Dan and I were very excited on Saturday to set off, but having decided that we wanted to complete the ride within 24 hours, as it has a better ring to it, we needed to set off later in the day. We decided 1400 was a good time to allow us a casual ride to Newhaven via Ditchling Beacon and Brighton to have fish and chips on the beach.
We could barely contain our excitement but managed to meet at Westminster bridge at 1345 and waited impatiently to take a picture with Big Ben at 1400.
The ride to Brighton was quite a relaxed pace without many stops. We did plan to stop at turners hill for some late lunch but found the kitchen closed at 1500 when we arrived at 1605.
You always get to meet interesting other people and cyclists on the way; we bumped into some guys doing London to Paris (Marble Arch to the Arc de Triamphe), but taking 4 days instead of 1 to do it.
We continued all the way to Brighton only stopping for a short rest just before the “green beast” or “devil’s dyke” that is Ditchling Beacon. Whilst waiting, having a chat on a bench, about 40 other cyclists also doing London to Brighton showed up. This was fantastic timing as it allowed us to overtake most of them on the way up and it gave us people to chase.
I also managed to see a one armed cyclist make it to the top which was a new one! Very, very impressive.
(Ditchling Beacon climb video to come!)
Without stopping at the top for a breather we continued to Brighton for the obligatory photo next to the pier! 55 miles in 3 hours 45 elapsed cycling and just over 4 hours in total.
After a fish and chips, cheeky couple of beers and a 99 Flake we took the unnecessarily undulating road to Newhaven slowly. Just under 10 miles away, it was one of the windiest conditions I have ever cycled in.
Finally making it to the ferry stop an hour and a half early we took a quick nap until we boarded to sleep in the wonderful luxury accommodation for the 4 hour ferry.
We met another cyclist on the ferry who was a doctor and documentary maker who was delivering a sentimental DVD of a family he worked with on a documentary about triplets in Geneva. He was cycling there and back in just two weeks! Incredible.
Getting into the bitter cold with not much sleep at 4 am is a little painful, especially with no street lights and not knowing which side of the road you are meant to be one, but you can push on with the cycling and get a lot of miles knocked off before most people even contemplate waking up on a Sunday!
After a beautiful ride along the Avenue Verte (40 miles of a paved over railway line that is brilliantly flat and incredibly smooth) where we took turns to take the headwind, we stopped for a breather at 615 with 40 miles under our belt. Just 65/70 odd to go.
With energy levels starting to drop we ate all the food we had: haribo, snickers, flapjacks, trackers and energy bars as well as a full bottle of Lucozade. We were like ravenous children consuming all sugar sources available.
With a new found burst of energy we continued for an hour until we saw a patisserie where we filled up on the water we desperately needed, as well as some pain au chocolats and croissants.
Again pressing on for another hour and a half we took shelter when the rain started in a small cafe for a coffee, then back onto the undulating hills to grab a quick breather in a bus stop another 20 miles down the road.
From here on in we knew we would be too excited to stop before reaching Paris just 40 kilometres away. Using Google maps with the route pre-loaded we could track our progress without needing to use the data.
Unfortunately just going past Pontoise, Daniel hit an odd pot hole or something and somehow managed to snap one of his spokes, immediately buckling the wheel. He tried to loosen the brake as much as possible but the bike was wobbling from side to side. It was like trying to run straight down a path whilst being pulled violently to one side every couple of seconds.
We decided to hit the train station conveniently next to us and see if we could get a train in. However feeling like it was cheating and with one working bike remaining I ruthlessly took the opportunity to get back on and meet Daniel at Paris Gare du Nord where this station had a train that also conveniently went directly to for just 5 euros. We could then check the bikes in for the Eurostar and have lunch around the corner at Montmartre. Perfect. And I could still complete the last 20km before the 24 hours was up (23 if you stay on English time).
I met another cyclist on the way into Paris who was taking part in a ride around Alpe d’Huez for the 5th year. It’s a 5000m ascent in just one day which he completes in about 10 hours; but the pros do in just 5 hours! This is a serious ride. Ridiculous.
We met at the station and completed the ride (albeit Daniel skipping the last little bit) in just over 22 hours door to door.
Checking the bikes into the Eurostar and grabbing a big meal we felt a weird sense of confusion as just a day ago we were setting off on a ride from home in London. Now we were in Paris. Soon to head back as well! A strange dream that leaves us exhausted.
Wandering round we found a discount clothing store where we got 2 sets of novelty tee shirts and jumpers for €20 (since all our other stuff was soaking from the rain) and grabbed a shower in a local gym after making a shady deal with the duty manager.
Heading back on the 1913 train to kings cross we were shattered, but still buzzing from the excitement of it all.
I hope to do this ride again with more people at some point, perhaps a little slower (so let me know if you are interested). But for now I want to get off the bike and regrow my gentleman parts.