Your very own Tour de France starts at the London Eye. Launched in 2012 to celebrate the London Olympics, this capital-to-capital ride takes the familiar Sustrans recipe of quiet lanes, off-road routes and scenic detours and gives it a unique Gallic twist.
The ride from London to the ferry at Newhaven is enjoyable, and a few tweaks – detailed in this guide – make it even better. From Dieppe to Paris, though, this is a truly memorable route. The best rail trail you’ve ever cycled, the historic towns of France’s eerily quiet Vexin region, and peaceful rolling lanes together lead to a classic approach to Paris au bord de la Seine. All are ideal for novices and experienced rouleurs alike.
Dedicating a full week to this holiday will give you enough time to enjoy the French countryside and spend a while in Paris, too. The ferry crossing and return journey mean that this route requires a little more planning than most, but it’s worth it.
We’ve split this guide into two sections: one in England, one in France. Check out the French guide here.
From London to Newhaven, the 98-mile official route is best tackled in two or three days. Starting from the edge of London, not the centre, will make for a more enjoyable two-day ride.
A hybrid or cross bike will cope with the wilder off-road sections (principally in England) and be light enough to eat up the miles. A light road bike is the fastest way to make progress, of course, but you’ll need to divert from the official route in several places. At 250 miles in total, the full route would be a long haul on a mountain bike.
Yes, mostly. The London roads may be intimidating; consider skipping this section if you’ve never ridden in the city. Occasional bridleways in Sussex require nifty bike-handling for rapid progress, but you can always push as long as you haven’t set too tough a schedule.
Our downloadable PDF route-book has a full map of the route. In conjunction with the (mostly reliable) signs, this should be all you need.
Signs in Britain are normal National Cycle Network blue signs, for the most part following routes 20, 21 and 2. A little AV logo has been added to many of them. Signage is sporadic in central London, where several sections aren’t on NCN routes, so you’ll find it reassuring to have a map with you.
Not slavishly. The route is well chosen for some cyclists, but inevitably involves compromises, particularly on the English side. It’s a rare cyclist who will feel equally at ease with London’s busy traffic, Crawley’s tortuous route past industrial units, and the wilder bridleways of Sussex.
Our step-by-step guide should give you the knowledge you need to make your own route choice. But consider skipping the London section by taking a train to Coulsdon South, and following our alternative route which avoids Gatwick and Crawley. If your bike is narrow-tyred or you’re uncomfortable on rough surfaces, we would additionally suggest making short diversions in Sussex.
The Newhaven–Dieppe ferry, operated by DFDS, links the two halves of the route. It’s a four-hour crossing and runs two or three times a day, usually including one overnight crossing.
Packing your holiday needs into a pair of panniers is the classic cycling holiday and is, of course, more sustainable. On the other hand, a car-borne companion will make your return journey easier (no need to worry about booking your bike onto French trains), and faciliate quick dashes to the out-of-town hypermarket when all the boulangeries have closed. Alternatively, a cycling holiday company will sort all these worries for you.