London to Paris by bike in three days: Preparations

With the departure from Trafalgar Square scheduled for midday on Friday, our final preparations for the trip begin somewhat belatedly on Thursday evening. We’ve already booked our ferry crossing and accommodation, but route details are sketchy and so some intense internet research gets underway.

As the evening progresses, I decide to focus on establishing an approximate itinerary, based on a list of the villages we should aim to pass through. I also print off a tiny map showing the paths of National Cycle Network routes 20 and 21, from London to the towns of Brighton and Eastbourne, respectively.

Unfortunately for us, our ferry will depart from Newhaven, which lies exactly half way between Brighton and Eastbourne. And, sadly, the online map gives no indication of scale, nor contours to illustrate the hills and valleys that would be worth avoiding.

By comparison, the stretch from Dieppe to Paris is much better documented, thanks to the online efforts of previous cyclists. So our primary concern is getting to our ferry in Newhaven on Friday evening. The ferry will sail at 22:30 and we must be at the port at least an hour before that.

Initial estimates suggest the following distances to be covered over three days:

  • Day 1 – London to Newhaven: approx. 100km
  • Day 2 – Dieppe to Gournay-en-Bray: approx. 80km
  • Day 3 – Gournay-en-Bray to Paris: approx. 120km

Turning to luggage, space is of course strictly limited by the the size of my panniers. So I must take a gamble and trust the optimistic weather forecast. The jacket will therefore stay at home and it will be short sleeves all the way.

While Mark’s luggage comprises pretty much of himself and his bike, I fill my panniers with:

  • Passport, ferry booking confirmation, Eurostar ticket (for return leg)
  • Selection of printed maps, A-Z of Great Britain, notepad (to write this diary)
  • Cash (including Euros), mobile phone (+ charger), camera (+ charger)
  • Two bike locks, bike lights, basic tool kit
  • Puncture repair kit, spare inner tube, bike pump
  • Clothes, sunglasses, towel, paper towels and handkerchiefs
  • A couple of snacks, a couple of bottles of energy drink

By about midnight, my packing is complete and my panniers mounted. There are 12 hours to go in which to get some much-needed rest ahead of 300km in the saddle…

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