Our blogger at Osbornes Cycle Injuries has just returned from a London to Paris bike ride. Read part one of the trip which takes us up to the ferry port!
When a friend of mine suggested a London to Paris bike ride, I jumped at the chance. “London to Paris,” I thought optimistically, “it can’t be that far…” Little did I realise the aching, saddle-sore mixture of torment and elation that awaited us.
Around January I met up with four other cyclists to discuss plans for our latest challenge. I was a little late to the party, as the rest had already completed rides to Belgium and Holland in previous years. In fact, two had ridden the route via Newhaven and Dieppe before, which gave me at least a little confidence that we might make it.
We aimed to complete the 170-mile (260km) route within 24 hours, leaving on the Friday evening, taking the Newhaven-Dieppe ferry overnight, and arriving in fair Paris late afternoon on Saturday. Not only would this avoid spending the best hours of the day crossing the channel, it would give us plenty of time to enjoy Paris before boarding the Eurostar on the Sunday.
Being a keen but relatively inexperienced cyclist, I imagined that I would be able to complete the feat on my usual diet of London commuting. Thankfully someone persuaded me to take training seriously, and I aimed for four cardio workouts per week leading up to the Grand Depart, racking up a weekly total of around 200 km near the end.
There was a group of eight of us riding; a rather motley crew. Among us there was a mixture of experience, including a bike mechanic and one whose great boast was having ridden from Land’s End to John O’Groats on a unicycle! Most of us had packed light, although only one managed to avoid a rucksack by cramming everything into his saddlebag. Our unicyclist friend insisted on riding with Bluetooth speakers mounted on his handlebars, which at least provided some entertainment. After final the photos and passport checks, we simultaneously started Strava and rolled out en masse.
London to Newhaven
I felt good to begin with and I clocked a Strava top-10 on a flat section near my home. Our route took us out of London via Orpington and down towards Westerham. The first of the day’s climbs, near Cudham, passed without incident, but just outside the M25 we hit a section that resembled the cobbles near Roubaix. After much berating of the route-planner, we passed safely into East Sussex.
Three of the riders followed the GPS route on their bike-mounted Sat Navs; an excellent system since there was invariably one of them in each group on the road even when we split. We kept a good pace despite the expected climb just after Forest Row, and the unexpected climbs either side of it.
Riding with seven others is sometimes a hair-raising experience, not least under the cover of darkness. Thankfully we had (mostly) adhered to the law, and blazed on with a copious number of lights. Nevertheless, I was grateful when we arrived at Newhaven in time to gorge ourselves on fast food and make friends with another group cycling from Eastbourne to Paris and back.
Nor were they the only other cyclists on the route: we met around 60 other riders when boarding the ferry. Cycling to Paris is clearly very chic at the moment. However, we almost failed to join them, as my new lightweight combination lock capitulated and nearly left our bikes stranded on the South Coast! Some prayer and frantic number-crunching did the trick, and we were on our way again. 95km down, 165km to go…