Paris or bust! Day 1

Well, it was finally time to head off to Paris. Friday 21st June 2019 saw seven of us gather in the small Surrey village in which we live in order to set off on a three day cycle journey.

We started easily enough and headed down the roads through Guildford town centre. We’d decided to leave at 6.30am in order to miss the bulk of the commuter traffic and also to ensure that we didn’t miss our final boarding time for the ferry in Newhaven of 4.30pm, allowing for mechanical problems, too many lunch stops and the like. Our plan worked well enough and we didn’t have any issues in Guildford.

Heading on south towards Cranleigh though saw us pick up our first crash (at 1 mph) and puncture. The crash was more of a slow falling over, no damage done and the puncture, surprisingly, was picked up on a brand new pair of Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres which are generally regarded as indestructible! Perhaps not! We limped the flat tyre to Cranleigh where (the rest of us) grabbed a coffee and watched Nick fix his tyre.

Fortunately, this didn’t t take long and we carried on towards Billingshurst – our designated breakfast stop. We were finally on the back roads and it was truly glorious cycling. The sun was out, there was very little traffic and we made excellent time. We stopped at Whispers in Billingshurst (behind Sainsburys) and it again bolstered its reputation of being the best breakfast stop between our home and the south coast. Nice people and great food – what more could you ask for?

Out of Billingshurst, we set off through Adversane and headed down to Ashington before crossing under the A24 and winding down down to Steyning via Wiston and a busy couple of miles on the A283 (unavoidable). At Steyning we deicded to join up with the Downs Link path from there down to Shoreham. This section of the Downs Link is really nice – great surface and some really nice views, especially by the river.

We then encountered another mechanical issue – Graham lost a spoke on his rear wheel. He was slightly concerned as this was not the first time this had happened in recent weeks on his Cube mountain bike despite having had it repaired and trued. We stopped at Halfords between Shoreham and Brighton to pick up some more spokes just in case (this turned out to be prophetic but useless), before heading on to Brighton pier (not before another puncture in Hove though). It had just turned midday so we had 4.5 hours before the ferry and under 10 miles to go so we did the sensible thing and headed to one of the beach side bars for a couple of beers whilst Graham went to get his spokes repaired.

After deciding that the beer tasted too good to stay any longer, we rode through the marina and picked up the Undercliff Walk which turned out to be a beautiful ride under the chalk cliffs between Brighton and Peacehaven for about 2.5 miles. I recommend this ride to anyone, especially on a sunny day.

That just left us a final ride over the small mountain range that sits between Peacehaven and Newhaven which wasn’t aided by the two beers consumed in Brighton. However, we still made it to Newhaven with loads of time to spare… enough in fact to make a visit to the Hope Inn (underneath the fort) which was an excellent spot from which to watch our ferry sail in and try a few more of the local alcoholic beverages.

We boarded the 5.30 ferry with a minimum of fuss and set up camp in the cafeteria to have some dinner and (yes you guessed it) a few drinks to relieve the boredom of a 4 hour ferry crossing.

Finding the Ibis Budget Central Dieppe Hotel wasn’t so easy it turned out, after far too much alcohol, despite having maps and directions. We did eventually get there though and it was to time to crash out and grab some sleep. Well, at least I did. I understand several others went in search of yet more beer albeit unsuccessfully! The hotel was clean, tidy and very good value for money. It was also very easy to find.. for a sober, half intelligent person. It has a secure indoor courtyard to lock the bikes up in, a basic breakfast offering and good showers. Job done. Day 1 was finished!

Paris or bust! (Day -1)

It’s been a while since I felt like writing anything but my recent cycling trip to Paris seems like an ideal opportunity to put fingers to plastic once more. To recap, I and six friends had planned a three day cycling trip from the foot of the Surrey Hills to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris which we undertook last weekend (June 21st-24th 2019).

I’ve put down a lot about the thought that went into the equipment I used on my blog before – mostly to do with the bike itself but I thought I would wrap all of that up in a short post so here goes:

Bike: Planet X London Road (the ‘Vomit Comet’)

I bought the Planet X bike as it seemed like an ideal combination of robustness, all round capability, luggage mounting and colour. I wanted a capable road bike that had disc brakes, would take wider tyres and could also take a rack and panniers. The PXLR seemed to tick all the boxes for me and, at a starting price of £500, was very good value for money. The only adjustment I made was to put a (familiar to me) Fabric Scoop saddle on it as the original one seemed uncomfortable.

Post ride verdict: Great bike, performed really well with no mechanicals and was pleasant to ride. Apart from some aching in my hands when riding on the hoods I really couldn’t find any fault with it or its Apex 1×11 gearset. It is a very well priced bike for commuting, touring or just about any general cycling. 9/10

Rack: Bontrager Back Rack Disc

Bontrager Back Rack For Disc EV166079 8500 1_Thumbnail

I looked at a lot of racks and, to be honest, couldn’t really tell the difference between them. I wanted something lightweight but robust (obviously) that didn’t look like a quarter of the Forth Road Bridge. In the end I opted for the Bontrager because the reviews were positive and most mentioned its lightness. It has a minimum of metalwork as well so all good there. For reference, I bought it for £24.99 from Evans. It was easy to fit and didn’t seem to rattle or jiggle once fitted.

Post ride verdict: Worked perfectly. No rattles or issues at all. The panniers didn’t fall off or get trapped in my wheel so I would mark that down as “job done”. There is a tiny niggle where the frame shape at the top made undoing the clip on pannier fiddly so I’ll mean-spiritedly dock one point for that. 9/10

Luggage: Decathlon B’Twin Waterproof Panniers

15 - Cycling Cycling - 900 Waterproof Rear Pannier Bike Bag - 25L   B'TWIN - Bike Travel, Storage and Transport

I hadn’t really wanted to go down the pannier route but decided that they were more practical than bike packing, if not quite as sleek looking. In the end, I found an offer on the Altura Sonic 40 pair of panniers at Evans at £65 for the pair which I was pleased with. Annoyingly, only one turned up! A quick phonecall to Evans revealed that, yes, it was meant to be a pair but they only had one left so that was all they could send me (give they’re sold as a pair I’m a little confused but there we go). They were happy to knock half the price off or provide a full refund. I went with the latter option. Given I was running out of time for deliveries, I decided just to head for Decathlon and pick up some B’Twin 900 panniers – waterproof and 50 litres per pair – for £75. They again seemed robust and well made. We did do a practice ride on the Sunday beforehand in torrential rain and they worked admirably. They fitted the rack very easily and securely.

Post ride verdict: None of my stuff fell out, which was good. They held plenty of luggage with no issues and even had a small inside pocket for passports and other small items which was a nice touch. A shoulder strap would have been nice but I found the ones from my drybags fitted OK so no big issue. They seem totally waterproof. 9/10

Camera: Crosstour CT8500

Crosstour 4K 16MP Action Camera WiFi Waterproof with External Microphone Remote Control Anti-Shaking Time-Lapse and 2 Rechargeable Batteries and Accessories Sets for Skiing and Snowboarding

I had been toying with the idea of a GoPro but really didn’t want to splash out that amount of money on a new toy so opted to go with one of the alternatives from Amazon instead. The CT8500 is about £50, does 4K video, 16MP pictures and comes with 2 batteries and a host of accessories. It didn’t however come with a bracket that fitted my stem so I bought one separately (in fact I bought two but I won’t bore you with that particular piece of stupidity).

Post ride verdict: It worked well. I found it took a while to get it set up right but that was my inexperience. The quality of the video is great but beware the size of file you’ll produce in either 4K of even 1080/30fps. I’ve found that I simply couldn’t download the files to my iPad but have just transferred them via a memory card reader to my laptop instead but that’s not the fault of the camera. It came with a small remote control which was very handy for starting/stopping recording on the move. All in all, astounding results for £50. Highly recommended 10/10.

Shoes: Decathlon Rockrider ST500 MTB Shoes

15 - Cycling Cycling - ST500 MTB Shoes - Black ROCKRIDER - Cycling

I decided to buy a new pair of shoes in order to save weight. I thought that by having a pair of trainer style touring shoes, I would only need to throw in a pair of flip flops in to my panniers rather than an additional pair of trainers for off bike use. £49.99

Post ride verdict: In general, the plan was sound. The shoes seem well built and are trainer-y enough to wear off bike. Walking around with the recessed cleats was fine. However, when I first rode with them I discovered that the unadjustable (front to back) position for the cleat was a little further back than I am used to with my usual Sidis. It wasn’t wholly uncomfortable just a little odd. I also did find that, after a while, I was getting pain on the outside of my right foot. Loosening the shoe helped temporarily but it kept returning. I’m unsure if it was the shoes or the slightly different set up position compared to my Cannondale. 7/10

Dry Bags: Pod Sacs Dry Bags 10L


Given that I wasn’t sure how waterproof the panniers might turn out to be I thought I would also buy some dry bags for mosre valuable items of luggage. I reasoned it would also help to sort various items into groupings for easier access during the trip. I bought these from Planet X and they were (I think) about £6 each. Each dry bag comes with a carry handle and a removable shoulder strap.

Post ride verdict: Great value for money. Whilst I didn’t need the waterproofing they provided a good method for organising luggage. The shoulder straps turned out to be thoroughly useful for the panniers and I’m sure I can find a myriad of other uses for them in the future. 10/10