To Paris and back again(ish)

I was looking for something to do over Christmas with my time off work which involved a long cycle, camping and interesting location.. Paris seemed like an obvious and easy option, I’d done it before, the roads are nice and by going a different route I worked out I’d be able to get there and back again without too much effort. I spent a few days before setting my bike up for a big trip, I installed a dynamo wheel, wired it up to my lights giving them free power, and hooked it up to my e-werk which can charge all my devices via USB, I installed a seat post pannier which would hold my equipment for camping and tri bars which I could attach some dry-bags for food and a fleece.

bike set up without tent and dry-bags

bike set up without tent and dry-bags

Here’s a run down of of journey:
On the 27th December after gorging on food for the last 4 days I left my house around 1pm and set off for Newhaven ferry port. Although I’d never cycled there before I decided to try and do it without maps or  my iPhone. Just me, road signs, a compass and 10 hours to spare until the ferry was leaving. The rain was horrible, it was freezing cold but after around 4 hours of cycling I made it there and decided to hide out in a KFC to warm up and book my ferry which I hadn’t done yet.

Hiding out in KFC for 5 hours until my ferry.

Hiding out in KFC for 5 hours until my ferry. Had 3 meals and 3 coffees.

Although everyone in the KFC were wearing t-shirts and seemed comfortable I was freezing, I had 3 layers on which were all soaked and I couldn’t stop shaking. At around 9pm I headed for the ferry, I met 3 lovely girls who were doing a similar trip. They were hoping to cycle from Dieppe to Paris in 3 days making there to celebrate New Years. Talking to them really cheered me up, helped to pass the time knowing I was getting off the ferry at 4am with some people heading in the sameish direction was nicer than having to do it on my own.
I hardly slept on the ferry at all, I felt tremendously sea sick and didn’t get the rest I was hoping for. When we got off the ferry I started following my Sat-Nav and decided to go my separate way… 30 minites later I was lost, my Sat-Nav took me up dark road and told me to turn left where there obviously wasn’t a left. I started heading back to the main road when I bumped into Laura, Katherine and Jo again (hope I got all the names right). They planned everything out and told me about an old disused tarmaced over railroad, I followed them and I’m so glad I did, after that it was 30 miles of the most perfect cycling conditions. Straight road + flat + tarmac + no traffic = Bliss. I left them after about 20 miles and decided to “bomb” it to Paris for lunch. I’ll condense the next 70 miles as much as I can… Wind, so much wind, Rain, Horrible wet wet rain, Ran over some sheet metal shredding my tyre which subsequently gave me four flats, pissed off from the wind and running out of energy, not really knowing if I was on track as there were no signs for Paris (even when I was 20 miles away, no signs!), I’d lost faith in my Sat-Nav, hungry as I didn’t pack enough food. About 20 miles from Paris my pedal became really wobbly, I stuck through it and arrive in Paris for about 3pm, ate a massive kebab then realised my cleat had been snapped in half.

My cleat snapped in half when I arrived in Paris

My cleat snapped in half when I arrived in Paris

I knew I wouldn’t be able to cycle home and to be honest I was really tired. I did what any cyclist does when they get to Paris, headed for the Eiffel Tower. I was there for about 2 minutes before I decided to head home.

Me in Paris taken on an old Samsung phone as my iPhone wouldn't charge.

Me in Paris taken on an old Samsung phone as my iPhone wouldn’t charge.

I got to Gare Du Nord station and payed 68 euros for a train to Calais. When I got to Calais I camped somewhere which seemed out of sight a few miles from the centre of town. I got a few hours sleep and in the morning and a lot of effort packed up and made my way to the ferry where I drunk a few pints of beer and got the train home from Dover.
Ok the I ran through the Journey pretty quickly but the point of the cycle wasn’t to come back with an adventure story but more to test all my equipment, I learnt so so so much. Here’s what I’ve learnt and need to change for my C2C cycle:

  • Lighten up, My bike weighed 20kg and was way too heavy. I aim to get it down to 15 kg for the cycle. 
  • My e-werk + dynamo charged my Sat-nav but not my phone, meant I didn’t have a camera when I got to Paris. After some googling I now know I need to get an external battery pack to charge it.
  • No Pannier, Made the bike too top heavy which was an arse when I had to stop having my bike to a mini flip.
  • No tri bars. Didn’t use them and are an unnecessary weight, although they were handy for attaching dry bags.
  • No road pedals. They’re hard to walk in and snapping the plastic cleat screwed me over, I could take a spare but I’ll solve both issues by switching to MTB pedals which are metal and I can walk in.
  • No Tent, Controversial I know. It was nice to sleep in but I was too comfortable in the morning and delayed getting up by a few hours as I didn’t want to pack the thing away in the dark. I’m going to get a good quality bivi instead so I can just roll it up.
  • Smaller air-mattress, mine just took up too much room. It was great but if i’m getting rid of the pannier I need to go for something a lot smaller. The Klymit X frame lite is on my radar.
  • Better jacket, I need something which breaths more. When you’re wet you’re wet whether it’s from rain or sweat. I’m going to invest in a good Gore-tex jacket which will keep me dry and is breathable.
  • Better front frame bag. This one kept sliding to the side, although it was ok in training it really got on my pip when I was exhausted.

That’s about it. I need to cut it all down, get some good quality equipment. All and all it was a really enjoyable ride and I’ve learnt so much about what I need. I’ll be doing a similar ride in a few weeks with all the new equipment to see if it’s better or worse.

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5 responses to “To Paris and back again(ish)

    • cheers. Yeah I learnt tons. Damn, I literally just bought the klymit x-frame lite. Think it’s about the same weight, and it’s only 3/4 length(darn). I’ve now decided to go totally minimalist and use only a bivi and a tiny sleeping bag.. Hope it’s not too cold when I test in a few weeks.

      • I was going to bivvy when I cycled round Europe for a month decided against it though because I found it more beneficial for the cycling to getting a good nights rest when you’re doing 100+ miles a day. I think bivvy bags are good for a few days but when you’re away camping for weeks at a time I think a tent is necessary especially when good ones are so light ( like the MSR Hubba which only weighs 1.2kg -not much more than a bivvy). They also give you added security and better protection from the elements and animals/insects 🙂

  1. Pingback: Equipment: Check √ « Stephen's coast to coast cycle·

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