London to Paris 2015

Writing just before I head off to meet all of my fellow participants in this years London to Paris bike ride for Macmillan Cancer Support, and I am only now starting to think about how to get from home to Blackheath, where the ride starts on Wednesday.

Travelling across London can be difficult at times but with luggage and a bike? Easy thing would be to cycle across but I am planning on taking things easy before our own Grand Depart. Nerves ahead of the ride haven’t  kicked in just yet but I am sure they will, even though I have done this before.

I have trained more this time, cycled further and faster so I should be ok right, especially with the anticipated heat wave coming for the end of the week …

Some of this next bit has been pinched from the Macmillan website but for full details of the event, you can look here;

http://www.macmillan.org.uk/get-involved/fundraising-events/event-detail/670/londontopariscyclechallenge2015

Wednesday is Day 1, London-Dover

An early start from South London sees us head off with a tough day’s cycling ahead. We head through the outskirts of London onto quieter roads and it’s not long before we are among the hills and villages of rural Kent along country roads to Dover and the coast, with an elevation gain of over 1,500m.

Approx Cycling Distance: 145km

Day 2, Calais – Arras

After breakfast in Calais we head south. Starting off fairly flat, the ride gets more undulating as the day continues until we reach Arras.

Approx Cycling Distance: 125km

Day 3, Arras – Compiègne

After a couple of hard days in the saddle, we continue to head South once more. Today we travel through villages and along quiet French roads. Less climbing today but you can soon see why there are so many wind farms in this region. We pass the countless war memorials, down through the Somme to the town of Compiègne, where we spend the night.

Approx Cycling Distance: 125km

Day 4, Compiègne – Paris

Our final day’s cycling takes us South West initially through small villages and woodland before we meet the Parisian suburbs. We cycle though the Parisian streets with some highlights, cycling as a group along the Avenue des ChampsÉlysées and around the Arc de Triumph to our finish beneath the lofty arches of the Eiffel Tower, before the hard part in trying to find our hotel for the night.

Approx Cycling Distance: 90km

But this is all just training for the Ride London 100 at the start of August. Who came up with this bright idea of taking on 5 challenge events??

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Motorists aren’t all bad!

There have been countless articles posted in recent years about what can be at times a fractious relationship between cyclists and motorists.

These have become more newsworthy with the recent case of Emma Way spawning the use of the #Bloodycyclists hashtag, that has now been adopted by cyclists, the sheer number of fatalities in particular in London, through to the recent road rage incident involving Jason Wells, the owner of a range of high-end cafes around South London (previously frequented by cyclists), in which he threatened to break a cyclists neck.

Jason Wells tried to overtake the cyclist but took exception when the rider shouted at the close proximity of the pass. The 4 minute video of this incident went viral and caused Mr Wells to offer a sincere apology, accepting that his behaviour was unacceptable. He also stated that he;

fully appreciated that cyclists have as much right to the road as any other road users.”

So why do cyclists ride in the middle of the road? Well that can be answered here http://www.motoring.co.uk/car-news/cyclists-why-do-they-ride-in-the-middle-of-the-road-_62617 by Carlton Reid, executive editor of BikeBiz.com.

As a cyclist I have had a number of very near misses and  been shouted at for nothing more than holding my position in the road but these episodes are certainly not the norm and I would like to think are few and far between. There remains a common misconception amongst some motorists that they still pay “road tax” when there is no such thing as road tax in Britain. In fact, Vehicle Excise Duty goes to the Treasury. Most roads are maintained by local authorities. Is that misconception behind the attitude of a minority of motorists?

Those bad motorists tend to be nothing more than ignorant and impatient individuals, in too much of a hurry to wait for anyone else. There does not seem to be a particular type, lower, middle class, male or female. I see them as the type of person who would not say a polite “thank you” if a door was held open for them or if another motorist let them pass first, full of their own perceived importance. But they can become abusive at the slightest provocation.

I do not see a real “them and us” issue between cyclists and motorists, not in my part of the world anyway. I tend to wear my Macmillan cycling top in the summer months so perhaps motorists do not look at me in the same way as other cyclists, decked head to toe in team kit out on their club run. Maybe that attracts a different attitude from some motorists.

On every cycle ride I will come across far more of the good and polite motorists than those bad ones. But then it also stems from the cyclists; give a wave, a nod to thank motorists when appropriate and you will find you generally get the same in return, just as in life generally. There have been too many occasions when motorists have acknowledged me as I have them, with a nod or a wave, just because we have been courteous to each other and that is how the vast majority are.

There will always be a few bad ones out there, but equally there are a few bad cyclists out there as well, those who just give an ignorant sneer as I pass them simply because I am not wearing the latest team kit or riding an expensive bike spring to mind.

Good manners do not cost anything, but there are some in all walks of life who sadly lack in this department. Being a motorist, a cyclist, or invariably both has nothing to do with it, it just so happens that us cyclists do feel a bit more vulnerable on the roads when not protected by a box of steel.