Slow Cycling from London to Paris
I’m thinking about nipping over the channel and re-visiting this type of adventure. Here’s a write-up of a trip I did with friends a few years ago over 4 days.
[Day 1/5] Leaving London
As much as I had been dreading city riding, I must admit that I loved the thrill of it. My feeling of safety was enhanced by three things: 1) being on a cycle route 2) being in a group 3) being visible in lovely fluoro! Sadly, I got my nutrition wrong: eating two cold boiled eggs before setting off instead of a banana or sandwich. This gave me indigestion and no sympathy from my friends! We went east on Sustrans route 1 through the City and docklands, under the Greenwich foot tunnel, past the Cutty Sark then east to pick up route 21 south. The route goes alongside rivers and parks where possible.
It’s slow but that’s touring; thus the deceptively-low daily mileage because all the weaving about, meandering, and stopping takes extra time on this kind of route. Cities are notoriously tricky for the cycle tourist, what with having to navigate barriers put up to stop other motorised vehicles and other obstacles. I’ve sawn off the end of the handlebars on all my bike to make this kind of thing easier. Why do they make handlebars so wide anyway? Sadly, there’s nothing that can be done about the need to stop repeatedly at junctions so we allowed more time for city and suburb days.
We’d only just got out of the suburbs proper and into the rolling greenery when we reached our first hotel, a golf/conference type affair but serviceable enough and brilliantly located on the route. It’s a good job that we hadn’t planned to go any further as we were a bit frayed around the edges and desperate for food.
[Day 2/5] Crawley to Newhaven
We had a great cooked breakfast to start the day feeling more than slightly incongruous alongside conference attendees. At one point we cycled through a rather up-market golf course with my friend’s mega-mix booming out of my friend’s Bluetooth speaker. Sussex seems to have pretty undulating countryside and lovely villages but southerners: do you really call these hills?
We stopped at some point in a perfectly preserved village for some well-deserved grub plus chunky chips in a basket so no reason to complain there. Newhaven itself is like lots of seaport towns, with a somewhat faded and jaded atmosphere, but the cheap-chain hotel let us keep our bikes in our room and the port was within spitting distance. We spent the night ridiculously excited about the prospect of cycling on to the ferry and arriving in France…
Ruth lives on the edge of Sheffield in a village in north-east Derbyshire. She didn’t choose to be a ride leader for Breeze because she was confident, she did it to commit time to cycling. Her life wasn’t very adventurous at that point, with the responsibilities of being a forty-something mum, teacher and wife being very demanding of her time and energy. Fortunately, she was about to re-discover herself and find a new sense of freedom. For Ruth, cycling brought new opportunities, a chance to daydream through fields of sunflowers and absorb the energy she had lost by bathing in nature. www.slow-cycle.com