Cycling from London to Paris is accessible, simple to organise, fun and totally EPIC
Last Friday I cycled from London to Paris in 23 hours with Sean Conway. It was my 4th time doing this adventure, I strongly urge you to give it a try if you are tempted, it's a weekend you won't forget!
I stongly believe that anyone can do this. It just takes a little training, planning and someone to share the adventure with. One of the biggest attractions of L2P24 is you can easily fit it in a weekend without taking time off work. I leave after work on Friday and this time was back in London by Saturday evening, with Sunday to chill out at home and back at work on Monday. Even if you stay the night in Paris you can still be back in London by midday on Sunday.
Here's how we did it so you can plan yours:
Friday 8am: Cycled to work
The weather was fine with blue skies, sunshine and the promise of adventure ahead. I was excited about hitting the road all day.
3pm: Met Sean Conway at Tower Bridge
65 miles/105 kms from London to Newhaven ferry port. We were travelling light, had the route mapped onto the garmins and headed towards the coast. We agreed we needed to get at least half way to Newhaven before stopping for a beer.
4-7pm: Cycling through the North and South Downs
It took about an hour to get out of London and onto quieter roads where we could cycle alongside each other and catch up. The air was still and smelt fresh. The colour of the sky changed through pastel blues and pinks as the sun set. As we cycled, I couldn't decide which way to look.
The sun was setting on my right and the moon rising on my left. What a stunning evening for a bike ride.
We bumped into Rich a fellow triathlete and twitter friend, lovely surprise. We ate sandwiches, took photos, filmed the sunset, messed around posing on a fence and smashed out the miles.
6:45pm: Pub Stop - Carb Loading
By now it was dark and we could feel the cold setting in. 35 miles/56 kms into the ride we passed a pub that looked too good to ride past, the lure of food and a pint was too much.
We charged our phones, ate pizza, refilled water bottles and headed on into the night.
7:45pm: Pub to Newhaven ferry port
30 miles to cycle in 2 hours, not a problem right? Well...we went down the wrong road and had to back track. We spent 10 minutes waiting for a train to pass. But with no more excuses to stop we put the gas on the pedals and cruised along at a far higher average speed than pre-pint. Must have been the beer. Once we hit Lewes, it was easy riding pretty much downhill for 8 miles into Newhaven. Time for some more carb loading.
10:30pm: Board the ferry
As we were on an adventure we hadn't taken the sensible option and booked a cabin. We would spend the 4 hour ferry ride trying to catch a few winks in the lounge. First though, beer o'clock! At 11pm the ferry set sail.
4am: Arrival into Dieppe
About 3:30am French time, so roughly after 2.5 hours of sleep I woke up feeling shocking. Uncomfortable upright chairs, lights on, cold, 65 miles in the legs... it was difficult to sleep much at all. I did get some great photos of Sean though.
4:30am: Disembark ferry
The first thing that hits you is the cold. It's dark, cold and windy and you have 105 miles/170kms to cycle. Sobering thought.
5am: Start of the Avenue Verte
The Avenue Verte is 30 miles/50kms of disused railway track which has been paved over. Straight, flat, car free and just what we needed at 5am. We cycled, chatted, swapped bikes for a bit and waited for first light to peep through the clouds.
7am: Breakfast! Forges Les Eaux
3kms after the end of the Avenue Verte we came to a great breakfast stop in Forges Les Eaux. At 7am the bakeries were opening with French patisseries straight from the oven. The local Tabac (cafe) was also open so we made it our home for an hour. We ate criossants, drank coffee and Sean slept whilst I updated social media on our adventure so far. It was fun thinking of everyone waking up and following #London2Paris24 on Twitter.
8am - 12pm: 70 miles/ 112 kms to go
The next 3 hours we cycled mainly on country lanes. Our route took us through little hill top villages with stoned walls, past great Chateaus with turrets and along small winding roads that passed through field after field of rolling farmland.
The trick with cycling long distances is to keep your average speed low and eat whenever you can. Little and often.
2pm: 10 miles outside Paris
Finally we were within spitting distance of Paris. It still took us just over an hour to reach L'Arc De Triomphe and Le Tour Eiffel. The road system was complicated, we were beggining to feel the miles in our legs and there was Saturday traffic to contend with.
We made a deal, the last person to spot the Eiffel Tower had to buy the beers. I was sure I won, but Sean was sure it was the opposite.
Soon enough we were cycling over the cobblestones to the Arc de Triomphe. We made it!
Next stop, Eiffel Tower. After the obligatory photos, video diaries and uploading to social media. We gave each other a high five and I produced a minature bottle of Scotland's finest whiskey from my jersey pocket. Every adventurer's must have.
London to Paris - 190 miles/305 kms in 23 hours
After checking our bikes onto the Eurostar (£25 each) we headed to a quiet bar and ordered beers. Time to relax and absorb. Ahhhh.
I was back in London by 10pm. Although it is great to stay the night in Paris and enjoy the wonderful city after an epic cycle like that, this time our mission had been to go there and back in 30 hours.
Keen to try this yourself?
- Credit/Debit Card
- Experience of cycling 100 miles+ in one day (if you're going for the 24 hour attempt)
- Spirit of Adventure
- Someone to share it with (optional)
- Camera (optional)
You really don't need anything else.
What I love about this ride is how light you can travel
My preferred style of cycling is light and fast although a cycle touring bike and panniers may suit you better - the choice is yours.
Thanks to everyone who followed on social media, your response was immense and we loved sharing the journey with you.
Travel, Kit and Logistics
I always book my travel in advance - ferry, Eurostar and accommodation if I'm staying over. You can buy spare tubes from the supermarkets in France. You can buy food along the way. Taking gels and Nuun hydration tablets for your water bottles is always a good idea. No need for support car or tents. If you want to take 2+ days to do it, you can stay in a hostel and wear the same clothes 2 days in a row.
Getting the layering system right can be a challenge but I feel I got it spot on this time. I wore long bib tights, cycling shoes, mid weight socks, (no over shoes), Rapha rain jacket and a short sleeved cycling jersey. To keep me warm during the colder sections and on the ferry I had a thin beanie, an Arcteryx neck wamer that I use for mountaineering and Rapha arm warmers (which should be renamed lifesavers). All of these give invaluable additional warmth and comfort but also pack down light and can be shoved into jersey pockets.
An incredible adventure awaits you and I've shown you how simple it is to organise.
This was my 4th time cycling London to Paris in 24 hours. Each one has been a different experience with different people. I've loved them all.
Check out Sean's blog and get in touch if you have any questions.