Cycling has been enjoying a renaissance for the last 20 years. Lance Armstrong’s meteoric rise and inspiring tale of courage and endurance followed by his equally rapid fall from grace when doping allegations proved to be true have provided the sport with all the drama possible.

The dramatic crashes and high-speed races on paved streets and cobblestones are exciting and impressive. Add gravel roads and mountain biking trails to the mix and suddenly biking is one of the highest energy sports both to watch and to participate in.

With so many variables, it’s one of those sports where every ride could introduce a new talent. Or a single rider and their domestique — essentially a lieutenant who supports the strongest rider — could dominate every race for an entire season. This makes it a great betting sport for those who like a challenge.

Betting on cycling might not be as popular as betting on football and rugby is, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t possible to find good odds with reputable bookmakers for big races like the Tour de France or the Giro d’Italia.

Professional competitions like the Tour de France and Paris-Roubaix have inspired generations of road cyclists, while the XC World Cup has done the same for aspiring mountain bikers. Long distance adventure rides provide non-professionals with a chance to get in on the action.

That brings us to one of the new endurance rides on the scene — the London to Paris Off Road. Unlike it’s on-road kin, it’s for the more adventurous riders out there. Here’s a quick rundown of the event:

What is it?

London to Paris Off Road is just that — an off-road cycling adventure. It’s a guided cycling tour with a difference. Instead of just road riding it blends nearly every terrain that can be biked on. There are stretches of tarmac, gravel, dirt, and treks through fields and meadows. All that’s missing is sand!

Endurance cycling is nothing new. The 1,407 km (874 miles) Land’s End to John O’Groats route is the most famous long-distance ride in the country. It is frequently ridden as a fundraiser and is a popular sponsored ride.

There is also a London to Paris road tour which follows a similar format but sticks to roads. For riders uncomfortable with gravel or uneven terrain, or who want to play Mark Cavendish, this is a great option.

For those riders who do have mountain biking experience and are looking for a holiday that combines the excitement of off-road cycling with the adventure of touring Southern England and Northern France, this is a perfect trip.

In addition, this is a supported ride, which means you don’t have to carry your own baggage. There is also a team of support riders to prevent anyone from getting lost and to provide assistance if your bike happens to break down.

The route

This year’s adventure will take place 16 May to 22 May. The 2021 ride was postponed, so the start date is eagerly anticipated by all the riders. With any luck, the weather will be perfect for an endurance ride at that time of year, not too hot but not miserably rainy.

The first day of the ride leaves London and heads towards the ferry crossing. It’s a 122 km day which is no joke, however it’s over mostly flat terrain. This day will blend off road, cycle paths and country lanes to get you to the destination without having to fight any London traffic.

After the overnight ferry crossing, the day will start with a stretch of tarmac through an industrialised area before the real fun starts. The rest of the day will be spent riding up and down river valleys with much of the riding being on wooded single track.

Day three is another day of climbing in and out of river valleys, and the beautiful scenery more than makes up for the inclines. It’s a 102 km day that sticks to forest tracks and gravel roads. This is probably the most adventurous section of the trip.

On the last day, views of the Eiffel Tower make even the climbs enjoyable. Like day one, there will be more gravel road and cycle path riding than off road. At only 65 km, it’s the kind of riding day that gives you time to relax and enjoy the sites.

With the riding down, there’s a night in Paris to enjoy before the trip back on the Eurostar. As an extra perk, support staff will handle the bicycles, so there’s no stress about getting them on and off the train.

Why you should give it a try

A supported ride is the best way to push yourself. It might be a longer ride or a more challenging route than you’ve done before, but with a supported ride you aren’t stranded and alone if something goes wrong. Also, with everything else taken care of, all you have to do is focus on riding!

Riding with a group is also a great experience. Cycling can be a solitary form of exercise. Riding with a group can be a great change of pace.

If you’re into mountain biking, chances are you already understand all the benefits of having an active lifestyle. Regular exercise is an essential part of being healthy. Once you’ve found an exercise you enjoy, it goes from feeling like a chore to being a hobby.

However, holidays can be an easy excuse to do nothing and laze around. Somehow that never is as rejuvenating as we hope it will be. An active holiday spent outdoors will do more for your mental health than binge watching old seasons of Bake Off.

Tickets for this year’s London to Paris Off Road adventure have sold out already. The popularity of the ride means it’s very likely to run again next year. If you’re new to off-road cycling and this sounds like an adventure you’d like to try, that gives you just over a year to prepare. Happy riding!

Photo by Simon Connellan on Unsplash