London – Paris – London
May Bank Holiday Weekend
Day 1 (Caroline)
The ride started under a cloudy sky and, for me at least, with quite a cloudy head from waking up too early after a short night following a very last-minute packing. Meeting at Mile End at 7:00am our jolly group of 10 started to cycle in line trying to avoid being cut off by traffic, and feeling slightly out of place with all our bags, gears, and head to toe lycra looks amongst the regular commuters.
I was at the back of the group when the crash happened. All I saw was Adam sat on the pavement holding his hand and a man at least 10 meters away from him, lying down on his back, his head (with no helmet!) bleeding. We all jumped out of our bikes: some started to marshal traffic, Lee attended to Adam, and Jemma started to take care of the man lying there. The wait for the ambulance seemed endless considering we were just behind the Royal London Hospital but they finally arrived and took over – they brought the injured riders to safety and we took care of the bikes. Once it was over, we looked at each other and we agreed it was time to get on to Paris!
Cycling toward South London, our little group got told to “get proper jobs” as we soon left the big roads for some green urban paths which (little did we know) were the first of many non-road-bike-friendly tracks we would encounter until Paris. Stopping for lunch at a pub on the usual route to Brighton, Nestor and Jemma ate a disappointing micro bruschetta, I lowered my saddle praying my old commuter bike (or myself) would not die before arriving to Paris, and Alex made sure Adam was ok, while we all wondered how long we should wait until throwing some finger jokes…
The rest of the ride was uneventful – pretty much your usual slightly wet road down to the coast with some foresty lanes, slippery road works, and a pretty ugly arrival to Newhaven made better by a fueling stop at McDonald/ KYC/ Lidl, accompanied by some Froome magic on the Giro. By the time we got on the boat the sun was out and the spirits were high!
After a chat with a very relaxed custom officer who luckily did not find the many firearms we were trying to introduce to France, we jumped on the boat for a four-hour chat about fingers, cycling and LVCC. Once in France, we said goodbye to the drunk rugby players that pretended to try cycling and started to look for our hotel. Passing through quiet Dieppe, climbing up a dark motorway, turning on an Intermarché parking and passing a llama, we finally found our Michelin-star F1 hotel for a good shower in flip flops and a short night sleep – ready for more adventures!
Day 2 (James)
With Lee and Lewis pressing for a super early start and a race paced chain gang to Paris (nothing to do with the Champions League final), we compromised and set out from our luxury accommodation at 7:30 after a breakfast of whatever we managed to fill our bags with from Lidl the evening before. Our day’s plan was the 130 miles to Paris, using a mixture of Avenue Verte and a lovely route through some little villages. The sun made an early appearance and quickly reached about 28 degrees, which made the quite lumpy route fairly tough going. Frequent water stops were a must, alongside a very leisurely lunch at a pizzeria.
On we pootled through the french countryside and rolling hills towards Paris. It was hard to get used to the fact a car horn and shout from a window was encouragement, not abuse! The route wasn’t strictly speaking entirely road… I had cause to feel smug with my choice of 43mm tyres. At around 110 miles, Jemma and I decided to split off to find some dinner and take the run into Paris a little slower…finding vegetarian food in France late at night is a challenge! The ride into Paris was beautiful, through a big park with the skyline slowly appearing through the trees, before a horrifying descent down some cobbles that had some of the group convinced that Caroline’s bike was going to vibrate to pieces.
The advance party managed to make it to the Eiffel Tower just before the sun disappeared, before heading back to the hotel to gorge on well earned takeaway food. Jemma and I decided to leave the sightseeing for the morning, head to the hotel and take a more leisurely route home the next day.
Day 3 (Jemma)
After getting into Paris too late to see the Eiffel Tower, James and I decided to go in the morning before catching a train to Rouen with the intent of then cycling half the distance to the ferry port where we would meet the rest of the group. Tensions did flare slightly when the train broke down with no indication of when it would start again, thankfully within the hour they were moving. However, in our eagerness to get out cycling in the beautiful weather we hopped out a stop too early adding an extra 15 miles onto our journey.
Not thinking it would be an issue we set off in the sunshine and had a lovely trundle up river paths, through beautiful fields and past many farms. Some fantastic 2UP time trialling down a particular stretch of road gave some welcome top 10 strava cups. A note has been made to go back without luggage to get the QOMs.
As the light started to fade, lights went on and cycling continued until the route went a little awry and we ended up in the middle of a countryside housing estate; bikes had to be pushed over a bridge over a stream which saw the entrance into a tree covered track. My 25s weren’t made for what was effectively a fire road and I suspected that James did it on purpose to get use out of his new ‘all purpose bike’ and 43mm tyres. After pushing the bikes through 1km of tree roots, rocks and mud we came out the other side and had an enjoyable ride in fading light into Dieppe where we met up with the others for some port-side drinks before boarding the ferry.
The rest of the group took a much more direct route out of Paris, closed roads due to a charity run aided their exit, the quiet rolling French main roads and fantastic weather helped the group roll along the 112mile trip at an average of 16mph. There were few shaky moments, mainly trying to find somewhere to eat (that wasn’t McDonalds) in the French countryside – We ended up at the Golden Arches regardless.
Arriving into Dieppe in the early evening – Lee took the infamous Dieppe sprint sign – the first port of call was a few pints in the nearest bar, although for Nestor he had to cool down in the fountain!
Day 4 – (Jemma)
The sleep on the ferry couldn’t really be called a sleep, not sure that anyone got more than 2 hours and the McDonald’s breakfast barely made the cycle ahead palatable at 5am in the morning. James and I decided to splinter from the group and take a different route home via Brighton. The juxtaposition of an on-going rave in the arches against the early morning nudist swimmers was interesting (that would have been me a few years back). On leaving Brighton up the slow drag onto the national cycle route we got about 5 miles north before erm, my saddle issues had gotten so bad that the 50 mile ride back to London was going to be near on impossible so we freewheeled back to the station and got the train. A new saddle was promptly purchased the following week. The rest of the group went directly back to London and somehow managed to eat their own body weights in McDonald’s, before being caught in the only rain we saw all weekend!
**as an aside, Lee failed in his bet that I would be the first to fall off. I (Jemma) did however take the record for how many times someone can fall off in a four day stretch.
Lee gets his own special mention for his ride back to London, but you will have to ask him why…
Despite being off to a rather traumatic start (and we wish Adam all the best in his continued recovery), it was a great trip. With ferry, hotels and food amounting to around £100 each for a 4 day adventure, this is definitely one to do again!