When we heard that Toby Field, who pens The Fat Cycle Rider blog, was cycling from London to Brighton to raise money for the British Heart Foundation, we just knew that we had to do our part by giving him a good night’s sleep after his journey.
So how did he get on? And what tips does he have for other cycling enthusiasts considering tackling the popular route? We prised Toby off his bike and sat down with him for a chat…
Toby Field wasn’t always so fit and active. As he shares with the readers of his “ Fat Cycle Ryder blog“, he’s struggled with his weight and at one point weighed 133.9kg (21st 1lb 3oz), making him clinically obese. Then something happened which prompted him to radically overhaul his lifestyle: his dad died from an obesity-related heart attack. Not wanting to miss out on life or end up dying before his time, Toby got on his bike and started cycling as much as he could, chronically chronicling his journey on his blog. Toby’s not only lost over eight stone, but he’s also entered countless charity races and now leads an active, healthy lifestyle.
We were so impressed and inspired, we decided to give him an added incentive to finish his charity bike ride from London to Brighton by putting him up for the night at the Thistle Brighton Hotel. We managed to catch up with him after the race for a quick chat…
What made you take part?
I love this ride. It was my first foray into organised bike rides and it was my biggest challenge to date after getting back into cycling. The ride is very famous and is held every year by the British Heart Foundation. Some aren’t lucky enough to get a place each year so this independently organised version gives others a chance. The British Heart Foundation is the nation’s heart charity. Heart disease is the biggest killer in Britain, so it’s hugely important. More personally, my dad died of obesity-related heart disease, so this charity is special to me. They also helped me with diet and fitness ideas when I wanted to lose weight.
Would you recommend attempting the London-Brighton cycle route to other cyclists?
The ride comes with kudos. It’s almost a given that anyone you mention it to will have heard of it. They will also most likely be familiar with the beast of a hill at the end, Ditchling Beacon, the third highest point on the South Downs. The ride is a good length, so you’ll feel like you’ve achieved something special, but you won’t be totally exhausted afterwards. Plus, there’s some pretty countryside and some beautiful little villages to ride through. There’s also a reward for getting to the top of Ditchling Beacon, even if you have to walk it. And the views are incredible.
How do you prepare for long cycle rides?
Training is all about getting the miles in and keeping the terrain varied. There’s no real substitute for spending time in the saddle. Proper hydration the day before the ride is vital. Everyone’s different, but on rides of less than 20 miles I don’t need any fuel mid-ride, just water. For rides over that distance, I tend to carry energy bars or gels for convenience and take one every 10 miles or every hour, whichever comes first.
To get up the few tough hills on the route, it’s worth getting some good training miles under your belt. Find some hills to practice on to build up your strength and fitness. Other than that, make sure your bike is well-maintained and that your brakes work properly before you set off.
What did you take with you?
In my saddle bag I carry the following: two spare inner tubes, a CO2 compressed air pump and cartridges, a puncture repair kit (including glueless patches and tyre levers), some latex gloves and a multi tool. Other than that I carry my phone, some money and my bike GPS computer. My bike GPS is by far my most important gadget as it tells me how far and for how long I’ve travelled. I can also load a route onto it to follow if I’m riding a route I’ve never done before.
What’s your post-race recovery strategy?
For convenience a protein bar or shake straight after the ride followed by a nice high protein meal two to three hours later. This repairs and strengthens your muscles so you don’t lose anything for your next ride. A nice evening walk after dinner keeps the legs moving and stops you feeling stiff. A quick shower or bath immediately after the ride is fine, but I wait until the following morning to have a really long soak in the tub.
What are you favourite Brighton haunts?
There are two. Firstly, the world famous Brighton Pier and also The Lanes. It’s full of cafés, restaurants and quirky shops.
It’s very inspiring to read about your weight loss journey on your blog. How has life changed since you took up cycling?
My whole outlook on life has changed. Before I took up cycling, I was 21 stone and my only exercise was walking to my car or up a flight of stairs. Since losing over eight stone, I cycle at least 100 miles a week and I also run and swim. Not only do I take part in cycle events, I’ve also entered triathlons. This year I also did something I never would have considered when I was obese: I took part in The National Three Peaks Challenge, which involves climbing the three highest mountains in Scotland, England and Wales in 24 hours.