Key resources: Full
printable route guide Accommodation
|Finding your way
What kind of bike
How long does it take?
When should I go?
Where to stay en route
Does it need to be expensive?
Rider experiences and records
|I have devised what I believe to be the best
low-traffic cycle route from the Channel to Paris with minimum mileage.
It makes use of the Avenue Verte disused
of Dieppe and well-surfaced forest paths through the outskirts of
the Bois de Boulogne and arriving a mile from the Eiffel Tower before
onto city streets (with even the last mile through a quiet district).
Joined to Chris Smith's well
described route from London to Newhaven, it makes a 200-mile
low traffic cycle
route from London to Paris.
|THIS ROUTE was invented in 2007 when
Donald Hirsch and JB Lim set out
to lead a local group of cyclists from Guildford to Paris. Here's my story of the route and how it has developed.
THE OFFICIAL full Avenue Verte route from London to Paris is more circuitous, especially going into Paris. Here is my latest information on that route.
HERE IS A NICE CHARACTERISATION of my route posted by one of its fans, Dominic Irvine, who holds the world record for cycling from Lands End to John O'Groats on a tandem.
"Donald Hirsch’s route is an inspiration. Riding through sun dappled tracks in forests for miles and yet being in the heart of Paris are some of the delights of the route. The journey begins following a tarmacked disused railway track for the first 35 miles, climbing up an imperceptible incline before rolling over gentle hills towards the capital. The middle sections follow roads, quietly passing through sleepy French villages. Closer to Paris the route once again picks up the cycle paths until just a couple of miles from the Eiffel Tower we reach cobbled streets... En route it is impossible to resist a quick whizz around the cycling hippodrome, like a moon orbiting a planet, before breaking free of the gravitational forces and sneaking through the backstreets and cycle paths of Paris."
|Finding your way
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kind of bike? This route
can be done on pretty much
any bike - there are a few
tracks with some bumps, but the vast majority is paved or very smooth,
been done on a lightweight road bike without difficulty (though I
hybrid or touring bike). For a closer look at the surfaces near Paris take a look at these videos. In 2007 it was done by unicyclists! Numerous
people have done it on tandems and other
How long does it take? That's up to you. These itineraries give some ideas of stages from 1.5 to 3.5 days from Dieppe to Paris - a distance of 127 miles. London is a long day (60-70 miles) from Newhaven. From here, my preference is the morning ferry to Dieppe followed by a half day of about 40 miles, plus a full day of 50-60 plus a half day of 30 into Paris and back on Eurostar. A more leisurely pace allows an extra day or so. But there's lots to see along the way, and people who have made it into more of a holiday of anything up to a week have not regretteed it. You may especially want to explore the peaceful and scenic region of Bray - here are some pointers (including info about how you could buy a home here!!) . It's also been done as a family holiday with children.At the other extreme, the route has been done all in one go by some fast riders - see records page
Is there a best time to go? It's rideable throughout the year. Arriving on a Sunday in Paris, there's the pleasure of using some of the embankment expressways when they're closed to traffic. On the other hand, I found one stretch of D-road (the 15 miles north of Marines) much quieter on a weekday than at the weekend. Supermarkets and shops are generally closed Sunday afternoon, and often on Mondays too, though I found a particularly useful supermarket open on Monday in Menucourt. Wednesdays are also difficult for shops and cafes in the Bray region (but cafe and boulangerie open in Gournay). Things can also be difficult on public holidays - especially 1 May and 15 August; also possibly 8 May, Easter Monday, Pentecost (7 weeks after Easter Monday) and Ascension (the Thursday before six weeks after Easter).
Where should I stay on the way? There are plenty of recommended places in my accommodation guide (and if everyone who uses this route could send me a couple of lines on where they stayed and what they thought of it, I can keep the ratings up to date).
Does it need to be expensive? NO! If you stay and eat at B+Bs and have picnic lunches and take 4 days from London, it'll cost of the order of £250-£300 a head including ferry and Eurostar back: not bad for a great four-day holiday, and a fraction of the cost of organised London-Paris bike tours. Or if you're on a really tight budget and don't mind roughing it, you could do the same trip for roughly £100 a head! Here's how:
If you return by train, the travel cost is £20 for the ferry plus £40 for Eurostar if you book well in advance, plus £25 or £30 for your bike on the train (see Eurostar page). You can camp at Forges les Eaux and Triel sur Seine for almost nothing, and on the UK side at Buckle Holiday Park, Seaford, just ten minutes from the Newhaven ferry. (The sites at Triel and at Seaford are pretty basic, and for a slightly higher budget Versailles and Brighton have higher standard campsites.) Take along a small camping gaz stove, a plate and a light pan and you can cook a simple meal in the evening, and have a picnic lunch. Buy food in supermarkets along the way: you'll probably spend less than feeding yourself at home, so I've not counted this in the cost. (I did all this recently, and if you're still reading this I'm probably twice as old as you are!)
Here is a selection of interesting stories, blogs and tips from riders, supplementing the main guide, which I've started compiling in 2011. And for a bit more entertainment, take a look at my records page, with feats ranging from the immensely impressive to the highly bizarre...
I have produced this guide for free, but if you want to make a donation to a charity I'm involved with, promoting cycling, go to http://www.justgiving.com/Donald-Hirsch
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