I had a couple of days to work out whether I was going to Paris’ World Messenger Cycle Championships and then how I was going to get there. There was a big group ride that was riding Cologne to Paris across five days. But I had a friend out in Paris so wanted to have more time to see her before the cycling kicked off. So I had about three days with a bit of wiggle room to get from Berlin to Paris. The hardest part was working out which bit to cycle, which countries I wanted to cycle through and what seemed interesting and just scary enough. A friend was doing a long solo four day route through some rolling hills in south Belgium which served as exciting inspiration but seemed a bit intense given I can barely fix a bike and my first solo ride was 90km the week before. That feeling when you decide on a route is golden. Nothing seems to make sense before that, and the second you’ve nailed it you can’t sit still.
Berlin is mostly brilliant for bikes on trains. From Berlin you can catch a sleeper train through to Cologne. From Cologne, it’s 210km cycle through The Netherlands through a very old cute town called Maastricht and into Belgium. In Maastricht they will be holding an iron man on that day with some very tired old men running around, which helps put more perspective on your day. In Brussels you can call in favours and ask a friend to house you for a night. From Brussels you’ve got the option then to keep cycling or, if your knee hurts (yep) then you can hop on a series on convoluted trains to Paris (via Lille and some stern glares from the ticket lady for owning a bike and wanting to travel with it). Voila, Paris but in a safe pit-stop punctuated way.
I hopped on the 11:30pm sleeper train and headed to Cologne.
This time I tried to take some actual food with me, because cycling up Denmkark taught me that chocolate milk, haribo and your hunger starting to chase you isn’t that fun – these are the fun things people say ‘oh, you need to learn for yourself’ and I plan to take at least ten very hungry bike rides to teach me this fully.
I really really really like sleeper trains. And making stupid faces in the mirror
A grey Cologne station in the morning with this slightly overbearing monster of a church
Cologne traffic lights being far too optimistic about my levels of bicycle acrobatics
Being a tit with my bike because that shit’s important, even if it does make you late
Sitting on the floor with my ice cream halfway down a pretty ugly road having crossed into Brussels gave me total total joy
One man singlehandedly ruins what I would argue would be one of the greatest photos ever
After 215km my knee hurt so I went to argue with the Brussels ticket sellers who suggested it was impossible to take a bike into Paris unless I took local trains. They left me with a “these tickets will get you to Lille, after that perhaps you can get to Paris. Who knows.” Thanks Brussels!
Tourists lining up to get ultimate Arch de Triumph photo
The last time I cycle around this was after 20 hours cycling from London – it was chaos. Luckily Paris seemed more chill this August.
This post title is a slight misnomer. Making sure you have a couple of hours spare of an arrival deadline also helps.