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London to Brighton Bike Ride

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With the London to Brighton Bike Ride taking place on 19 June, many would be surprised to learn that a similar event took place as long ago as 1870.

Old Steine 1877

Old Steine 1877

Thomas Moon, son of the licensee of the Union Inn, Gloucester Road cycled from Brighton to London and back in a day. He was accompanied by Captain Fry of the Fire Brigade.

The run seems to have been quite leisurely, after leaving Brighton at 4.55am they stopped for breakfast for three quarters of an hour at Crawley and arrived at the Elephant & Castle Inn, London at 11.45am – a time of six hours.  They dined at the inn for two hours and started their return to Brighton 1.55pm arriving in the town at the Elephant & Castle, London Road at 10pm.  The entire distance of 104 miles was completed in fifteen hours.

The Brighton Gazette reported that Mr. Moon, ‘who is an expert bicyclist’, recently completed the run from London to Brighton in five hours and forty minutes, ‘the quickest time in which it has been known to have been run’.

The bike run in its present form seems to have begun in 1976 according to the

Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria

Evening Argus in 1983. That year all manner of bicycles were entered including unicycles, penny farthings, rickshaws and tandems. Theatre groups and brass bands entertained the cyclist on route and a bicycle boogie took place at the Royal Albion Hotel.

In 1976 there were thirty four entrants, eleven thousand in 1983 and twenty seven thousand in 2010!

Paul Jordan, Senior History Centre Officer