James Knighton on club cycling, training schedules and Dragon Ride wisdom
James Knighton is an amateur cyclist as keen as they come, with an impressive weekly training mileage; participation in sportive and competitive events; accumulation of ‘Local Legend’ titles on Strava; and a perchance for cycling tourism (as we write this, James is enjoying a cycling holiday in the picturesque French Alps!) James’ personal best time for a Century (100 mile ride) is a swift 03:55:23 and in 2022, he completed the Dragon Ride 300km Devil distance in a rapid 11:15:29 – firmly within the top percentile of riders.
However, behind these amazing times lies solid dedication and impressive work ethic, as James works hard to continually improve his performance while maintaining his love for the sport.
We caught up with the speed enthusiast to learn more about his training and experience at the Dragon Ride 2022…
Introduce yourself! Who are you, how did you first get into cycling?
1. I first got into cycling at university in Bristol and have never looked back since. I now compete in road races, criteriums, hill climbs and the occasional long distance challenge such as the Dragon Devil last year which I just about managed to complete within my goal of 10 hours moving time.
Tell us about when/why you decided to join a club. What effect has joining a club had on you?
I joined London Dynamo when I first moved to the capital, which was a great way to start forming friendships and find friendly competition chasing clubmates around Richmond Park and the Surrey Hills. It has been quite inspiring to ride with those who have busy lives or are a bit older, yet still manage to maintain a high level of fitness.
Dynamo has increasingly focused on diversity and inclusion and it’s been fantastic to see the growth of its women’s community recently. Annual trips abroad to cycling paradises around Europe are also a regular feature and a great way to get to know people better.
What does a typical week of cycling look like for you?
With my training, I’ve become a bit more structured over the years rather than going out trying to smash myself every ride. Without wanting to bore anyone, in general each week is a mix of longer rides on the weekend, shorter more intense sessions – often as a group ride with Dynamo – and the all important easy rides to recover from the hard days while maintaining aerobic fitness. I like to ride outside when I can but in winter needs must and the turbo trainer becomes a regular companion.
Tell us about your Dragon Ride experience – why did you sign up, how did you train and what was your experience of the event?
I actually signed up originally to the Dragon Devil for 2020 with some work colleagues, but thanks to you-know-what, it wasn’t until 2022 that I could finally tackle it! The Brecon Beacons are such an amazing place to ride (even when it’s raining!) and I was in awe at the scenery particularly on the Devil’s Staircase loop – a hard-earnt reward for taking on the Devil route.
Thankfully we had pretty much ideal weather on the day, even with a helpful wind direction, and I managed to find some good riders to work together with during the day. A shoutout to Jeremy (4th fastest overall in his 50s!), Cris our crazy Colombian powerhouse, Thomas (aka the Cycling Tattooist of YouTube fame) and Nick who left us for dead up the Devil’s staircase and ended up as the fastest rider of the day.
In hindsight, I wish I’d spent a bit more time getting longer rides in beforehand as although I was feeling great for the first 6 hours sticking with a strong group, the wheels then fully came off. It took a long feed station stop getting in all the carbs until I felt vaguely human again. I’m not sure if anyone goes through the whole Devil feeling good!
Do you have any Dragon wisdom or general cycling advice you would give to new cyclists?
If I could give any advice to newer cyclists it would be – carb up! It’s very tempting to try to eat as little as you can get away but this really comes back to bite you on the longer rides. Putting energy mix into my water was a revelation for me, it really takes away a lot of the difficulties of taking in energy on the bike and avoids having a stomach full of gels!
Thanks very much for chatting with us James, and we can’t wait to hear about your cycling adventures in the future!