Simon cycles: taking on the Ride 100

August 2018 | 8 minutes

After taking on Dry January Simon's life changed - and he wanted to make a difference for others.

After a very heavy Christmas and New Year I decided to take a break from alcohol. I’ve always been a drinker, ever since I was about 16 (I’m now 48) and in that time I have never had a sustained break from alcohol. I stumbled across the Dry January Facebook group and joined it and was surprised to see that there were many others just like me, all with a story to tell.

Initially my goal was to not drink for January, the hardest part being my birthday on 30 January. That came and went and was probably one of my best birthdays ever. It got me thinking: if I can go without a drink on my birthday, can I take on the challenge of the whole year?

I decided to go for it. I’m quite a headstrong person and when I put my mind to something I don’t give in. But why take on just one challenge when I could take on two? It was about two months ago I saw on the Dry January Facebook group that they were looking for people to take part in Ride London 100 for them. Being a keen cyclist I said yes please. It meant I was going to have to ramp up my training for the big day, which was on Sunday 29 July.


The day of the event I had to get up at 4am and drive to London from Reading, something I would have really struggled with had I still been drinking. I picked up a friend at Windsor who was also riding for a charity and off we went to find our car park at Covent Garden. We arrived there at 6am; my start time was 8.30am but we had to cycle across London to find the Olympic Park, which was about eight miles away. The ride to the Olympic Park was funny because of all the cyclists also making their way there. It was clear nobody really knew the way so the group just got bigger and bigger and after a few wrong turns we eventually found it.

There were over 20,000 people taking part in the ride, so they put us in starting pens according to our start time. After dumping my bag at the lorries, the big question was whether to wear my waterproof. We’d just had a seven-week heatwave and it wasn’t raining at the time, I decided not to… a decision I’d regret for the rest of the day. I arrived in my pen about an hour or so early. That’s when I started to get cold and realised nearly everyone else had coats and waterproofs on.

As 8.30am approached everyone was getting excited and we were slowly brought forward to the start, by which time I was shaking from the cold. I decided I would attack the first few miles to try and warm up. We set off in good time and I did just that, only I didn’t stop, I was enjoying myself so much whizzing through the streets of London on closed roads. I kept going really fast, I think the adrenaline must have been flowing.

I’d planned to have a break at Box Hill, which is over halfway, but the wind and rain were relentless so I stopped just before then. Just about the wettest ‘ dry challenge’ ever.

At the stop I loaded up on food and drink and then I realised just how cold I was. My hands were white and I was physically shaking. I actually found some warmth in the portaloo so I waited there for about five minutes trying desperately to warm up, but I couldn’t feel my hands. It was then that I had to have a massive word with myself not to give in. I thought, “This is it, I’m just going to go for it”, I put any negative thoughts to the back of my mind. Box Hill came, I put a big effort in to get up there and I started to warm up. That was at about 65 miles in and I thought, “I’m nearly there now”. I started to enjoy it again through Kingston and Wimbledon and the last 10 miles to the finish seemed all downhill. The spectators were amazing all the way round. It was then past the Houses of Parliament, a big left turn and a sprint finish down the Mall in front of Buckingham Palace.


Wow! I’d done it. What a day.

So here I am 210 days with not a drop of alcohol, having done this amazing challenge all thanks to Alcohol Concern and its Dry January Facebook group. I think my message is, if you want to do something just do it, don’t let obstacles get in your way. Alcohol got in my way and I can truly enjoy life without it now. I will definitely be doing the whole year and may never drink again.

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