It didn't start as the children gathered in the school playground on a warm May Friday afternoon. Nor when they started singing (in French). Not even when the Dads did a lap of honour of the playground – high-fiving with the cheering kids whilst trying not to fall off their bikes before exiting through the gates and turning left for Paris.
No, it started in back in the winter when Dads started congregating outside the local bike shop early on Sunday mornings to train for a London to Paris in 24 hours sponsored cycle ride. This was Dad Cycling at its best, up out of bed early, 3 hours on the road and back in time to referee breakfast at the family kitchen table (OK – sometimes we don’t get back when we say we would).
Those early starts, the terrible weather we're all worth it when on the starting line, in the school playground you made eye contact with your child/children and just for a moment you felt like a hero. More than a few Dads admitted to hiding a tear behind their dark glasses.
Even when you’re a Hero-Dad you can’t just jump on your bike and ride to Paris, you need some, or preferably all of the following:
I knew 2 or 3 Dads from my daughter’s school. I now know 27! Not just from the ride but from training together, exchanging advice and some really funny cycling related banter (honestly) on WhatsApp. This meant that by the time of the big day we knew each other’s cycling style, cruising speed and mood on the bike which meant we could encourage and motivate each other far better than a group of strangers. Of course we now have a fantastic shared experience which will keep us bantering and riding together long after our Facebook posts have faded on our timelines.
We didn’t just train our bodies, we trained our minds. OK, we didn’t boost our collective IQs but we learnt through our training: Group riding skills, what it's like to hit the wall if you don’t eat properly on the bike and how expensive it is if you don’t maintain your bike (both in taxi fares home & repairs). Look after your bike and it will look after you!
Ride for a good cause. We were riding to raise money for our children’s school, £15,000 had been pledged for a new toilet block – what more motivation do you need? A good cause can make you battle through those mental lows and physical pains that are urging you to get in the broom wagon.
Friendly competition - when the day of the ride seems a long way off and it's cold, wet, dark outside the motivation to get out and train can be running at zero. Not if you are in a www.strava.com league with your fellow riders and want to break into the top 10 (some weeks 200km didn’t even get you a top 10 place!)
To mis-quote Robert Louis Stevenson (because most people do!) “it is often better to travel than to arrive” – we followed a fantastic route from Dieppe in the early hours to the centre of Paris in bright sunshine, charted by www.thebicyclemoaningcollective.com who also provided support riders, support drivers, lots of food and a super quick puncture-fixing service.
We were also supported by www.pearsoncycles.co.uk who provided bike-fitting and bike servicing, www.payasugym.com who kick-started out training with deals on gym passes to get us into spinning classes. Finally, Chestertons in East Sheen funded our all important tour cycle jersey!
So did we do it? We cut it fine. Very fine. We raced, all 31 of us, to reach the finish line under the Eiffel Tower…. with just 2 minutes to spare!
If you are a school, club or charity who would like help in organising your own London to Paris sponsored cycle ride please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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