DONE. DID IT.
That was all I could fathom to write when I posted the obligatory Instagram photo of me holding my bike above my head in front of the Eiffel Tower on the afternoon of Sunday 16th July 2017.
As I’m starting to write this post (sat on the Eurostar back to London), a part of me can’t quite believe it’s all done and dusted. The entire trip seemed to have completely crept up on me when it initially seemed like I had forever to train, get prepared and organised. Cycling from London to Paris for me was a challenge; I was part excited and part nervous but that’s what made me want to do it.
Day One: Olympic Park, Stratford (London) to Newhaven
Ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe
Day Two: Dieppe to Beauvais
Day Three: Beauvais to Eiffel Tower, Paris
In my mind, day one was gonna be the longest, toughest and least scenic. But we were mentally prepared; that’s why we rode London to Brighton just a couple weeks earlier in order to have an idea of what to expect. We met bright and early and were on our way just after 630am. Just under an hour later and we had puncture number one which took 45 minutes to resolve (including the purchase of coffee). After this however, we cruised along towards newhaven past spots that we had stopped at last time being grateful that we were having a better ride this time and didn’t need to stop. We knew what hills to expect and we knew we didn’t need to climb Ditchling Beacon so we couldn’t be happier. With a 530pm Ferry to catch, day one was the only day where time was a pressure. We needed to arrive at Newhaven by 430pm the latest in order to check in and board the ferry so we were more than happy when we arrived around 230pm leaving us enough time to go and have a decent meal in town, avoiding ferry food (I know anything would probably taste decent after 111km but…).
Hopping off the ferry four hours later in Dieppe and having just a 10/15 minute ride to our hotel was perfect. Lights on, final uphill push for the day… shower and bed.
Quote of the day: “…This is much more fun than last time” – Mollie
Lesson of the day: Make sure you build time into your schedule for punctures and other mechanical difficulties.
Tips for the day:
– Have your flip flops handy for the ferry as if your cleats are not recessed you can’t wear them on the ferry.
– Don’t forget to plan your route from the ferry to the hotel (if you’re spending the first night in Dieppe)
– If you’ve only got two kits for the three days, defo try and find the energy to wash today’s kit so it can start drying ready for day three
Route on Strava: https://www.strava.com/routes/9003223
Where we stayed: Touvotel Citotel Hotel Dieppe
Location rating: 5/5
Room rating: 3/5
Bike storage rating: 3/5
Breakfast rating: 3/5
Day two now was actually my best day physically. In my head, our ride started on a Saturday (it was Friday) and I didn’t take into account how my teaching schedule on a Thursday (2 lift classes) would make me feel. And that was tired. But I’d pushed through that in day one and luckily was feeling a lot better for our second day.
We met for breakfast in the hotel at 8am and planned to depart at 9am which became 930am once we’d got ourselves together. The first half of our day was along the Avenue Vert which is a disused railway line that was paved over and turned into a dedicated cycle path. It’s (kinda) smooth and (kinda) direct straight to Forge les Eaux… our main stop for the day. Avenue Vert isn’t exactly full of sights but it is beautiful being in the countryside. It also has a sneaky little incline which makes you think you’re kinda shit at cycling but in fact it’s because you’ve been steadily going uphill for 50km.
Which brings us to Forge les Eaux. A little town in the middle of Avenue Vert. There’s not much going on there (and I mean it was Saturday) so when it came to food I was a little reserved. The crew picked a restaurant where they could get their ham and cheese toastie fix but I decided to play it safe and pop to the supermarket for some fresh fruit (specifically nectarines as they looked amazing) along with crisps and water to top up my bottles.
From Forge les Eaux you either have the choice to continue along Avenue Vert or take the roads to get to Beauvais, our overnight stop location. The Avenue Vert is a fair bit longer than the road route so obviously we went with the road route, right?! Drivers in rural France seemed to be a lot more considerate of us cyclists with 99% of them overtaking with at least a cars width between us. The roads were so well maintained it was a dream to ride and the rolling hills were very much welcome after 50km of a “flat(ish)” route.
Somewhere along said road, my back brakes started to rub for some unknown reason which caused us to stop a couple of times to fix them. In the end, we just opened them and I rode at the front to make sure I could always stop safely with ample time. To this day, I have no idea what was wrong with them but skipping ahead to day three quickly, I just closed them on the morning and all was well.
The last stretch into Beauvais was along Trans’Oise, another cycle path (maybe also part of Avenue Vert?). By this point we kinda were losing the will to live to be honest. Although it was a good day physically for me, that didn’t mean it was for the whole crew. Luckily Sophie came up with the idea of playing Spotify on her phone so I literally did the same on my phone and I cannot explain the difference the music made to me. Well, I guess I can explain. …I basically reenacted an indoor cycling class on my bicycle in the great outdoors. I rode to the beat (upper body work included) and smashed out the entire ride to Beauvais measuring it in songs. Thank you Spotify discover weekly. Thank you.
We arrived at our hotel around 5pm leaving us plenty of time to relax then head out to dinner and get to bed before 10pm. Yes people, we’re rock and roll.
Quote of the day: “…This is not a happy day for my vagina” – Sophie
Lesson of the day: Make sure you pack some antihistamines and painkillers. I got stung on my foot by what we think was a wasp on the evening of day two and in addition to the fact it bloody hurt, I panicked that my foot was going to swell and either not fit in my cycling shoes for the third day or be excruciatingly uncomfortable. Luckily I popped an antihistamine asap and had no adverse reaction. Not sure how I’d write up that I didn’t make it to Paris on bike cos of a wasp sting.
Tips for the day:
– Take headphones and have some tunes downloaded to Spotify that you can play while on the cycle paths if you need some extra motivation
– Stock up on snacks at breakfast. We were saved by Nutella spread on baguettes. Oh and the individually wrapped mini Madeleine cakes and chocolate chip cakes. And bottled water.
– Make sure you carry enough locks between the group to secure your bikes overnight. Our hotel only had an outdoor garden type space for us to store our bikes which was at least covered (just about). I’m not one for locking my bike up outdoors so was really uncomfortable with this. I’d definitely recommend researching bike friendly hotels and taking recommendations from cycling friends / cycling blogs to choose where to stay.
– On the subject of hotels, again, research well and take recommendations as our hotel was directly opposite a bar and park which on a Saturday night were filled with people having a good time (yeaaaahhh, I know) which meant we slept very little as the window was open to help keep us cool due to not having air conditioning in the room. Fail. So clearly I’m not recommending the hotel we stayed in. I repeat, I am NOT recommending the hotel named below that we stayed in.
Route on Strava: https://www.strava.com/routes/9003313
Where we stayed: Chenal Hotel Le Chenal, Beauvais
Location rating: 1/5
Room rating: 2/5
Bike storage rating: 1/5
Breakfast rating: 0/5