London to Brussels in 24 hours: Ride Report

21 07 2011

For the second time this summer I’ve had the privilege to be a cycle guide for Action Challenge. The latest ride was to raise money for the British Heart Foundation by cycling a 240 mile route from London to Brussels in 24 hours. 31 Cyclists, signed up for the event, each pledging to raise over £1200.

So at midday on Friday 15th we set of from Blackheath, London and headed towards the Grand Place, Brussels, first up,  90 miles to Dover. Going was slow leaving London, an early puncture, traffic lights and a sewage leak blocking the road meant we had a slow first leg to Meopham. Going was much better heading through Kent despite the slight head wind and strong sun. The second stop was at the Rasa Kerala Spice Indian restaurant in Charing. By this point it was clear that not all the riders would make Dover and the ferry by 7pm so the decision was made to move our crossing back a few hours.

Sometime after midnight we had regrouped in Calais and were ready to ride the 150 remaining miles to Brussels. I was leading a group of 19 riders along dark, flat French roads. Stopping every 32-38 miles at a control for food and water. For many this was the first time they had ridden at night, it was the perfect introduction. The threat of rain behind us and the 24-hour deadline pushed us along. The temperature was pleasant, the group good humored with plenty of banter and friendship. One of the Sheffield lads fitted a Bluetooth speaker to his bike; listening to Ledzeppelin and Bruce Springsteen on the fast, dark French roads was quite surreal. We kept a nice moving average of between 18-20mph. There were no tired grumpy guys. Good times.

We left the final stop at 10.20am to ride the reaming 20 miles to Brussels.  Allowing for traffic and city roads, this should give us enough time to make the midday deadline. Despite unknowingly cycling on a motorway classified road, and following a misplaced route sign we made Grand Place for 11.40am. We had done it! London to Brussels in 24 hours! Now time for a beer or two.

I had a great time. It was the first time I’d navigated a large group of cyclists over such a long distance, and the first time I’d ridden so far with such a big group, and at night. I’d normally ride 250 miles on my own.

Thanks to all the guys I rode with who made it a very memorable trip, and to the support crew who were just there making things work.

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28 07 2011
Welsh Coast to Coast: Ride Planning « Everyday Stories of Rachel & James

[…] and I need to fit a new chain. On top of that, I seem the have developed a chesty cough after the Brussels 24hr ride which has been with me for a week and giving me coughing fits late at night. And on top of […]

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