Cycling YouTuber Katie Kookaburra decided to ride from her front door in Manchester and ride the 550km to the iconic Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower. Little did she know that this would be accomplished in the midst of a 40° heatwave. Here in ‘Manchester to Paris: a Bikepacking adventure’ Katie recounts the trip on her Endurance SL, in all of its sweaty glory.
YouTuber Katie Kookaburra took on the long-distance ride after some unfinished business from previous years. Here, she shares her tales from this cross-country adventure.
I had always wanted to ride from my house to somewhere in a land far away. Being an audaxer (basically a name for long-distance cycling) I normally did circular routes, so starting and finishing in the same location.
But for this trip, I wanted to just go south. And then further south. And then hop on a ferry and further south some more. So the actual trip was broken up into two main legs; Manchester to London and then London to Paris.
I took my favourite bike; the Endurance SL rim brake version, loaded with bike-packing bags loaded with my clothes and food for the next few days.
I know this bike isn’t necessarily the first pick for backpacking trips but it’s become my firm favourite for these adventures. It can pretty much handle anything – even some gravel – which we did a fair bit of (by mistake, I might add).
Manchester to London: 320km
Ahhh the Manchester to London ride. We had some history. I had set out to do that ride a few years ago. Admittedly it was never going to go to plan having popped on a new saddle the night before and the forecast of 20mph northerly winds didn’t make it seem the ideal scenario for what was going to be my longest ride.
We ended up in Stockport and realised we had forgotten the train tickets home so enjoyed the tailwind home and went back to bed.
So this time I wanted to do it properly. So, a 4am start time and gentle breeze and even balmy weather made it a much better start to the trip. I met my friend Richard in Stockport and off we headed. The route we plotted went through Buxton which meant that most of the hills were done in the first 50km of the ride. Then it was a lot of steady country lanes and bike paths. A lot of bike paths.
So if you want a bike-friendly route to London have a look at my Strava.
The kilometres seemed to tick over nicely. The bikes were running smoothly and the weather was pretty nice. Then when we hit around 250km I couldn’t shift into my big ring. As a hill lover, my big chain ring barely gets any use, but this was a fairly flat route so I had a little panic. I was already trying to sort a mechanic in London to fix the issue.
In search of a cure
I messaged a friend who told me that the cables might have just got a little dirty and to use some WD-40 – that apparently fixes everything, right?
So I spotted a bloke wearing overalls thinking he is bound to have some in his van. He did. But in the meantime, his friend offered some help as he was a MTBer and had fixed loads of issues on the go. He looked at my front mech and touched it and was repulsed it was so sticky. He asked what drink I had in my bottle.
I had my usual sugar and water combo. But the bottle had leaked all over it making it a sticky mess and of course unable to shift. So, not actually a mechanical at all – just user error on my part. A bit of water to rinse it off and it was as good as new.
That’s why I love long rides, you just meet and get chatting to so many people along the way, especially when you get a bit stuck. Quite literally a bit stuck.
Then we headed onto Watford then into London. I have never been a huge fan of big cities but seeing the first red London bus was pretty exciting. It marked we were nearing the end of the first leg.
To celebrate, we headed to Oxford Street to get the obligatory ‘we made it here’ pictures. Being totally honest, a few years ago, riding 320km from Manchester to London was a dream.
Being able to do it knowing there was another 285km to do the following day just made me feel that all of the efforts over the years had been worth it in getting to this point in my cycling journey.
I should add I was never one of those naturally fit people from the get-go. I remember my first 60km ride and was exhausted. And I mean shattered for a good few days. So I want others to know this distance is definitely possible for anyone.
London to Paris: 285km
You might remember me saying I’m not a fan of huge cities. Riding out of London definitely consolidated that. It was hot, humid, cars everywhere.
After what felt like 6 hours (more like 90 minutes) we were out into the countryside again heading to the Newhaven ferry port. The weather was stunning and hot, but to ride with a fully loaded bike meant a lot more stops than planned for water and the odd can of anything cold.
This section to Newhaven ferry port was only around 100km. The ferry was great and after maybe three hours’ sleep we set off from Dieppe around 5am towards Paris – in a heatwave. It was already 35C by 11am and then it hotted up to around 43C.
It was literally like a furnace and we had to keep finding comfort in the shade as well as the freezer sections of supermarkets.
We rode a chunk of the way on Avenue Verte which was stunning – lots of trees, quiet paths, and then took us towards towns where we re-fuelled on an obligatory baguette.
We got closer to Paris and were so exhausted from the heat that when only 5km away we had to have a little breather at the side of the road. But we got it together to ride the final stretch (I mean final stretch to the Arc de Triomphe as we had another 20km to our accommodation after that).
It felt good to know we had carried ourselves from Manchester all the way to the iconic cycling location. But what I didn’t expect was the following two days riding back to Dieppe would be the best riding days.
The least ‘iconic’ but definitely the most scenic. We headed to Rouen which made Paris look run down. We then went to the stunning pebble beach of Saint Valery-en-Caux with picturesque cliffs overlooking the turquoise sea.
Honestly, this was part of the trip that took the least planning but actually was the most fun.
Sometimes that is the way though isn’t it? The rides we don’t plan are the ones we enjoy the most. So, I hope you are able to get out there and enjoy some non-planned adventures too.
If you want to look in more detail at the bike I rode, have a gander HERE.
If you enjoyed reading this Katie also rode 330km to wild camp on Dartmoor, find out how she got on here.
Having already clocked up some 14,000 km on his commutes so far in 2020 we asked Iain Robinson to share his advice for anyone looking to commute by bike. Read it here.