LEL tips: Preparing for British weather

If you’re not British, or if you don’t live in Britain, you have probably heard that British people talk about the weather a lot. And it’s true; we do. If you are planning to ride London Edinburgh London in 2021 it is a good idea to understand the reasons why.

First the good news. We usually have very mild weather in summer in Britain. In August temperatures average around 15-25 degrees centigrade during the day, and 10-15 centigrade at night. In a good year it can be warmer,. In August 2019, for example, Britain had almost a month of unbroken sunshine. There will be plenty of daylight too, with sunrise at 05:30 and sunset at 21:00. In Scotland you’ll get an additional ten minutes of daytime on top of that. Although it might be wet, most of the event happens in the east of the country, which tends to be drier.

Unfortunately though, it’s not as simple as that. The British Isles are situated on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, in the path of the gulfstream from the Gulf of Mexico. This means our weather can be incredibly variable. Even in summer, the weather can shift dramatically from one week to the next, from one day to the next, and even from one hour to the next. This makes it impossible to predict your riding conditions until a few days before the event. In 2013, as riders passed through Scotland, the overnight temperature fell to 1 degree centigrade. Unlucky riders also experienced an overnight rainstorm, followed by a hailstorm. Two days later the daytime temperature in London reached 32 degrees centigrade. In 2017, a storm near Carlisle caused some riders to abandon due to cold and rain, yet most riders remained dry throughout their ride.

The gulf stream also results in a weather system where the wind tends to blow from south to north. This often makes the ride to Edinburgh easier than the return to London, particularly across the long flat section through the English fenlands on your first day. You probably won’t notice the tailwind at the start of the ride, but you absolutely will notice the headwind on your return.

It’s not all gloom and doom though! Although the weather can be unpredictable, it is usually mild and calm. 

So what does this mean for your ride? Here are some tips to help you make the best of British weather:

  • Be prepared! If you come from a hot country, be prepared for cold nights. Bring winter gloves. Bring a second pair to wear underneath the first pair. You may also find thick socks or shoe covers helpful if you plan to ride at night.
  • You will need a good rain jacket, but you might not ever use it. If the weather features lots of showers, it may be easier to keep riding and allow the wind to dry you afterwards.
  • If you get wet, DON’T STOP RIDING! You will get very cold very quickly if you stop. If you want a break, wait until you find a café or restaurant and shelter there.
  • Prepare for wind. There is a 160km stretch of the route, in southern England, with just 10 metres of climbing and few trees or hedges to block the wind. On your return to London you will almost certainly encounter a strong headwind. Be sure to allow extra time from Louth down to St Ives, and find a group to share the burden of facing the wind.
  • Prepare for sunshine too! If you have light skin, be sure to bring sunblock as you may be riding in daylight for up to 16 hours a day.

British weather is part of what makes this event a true adventure. It may be your best friend or your worst enemy. If you think you are up to the challenge, we open for entries on 7 January 2021.