Workplace health and wellbeing is a big part of business for me at present, and encouraging staff to stay active through the working day is one of the ways in which companies can help build motivation and productivity.
But what if you’re not lucky enough to be in a building that offers showers for a post-workout freshen up? Picture the scene: you cycle to work, grab a lunchtime run or a midday gym session. Mind cleared, but body sweaty. No time or facilities to take a shower.
Options? Wet-wipe-wash or sweaty desk all afternoon. Neither is great for you or your workmates.
Good news! I just road-tested a third option, and it’s quick, discreet and – critically – effective. Wash Wizard is just perfect as a workplace post-workout clean-up. It’s a simple idea: a tightly-rolled sponge impregnated with sweat-busting aloe vera foam that takes up almost zero space in your work bag.
Wash Wizard: discreet and effective
Simply splash with water from your bottle to activate, swipe the bits that need freshening up, and you’re ready for the rest of your day. No need to rinse or towel dry, and it’s fragrance-free so suitable for both sexes.
At £7.99 for a pack of five, Wash Wizard is my latest affordable gymbag essential (brilliant for camping, sailing trips, overnight train journeys and festivals too).
With two pairs of legs powering us along the 100-mile course, we should have crossed the finish line at under six hours, but instead the Team Thompson tandem finished in seven and half hours due to unavoidable hold-ups.
Slightly disappointing time-wise due to a crowded, crash-heavy course (not us, thankfully), but with shouts of ‘Go tandem!’ ringing in our ears as we powered our way round the picturesque circuit of central London and the Surrey Hills on a bicycle made for two, this year’s traffic-free RideLondon-Surrey 100 was another splendid day out.
Roadside support – from friends, our chosen charity (Muscular Dystrophy UK: donations still welcome!), RideLondon-Surrey volunteers and the hugely encouraging residents who came out of their homes to cheer us all on. Massive thanks to them all.
The joy of tandem – Everyone loves a tandem, it turns out, and it was heartwarming to put a smile on so many faces as we pedalled by. Solo riders admitted they were a bit jealous of all the attention we attracted! Having two on a bike leaves one (me, the stoker at the back) free to wave while the other (my husband Piers, the pilot at the front) steers, changes gear and worries about braking. We both pedal like billy-oh, obviously. Setting off in a tandem-heavy wave – there were at least 15 leaving at the same time as us – gave us a real sense of camaraderie, and what lovely people they all were.
The weather – after the rain-fest that was RideLondon 2014, cycling in warm sunshine with a cool breeze was heavenly.
Being on a bike with my husband for seven hours – might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but sitting astride a tandem means you can have an ongoing conversation without worrying about getting left behind. Also, it meant Piers (whose back wheel I normally stick to like glue on bike rides) didn’t have to keep glancing over his shoulder to check I was still there. And I could easily raid his back pockets (our in-bike tuck shop) for high-energy snacks as necessary. The perfect fit-date!
Riding on traffic-free roads – there is a peculiar thrill to cycling through red lights, the wrong way around roundabouts and on the right-hand side of the road, totally legally.
The final sprint – the RideLondon-Surrey course ends with nine-plus miles of mainly flat and downhill roads including Putney Hill, The Embankment, Whitehall and finally The Mall, lined with enthusiastic cheering crowds. Wow, what a feeling to get your head down and literally sprint the whole way home. We averaged 22mph over the last nine miles, powering past hundreds of riders (how good did that feel?!) and crossing the finish line at 24mph, lungs gasping and legs utterly spent. Whoosh! Proof that when you really get a tandem going, it goes like a bullet.
Delays – it could be because we had a late start time (a mightily civilised 08.24) in the tandem wave, but the course seemed a lot more congested than in previous years. Water and hub stops were also having trouble coping – long queues for water refills and loos. From 16,000 riders in 2013 to 20,000 in 2014 and 26,000 this year, perhaps the RideLondon-Surrey 100 has reached – or even exceeded – peak bike?
Crashes – I feel so sorry for the people we saw being treated by medical teams: there seemed to be a lot more than in previous years. Again, perhaps the sheer number of cyclists contributed to this? Unfortunately, the logistics of getting ambulances to them meant there were numerous times when we had to dismount and either wait or walk as congestion meant cycling was impossible for anyone, let alone a bulky tandem.
Leith Hill – we found out later that a cyclist had suffered a heart attack and died at the bottom of Leith Hill during Sunday’s ride. Very sad: condolences to his family. The fall-out of the situation was that the road had to be closed, and thousands of cyclists (including us) ended up stationary for more than hour as treatment was administered and ambulances made their way to the scene. Such was the number of bikes that it was impossible to get us all back in the saddle so we all ended up walking almost halfway up Leith Hill before there was enough space to get cycling again.
Aching hands – ouch: after seven and a half hours spent trying to force some traction from our woefully underpowered brakes, Piers’ wrists ended up suffering from temporary ‘handlebar palsy‘, yes it’s a real condition.
Some RideLondon 2015 stats:
Total time on the course: 7.5 hours Average speed over the first 40 miles: 21mph Average speed over the final nine miles from Wimbledon Common: 22mph Speed as we crossed the finish line: 24mph
Snacks consumed per person: one banana, one Bounce energy ball, two energy gels (Gu, salted caramel, espresso love: highly recommend); half a Nakd bar; four bottles of sports drink Number of times someone yelled ‘Go Tandem!’ at us: too many to count
Piers and Nicola: we survived RideLondon-Surrey 2014
Imagine having constant buckets of water dumped on your head while you cycle in a bath with a high-pressure jet of filthy grit trained on your face. For five hours.
That was RideLondon-Surrey 2014.
On the plus side, it wasn’t raining when we started – so at least we weren’t standing around in wet clothing getting cold and miserable before we began. That would have been a potential deal-breaker.
Conditions remained dry, in fact, until Canary Wharf (three miles down the road from the startline at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park) where my husband Piers and I hooked up from our separate start waves to cycle in convoy.
It was our second RideLondon; last year’s event was marked by a crash caused by a jaywalker which almost put paid to our ride and pushed our chip time to seven hours plus. [Read about our 2013 RideLondon experience here] This year we were hoping to complete the 100-mile circuit in 6h15.
We knew from the start, however, that was not going to happen: organisers had responded to the forecast of atrocious weather conditions and shortened the course to 86 miles by cutting out the big Surrey climbs of Leith Hill and Box Hill. Disappointing but understandable, given that we would be cycling in the slipstream of Hurricane Bertha.
So whatever Bertha had to throw at us, at least we knew it would be over relatively quickly.
Cycling through Central London on closed roads is a joy, although there was less sightseeing this year as it was heads down to escape the lashing rain. We glanced up to admire the moat of poppies at the Tower of London, though, and I remember catching a glimpse of Harrods as we pedalled past.
Spectators were few and far between – there’s not much appeal to standing on a kerb in the rain at crack of dawn on a Sunday – and I did feel sorry for the poor marshalls. There was a lot less banter between cyclists too compared with 2013 as we all dug deep to keep going despite being soaked to the skin.
Curtailing the course meant that no one was going to get a 100-mile PB, so riding was generally very restrained and most participants were cycling defensively and sensibly. We witnessed little in the way of crashes, but numerous mechanicals. The roadsides were littered with cyclists fixing punctures in the pouring rain – I spoke to one poor guy who had used up both his spare inner tubes within the first couple of miles.
Heavy rain means the road carries more grit and debris, turning cycle tyres into puncture magnets. Piers had stocked up on spares but we were lucky enough not to need them.
From Canary Wharf onwards, the rain was heavy and constant so it was just moments before we were both soaked to the skin. At least we couldn’t get any wetter, and it was warm as long as we kept moving.
Determinedly stuck to Piers’ back wheel, for speed and shelter, I wasn’t too aware of the scenery. We were soon shooting through Richmond Park, across Kingston Bridge and towards Hampton Court, where the rain really started to hammer down. Torrential doesn’t do it justice: we were cycling into a wall of water, battered by enormous, brutal raindrops from above and at times almost knee-deep in floods.
Hurricane Bertha was living up to her name: gusts blasted us sideways as she continued to dump buckets of water on our heads. From Hampton Court all the way to Ripley (miles 25-40), the monsoon did not let up. Fed up? I was actually laughing. This felt more like a Tough Mudder than a cycle sportive .
Molesey, Walton-on-Thames, Brooklands, Weybridge, Pyrford, Byfleet: all a blur of wet road, wet shopfronts, wet corners and skid-scary roundabouts. I really had no idea where we were most of the time, despite these being familiar training routes. The rain was so heavy you could barely make out road signs or landmarks. By this point, we were so thoroughly sodden, that even Piers’ ‘weather-proof’ Garmin cycle computer had drowned. Kudos to those dogged spectators who were still roadside cheering us on.
As we progressed along the shortened route, keeping our speed down in a bid to stay upright, it became very obvious why organisers had cut out Leith and Box Hills: the descents would have been treacherous rivers. The climbs would have been littered with casualties.
Meanwhile, on the rolling flats of Surrey, we were already negotiating flooded lanes, with burst drains, overflowing gutters and impromptu waterfalls spewing onto the road. The amount of visible tarmac was frequently no more than a foot wide, with gigantic, spreading puddles at the margins. Staying alert to hazards distracted from muscle ache and the discomfort of squelchy cycling shoes and soggy chamois.
The funniest thing we saw all day: an enraged motorist so frustrated by the closed roads that he screeched his car into a U-turn to avoid a road-block, only to skid and crash noisily into a van. I bet that made him feel better…
Our first and only hub stop: rain-battered but still cheery
At the top of breezy Newlands Corner – the day’s first and pretty much only climb – we paused to fill our water bottles at the food hub but set off sharpish to avoid getting cold. Then it was more or less homeward bound.
The rain was easing off a bit by the time we got to Esher, although many parts of road were still utterly submerged – in places every pedal stroke saw cycle shoes disappear beneath the water. Kingston was pretty benign, and it was clear skies by Wimbledon.
Lovely to stop for a few words and hugs from the children, Piers’ mum and sister at the foot of Wimbledon Hill – thanks so much to them for turning out in the face of abysmal weather – then full-speed ahead for the final nine miles to The Mall.
We cycled central London in bright sunshine, crossing the finish line largely dry but caked in filth. Especially my face, after a five-hour grit jet-wash facial from Piers’ back wheel.
Would we do it again? Try and stop us!
Chip time: 5h 26min
Riding time: 4h 58min
Average riding speed: 17mph
Nutrition: three caffeine mule gels (coffee flavour), one High5 energy gel (citrus flavour), one and a half Bounce bars, one banana, a bite of CNP energy bar, half a bag of dried mango. Three and a bit bottles of water containing High5 electrolyte sports tabs. V impressed (like last year) with service and supplies provided at food stations.
Most jawdropping moment: being overtaken by a guy riding a BMX bike. Standing up on a bike for 86 miles? Rather you than me, mate.
Hairiest moment: losing the back end and skidding round the final corner out of Raynes Park. Without falling off, phew!
‘Doh, why did I open my big mouth?’ moment: cycling in the rain (natch) up Newlands Corner, to Piers, “well at least it’s not torrential at the moment”. At which point there was a crack of thunder and the hill turned into a river as torrents poured out of the sky and down the road beneath our wheels.
Biggest achievement? Surviving and completing what has got to go down in history as the rainiest ever RideLondon-Surrey.