By Toby Sims
Friday is a normal day. The last before the weekend – happens every week. However, the 19th of September was a bit different. For one, I was up far earlier than usual, madly pedalling a City ‘Boris’ Bike up to catch the Eurostar before first light. There, almost 70 tech enthusiasts had met to journey to Paris for the start of ‘Techbikers Paris to London 2014’. This is an annual mixed ability ride raising money for developing world literacy, organized by the wonderful Room to Read.
After a scenic bus ride through Paris, we met the support vans and our bikes (helpfully transported over the day before) just next to the Eiffel Tower. I also met up with fellow Mailjetter Anthony Marnell from the New York team, who happened to be in town.
What a collection of bikes we had too! In the specialist category we had two ‘Boris’ City bikes, with 3 gears and weighing in at a healthy 24kg each, two Brompton folding bikes, a single speed and a the tandem bike team of Michael Willmott and Chris Mairs on Genevieve – to pass me many times over the weekend. In the “crazy” category, we had Sam Strong, who had broken his ankle 10 days before, brushed it off as a minor inconvenience and found a hand cycle to travel with…!
From the Eiffel Tower, after negotiating a very large proportion of red lights we finally got some speed up and took in the open roads to the Castle of La-Roche-Guyon, slowly leaving the relative metropolis behind to cycle through the wilderness to Vernon.
This was a mere 87km though and although we ached a bit, we knew Day 2 was a pretty big day, topping 120km. That didn’t stop us celebrating with a few beers though!
We were greeted on Day 2 by a beautiful morning (some yoga too, if you were up early enough) and a long climb out of the Seine valley, heading towards Buchy. Once ‘over the hill’ we could really push the pace and the scenic kilometres flew by. Buchy was to be our last sunny stop though, as the UK sent some storms our way and by the time we were 10 minutes out, it was thunder, lightning and absolutely soaking wet. Despite this, or perhaps because of, we hammered it towards Dieppe, opting to rest when we got there, or at least try and find a dry pair of socks.
We were to spend the night in Newhaven and we also had two new arrivals to Team Mailjet Rides: Alexis and Shubham coming all the way from the Paris office to test themselves on the hills of East Sussex and soon to be leading from the front, far ahead of me. Starting at sea level, the only way is up…
Day 3 hurt. We started with uphills to the top of Ashdown Forest and with the joy of every downhill (one of the ‘Boris’ bikes clocked in at 64.1kph, madness!) there was another to come. The hardest was probably Biggin Hill (not that long after lunch too) which just seemed to keep on going, but we all knew that it was the last big obstacle before an easy run into London – spirits were high and pain was just weakness leaving the body.
We all made it to Greenwich just about intact, despite Anthony inspecting a pothole at speed, taking a few scrapes. It was time for some triumphant photos before a slow and winding route back to Google Campus to meet friends, family and the Mailjet after party feast. As for the dancing in spandex at the after party…the less said the better.
It was a fantastic weekend, with mostly great weather, great riding and fantastic people. We raised over €75k for Room to Read, with donations still coming in. Huge thank you to everyone for your support so far! It’s a great cause – you can learn more and donate here.