The usual response when telling people I was planning on cycling from London to Paris in 3 days was a blank expression.
To be honest, when people looked at me like I was crazy to do this, I felt it as well. The aim of the cycle was to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. At the time initially gathering £1000 was hard work. But in reality, the cycle itself was one of the toughest things (both physically and mentally) that I have ever done in my life!
BUT whilst it was exhausting, it was also one of the best things to have happened to me. In light of this experience, I now think everyone should cycle to Paris… at least once. So I sat down and thought about what I did, and in hindsight what I shouldn’t have done. The results are my take on “how to cycle from London to Paris”.
- DON’T book it in the spur of the moment
I was sat at my desk during my first year of university in the midst of some serious procrastination when I decided to sign up and put a deposit down on the trip. Two days later I told my parents and the reality sunk in of the situation I’d just got myself into. It was April. T-minus 2 months until I was due to get my lycra on for the first time. I was NOT prepared.
- DO train and exercise PROPERLY
Whatever it is that you decide to do in the run-up to the big event, do not think that you will be able to cycle to Paris with little training. I mean you can, but for the whole time, you will be wishing you had spent that extra hour in the gym rather than sat watching gossip girl with a piece of cake. I am a prime example of someone you should not base your training regime on.
- DO as many different charity events as possible
After the 4th time you push cake into your friends and family’s face for a small charitable fee, I can guarantee they will begin trying to avoid you. Believe it or not, there’s only so much homemade cake that the people want to pay for.
A tip regarding your sales pitch
When flogging your buns and sponge cake avoid telling people that you made it on your desk in your bedroom… Even more importantly, do not tell them that you made the vodka jelly shots on your bedroom floor. Trust me, no one wants to know that.
- DO take your dad shopping with you when purchasing that all important cycling gear – it gets pricey
There’s only so far a student budget can stretch. Buying those all important ingredients for charity bake sales gets expensive! If you want to make sure you can feel your bum for as long as possible before the inevitable numbness kicks in, tip-top gear is a must! A super squishy pair of padded cycling shorts were well worth the investment. I got at least an extra half day before sitting down on my bicycle seat brought tears to my eyes… Thanks, dad!
- DON’T overestimate your cycling abilities
There were 3 different cycling ability groups over the course of the three days;
- The ‘pros’
- The ‘wannabe pros’
- The ‘gossip girl and cake’ enthusiasts
Initially (full of enthusiasm and energy) I thought I could challenge myself as a “wannabe pro”. Never have I been so wrong. I have no idea what on earth I was thinking at the time – perhaps it was the rush of adrenaline when I was all kitted out in my new gear and sat on the bike for the first time. It’s safe to say I lasted roughly 5 hours before I had to fall behind and found my pace with the slower group. I’ll be honest, in the run-up to the big day, I think most of us had been putting the thoughts of training and the gym to the back of our heads. As let’s be honest, gossip girl and cake was so much better. But fast forward 2 months and binge-watching gossip girl no longer seemed like a good idea. For those 3 days, I hated Chuck Bass for making me invest so much time and energy (quite literally) into his and Blair’s relationship…
- DON’T get into the white van
The white van. The van. The tease. There in case of emergencies only. But why was it so tempting to just fling myself off the bike to then be driven to the Eiffel Tower… After the bike, the white van was my biggest demon for the whole 3 days. However, rest assured that I did NOT give in to temptation and climb into that van to wave at the rest of the fools on bikes as it drove past. It was worth so much more when I reached the end knowing that I had done it all by myself, without the help of four wheels.
- Sign up with your friends
I signed up for this with 3 other friends, and it was the best decision ever to do it with them! Both before, during and after they helped make this trip brilliant. During our fundraising making vodka jelly shots on my bedroom floor was certainly an experience. I’m not quite sure how to describe some of the sight/questions we encountered that night. When the big event finally came, there were times when after 8 hours of cycling through wind and rain that you needed a final blast of motivation from a friend to get through the last hour. It was fab.
- Don’t sign up with your friends
If your friends don’t like the thought of 7-9 hours of cycling for 3 days, sign up without them! There are so many brilliant people to meet on these sort of things. I had a great time getting to know some of the people on the cycle. Everyone is going through the pain with you. They know what it feels like to not be able to physically walk after having your bum and legs cramp up after sleeping on a boat deck during a night cross. They’ve also only had 1 hour of sleep in a tent before having to get back on the saddle again. You all bond over the fact you haven’t showered properly in 3 days and equally all smell just as bad. In fact, give it 2 days and you won’t even notice the stench anymore… When in Paris I had the most fantastic time exploring the city with both my new and existing friends. In the midst of the excitement after completing the cycle, there was even talk of us all arranging to cycle from one state to another in the US the following year. Safe to say, no one has taken each other up on that proposal… The rush had to rub off at some point I guess.
- Be prepared as it WILL involve blood, sweat and tears… literally.
If you think cycling from London to Paris in 3 days with little experience is hard. You’re right. It is. I can still vividly remember losing the group at some point on day 2. It was the most horrendous constant downpour of rain I have ever experienced and I had no idea where I was going. There had been continuous steep hills all morning and as I approached yet another beast in the distance, I can still remember the tears rolling down my face as I frantically searched for the white van… Luckily it was nowhere to be seen. That was probably my lowest point on the trip, crying whilst cycling by myself after being separated on a lonely Parisian road in the countryside… Anyway, I eventually tackled that hill and the 15+ that followed for the remainder of the day. My 3 days definitely involved blood, sweat and tears. But it was absolutely worth it all when the streets were cheering for us at the end as we approached the Eiffel Tower!
The point of all this is that there is most probably a right and a wrong way to prepare for this type of challenge. I wouldn’t necessarily say I did it the ‘wrong’ way, but it undoubtedly was not the approach they advised on the website… In hindsight, more intensive training would have been helpful. But if that had happened I would definitely have not been able to fit in binge-watching gossip girl around my busy schedule of drinking and revision. So it was absolutely worth it!
xoxo Gossip Girl.
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