London to Paris – How To Survive

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In May 2013 a friend emailed a small group of us and outlined his plans to cycle from London to Paris, with or without us. In the spirit of naivety four of us agreed to do it, and so the date was set for October 2013.

One would think this is plenty of time to prepare for such an event, and it is, as long as you do the preparation and don’t leave it to the last minute. The journey was planned and mapped out according to Donald Hirsch’s back road route via Newhaven and Dieppe (the route maps are available to print here).

The team consisted of four riderswiggins_2270877b; Oli, Alex, Hamish and myself. It was a simple plan – as are most things in theory – start on Thursday evening and finish on Sunday morning, a grand total of 220 miles. We even allocated roles within the team; Oli was to be the mechanic, Hamish was on map reading duties, Alex was our GPS reader and guide whilst I was to take on medical duties.

In preparation for the event we each undertook individual training regimes, but we all did one long ride (100 miles) together to gauge each other’s riding abilities and work on communication. On this ride it became apparent that we had different levels of fitness within the team, which meant we had to adopt our daily mileage to Paris according to the ‘weakest’ rider.

This is important in order to avoid over exhaustion early in the journey, and for everyone to be able to keep the pace for the duration of the 220 miles. The main training involved in preparing for the event was time spent on the bike getting plenty of miles under our belts. It sounds so obvious to say it, but if you want to be a good rider, you have to put in the mileage.

The other piece of advice I’d give relates to consecutive days of riding. Its vital that your body adapts to being in the saddle for consecutive days and pedalling the bike for consecutive days, in our case four days.

The Hirsch London-to-Paris route is a peaceful and enjoyable route which, once in Dieppe, consists mainly of riding Route Verte (disused railway), but it still takes three days to do it. We split the days into the following mileage:

– Thursday: London to Haywoods Heath (60 miles)

– Friday: Haywoods Heath to Newhaven (20 miles)

– Friday: Dieppe to Forges les Eaux (34 miles)

– Saturday: Forge les Eaux to Forete de St Germain (72 miles)

– Sunday: Forete de St Germain to Paris (35 miles)

The key to our journey being a success, in my opinion, was down to a few factors. First was using both the map and GPS tracker set up to navigate our way. Second was preparing our bikes to do touring distances; changing tyres, adding mud guards and adding saddle bags. Most of all we made the trip fun, because when you are covering those sorts of distances you have got to enjoy it, otherwise it soon becomes a chore and you start to resent doing it.

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Having the right equipment meant we were able to limit tyre changes (not fun) and took time to enjoy long lunches, as well as coffee breaks, ensuring moral was maintained throughout. Overall, the experience of riding a bike from London to Paris was amazing, and without doubt one of the best experiences I have had in life. I strongly recommend it to others, but remember; plan for it, prepare for it, do it and enjoy it.

Tom graduated from UWIC with a degree in science, health, exercise and sport, and then specialised in Physiotherapy and graduated Coventry University in 2008. He has worked in musculoskeletal clinics and community based falls prevention rehabilitation, both for the NHS, and is currently clinical director at TA Physiotherapy. Outside of work, he enjoys staying fit and healthy by attending the gym, completing triathlons and road cycling.

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