I love a good bike ride. Especially when it’s on foreign roads with interesting scenery and on the surface it seems to be a decent challenge.
I’ve ridden to Paris before, but not the conventional route. A few years ago (2010?!) I drove to Newhaven, parked up and ferried across the channel to Dieppe. Once there, I boarded my bike and rode for 120 miles into the French capital. On this particular trip, I rode back to Dieppe the following day and ferried back to Newhaven.
Back to 2015, and I decided it was time to book up another tour. I found some willing participants in the Lostmy.name office and planned our trip. London to Paris was our agenda. But it wasn’t until a couple of weeks after agreeing the ride that someone announced we should attempt it in under 24 hours. The challenge was set…
Based on my previous experience, our route would be similar, if not the same, but would this time include the UK leg:
London -> Newhaven: (~60 miles)(Download GPX file)
Newhaven -> Dieppe (Ferry)
Dieppe -> Paris: (~110 miles)(Download GPX file)
Quite an achievable total distance for 24 hours, assuming no hiccups along the way of course.
I did my first triathlon at the end of August and felt like I wanted to carry my fitness straight through to this ride. But, calendars were full and holidays booked so our ride was pencilled in for early October. A potential risk with regards to the weather.
With the weeks rolling past and our ride fast approaching, it was time to pack. I’ve included my packing list below. Carrying as little as possible is always advisable when touring. In my experience, I rarely use 50% of what I carry. I’m trying to increase this statistic but there will always be some kit which you’re pleased you have, but never have to use: inner tubes, tools, puncture repair kits etc.
You’ll notice that we decided to post our clothes to the Hotel in Paris, so we didn’t have to carry them. This is a nice little tip, if you only plan on touring for a day or so.
- Ferry ticket
- Eurostar ticket
- Hotel receipt
- Water bottles x2
- Lights + cable
- Garmin + cable
- iPhone + cable
- Mobile chargers
- Innertubes x3
- Tyre leavers x3
- Travel tyre pump
- co2 pump + 4 gas canisters
- Saddle bag
- Bike lock
- Cycle jersey
- Cycle tights
- Cycle shoes
- Power bars x12
- Gels x6
Send to hotel
London -> Newhaven
The day arrived and we set off from the office (Hackney, London) at 3pm (3:15pm once we’d had our photo taken).
In high spirits we weaved the London traffic and headed south. The ride out of London (the first 20 miles) was slow. Traffic lights and traffic hindered our progress.
Once we hit the country roads, our pace picked up and we made good time. Will, an experienced tourer had packed slightly on the heavy side compared to the rest of us and this was noticeable on some of the hills. Will’s a strong cyclist but peddling with the weight of two laden panniers will always take it’s toll.
We reached Newhaven at around 8pm. We shopped for food to take onto the ferry and then sought some fish & chips to refuel with before boarding.
Newhaven -> Dieppe
At around 10pm we boarded the ferry. By this time there were a group of about 30 cyclists or so waiting to rack up their bikes and catch some Z’s ready for the morning leg. Once we’d tied up our bikes and removed our luggage we ventured up to deck to find our “beds” for the night. For the 5 hour trip we decided that a cabin wasn’t worth the cost, opting for the floor of the ferry instead.
We found some power sockets near some seating, to recharge phones and Gamin’s and setup camp. We weren’t going to sleep without a pint so headed to the bar. Unsurprisingly, the beer went down quickly and the tiredness set in. It turns out Soreen (fruit loaf) makes a pretty good pillow, especially compared to the vibrating floor of the ferry.
We all tossed and turned for 4 hours, struggling to keep warm before we heard the announcement at 3:30am that we were close to the French coast. We downed some carbs (croissants), changed back into our lycra and repacked our luggage.
Dieppe -> Paris
Our Ferry was running late so we didn’t land in France until 4:15am (we were due at 4am). By the time we’d sorted ourselves out and were on our way it was 4:45am. As expected the roads were quiet and extremely dark. We’d prepared by all bringing atleast one set of lights with us. Together we lit up the road pretty well. After about 20 miles of riding we were much more awake and warm too. The terrain was flat so we clocked up some good miles. Despite it being early, we also had to remember to keep fuelling ourselves. Regular 5 minute stops became the norm, for this reason - a few of us fed whilst riding too.
3 hours into the morning ride and we were desperate for the sun to come up. We’d all started to feel the cold and we were getting bored of the darkness too. The sun rose around 8am but because of the mist we didn’t feel it’s benefit for another hour. There was definately a sense of annoyance amongst the group that it had taken so long to warm up. By 10am, we’d completed 63 miles of the 106miles we had to do that day.
We finally passed through a small town with an open café and boulangerie and took a welcome rest. Coffee’s were the order of the day and we continued to feed on bread and protein, to keep our muscles fuelled. This longer stop lifted spirits, for sure. We all enjoyed acknowledging that we’d done over half our miles for the day too. There was a renewed enthusiasm amongst the group.
Another 30 miles took us to the outskirts of Paris, well on time for our 24 hour target. Again we stopped, this time for beers and bagels. Only 17 miles to go, with the sights and sounds of Paris awaiting us.
Much like when we left London, the closer we got to Paris, the lower our speed got. We weaved traffic and adhered to the frequent traffic lights. Central Paris seemed to cater well for cyclists. There are plenty of wide bus lanes that are generally free from traffic.
The final sprint up to the Champs Elysees ensued. We had to curb our enthusiasm as we hit the famous roundabout and traversed the wild traffic. We’d made it: 23 hours exactly, arriving at around 3:15pm French time.
Bikes were lofted above our heads and photos were taken. We congratulated one another on what had been a well executed tour. No accidents, injuries, punctures or disasters. Oh, apart from Jack snapping is chain 2 minutes after we’d finished the ride. Great timing!
Saturday Night, Paris!
Once we’d washed up back at our hotel, we headed out for some well earnt beers and food. Our friend Lambro had booked La Grille for 8pm that evening. For nearly 3 hours we drank, ate and talked about the last 24 hours. I had a tasy Octopus salad followed by steak and chips! It was heaven compared to the energy bars and sugar heavy snacks we’d been consuming on the bikes. Much fun was had.
Well done to Daniel, Rob, Patrick, Jack and Will. Strong riding and great company along the way. Thanks to Lambro for organising our restaurant on Saturday night and for carrying our locks to the hotel too.