London to Paris cycle challenge
24 hours - The ultimate London to Paris test and while challenging, it's definitely possible with the right training and preparation. If you choose the 24 hour option then the Newhaven-Dieppe crossing is the default route, with the chance to grab four hours of rest and recovery on the ferry overnight before resuming the ride ahead of the sun coming up in France. Probably the best place to use as a re-fuelling stop is Forges-Les-Eaux, 35 miles from Dieppe, which has a wide variety of shops and bakeries. Ultra-endurance cyclist Dominic Irvine has completed it in 21-and-a-half hours using the much longer Donald Hirsch route and he's got some valuable tips and advice for anyone planning on following in his pedal strokes.
2 days - This doesn't quite have the kudos of doing the ride inside 24 hours but it's perfectly manageable if you take either the Newhaven or Portsmouth ferry options. Cross the channel ready for an early start on day two where you'll have a chunky 100+ miles ride to the French capital.
3 days - All the route options can happily be accomodated on a three-day trip and utilising the Eurotunnel from Folkestone (crossing time 35-40 minutes) can help create a little extra time. Whether you get the train or ferry, a more significant saving when heading from Calais is to amend the route in France to go via Amiens which cuts off 40+ miles.
4 days - The most popular option, certainly in terms of organised charity challenges and especially if going via Dover. However it’s still usually the case that you’d want to get to the British coast by the end of day one. You're looking at between 50-70 miles of cycling each day on the majority of these challenges.
Types of trip:
All that remains now is picking your ideal trip and they range from a solo independent ride where you are completely on your own once you set off, to riding it in a group like the pros. In some cases that can feature motorbike outriders and rolling road closures.
Charity Challenges - All the planning and organisation is done for you and there's the added motivation of doing the ride for a good cause and raising money for the charity in question. Hotels and food are almost always included as well as full support (such as marshals, mechanics and medics). Signed junctions, group briefings and a sweeper car are all potential benefits of doing London to Paris this way and your luggage will be transported from hotel to hotel which is another huge bonus. You'll be riding as part of a group but there's flexibility factored in so that you can go at a speed you're comfortable with, with some trips offering split groups - or the option of going entirely at your own pace each day.
Time is often built in for some sightseeing too, especially at the end of the trip in Paris. And how about doing the ride in July when you can take in the final stage of the Tour de France on the iconic Champs-Élysées? You can sign up for most London to Paris charity challenges as either an individual or part of a group - and there are also team relay options if you are not able to commit to the whole trip.
Travel trip (non charity) - This usually features all the support mentioned above but rather than doing it for charity and raising a minimum amount of sponsorship, the trip is effectively an organised cycling holiday which you fund yourself. You can still have group leaders, support vehicles and everything organised (including luggage transfers) but there are also some self-guided options if you want to have complete freedom and go at your own pace on each day's route. As with the charity challenge option, all the practical arrangements will be taken care of, allowing you to focus on enjoying the ride itself.
Independent trips - If you want complete control over the pace of the trip and even more flexibility on dates then organising it yourself could be the way to go. You won't benefit from the organisation and support you'd get on the first two options, which makes the planning and preparation (including overnight stops, food, bike transport etc) absolutely crucial so make sure you get advice from two of the best experts out there who have ridden London to Paris multiple times - Donald Hirsch and Dominic Irvine.
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