It’s not about the bike

I bought Ol’ Paint in 2009. She’s a steel-framed Marin, and she’d been sitting in the shop’s inventory for more than a year when I walked up and offered cash.

Ol’ Paint is designed for city riding, and I bought her with the idea that 90% of my riding would be daily commuting. (I’d have bought something with drop bars otherwise.) That hasn’t proved true. But she’s a very nimble bike, and I like that. Her main shortcoming for Tokyo riding is the width of the handlebars. There are just too many situations where she’s a bull in a china shop, and I’ve only made it worse by adding special grips.

My other big addition has been the clipless pedals, which came a couple of years ago. I’ve already grown completely used to them and feel uncomfortable when I ride without my cleats.

Ol' Paint takes a break
Ol’ Paint takes a break

She’s had a new set of tyres over the years, a couple of inner tube changes, some general cable adjustment and cleaning, and a bottom bracket replacement. Right, and one broken spoke.

There have been a few parking lot bumps ‘n’ bangs and a couple of head-over-heels accidents as well.

Ol' Paint showing some scrapes
Why I call her ‘Ol’ Paint’

I may yet spring for a new paint job …

The route — Dieppe to Paris

Donal Hirsch, London to Paris
L2P in 24 hours

There’s a wealth of material covering this route. It seems it’s become a very popular outing.

The master of this is Donald Hirsch, who has done the entire London-Paris route in 24 hours. More power to him! Others have fleshed out his route with maps, guides and descriptions, such as this one: Cycling from London to Paris in less than 24 hours.

At bikely.com, Here’s London to Paris section from Dieppe via Avenue Verte and forest tracks into Paris described by Donald Hirsch. The distance is 208km.

From this route it looks like the hotel we’ll be staying at the end of Day 2 is just less than 135km from Dieppe. So, all things being equal and with a grain of salt for actual conditions matching Google data, that makes Day 3 about 75km.

Here’s the guide by Mr Hirsch himself.

(And here’s our local copy of the same guide.)

Beyond middle-age crazy

Cycling from London to Paris — 300-some kilmoeters over a period of three days, between two major cities in different countries — sounds like an activity for healthy young enthusiasts on featherweight carbon-fibre bikes.

DJ in shades
Meet your humble narrator

At 54 years old, I’m past the middle-age crazy stage (I hope). L2P is a ride I want to ride for the fun of it, not to check something off a list or show someone something.

I try to cycle a few hours each weekend at least, but it’s been a couple of years since I did 140km in one day (as we’ll be doing on Day 2 of the ride).

Thanks to my active lifestyle and a careful dietary regimen designed to lower the levels of uric acid in my blood, I now weigh more than I ever have in my life. One of my goals for this ride is to lose weight before it begins.

Major rides accomplished in the last few years

(All one-day round trips except for Lake Biwa)

  • Futakotamagawa cycle path, Haneda to Fussa
  • Tokyo to Yokohama
  • Circle Lake Biwa (two days)
  • Futakotamagawa to Tokyo Disneyland

What gear are you in?

This is an embellishment of a joke my mother told me ages ago. You have been warned.

So there’s a fellow, call him Nigel. He’s a middle-aged bloke, kind of quiet. Actually, he’s a bit of a swot and not very popular with the ladies. Or with anyone, for that matter. Just an inoffensive guy with glasses and a shiny pate surrounded by a fringe of ginger hair, the sort who sits quietly in the corner of the HR office and gets his work done quietly and efficiently, if not brilliantly.

Now Nigel’s hobby, his one spark of life, his raison d’être, is his car. It’s not much of a car, an old Triumph with just a bit of rust — Nigel didn’t go to public school and land a peach job in Pater’s ministry — but he’s inordinately proud of it and he lavishes all the care on it that his lordship might on a prize racehorse. In short, it’s the thing that gets Nigel out of his mother’s duplex in Slough on the weekends. Continue reading What gear are you in?

The riders

We have 15 riders signed up, which Fearless Leader Joe says is the limit that he’s willing to organize. Among these are at least six L2P veterans.

We have at least three countries of residence represented: England, Japan and Australia. And Joe has confirmed there are no Canadians this year.

I haven’t got all the details yet, but it sounds like at least six different nationalities.

DJ and Sanborn at Heian Jingu
Two veterans of the Lake Biwa excursion

Schedule

Day 1: Friday, 29 April — Depart London to Newhaven, via Brighton. Catch the night ferry.

Day 2: Saturday, 30 April — Dieppe to Marines – more than 140km. As we’re taking the night ferry, we have a long day to achieve this.

Day 3: Sunday, 1 May — Triumphant arrival into Paris and overnight in Paris.

Day 4: Monday, 2 May — Afternoon Eurostar back to London.