Cycling from London to Paris was a massive learning curve for me because I’d never done any long-distance cycling before, let alone any kind of long-distance endurance event. So for those of you looking to take the challenge on here are my top 10 tips that I learned along the way.
1) Practice packing and carry your bags on training rides
I ended up strapping my backpack onto a luggage rack over my back wheel using bungee cords and the full bag added on considerable weight. It changed the handling of my bike and made going uphill considerably more hard-going, especially on the first day while my legs got used to it. I trained with a half-full bag which in hindsight was a bit pointless
2) Train with your buddies
Cycling as part of a group can be tricky and the more you can practice the easier it will be on the day. Learn and get used to all of the hand signals that you can use to indicate potholes, broken glass, parked cars and traffic lights to the riders behind you. By pointing these things out you’ll make it a safer ride for everyone
3) Decide on lunch stops and dinner locations in advance
We ended up having lengthy discussions most nights about where we were going to eat while we all got increasingly hangry. We managed to all stay friends but if you want to protect your friendships I’d highly recommend doing the research before you leave and agree on places in advance
4) Take it in turns to go at the front
For all of us there were moments where our bodies and/or minds wanted to give up and at these points drafting really came into its own. Drafting is when you tuck into the slipstream of the cyclist in front and it allows you to put in less effort because there’s less air resistance. However, if one person is always in front they will quickly get exhausted so take it in turns
5) Pack as little as possibly
Remember, halfway up a hill your 6kg bag will suddenly feel about 20kg so pack the bare minimum. Everyone will smell by day 3 so just embrace it and stop apologising. You can check out my packing list here and I can say that I packed light and used every single thing that I took
6) Stretch, stretch, stretch
Everything will hurt so take every opportunity you can to stretch out whatever feels tight. My back, bum and quads ended up feeling particularly tight so I tried to give them a good stretch each morning, evening and at rest stops
7) Pack plenty of snacks
Not all french villages have a shop and the ones that do sometimes close at odd times so make sure that you’ve always got enough fuel with you to keep you going to the next village. My favourite bits of fuel were haribo fizzy cola bottles and the peanut butter and jam sandwich that I carried with me on the first day
8) Remember that after the Eiffel Tower you have to get back on your bike
We went straight to the Gare du Nord after the Eiffel Tower to drop our bikes at EuroDespatch to be taken back to London and this was another 5.5 miles across Paris which none of us had really thought about. Plan in your route and stay mentally ready for more cycling
9) Keep hydrating
While we’re all pretty good at hydrating on the bike, it’s worth remembering that you need to keep up with the electrolytes throughout the evenings and the day after your ride too. As tempting as it is to have some alcohol also bear in mind that it can be dehydrating so drink plenty of water on the side to avoid having to cycle on a hangover the next morning
10) The recovery will be tough
I’ve never known exhaustion like when I returned home from Paris. Everyday that week I had to nap in the afternoon and the idea of getting back on my bike or even doing any exercise was nearly enough to make me cry. But you will get back there and you will get back on your bike because it wasn’t actually that bad. Was it?
What tips would you add to the list?