Cycling London to Paris
The classic Dover/Calais route and the Avenue Verte
By Mike Wells
Guidebook to the London to Paris Bike Ride, including both the 500km traditional route, which makes use of cycle tracks and quiet roads plus a ferry crossing from Dover, and the 400km Avenue Verte, a waymarked route via Newhaven/Dieppe which makes greater use of dedicated cycle paths. Each takes 5-7 days and they can be combined for a round trip.
SeasonsBoth routes can be cycled at any time of year, though April-October is the best period. Off-road sections of Stages 2 (Pilgrims' Way) and 8 (Coulée Verte) of the classic route are best done after a period of dry weather.
CentresThe classic route passes through London, Rochester, Ashford, Folkestone, Dover, Calais, Desvres, Hesdin, Abbeville, Amiens, Beauvais, Chantilly and Paris. The Avenue Verte passes through London, Crawley, East Grinstead, Newhaven, Dieppe, Gournay-en-Bray, Gisors, Cergy and Paris.
DifficultyBoth routes are straightforward, with gently rolling hills and a few short ascents (the maximum altitude reached is only 204m). City street riding in London and Paris can be avoided by using trains to reach the edge of town. Much of the route follows dedicated off-road cycle tracks along old railway track-beds and canal/river towpaths. Where roads are used, these are mostly quiet country lanes or suburban streets. Mainly asphalt or compacted gravel surfaces in good condition, suitable for hybrid or touring cycles. Off-road options in Stages 2 and 8 of the classic route are suitable for mountain bikes at all times and hybrids or tourers in dry weather.
Must SeeThe two cities of London and Paris, with their many tourist sights, cultural offerings and gastronomic opportunities; the maritime centre of Greenwich; the North Downs with the Pilgrims' Way and White Cliffs of Dover; the Wealden landscape of Sussex and Kent (England) and the Bray (France); the medieval French towns of Calais, Hesdin, Montreuil, Abbeville and Gisors; the Somme and Oise valleys; the cathedral cities of Rochester, Amiens and Beauvais; the chateau of Chantilly; the limestone plateau of the Vexin
This guidebook describes two cycle routes between London and Paris: the 490km 'classic route' and the 387km Avenue Verte. Passing through rolling chalk downland and characterful market towns, the trails link these two great cities with their grand buildings, famous museums and iconic monuments. Ideal both for cycle-touring holidays and charity challenges, both routes are well within the capabilities of cyclists of moderate fitness and will generally take between five days and a week - meaning that a round trip, including a few days sightseeing in Paris, can easily be accomplished in a fortnight.
The routes are described in both directions, with the primary route description running from London to Paris. The classic route is presented in eleven stages; the Avenue Verte in nine, with clear step-by-step directions accompanied by mapping, elevation profiles and notes on local points of interest. A comprehensive introduction covers all the practicalities, such as Channel crossings, accommodation and what to take, and also offers a fascinating historical overview of southern England and northern France. A summary of facilities, useful contacts and an English-French glossary can be found in the appendices.
The classic route crosses the Channel between Dover and Calais and makes use of quiet country roads, rural tracks and dedicated cycle paths, with a number of off-road sections. Developed to celebrate the 2012 London Olympics, the Avenue Verte is fully waymarked and makes maximum use of Sustrans off-road cycle tracks in England and voies vertes (rural cycle routes) in France: it uses the slightly longer Newhaven-Dieppe crossing. Cycling from London to Paris draws on the best of both worlds: England and France; the bright lights and vibrant attractions of the city and the delightful scenery of Kent, Sussex, Hauts-de-France and Normandy. The journey offers a wonderful cycling experience, as well as a unique insight into the cultures of both nations.
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Mike Wells has been a keen long-distance walker and cyclist for over 25 years. He has walked all the major British trails, the GR5 through the Alps from Lake Geneva to the Mediterranean and has explored the Italian Dolomites’ Alta Via routes. He has also walked in Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Norway and Chilean Patagonia.
Mike has cycled the C2C route across northern England and Lon Las Cymru in Wales, as well as the Camino and Ruta de la Plata to Santiago de la Compostela. He has completed an end to end traverse of Cuba, a circumnavigation of Iceland and a trip across Lapland to the North Cape.
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