We started our day at 9am meeting in Balham (of course), on the 11th of July, wednesday morning. We all travelled to the Well’s house in Camberwell to go through the inventory one last time, as well as eat some more food, before we set off finally around 9:30 am.
All was going well as Callum on maps guided the group out of London towards Rochester…
until we got our first puncture, we had made it from camberwell to camberwell terrace near dartford.
We soon discovered that the pump we brought was actually broke, so we had to dash off to a nearby bike shop to buy a new one for the rest of the journey. An hour later we were off again.
Around 10 minutes or so later as we reached the top of a hill we heard a violent explosion behind us as lukes inner tube exploded taking some tire with it, this took some careful examining and testing before we saw it fit to crack on.
We managed to arrive in Rochester for lunch about an hour late.
After lunch Callum’s location on his phone stopped working briefly so Ned took over directions, this did not end well since the new route it gave us was using google maps. And whoever judged which roads are suitable for bike routes on google maps definitely hasn’t tested the on bicycles. This took us first onto a main A road before we collectively deemed it slightly unsafe …
We managed to escape the A road quickly and soon found ourselves in the Kent downs.
This is when the mountain biking began… on our road bikes, panniers and all. Remarkably we suffered no punctures and the bikes were undamaged albeit covered in dust.
We gave ned the benefit of the doubt and gave him another chance to get us to dover on time. At this point we were a solid 4 hours behind schedule, as frequent stops and mountain biking was not time efficient. We managed to make it to Haynes for the second half of the England vs Croatia game, yet we had to leave before extra time so that we could get to our hostel before we missed the sign in deadline. This was an hour from where we were, the final stretch of day 1 we cycled along the coast to folkestone which was beautiful.
This was until we had to get to the top of the white cliffs. Our map lead us onto a steep uphill footpath (dont ask) that we had to push our bikes up, where the only way we could see was using our bikes lights as it was pitch black at this point away from street lamps at 10:30pm. We eventually made it to the top, from there on it was a beautiful downhill. Which was painfully interrupted by our 3rd puncture of the trip just minutes from the hostel. Once again Lukes bike was our downfall. We trickled down the hilly road into dover just 30mins before our check in deadline..
Woke up early so we could get to our ferry which was a 5-10 min cycle from the hostel, the ferry was at 9:10am.
The ferry arrived in calais at 11:40 am and we got going straight away.
We covered lots of ground quickly at first until the maps lead us to cross a train track and cycle through fields, once we had figured out where we needed to go we made it to Dunkirk for lunch, again, a solid 3 hours behind schedule. The afternoon saw us cross into belgium as we head for Bruges. The moment we passed into Belgium was a huge rush for all of us.
We finally arrived in bruges around 9 after an afternoon of very good cycling, mixed with a lot of group complaining and a few tears from Ned. It felt fantastic. We cycled through the old town on our way to the hostel, through the grand square and huge cathedral. Which brought our second day to a happy end.
Day 3: started with a small walk into central bruges to get breakfast from wherever we could find before setting off before 10
This last day was following huge, stretching canals almost the entire journey which was immense. We worked very well together slipstreaming along huge, flat straights as it was rather windy. After a solid 3 hours we stopped for lunch just after passing Ghent
Then carried on towards Brussels before having a small crisis… Callum had a crash whilst following a diversion to avoid roadworks. He hit a speed bump quite hard which subsequently caused him to crash down and actually break his pannier rack. Nathan mercifully agreed to take callums pannier on his bike along with his own luggage. What a hero. We soon discovered that Callum had sprained his wrist, so Ed strapped it up with a bandage to prevent swelling and we carried on. After a few canal-side pictures we carried on.
The final stretch to Brussels was glorious. Dead-straight 10 mile long roads carried us into the suburbs of Belgium’s capital. We imagined it was similar to the feeling that the tour de france riders felt when heading into Paris. We felt untouchable (apart from Ed who picked up multiple injuries on the way and felt more fragile than anything else).
The moment we made it into the city was a feeling unlike anything else. Fatigue, exhaustion and pride were just some emotions we felt, but really the only things we could think of were a shower and a beer. After hurridley ditching our bags and jumping in the shower, we headed out into the city to celebrate our feat. 246 miles in 3 days.
Thank you so much for this opportunity. It is a memory that will stay in our hearts for a long long time, and one that we will tell to anyone who will listen