We started at a positively relaxed 8.40 am this morning leaving absolutely no room to question our holiday choices. We had slept well on a comfortable bed, treated ourselves to the cakes left by our Airbnb hosts and had two showers in less than 12 hours. Today, at last, we were in no rush to head out.
Despite drinking seemingly more litres of fluid than we could shake a metric stick at, an alarming side effect of yesterday’s exertions was that I was still incredibly dehydrated. So dehydrated in fact, that a urine colour chart would have spat out the words ‘severely’, phoned for an ambulance and put me on a drip.
It was necessary to find a stick so large, it would be a match for any amount of water, and when we finally rocked up to the mythical Lidl, we drank orange juice in quantities that was probably on the unhealthy side for just one sitting. We also had second breakfast, which was supposed to be first lunch, so had to go back in and stock up again.
Replete with water, laden with food and having eaten the first proper breakfast of the whole trip, we wound our way out of the city. With 148 km to whittle away at today, we didn’t have time to detour to the centre and the impressive Cathédrale Notre-Dame, instead we made do with with the Stadium of Unicorns, and the home of Amien FC on the outskirts.
Town became countryside and, after an hour of some relatively fast, but gently rising roads, we decided to pull over to enjoy the shade. Looking at the state of the bikes, it was clear more cleaning was needed for Sandra’s. Dylan had fared much better yesterday with bigger tyre clearance preventing any clogging. That and he seemingly spent the entire night pooping remaining clumps of mud on the floor of the Airbnb.
For Black Thunder however, we were once again attacking her with a stick. A retired local on a solo 40 km ride, who had friends in Blackburn, stopped to enquire if we were d’accord. The fact he has friends in Blackburn isn’t entirely relevant, but, as he was searching is tool kit for something appropriate to stick between the front wheel and brake caliper, we were able to communicate this along with our respective journeys and that we had taken a detour on to some muddy chemins the previous day.
Ad hoc route planning
One tyre boot and clump of dried mud on the floor later, we said our goodbyes. Heading off at a positively brisk 20.6 kph for the next 3.25 km, we came to a sudden, metaphorical halt on the Coulée Verte which saw our average speed drop to a mere 13.6 kph. At Croissy-sur-Celle, after 10 km, fearful that our slow progress would mean we wouldn’t arrive in Paris until Monday, and the rutted, dry terrain would remove more fillings, we stopped to reassess our options.
With the power of 4G and Komoot, we switched from our Touring Route to a Road Route which would avoid the next 22 km of track and shed a few unnecessary kilometers. Ironically, the first suggestion was a 20% grassy bank to get directly on to the new course, but a sensible review of nearby roads confirmed we could go a few hundred metres more to avoid this.
Unfortunately, by-passing this former railway track did mean our first categorised climb of the day was immediately at hand. Climb One (or the more alliterative Col du Croissy Le Crocq as I like to call it), was a 10 km affair topping out at 171 metres and featuring a maximum gradient of 8%.
Rest and Recovery
It seemed sensible, as the day was definitely hotter than yesterday that we rest before the long downhill to the foot of the next climb, we found a little bit of grass in a fork in the road at Puits-la-Vallée and ate some of our savoury breaded products. The parallels with yesterday were stark. Not least because all this faffing had reduced our average speed down to 10 km per hour, meaning we were on schedule to roll in to Paris at about 1 am.
Still, Paris is an international city and we were confident that, unlike Amiens, it would be open beyond 8 pm. We made some time up over the next 23 km, dropping 100 metres and getting in some well deserved freewheeling. Heading in to a town called Bresles, we invoked our unwritten rule of detouring to the centre to find refreshments.
It was here at the Café de la Paix in Bresles we got to tick off an essential part of a French Touring holiday: sitting, looking out over a place de ville enjoying a light beer. Which is what we almost did. Leffe Blonde is only a light beer in colour, not in strength, but the side order of lemonade took probably took the edge off.
Ups and downs
With our deconstructed shandies polished off, and our bidons filled with water and ice by our amenable host, we headed out towards Climb Two. Being the biggest of the day, we took the opportunity to interrupt our ascent before we had chance to say foothills as we spied a greengrocer’s at the side of the road. With grapes and bananas on display that were too tempting to ignore, we crammed nature’s energy gels down us and, energised, spent the next 30 minutes on a 170 metre, 6.5 km climb.
With sweat pouring in to our eyes by the time we reached the summit, we were grateful that the next 20 km were downhill and half way down, were even more grateful for the shade the church at Nueilly-en-Thelle offered us. We spent our time on the cooling steps of the church stuffing the last remaining breaded products from Lidl in to our mouths.
At around 5.20 pm, with 40 km to go, we pointed ourselves towards Paris once more and were soon within Ile de France Region of which Paris belongs. Climb Three came shortly after at a beautiful hill town on the River Oise aptly named Beaumont-sur-Oise.
Eventually up and over, we crossed the Periphique and the countryside gave way to denser and denser suburbs and busier and busier roads. Komoot, saddened by this, had a complete breakdown at a place called Domont, 20 km from home. By first taking us on to what looked like a roundabout next to a motorway it then offered up a slip road to a fast flowing dual carriage way. After much to-ing and fro-ing, retracing steps and cursing dead ends by railway tracks, we battled our way back on to the route whilst avoiding certain death.
We didn’t stay off the dual carriage way for long, however, as the inevitable happened at Saint-Brice-sous-Forêt. At least here, the speed limit was a reasonable 50 kph. Now hot, bothered, tired and dusty, at least the closer to the centre of Paris we got, the more the cycle infrastructure improved.
We had taken our lives in to our own hands on Donkey Bikes four years ago, as we battled the poorly thought-out cycle lanes, but, post-covid, things had changed, rapidly and for the better. Not that quiet ways and segregated lanes stop pedestrians from walking out in front of you with out warning. So, albeit stressfully, Saint Denis and the Stade de France came and went as did the tiny Climb Four at Monmartre and, at just gone 8.30 pm we reached the accommodation a stone’s throw from the Rue de Rivoli.
That just left the lift to give us the final sting in the tail. Too small to squeeze the bikes into we had to carry them up five flights of stairs with burning quads. Showered, and unpacked, we foraged for food at an open Carrefour City, despite the lateness of the hour. We were soon back at the accommodation drinking beer before we could say, ‘what do you mean the lift isn’t working?’
Amiens to Paris