Every journey starts with a first step, and the first step on this journey actually started on Twitter. Quite how I ended up following Sophie Radcliffe (@ChallengeSophie) I’ll never know, but her drive and enthusiasm for cycling and challenging herself is so contagious that I have to credit her for the inspiration for this trip.
After mulling the idea over for a few months, to-ing and fro-ing as to whether I could actually manage such a cycle, I set myself a New Year’s resolution and signed up another two idiots to join me.
Don’t believe for a minute though that I’m an uber cyclist. In fact, I only just got my first adult bike a few months earlier, at the ripe young age of 39, and Londono2Paris was to be my excuse to get out on it. And don’t believe I’m the model of fitness either. With a BMI to make the doctor frown, I had my work cut out if I was going to make this happen.
As the weeks ticked by everything slowly fell into place. Logistically, the date was set, route picked and accommodation booked. On the training front I’d signed up for the gym to help build my lower body and core strength and to improve my cardio. Time on the bike was crucial too, with various local routes challenging my cycling skills at all levels.
Can you still call it cycling when you have to get off and push? On the plus side, I did choose a gorgeous spot to collapse in a heap at the side of the road. #London2Paris #Training
15th February 2015
Fearing the first day of cycling, which was to be around the 70 mile mark, I pushed myself, and after a couple of 45 mile circuits around the river Forth, and a 66 mile ride out to Loch Lomond, I deemed myself fit enough to cycle London2Paris without dying.
It’d be crazy to attempt such a trip without knowing the basics of bike maintenance though. Not that bikes are overly complex, but by this point I had never need to repair a puncture, despite the numerous off-road forest trails I’d muddied myself on. I signed myself up for a quick FIX IT course at my local bike shop and walked away with everything I needed, plus goody bag, for fifteen quid. A bargain, especially if cycling’s all new to you. YouTube was a great help too.
Not wanting to be classified as a middle-aged-man-in-lycra I skipped the skin-tight look for a pair of walking trousers and outdoor shell. Unfortunately, after attaching cycling clips I ended up looking like Ali Baba. I have since succumbed to lycra.
Training rides weren’t just for me, they were for my kit too. I dismissed a couple of jackets, a set of mudguards and a couple of bags for not being up to the job. I carefully selected the king of all saddle bags and during training filled it with extra weight to make the ride harder. My final kit was selected and with the big day set for Sunday 3rd May we loaded up the car and headed for London.
So the day is finally here. A glorious Sunday morning cycle through the heart of London, Hyde Park to the Cutty Sark — to meet Brian and Tony — then the long road to Newhaven …
After a wee hop across the English Channel we hit the lovely Avenue Vert, and a few hours later we arrive rather wet in to Forges-les-Eaux …
A hilly, windy and partly wet day saw us rolling through the French countryside and closing in on Paris …
The sense of achievement that comes from completing a journey like this is immense.