Are you looking for an endurance challenge that can be completed in a weekend? Cycling from London to Paris in 24 hours is exactly that; enough of a challenge that you need to do some training, but certainly not out of reach of any decent cyclist.
A group of friends and I had decided to take on the challenge but, after fracturing my collarbone on a training ride, I was relegated to the support vehicle alongside Sarah, my friends mum, who had kindly offered to help (we were in a car but also took a van with us for all our weekend bags and to get the bikes home in). There are lots of organised/ charity rides you can join, but we decided to do our own and below are a few tips on how to go about doing this yourself.
- Do some training: It’s not a technically difficult ride, but it is long so the more training you do the more likely you are to enjoy it. Spend time in the saddle, get to know how much you should be eating, and go out in a variety of weathers and practice your layering.
- Plan your route well: lots of people helpfully provided us with their Strava routes to use as inspiration. We took elements of these and created our own according to the strengths and weaknesses of our group. With some super keen cyclists and others who had bought a bike purely to do this challenge, we chose a route that had a few more miles but a few less hills and suited the team perfectly. For anyone interested, our UK route is here, and French route here.
- Get your timings right: we were booked onto an 11:30pm ferry, and left Clapham around 4.45pm. We were concerned that the traffic would be horrendous and, having not cycled recently together as a group, wanted to make sure we had enough time to get there. We got to Newhaven Ferry Terminal by about 9pm, so had a fair bit of sitting around before boarding around 10.30pm. This did give the cyclists time to refuel and rehydrate which meant that the minute we got on the ferry we could *try* and get some sleep (although the screaming baby did not help)
- Check the tides: a group of cyclists who were doing this the next day were unable to take the ferry due to the tides being extremely low. This was not something we had even considered – but apparently during spring tides this does occasionally happen.
- The ferry is cold: We sat in the general area on the ferry rather than book a cabin and the air conditioning is pretty brutal and the seats aren’t that comfy. We saw lots of cyclists with sleeping bags/ pillows who’d found space to lie down properly which wasn’t a bad idea. Also take an eye mask – they don’t switch off the lights.
- Take lots of layers: When we disembarked the ferry in Dieppe it was -2°C and unsurprisingly most of the group found this leg the hardest. Cold, dark, and with unchanging scenery along the Avenue Verte it was as mentally challenging as it was physically. As soon as people arrived in Forges-Les-Eaux we got them inside with a hot drink and a croissant to warm up – essential!
- Eat enough: Everyone ate before getting on the ferry, but a few people forgot to eat before getting off, which made that first 35 miles even harder. You will always need to eat more than you think you do.
- Getting into Paris is a nightmare: for both the vehicles and the cyclists, getting through Paris is not fun. Our route took the cyclists down a lane to a gypsy camp, the car got stuck in horrendous traffic due to the building of a tram line, and going round the Arc de Triomphe is crazy; there are seemingly no rules.
- Finish Line: we were very lucky that loads of family and friends came out to see everyone over the finish line. A lot of the area around the Eiffel Tower is fenced off so we all congregated by the pond in the middle of Avenue Joseph Bouvard. This also worked as a great spot for that all important finish line picture
- Enjoy it: we wouldn’t do these things unless they were fun, and you deserve to treat yourself to a nice meal in Paris to celebrate (and plan the next challenge…)!