Why on earth cycle from London to Brussels?
A question that I asked myself many times during the ride itself!
We have relatives living in Brussels that were going to be away and offered their place to us knowing that we like watching the Tour de France. I jokingly asked Tanya, one of my partners in cycling crime, if she’d like to cycle there, and of course she said “yes”, and the rest as they say, is history!
What training prep did you do?
Um…yes, about that. Pehaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that weekly 1 hour sessions of laps around Regents Park, and sporadic 10 mile (round trip) commutes to work is not quite the training and prep to make it an enjoyable experience.
In my defence, as Greg Lemond once said, “It never gets easier, you just go faster”, so it was going to hurt whatever the case!Of course, as the hours ticked on by, I was wishing that I had made more time to train, which would mean that the pain would have been over quicker – hindsight is a wonderful thing.
On a positive note, I was near-spot on with my clothing, equipment, and nutrition preparation, apart from the hankering for crisps 20km from the end 🙂
What was it like?
I was fortunate to share the experience with two close friends that are both mental, super strong on the bike, and very patient!We’ve been on different cycling adventures before (impromptu trips to Mallorca and Girona), London to Paris and back (although I cheated a bit there), so we know each other well, and embrace (tolerate!) each other’s quirks!
Where did you start?
From home to Dover, taking in the scenic and hilly delights of the Kent Downs. Had it been left completely up to me, we would have gone the more direct route via the A2! There were some unexpected off road sections, which made me wonder whether the route we had taken was designed for mountain biking, but fortunately it was only for a few short sections. We departed at 3.30am, and arrived in time to get an earlier than planned midday ferry, but not before a cheeky stop at the port’s Burger King!
Where did you land after Dover?
We landed in Dunkirk at 3pm local time, it was pretty warm – thankfully nowhere near as warm as France the previous weekend. I had been quietly optimistic about this leg of the route as it was pretty much flat all the way. We would follow the river for the most part, which eventually become my nemesis! What came was kilometre upon kilometre of straight road, a slight turn, and then kilometre upon kilometre of straight road – it felt never-ending!
How were you doing at this point?
By the 200km mark, it dawned on me that perhaps I had bitten off more than I can chew. By this point I was firmly lagging behind, but just kept churning the pedals. We would stop a couple of times to pick up drinks, and have a supermarket lunch, but conscious that we wanted to at least make it to our destination within 24 hours.
The last few kilometres into Brussels saw inclines that felt like mountains, but we eventually clocked into Brussels at around 1.30am local time.
That was just over 345km in around 21 hours; 14.5 hours moving time – my furtherest distance to date.
What kept you motivated?
I’d like to think that I’ve got half decent willpower when it’s really needed. I’ve done a number of 24 hour races before, albeit on skates, with varying intensity and competitiveness, so I know how to suck it up and keep going.
That said, my cycling companions made it that much better to manage – did I mention that they were very patient? And of course, knowing that I had my wife and daughter eaglery awaiting my arrival in Brussels, was more than enough of an incentive!
Looking at what you know now, what advice would you give yourself if you were to do it again?
The only really obvious one, and that is to train more. I have done 3 rides over 50km this year, the longest of which was 100km. I really could have made things easi…faster, had I done more longer rides.
What’s next on the horizon?
Rides like the Dunwich Dynamo, and maybe a cycling weekend before the summer is up. Cycling to Lithuania was suggested (my wife has relatives there), but having seen how far it is, thanks, but no thanks!
Was it worth it?
Oh yeah! Seeing my family and friends in Brussels made all the difference. It was good to see people who understood what we did. And watching the Tour de France doesn’t get any better than this. Thanks Tanya and David; I couldn’t of made it, and enjoyed it, without you. Cheers!
:: View the ride from London to Brussels on Relive