London to Paris record breaker
Tell us a little about your London to Paris history…
I’ve actually done it a stupid number of times! It’s ranged from riding with my wife and daughter on the tiny back roads and tracks, covering 30-50 miles a day and enjoying the journey, through to doing non-stop training rides on the main roads on a single speed bike. I’ve also taken a group of colleagues and customers over 24 hours from London to Paris and I've even used it as part of longer training rides, such as going all the way to Geneva.
Which is your favourite route?
All my rides go via Dieppe and the Donald Hirsch route from there to Paris is a peach. If you want a really enjoyable, sensible, family-safe excursion through the French countryside which takes in small roads and drops you right in the centre of Paris avoiding all the major traffic then his route is absolutely brilliant. It’s particularly good for those who might be a bit worried about riding on the ‘wrong’ side of the road once you cross over the Channel because the first 40 or so miles are on a disused railway line which really allows you to ease into it and get used to your bike and the surroundings - my wife learned how to ride a bike in order that we could ride that route and it was perfect for her. It's very forgiving and lets you enjoy what cycling in France is meant to be about as a family. And at the end of it, Paris is a great place to have your bike!
When you're riding London to Paris as a training ride inside 24 hours, are you able to take in the surroundings at all?
Absolutely, one of the reasons I like ultra distances is that it has a sufficient intensity but not to such an extent where you always have to be 100% focussed on every aspect of your performance. You can actually really enjoy the places you are riding through. You can look around a little bit and enjoy it aesthetically which is important to me. I took a group of colleagues and customers from London to Paris as a sort of networking and social ride type of experience. We did Donald Hirsch’s route and had an absolute ball. Even doing it in the 24 hours, it was still about the conversation and the journey - it wasn’t about riding in a chain gang. We kept riding the whole time but we did it in a way that was accessible to everybody and which allowed everyone to succeed at it.
When you are on an endurance ride - whether it's London to Paris as quickly as possible or the tandem world record when you covered 842 miles in less than 48 hours - is the mental challenge almost as tough as the physical aspect?
Probably 40-50% of the challenge is mental and to be honest I think you always get to that point in every single ride where you feel a bit crap and a bit low. The only difference is that probably the longer you go, the slightly deeper the low is and the more challenging it is to come out of it. But ultimately it’s exactly the same process and you learn to get through it.
So what is that process?
You need to have things which make you feel better and get through it – if you’ve got a favourite sweet for example or your favourite things to think about, then that’s the time to deploy them. I happen to like a particular brand of liquorice allsorts and I always carry a secret stash of those – that’s the time to break them out, and life seems great again. You will always feel better, you just need to have the confidence.
Looking at London to Paris, what's your top tip for people, especially if they are doing this sort of challenge for the first time?
Control the controllables. That’s the key message in all of this. The stuff that you can control which is going to make your life easier and which means you just focus on riding your bike and enjoying the ride which is what it’s all about. So if you are anxious about the route and things like that then really spend some time learning about where you are going to be going. Take away that stress. You also need to think through what could potentially happen and work out a plan to deal with it. For example, do you know the number of the French emergency services? Write that down, put it on a card in your pocket. If you are riding in a group have you got everyone’s numbers with you so that if you get separated you can at least call each other?
Things inevitably go wrong on these sorts of rides – whether it’s your chain coming off or something breaking – and that’s where you need your energy to be able to solve problems rather than be worrying about the basics.
For more advice from Dominic go to our top tips section.
Ultra-endurance cyclist Dominic Irvine broke the world tandem record for Land’s End to John O’Groats in May 2015, a mark which had stood for nearly 50 years. Four months later he became the first ever unsupported finisher of the "Race Across the Dolomites" ultra-distance race. He also holds a variety of 'unofficial records' for London to Paris via Dieppe and has inspired groups to do the ride in less than 24 hours.
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