will be one of 13 American riders in attendance. Not technically a race, LEL is a timed endurance event (or randonee) with a maximum time allowance of 116 hours. Modeled after the fabled Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) ride, which has was first run in 1891, LEL is put on every four years by Audax UK. As with other randononeurring events, the emphasis is on self sufficiency. Riders must carry all that they need with them as they follow a prescribed route on back country roads stopping at about a dozen checkpoints (or controls) along the way. In addition to serving as checkpoints where riders will have their “brevet” cards stamped, controls offer food and drink and a place to rest (or sleep) along the way. I hope to return to London within 100 hours (in fact 90 hours would be gravy), yet weather and sleep needs will largely define my prospects.

At this point, my training is what it will be. The Saratoga 12-hour race last weekend was my final long ride in preparation for LEL and the two weeks leading up to next Sunday’s start have been filled with shorter training rides and interval sets to boost my speed and keep my legs fresh. This week, I’ve also been dialing in my equipment, assembling gear and ironing out my travel plans to ensure that I show up to the start with everything I could possibly need for four days of hard riding. Today, I got my bike back from a final tune-up at the Bicycle Depot where Geoff discovered that a frayed cable was the source of my rear derailleur trouble. This is a huge relief as my shifting has been twitchy for several weeks and I was a bit worried about what might happen out on the moors at 3:00 a.m. when my shifter gave up the ghost completely.

I had LEL in mind last year when ordering my new custom Independent Fabrications Club Racer. The frame set is designed to accommodate fenders and wider tires, both of which will come in handy on an event of this type. Next week, I’ll be riding with 30mm Grand Bois high performance road tires. These are a full 5mm wider than my standard 25mm Conti GP4000 tires and will be inflated to only 85 psi rather than the standard 100+ psi typical of thinner tires. The difference is immediately noticeable in the suppleness of the road feel which will theoretically be amortized over the four day duration of the ride. A study of rolling resistance undertaken by Bicycle Quarterly determined that wider tires are not slower tires. A comfortable rider is a happy rider, though. My LEL set-up also includes a lovely pair of 43mm aluminum Honjo fenders. These sturdy fenders won’t rattle and weigh less than similar fenders of the plastic variety. In addition, this winter I had Peter White build me a new front wheel around a Schmidt dynohub to power my new Schmidt Edeluxe LED headlamp and B & M Seculite Plus taillight. Look ma, no batteries! Finally, I’ll be packing all of my necessary gear into a Detours seat-post mounted rear pack.

So on Thursday night, I’ll fly to London to spend a few days acclimating to the time change and prowling London’s streets for a cultural fix. Then on Sunday morning, it’s off to the Lee Valley Youth Hostel on the outskirts of London where I will join 599 other cyclists on the big journey north. God willin’ and the creek don’t rise; this should be an outrageous adventure. I plan to post periodic updates during the ride via cell phone to this blog. Wish me luck!


  1. Way to go, George! This will be an awesome thing to watch from the comfort of my desk chair.


  2. Remember: stay left, look right.

  3. Good work George, wasn't that a great experience?? I was wondering if you know how the young woman from Saratoga finished? She was going very strong when I saw her last, and it was her second attempt at LEL. Hope she was successful!!

  4. Hi - thanks. It was a great experience for sure. In fact, it seems to get better the drier I become. I think she was from Rochester and I think she finished as well. Looking forward to seeing the official finishers list.