Slow down for Essex: safety car to impose 22mph speed limit on RideLondon

Riders not allowed to pass front car during event

Ride London in Essex
(Image credit: Future / Dan Baines)

Riders taking part in the RideLondon sportive in the UK next weekend will not be permitted to pass a safety car travelling at the front of the event at 22mph, or roughly 35km/h.

The speed limit was revealed in the event guide (opens in new tab) published by the organisers over the weekend, along with start times for those taking part. The limit could now see riders being forced to slow down, or bunch up.

The event takes place next Sunday, 29 May, and will see 25,000 ride a new 102-mile route around Essex. The closed-road event first took place in 2013, but this will be the first time it does not go around Surrey.

The start line will this May be chalked up outside Somerset House with the start pens extending back down the embankment and up to Trafalgar Square. From there the route heads east to Docklands, north up to Stratford’s Olympic park then onto the A12 and up toward Essex and the countryside.

The loop, which looks like a figure of eight but is actually more of a balloon on a string pinched together in the middle, rejoins itself in Woodford and retraces its steps back into London and the finish under the first arch of Tower Bridge.

In a section titled "Ride safely - it's not a race", the guide says: "A safety car will travel at the front of the event at 22mph. Those riding at the front of the event must not pass this vehicle for safety reasons."

Riders must finish the event by 18:00, with participants released in waves - the safety car speed limit might see people looking to start later in order to average higher speeds in groups.

The television presenter Matt Barbet tweeted (opens in new tab): "I’ve ridden several times and loved it - like-minded people of similar ability on closed roads. What a dream. Now, limiting the speed of quicker riders seems a very backward step to me. Many go faster on a regular Sunday…"

Cycling Weekly explored the new route earlier this year, and found it demanding if not testing in terms of climbing metres, which makes the decision to effectively place an overall speed limit an interesting one.

There was more negative reaction on social media. One entrant tweeted (opens in new tab): "[It] seems like you [RideLondon] did a pretty good job allocating start times by expected rider speed. What's that? You’re running a “safety” car at the front limited to 22mph and allowing the faster riders to drop back into a later wave? Great, can’t see what can possibly go wrong!"

Another said (opens in new tab): "Last time I rode RideLondon, I did it in 4hr05. I had hopped to go under 4 hours which means I would be required to ride at an average speed of 25mph. Yet your road book says you will have a car driving at the front at 22mph. Please would you confirm?"

RideLondon's organisers have been contacted for comment by Cycling Weekly.

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Adam is Cycling Weekly’s senior news and feature writer – his greatest love is road racing but as long as he is cycling on tarmac, he's happy. Before joining Cycling Weekly he spent two years writing for Procycling, where he interviewed riders and wrote about racing, speaking to people as varied as Demi Vollering to Philippe Gilbert. Before cycling took over my professional life, he covered ecclesiastical matters at the world’s largest Anglican newspaper and politics at Business Insider. Don't ask how that is related to cycling.